How writing my Emerson Page novel trilogy saved my life—my conversation with Dr. Ed Freeman on The Stakeholder Podcast

In June 2022, I had the great good fortune to speak to my professor, mentor, and dear friend, Dr. Ed Freeman from the Darden School, on The Stakeholder Podcast.  

Link to the podcast episode:

Ed and I chat about:

  • how writing my Emerson Page novel trilogy saved my life
  • my live storytelling shows, screenwriting, and passion projects
  • my love for history, being a NYC tour guide, and how I got a tattoo live on stage
  • how product development helps me as a writer, and how being a writer helped me as a product developer 
  • living through difficult times and mental health challenges through creative work
  • my multi-faceted and varied career
  • making a living through a creative life
  • business and product development
  • building a better, more sustainable world

Ed is a treasure. He’s been one of the greatest influences on my work and life. He recently won University of Virginia’s highest honor: The Thomas Jefferson Award. Ed’s pioneering work on stakeholder theory changed the way we think about business and how businesses all over the world make decisions to create value. 

If you’ve ever used the word “stakeholder,” you can tip your cap to Ed. His writing about sustainability and stakeholder theory is what put UVA’s Darden School on the map for me, why I applied, and why I was honored to attend and graduate from the school with my MBA. He changed my life in incredible ways and I’m forever grateful for him. Thanks to Ed and producer, Ben Freeman, for having me on the podcast as a guest. 


The start of summer has me thinking about travel and writing

This week was the official start of summer, and that has me thinking about travel and writing. It also has me thinking about all of the wisdom around joy and travel that writer Felicia Sabartinelli packed into The Joy of Airports episode on the JoyProject podcast. Here are some of my favorite quotes. Listen to our conversation at and wherever you get your podcasts.


JoyProject podcast: The Joy of Airports with Felicia Sabartinelli

Felicia Sabartinelli

The latest episode of the JoyProject podcast is live—The Joy of Airports with Felicia Sabartinelli!

Think you can’t find joy in an airport? Think again! Felicia Sabartinelli is a seasoned world traveler and once you hear her wax poetic about airports, you’ll see them and experience them differently. She explains that airports are the rarest of gems that help us to discover “a state of childlike wonderment.”

At the end of the podcast, I share something that brought me joy this week. It was a stressful and frightening one for me, and I say a heartfelt and grateful thank you to the Animal Medical Center of New York doctors and staff who saved my dog’s life when I was afraid I may have to say goodbye to him too soon.

The Joy of Airports with Felicia Sabartinelli

Topics discussed in this episode:
– Felicia’s definition of joy
– The importance of finding joy during the most challenging times
– All the places to find and experience joy in an airport
– How airports are becoming a destination
– Felicia’s travels to Spain, Turkey, Iceland, Sweden, China, Alaska, Finland, Mexico, Jamaica, and Austria
– Her upcoming book, Good Girl
– Writing while traveling
– The Denver airport and the mysteries it holds
– The art of the Seattle airport
– Her upcoming Masters program in the UK
– How the joy of musicals found their footing in society after WWII

Links to resources:
– Felicia’s website –
– Felicia on Instagram – @Sabartinelli
– Felicia on TikTok – @Sabartinelli
– Christa on Twitter – @christanyc
– Christa on Instagram – @christarosenyc
– Christa’s website –
– The Animal Medical Center of NY

A little bit about Felicia:
Felicia Sabartinelli is a fifth-generation Coloradoan whose poetry and personal essays have been published in major magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Many of her personal essays are still in wide circulation today like, My Miscarriages Ruined My MarriageThe Invisible Hierarchy of Grief which recently won a Writer’s Digest award, and I’m So Allergic, Event Fruits and Veggies Can Kill Me.  When she is not writing, you can find her acting, painting, traveling the world, binge-watching her favorite TV shows, or speaking on the topics of creativity and self-realization.


How research helps writers get unstuck

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

Have you ever been in the messy middle of a writing project? It’s the point where you’re not quite sure how to get from the middle of the narrative to the satisfying conclusion you have planned. It feels like you’re in quicksand, unable to clearly see the path forward. Your characters look to you for guidance, you look to them for guidance, and none of you have any answers so you just spin place, or worse—you abandon the project altogether. 

