The Saga Quest

For reals, this book 📖 changed my life

published17 days ago
4 min read

Well hello there, Reader.

It all started on a swelteringly hot June Sunday in 2009…

I weave through the crowded ballroom on the Avenue of Stars. Past aspiring authors, and would-be children’s illustrators. Beyond fans of books that would go on to become Netflix shows and Blockbuster movies 10 years later. I maneuver around them all until I reach her—the woman who changed my life forever when I was 12…

It all started on a rainy spring day in 1997…

I was home sick from school and lying miserably on the couch in the home my parents still live in today. We’d been assigned Karen Cushman’s The Midwife’s Apprentice for English, but I…wasn’t reading it. Because…well…

Reading for me at the time was still about as arduous as a trek up Mount Everest. Doable, but not without the potential of losing a limb. Or at the very least a finger in the process.

So I was just lying there watching the rain out the big front windows until my mom picked up the book and started reading to me.

Now if you’ve never read The Midwife’s Apprentice I won’t ruin it for you. But I will say that there’s one part where someone gives the poor beaten-down heroine a gift. And it was at that moment that my mom burst into tears at this fictional act of kindness.

She was inconsolable. Beyond devastated. And I just sat there awkwardly because seriously—what do you do when you’re 12 and your mom starts sobbing?

It’s like that scene in the Sense and Sensibility movie when Emma Thompson starts sobbing and Kate Winslet and the other 2 Dashwoods just stand and immediately make a speedy exit.

And so that book just sat there unread for hours. And then days until I just couldn’t bear it anymore. I just had to know what happened next. And so I picked up that book and began to read.

And it was a hard, grueling struggle for me at first but I didn’t care. I was going to finish reading that book even if it killed me.

And you know what? I’m still not a speed reader, but it did get a little easier with each page.

It all started on a warm May afternoon in 1997…

I checked out Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy from the public library in my hometown. The first book I ever read in my life that was by choice instead of something I was made to read in school.

(In 2022 Amazon turned this into a film staring Bella Ramsey and Billie Piper 😻)

I read a little each night before I went to sleep. And to this day, half a chapter or more before bedtime is still a must-have part of my nighttime routine.

It all started in a crowded Hollywood ballroom in 2009…

12 years after her books changed my life and my relationship with reading, I meet Karen Cushman at a publishing conference when I worked in children’s publishing.

And a conversation with her and a few kind words of encouragement scrawled on the title page of her book changed it even more…

‘May all your dreams come true!’

Because a little over a year later I wrote a novel on the simple premise:

What if a boy’s greatest dream really did come true?

That simple idea spawned a 325K word urban fantasy trilogy set in the SF Bay Area. The Marked Ones. Which released between 2011-2014.

And that’s the extraordinary power of stories, Reader. The power to change lives simply by getting us to ask: And then what happens?

And to get little girls with learning difficulties from undiagnosed autism to pick up a book and read because they want to.

In honor of International Women’s Day, (which was yesterday I know, I’m sorry I’m a day late. I had to have an MRI.) I wanted to gift you this encouraging shareable.

Now even if you don’t identify as a woman, Reader, I’m sure you’ve got at least a friend or loved one in your life who might need a little reminder from time to time that they are the heroine of their own saga.

Your cohort in storytelling,

Kat Vancil


PS 👉 Just one last bit of bookish badassery for International Women’s Day, I leave you with this, Reader: Margaret Atwood with a flamethrower protesting book banning for the Unburnable Project.


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