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A Word of Encouragement via Bestselling Author Ayana Mathis' Story

Ayana Mathis, author of Oprah's Book Club pick "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" went through several years of professional and personal struggle before getting the call from Oprah that would catapult her debut novel onto the Bestseller List

Be encouraged: Ayana Mathis, 39, now an “instant bestseller”, went through several years of writer’s block

Novelist Ayana Mathis’ first book The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a bestseller. Thanks to Oprah’s endorsement, Mathis’ publisher Knopf changed the release date of her book from early 2013 to the first week of December (making it available in the lucrative holiday season) and printed 125,000 copies.

America loves an overnight success story, but reports, “this is a triumph many decades in the making [for Mathis].” The Salon piece cites “lots of struggle: the years factchecking at New York magazines, years spent battling writer’s block, a childhood with a loving single mother who battled depression and often moved their small family.”

Mathis herself says, “I would come toward writing and then back away, come to it and back away. I was scared of it in certain kinds of ways. I would approach it and write a lot for six months and then be afraid for a year. I did that a lot throughout my 20s and early 30s. And I lived in Italy for five years and didn’t write at all.”

Of course the story’s even longer and more complex than that — you can read a bit more of it in’s interview with Mathis — but the point is, there’s always a tunnel. And there’s always a light at the end of it.

That light may not be Oprah. It could be just finishing your book after years of false starts, writer’s block, and external stress.

Amidst the demoralizing rejections and/or self-doubt, remind yourself that you have a real gift. There is “a point” to the story you’re trying to write/the manuscript you’ve worked so hard to finish. You’re just going through your Pre-Oprah Ayana Mathis Moment. Encourage yourself.


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