The wisdom and guidance you need to get out of the messy middle is research. Right now I’m working on a historical fiction novel. The main tentpoles of the plot have remained the same but I’ve brought in many new details to make the script come alive. It’s set in an Italian bakery in New York City in 1910, a dynamic and wild time in the city, country, and world. A myriad of historical events would have had an outsized impact on my characters so I have to research that time to get the details just right. It’s a heavy lift, and ultimately worth the time and attention.

I got myself out of that messy middle by digging into The New York Times archive for specific dates and events that figure prominently into the lives of my characters. In that research I found a plethora of information, and that information created the map I needed to find my way to the conclusion. 

If you’re in the messy middle now and ready to throw in the towel out of frustration, take a deep breath and go to the archives. Let history be your guide. Research your way across the channel to safely emerge on shore on the other side. It’s only a matter of time. The world needs your story.


Research is a writer’s best friend

Art by CJ Bown of the Arcade in Central Park that hangs in my apartment

I’m under contract to write the third novel in my Emerson Page trilogy. I’ve struggled to find my footing with this one. I’ve written out over half a dozen concepts and nothing felt genuine. It all felt like a forced narrative. This has been going on for months.

I had a hunch that the book should begin in the Arcade near Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain. I wasn’t sure how or why, but that space has called to me for years. I have a huge photograph of it hanging in my apartment, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of art. For months I’ve been looking for interesting aspects of the arcade and the fountain, hoping to find some link to Emerson’s story. Nothing.

So I went back to the primary source—Greensward, the original plan for Central Park written by Olmsted and Vaux in 1858. Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, along with the Arcade, are considered the heart of the Park. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Nature had an enormous influence on the design of Central Park. Both Olmsted and Vaux admired him. My protagonist, Emerson Page, is named after Emerson.

From there, I did more research on Emerson, Olmsted, and Vaux and found a number of links to the muses of Greek mythology who figure prominently in Emerson Page’s story. All the pieces I’d been struggling to find fell into place one by one and before I knew it, my outline of the third book was humming after so many false starts.

If you find yourself stuck in your writing, I highly encourage a detour into research and into primary sources. The answers to our present challenges often have roots in the past. Our job as writers is to uncover them and bring them into the light.


This blog is also a podcast

Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash

WordPress and Anchor make it easy to turn a blog into a podcast so I did it! Curating a Creative Life is now available on Anchor, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music and Audible, Castbox, RadioPublic, and Stitcher.

I wanted to expand this distribution to make this blog more accessible to more people in more places. From the blog, you can click the “listen on Spotify” icon at the top of the posts that are on the podcast, go to the links above or search “Curating a Creative Life Through Writing” on any of the platforms where it’s available, or go to this website for all of the direct links:

If you’d like to turn your WordPress blog into a podcast, here are the step-by-step instructions. Happy listening!


The query letter that helped me attract a publisher

I believe in generously sharing my journey, especially when it comes to my writing. People often ask me, “how did you get a book published?” When Emerson was first published, I had been querying agents without much success. Most never responded and any others that did respond were rejections. My favorite rejection was a response I received 5 minutes after I sent my query letter, and it had just two letters: “No”. That was the entire response. I am a pro in rejection.

I eventually found my first publisher by live pitching the book to them at an event I attended when I lived in D.C.

My new publisher that will republish my first novel and the other two books in the trilogy I got via query letter. I didn’t know anyone there. I’d never met them, they didn’t know my work prior to my query, and I sent it to the general submissions inbox that was listed on their website. The query process is often harrowing (or at least it was for me!) but it does work.

Here is the timeline from query to contract with my publisher:

  • October 29th – sent query
  • November 16th – I got a request for the full manuscript
  • February 1st – I was invited to a meeting to talk about possible publication.
  • February 11th – Met the acquiring editor via Zoom
  • February 14th – They made an offer to publish the whole Emerson Page trilogy

In the spirit of generosity, I wanted to share the letter I wrote that led to my publisher requesting the full manuscript. I hope as you’re crafting your query letters, this letter will help you!

Dear Editors,
My novel, EMERSON PAGE AND WHERE THE LIGHT LEADS, is a young adult adventure novel that draws inspiration from Greek and Celtic mythology. Given your interest in publishing stories that push the boundaries, I thought Emerson’s story would be a fit. Per your submission guidelines, please find a brief synopsis and my bio below. 

Fifteen-year-old Emerson Page is committed to fulfilling her mother’s legacy— gain access to a fantastical underworld hidden below Dublin, Ireland where an ancient book authored by the Greek muses is being held hostage. A world-renowned anthropologist, her mother gave her life to protect this book because it contains the secrets to unlimited human creativity. In the hands of someone who wants to build a better world, this book is a priceless gift. In the hands of someone who seeks to control humanity, it’s a dangerous weapon.

