ANDERSON, S.C. — Tessa Emily Hall received copies of her first book, “Purple Moon,” a day after she signed a contract with an agent who is going to help her market her second and third book.
Recently, she was on hand at the Anderson County Museum for her first book signing. All of this is remarkable because Tessa is 19 years old. She has already reached one of her top goals before the end of her teenage years: She is a professional writer.
Maybe that is because she had an early start on her writing life.
Hall, an Anderson native and graduate of Anderson Christian School, has been telling stories since she was 3 years old.
“When she was a toddler, she would beg me to read to her,” her mother, Tammy, said. “I thought it was neat that people could interpret marks on paper and turn that into a story,” Tessa added.
She still remembers those books with the “golden spines” that were on the shelves in her parents’ house. Her mother remembers Tessa picking up those blue Bible story books that used to be commonplace in doctors’ offices. “She loved reading those stories, and looking at the pictures,” Tammy said.
As a preschooler, she was typing in emails to family members and friends. When Tessa was in the third grade, she was writing her own stories and illustrating them. Before she could write, she would dictate stories to her willing family members-turned scribes.
One of the first stories she wrote was, “The Colorful Dolphin,” a story of a girl who brought a colorful dolphin home from a pet store and put it in her backyard pond.
“I wrote so many after that,” Tessa said. “That is all I did in my free time.”
A stack of papers stapled together would keep Tessa busy for hours, her parents said. She wrote a series, which she still has, called “Rebecca’s Journal.” It was a chapter series, much like the Judy Blume books she was reading at the time.
By the time Tessa was in the fourth and fifth grades at Midway Elementary School, she was winning awards for her essays that she wrote about her grandmother and her grandfather. Her stories were growing more complex. She was graduating from the stories of colorful dolphins and trips to the beach. Her stories were becoming about people and the issues they were facing.
One story that she wrote, called “Dear My Soon-to-Come Baby Sister,” was about a couple’s struggle to have children.
Tessa said she began to see stories as a way to entertain, but also as a way to change people – to minister to them.
“I’ve always liked to create things,” Tessa said. “But I also like to use my imagination to create stories that people can relate to.”
This is what she wants to do as a professional writer. It is her aim in her book, “Purple Moon.” She does not want to preach to people, but she wants to leave her readers with a story that helps them with their own struggles, and questions. She wants to help people, in her own generation, with their faith by telling them stories.
In “Purple Moon,” Tessa centers the story on a young lady – one that is about her age – named Selena, whose mother struggles with addictions and she is left to sort out life on her own. The story takes place during a summer that Selena spends with her “snobby cousin” in Lake Lure, N.C.
The book has been published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
Eddie Jones was at the Blue Ridge Writers’ Conference that Tessa attended at age 16. It was her first writing conference, and she was going to learn about the writing craft, and about how she could become a published author one day.
Jones was curious about Tessa because she was one of the youngest in the class. He asked if she had any chapters available from her book. She handed him a copy of what she had with her.
It was “refreshing,” Jones said.
“In Tessa’s writing, I saw an opportunity to encourage her to continue telling these stories,” Jones said. “What I read from her book, what she had with her that day, was better than 80 percent of what I had read at that entire conference for the whole week. And she was just 16. I was amazed.”
Jones said his publishing company offered her a contract for the first book, “Purple Moon,” to help her launch her writing career.
Tessa is hoping it will do just that.
She wants to be telling stories for a long time to come.
“I hope to never stop writing, whether that includes having my work published or seeing my name on a best-seller list,” Tessa said. “I hope to never stop encouraging people. … I hope that my stories will represent the power of God’s unending love and his transforming grace.
“That’s my No. 1 goal, my No. 1 reason for wanting to pursue writing for the rest of my life.”