Local author, Lindsay Clyde-Flanagan remembers the first story she wrote. It was a fully illustrated masterpiece about a girl and her horse — Black Beauty. No, she didn’t plagiarize Anna Sewell; she just borrowed the horse’s name — after all, she was only in second grade. Lindsay laughs as she shares how she wishes she still had the book. More recently, she wrote another book about a girl and her horse, only this time she didn’t borrow any names. This time, she went above and beyond her second-grade little girl imaginings and created an incredibly unique horned horse-like creature called an aeobanach named Iris. Oh, and this time — her story, AnnaGrey and the Constellation, was published by Young Dragons, an imprint of Roan & Weatherford.
Lindsay has been writing for as long as she could pick up a pen, so it should come as no surprise that her favorite subject in school (and the only class she never wanted to sluff — gasp!) was English. While in Junior High and High school, Lindsay had two teachers who would make a huge impact on what she did with her writing. She remembers, “Mrs. Spannos was the first teacher to tell me, ‘You can write.’ She even read one of my stories out loud to the entire class. She told me, ‘I can hear all the events in the story, and it’s so good!’ That always stuck with me. I was like, okay, I can do this.” Her High School teacher, Mrs. Broadbent, told her, “You do really well with writing and should continue doing it.” Lindsay says, “I had a lot of really supportive teachers. When I went to college, I decided to major in English, and that is where my writing really took off. I wanted to be a disciplined writer rather than just dabbling here and there.” Lindsay continued to hone her literary skills by earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and Literature and a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing, all while writing everything from creative prose and short stories to poetry. Lindsay shares, “Everything I’ve written, I’ve learned something from.” While in her undergrad, Lindsay submitted a poem about her maternal grandfather, “The Fisherman,” to a literary magazine. It was accepted and published. “Seeing my work in print was very cool, and I guess that buzz never left me.” That ‘buzz’ would continue to fuel Lindsay’s imagination as she set out to write and publish an epic fantasy trilogy.
In the meantime, Lindsay still had to make ends meet. She explains, “I started editing because I knew it was hard to make a living as a writer, and I needed some kind of income, something that I could do on the side.” While in Grad school, Lindsay reached out to the editor-in-chief of Eschler Editing, whom she met at a writer’s conference, and inquired about an internship — and the rest is history — she’s been with them ever since. Lindsay recalls how that decision helped shape her as a writer, “I learned so much about writing by editing other people’s work because I had to study all the writing texts and editing guidelines, and it just made me that much of a better writer. […] Learning about what makes a story was another breakthrough moment for me.” Eventually, Lindsay decided to shelf her fantasy trilogy, but it wasn’t a waste of time — nothing you write is — as it would go on to serve as a 360,000-word back story for her new idea: The Laéth Realm Adventures.
After an eight-year journey from the first sentence to publication, Volume One of her middle-grade fantasy series, AnnaGrey and the Constellation, was released in August 2023; books two and three are scheduled for release over the next two years. The idea for the series was sparked after one of Lindsay’s daughters came home from school and said that a boy had called her weird. Lindsay shares, “I started writing for her. To show her how being “weird” is actually cool, and it is what makes you unique. There’s a scene in the book where AnnaGrey says, ‘I’m coming into this magical realm where everything is different and strange, but it’s actually really beautiful.’” Although the book could be considered a ‘girl power’ book, the story also has strong boys featured in it. Lindsay has received a lot of positive, ‘I loved the book,’ comments from boys and girls — as well as adults. The underlying theme of being comfortable in our skin, and understanding that our differences are what make us unique and amazing, is a universal truth that appeals to everyone. Lindsay addresses not only the teenage angst and awkwardness we’ve all experienced, but also our adult insecurities and fears perfectly through several of her characters. But perhaps the most unique individual is Iris, the aeobanach, inspired in part by the adorable and often hilarious FaceBook Messenger Unicorn sticker: Ulysses S. Unicorn. Lindsay explains, “I adore unicorns, but they are all over in fantasy. I wanted something to be more mine. Growing up in this valley, we see deer and elk everywhere, and I think they are beautiful. So, I put antlers on my horse and created a name for it.” Lindsay loves languages and discovering where words come from. While looking up different words for unicorn, she came across the Irish word: Aonbheannach. She took the word and tweaked it to make it her own.
Lindsay also added her own touch to the cover by working closely with the illustrator, Victoria Marble, which is rare in the publishing industry. She explains, “I am so in love with my cover. Victoria did an incredible job and was willing to work with me on colors and everything. Especially because I thought it was very important to make sure that you could see AnnaGrey’s crescent-shaped pupil and Iris’ star-shaped pupil. They are very important for the story. They were like, ‘We can do that and make sure that it’s seen on the cover.’” Lindsay loved the finished illustration, exclaiming that it was her dream horse. Lindsay thoroughly enjoyed everything about the publishing process with Little Dragons. “I’m so thrilled with my publisher and my experience with them. The care they took with my book — the physical book is so beautiful. The cover is beautiful, the book design is beautiful, and I just really got a personal experience.”
When asked about her future endeavors, Lindsay shares, “My daughters and I are writing a picture book series about dogs; I’m working on two young adult fantasy novels, and my writing partner and I are writing a middle-grade graphic novel. I have so many things I want to say and so many stories I want to tell.” She chuckles as she continues, “I’ve been writing since I was seven, so I don’t think I’m going to stop.” While not everyone wants to be a published writer, everyone has a story. Lindsay sums it up best, “I believe there are so many stories here in our valley; they are just waiting to be told.”
Have a story to tell but don’t know where to start?
Join Lindsay Clyde-Flanagan online at writingdayworkshops.com or at Wasatch County Library for a series of community writing workshops.