With her two best friends and her service dog, Friday, Emerson sets out from her home in New York City in a race against a formidable enemy—a former family friend turned traitor with powerful gifts of his own who seeks the book for himself. Emerson and her friends face near-impossible physical, mental, and emotional struggles on their journey that push every limit they have. All the while, the clock is ticking. The window between this ancient world and their home is only open for twenty-four hours.

Publishing history
This is my second novel. Thumbkin Prints published my first novel, EMERSON PAGE AND WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS, in 2017. It received strong reviews and was featured by Kirkus Reviews and Midwest Book Review among others. It won several awards including: 2017 Nautilus Book Award for Young Adult Fiction (Silver), 2018 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal in Young Adult Adventure and the Wind Dancer Films Award, was one of 25 finalists out of 1,200 submissions the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition, winner of TopShelf Magazine Award for young adult mythology / fairy tale, was #1 on Coverfly’s THE RED LIST for 2019 Adventure Book Manuscripts, and remains at #5 on THE RED LIST two years later. I was also chosen as a featured speaker at the Virginia Festival of the Book in 2018. Unfortunately, Thumbkin Prints closed its doors due to recent financial hardship. Thankfully, all rights for my novel reverted back to me when they closed.

I write stories about women and girls who are underestimated and determined to rise. I have a career and life that melds my passion for storytelling, business, and scientific research in the field of biomimicry. A proud graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State University, my work focuses on collaboratively building products, services, and experiences that create a better world. I also have a deep love for discovering history’s hidden narratives, secrets, and perspectives.

I’ve been an invited speaker at SXSW, Games for Change, New York University, Columbia University, Cornell Tech, City University of New York, the Brooklyn Brainery, and Wildlife Conservation Society. My non-fiction writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Royal Media Partners publications, Pipeline Artists, The Biomimicry Institute’s Ask NatureThe Henry Ford magazine, Inside History, and Natural History Magazine. I was a producer for the PBS television series Live at 9:30 and am now a producer for Carnegie Hall’s digital media initiatives.

I began my career managing Broadway shows and national theater tours. I spent over a decade as a product leader in the technology industry. Now I’m the Founder of Double or Nothing Media, a company that provides product development services and the business strategies to bring those products to life. Powered by joy and curiosity, I live in New York City with my rescue dog, Phineas, and am equally inspired by ancient wisdom and modern technology. I share my never-ending curiosity on Twitter @christanyc, Instagram @christarosenyc, and my personal website, Curating a Creative Life, at  

Thank you for your time and consideration of my work. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely yours, 

Christa Avampato


A Publisher Bought My YA Novel Trilogy—Here’s Everything I Did Wrong

A month ago, I sold not one book but three! I signed a contract with a publisher for my Emerson Page trilogy. This is an especially sweet personal triumph for me because:

· The first book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, was previously published in 2017 by an independent publisher that went out of business

· I’ve sent out 77 queries for the second book over the last 2 years and 5 months

· I only have a working title and logline for the third book — not even an outline much less a manuscript

· I don’t have an agent

By conventional publishing wisdom, I did many things wrong in this latest query process. And still, the story won in the end. The acquisitions editor had an immediate connection with me, Emerson, and her story. I want to share this story with all authors in every stage of their careers, people in the business of publishing, and book lovers who wonder how this process unfolded for me. I’m just one specific example, and I think it can help others on their journey to know how this happened.

These are the pieces of advice I received many times over that made me doubt myself. I’m glad I bet on myself, Emerson, and readers, and that I kept going.

1. “You cannot query agents and independent publishers at the same time.”
I did. I received some kind rejections from agents and publishers who accept direct queries, a few discouraging rejections, and radio silence from the majority of them. I would have loved to get an agent from this process. I thought the success of the first book might help with that. It didn’t. In the fall of 2021, I decided to look at independent publishers one more time to see if there were any others that might be a fit for me and Emerson. I’m so glad I did. That’s how I found with my new publisher.

2. “Since the first book in the series was already published, no one else will pick it up, much less the other two books in the series.”
In my query letter for the second book, I mentioned Emerson’s first book, the awards it won, and the reviews it received but I was very careful to explain that the second book could stand on its own. This was a delicate balance because I wanted those I was querying to know about my publishing experience but I didn’t want to sink the property with a previous publication.

