Yet, it wasn't all success. In fact, the success was rather rudimentary and had no real lasting significance. While I would write for the Teen Community section on AOL, I spent most of my time in the section of the service dedicated to writers and writing. I had access in those old forums to many experienced and helpful professionals. There was also a section where writers could find opportunities -- anthologies in need of manuscripts, magazines in need of freelancers, and content for these new-fangled websites. One such advertisement asked for inspirational stories. I don't remember how I did it -- this was on AOL's service, not the web -- but I directed the poster to my articles on AOL and my published clips and waited for a response.
I was in high-school at the time, tenth- or eleventh-grade, and the mid-term exam was legendary for being a real bastard to pass and failure resulted in extra homework for the rest of the year. Also, doing well on the exam meant the possibility of skipping the final. I avoided the internet for a week or ten days, perhaps I was a focused student or barred from using the computer for my sass-mouth or skipping on some chores. When I returned to my e-mail, I was behind on everything. I owed AOL two columns and had a bunch of other writing to do and as I scrolled through my e-mail, I saw that the editors of the anthology had gotten back to me. They liked my work and wanted me to submit something. I had just spoken to a longtime professional in Journalism who had advised me to "never write for free." So, I attempted to negotiate with the editors. I wanted cash I could spend on a CD or a video game or some youthful bullshit. So when they responded by saying they would be willing to negotiate a back-end royalty, I decided that my plate was far too full for such fly-by-night nonsense.
A year later, Chicken Soup for the Soul took over the world.