While most college students downloaded Zoom in mid-March in preparation for classes moving online, Sydney Radecki had been using the video conference app for almost a year while writing her first book “Every Rose Has its Thorn,” which came out in February 2020.
Radecki, a junior secondary education major, used Zoom to work with students and professors all over the country through a program called Creator Institute. The program, which works with New Degree press, helps college students publish their first books, start new podcasts and create new video shows.
For Radecki, writing has been an important part of her life for a while. “I’ve always enjoyed writing since second grade,” she said. In elementary school, Radecki won a few awards which jump-started her love for writing.
“Every Rose Has its Thorn” centers on the intersection between faith and mental health. Radecki’s inspiration, she says, comes from the opinions she’s heard about the subject. “I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh you can’t have a mental health disorder if you’re a Christian’… which sounds really harsh and it is harsh.” Radecki disagreed with those statements, stating you can still be strong in your faith while struggling with mental illness.
“I heard that and I was like, ‘Okay, that's totally not right.’” In fact, her faith has helped her tremendously as a coping mechanism with her anxiety disorder. With her book, she aims to fight the stigma about the subject and spread awareness about her experience of faith and mental health and how they intersect.
The book, however, is not just centered on her own story. It is instead a compilation of the experiences of college students fighting depression, eating disorders and day-to-day stresses.
“I wanted this to be a book that just wasn’t about me,” Radecki said. She believes students’ stories deserved to be heard, even if they aren’t writers themselves. She was determined to help them spread their stories saying, “it’s my purpose, in a way.” She also added that the stories she heard from her peers acted as her inspiration. “They have been through so much that I would’ve never known.”
The process of writing a book isn’t an easy one, especially for a student taking 18 credit hours like Radecki. “It’ll get tough. It’s really rigorous at points when you’re battling with class, and personal life stuff and writing a book.”
Besides the fact that she had to raise $4,000 for publishing, the author said that she would write during any spare moment she had. “I would try to write a lot on breaks in between classes,” she said, along with jotting ideas she had during her classes. Most of her writing, however, was done on Sunday nights. “That was my prime time to really do the heavy writing.”
Just like many Clemson students, the Hendrix study lounge on the second floor was her favorite place to work. “It's such a relaxing place for me when it's quiet,” she said.
Although it was difficult at times, Radecki says she had a great support system with the other students in the program. The group, who all published their works around the same time, took Zoom courses together with professors and would bounce ideas off each other. “It made me feel so good,” she said, “ to have a group of supportive people there to help me through the process.” More than that, Radecki affirmed that although she has never met the other students in-person, she feels she has made lifelong friends.
The program as a whole set her up for success, as it was made for college students.
They received helpful lessons from professors around the country and had deadlines to keep them on track. “They all knew that we were college students,” she explained. They offered options to make the program more or less rigorous, depending on the student, and offered support throughout the process. Radecki highly recommends the Creator Institute program for anyone interested in publishing their first book.
Radecki has appreciated all the support she’s received from readers since the book debuted in February. The impact it has had on people, she said, has been amazing to see. “It means more to me than people really realize,” the author said, “I put so much into it.” She hopes that it can help people, regardless of age, religion or whether they struggle with mental illness themselves. “You never know, you may need to help somebody else.”
Interested readers can find print copies of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” on Amazon. E-book options are also available at Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million.