In a wonderful turn of events, the publisher asked if I was interested in finding a home for the first book as well. If so, they wanted to consider acquiring it along with the second book.

3. “The first book came out in 2017. That’s too long ago. Move on.”
I heard this a lot, and it hurt. Due to the pandemic and my health issues last year, I felt like I missed my chance and that this one novel was all that would ever see the light of day. When I wrote Emerson’s first book, I always saw the series as a trilogy. It’s how the book is built. It’s in the DNA of the story architecture. There are a lot of Easter eggs planted that come to life in the second two books. You don’t need any of the other books to enjoy any one of them, but together they do create a complete, rich world that’s hopeful and places an emphasis on the power of creativity, two themes that we need now more than ever.

4. “You’ve been querying for this second book for over two years. Shelve it and move on.”
This was another common refrain I heard. In October 2021, I almost believed it. I decided I’d send out one more round of queries. If that didn’t yield anything, I’d have to accept that this book just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe someday the rest of her story would be sent out into the world, but now was not the time. That last round of queries included my new publisher. As Anne Lamott said, don’t quit before the miracle.

5. “Publishers don’t want YA books with magic in them.”
This advice is everywhere and yet there are so many books and television series that defy this and that audiences love. This world could do with more magic and light, especially in these dark times.

6. “Do not pitch a book you haven’t written.”
At my meeting with the publisher, I explained that I saw this as a trilogy. I told them my working title for the third book, its logline, and how it completes Emerson’s arc in her coming of age story. I was very honest that I hadn’t even outlined the book much less written it. That didn’t phase them one bit. The offer I received was for the entire trilogy.

7. “If you really want this story to get out into the world, you’re going to have to self-publish and do everything yourself. And don’t expect too much to come from it. That’s the only option for this story at this point.”
I know a lot of people who have had success with self-publishing and enjoyed that process. In my gut, I knew that route wasn’t the right thing for Emerson. That’s why I kept querying. I wanted to find a partner who loves her and her story as much as I do. Having that partner to help make her story shine as bright as possible was important to me, and I found that partner with my new publisher.

This is not a story that tells you to never give up and to keep pushing through no matter what. I knew what I needed and wanted to do with this particular story and character. There are plenty of projects that I’ve shelved. Some I pick up again and some I don’t. There is no one way to get a story out into the world, and I’m so glad there will be much more from Emerson Page in the near future. Stay tuned and receive updates by signing up for my email list.

creativity, writing

Write every day: My feature on biomimicry is in The Henry Ford Magazine

Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 9.10.27 PMI’m so excited to share that the feature I wrote about biomimicry, Making Mother Nature Our Muse, has been published in The Henry Ford Magazine‘s latest issue which is all about sustainable design.

The Henry Ford is an innovation museum in Detroit, Michigan, that I’ve admired for years. I’m so pleased to be able to speak to their members through this piece.

Big hat tip to Lex Amore at the Biomimicry Institute, Jennifer LaForce, the wonderful editor of the magazine, and James Round for his beautiful illustrations.

You can find my stand alone feature here: Making Mother Nature Our Muse by Christa Avampato

The whole issue is fantastic and is available for free online here: The Henry Ford Magazine—June-Dec 2020


Write every day: Nature writing activity

“When you write, you lay out a line of words…Soon you find yourself deep in new territory.” ~Annie Dillard

On Sunday I took an online nature writing class and we did an exercise I wanted to share with all of you. Not only is it helpful for science writing, but it can really help with any piece of writing—first draft to tenth draft! Here’s how it goes:

1.) Place a small item in the middle of a piece of paper. This can be anything – a leaf, an acorn, a shell, a coin, a photograph. Anything at all.

2.) Begin to map the ideas, associations, and memories that come to you observe and think about this item. Follow trains of thought for as long as you’d like, connecting the flow of ideas with arrows or lines to form a type of web or mind map if you’d like. There are no wrong answers. Take 10-15 minutes for this.

3.) Choose one point on the web that is outside of the center, a few steps removed from your item, and write for 5 minutes with that point as your starting place. (You don’t need to write directly about your item, but you certainly can!) Now choose a different point on the web and begin writing from there. (You can do this as many times as you’d like).

4.) Finally, spend 10-15 minutes writing a reflection that begins with the center of your web, with your natural item. Drawing both on your web and on your previous shorter writings, see where your imagination takes you.