STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A young Steamboat Springs teenager is adjusting to life as a published author, trying to help other young writers even while dealing with online trolls.
“I’ve seen a couple of hate accounts saying ‘no one cares about your book’ … so much drama,” said Mackenzie Ostrowski, who is out with the second book of her science fiction trilogy, “Parallel Crimes.” “I’m just trying to write and have fun.”
Luckily, the 14-year-old has been met with far more positive feedback from fans who have already read her first book, “Captive Assassins.” The novel follows a young New York woman who’s been accepted into a secret elite society located on Europa, a moon that orbits Jupiter. The heroine finds herself in the middle of a sinister plan hatched by Europa’s president.
“I’ve seen a couple of fan accounts, and it warms my heart so much to see a fan write that she loves Mackenzie Ostrowski’s books,” Ostrowski said.
For those who read Ostrowski’s first book, the second book starts at the exact second the other book left off.
“She (the heroine) is in front of the White House, and the antagonist threatens her and says ‘you need to get in the car right now,’” Ostrowski explained.
Ostrowski said she turned a seventh-grade English writing warmup into what would eventually become her novels. She decided to self-publish with Kindle since she believed publishers would ignore a middle school student. A friend of her mother’s offered to edit the novel. The manuscript came back with red ink all over it with corrections and questions to flesh out the novel. Still, editor Deanna Griffith was amazed at the writing.
“She was like 11. It was just shocking,” Griffith said. “I couldn’t believe her mind came up with all that stuff.”
She said Ostrowski’s second novel is even more exciting than the first novel and shows how much the teenager has matured and improved as a writer.
“She was open to feedback, and she just really craved it. She didn’t personalize it,” said Griffith, who lives and works in Centennial. “She’s like ‘this woman is here to make my writing better, and that’s what we’re going to do.’”
Ostrowski is now encouraging and helping other young people she’s known or met through social media.
“I think my biggest priority for them is to make sure they know they can go for what they want in life,” she said.
Ostrowski is working on co-writing a novel with several friends. She’s also been approached to read other young people’s writing.
“Now, I look back at my first novel, and there’s some parts I don’t like, but that’s OK,” Ostrowski said. “We all start somewhere. It’s OK to make mistakes. It makes us braver and stronger.”
Her books are available in hardcover, paperback and as an e-book. And as a young Colorado author, word is getting around.
“My editor texted me, ‘you won’t believe what I saw at the Arapahoe Library in Denver!’ and now, Walmart sells them too,” Ostrowski said.
The Bud Werner Memorial Library has the books in their collection, and they are also sold at Off the Beaten Path bookstore. Since moving to Steamboat in summer 2019, Ostrowski often uses the independent bookstore as a writing base.
“I write upstairs, and sometimes, I see people going up to my book and reading it,” Ostrowski said. “I get so excited seeing them enjoy it.”
But watching her 5-year-old sister and little cousin pretending to read her book really caught Ostrowski’s attention.
“When I see girls in my family looking up to me, I’m like ‘if there’s something that inspires you, go for it,’” she said.
As for how sales are going, Ostrowski said it’s difficult to tell, but she thinks her first book sold in the hundreds but is gaining traction.
“I had a $32 check come in,” she laughed. “I’ll take whatever I can get.”
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.