Two Sixth Formers Become Published Authors


Agathe Robert ’24

Courtesy of Agathe Robert 24′

“If you have an idea, go for it!” That is how Julie Xie ’23 and Amy Ma ’23 describe their summer’s accomplishments of publishing their first books, Sundays by the Seaside and The Seed Still Grows: A Graphic History of Australian Bushfires.


Since middle school, writing a book has been on Julie’s radar. As the years went by and her writing style flourished, Julie wrote more and more poems. “It came to a point that I was satisfied with them; they weren’t childish but profound,” she explained. Surprising even herself, Julie realized she had built a collection of poems encompassing the theme of home and family. Once she amalgamated her poems into a first draft, Julie then “decided to draw some pieces for the book… to make it feel more complete.” 


For Julie, writing a book and publishing it was a “whole emotional journey.” She only decided to promote her publication on social media after the encouragement of two close friends who read it. Julie sees her book as a personal project and has thus not “actively advertised” it. Yet, Julie can definitely “see [her]self doing more of it in the future” by “adding to the volume of it.”


Amy’s journey began at a month-long internship in South Australia with Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife–organizations that provide relief for the environment after wildfires–granted by Groton School’s Dwight fund. After realizing how misguided most people are about wildfires, she decided she wanted to spread awareness about this phenomenon. Rather than being solely destructive, wildfires are “also a very important part of the natural ecosystem…[and] many plants actually rely on fire to spread their species,” Amy explains. 

She decided an illustrated book was the best medium to spread awareness to her target middle school and high school audience. Drawing allowed her to portray Australia’s “visually diverse and beautiful” environment since one can “communicate and feel a lot through color.” Amy drew all her illustrations on her iPad, using a “hard drive full of pictures” provided by a resident research scientist. 


All of the book’s profit will be given to critically underfunded organizations. Like Julie, Amy also has aspirations for the future—perhaps a book demystifying the coral reefs will be next on your bookshelf.


Julie and Amy both self-published using Amazon’s KDP site. They appreciated the accessibility and easiness of the platform despite facing inevitable troubles. Without the need to “actively seek a publisher, so long as you are confident enough, you can do anything–you can write a book!” exclaims Julie. Amy also advertised the message more widely by publishing on Ingram Sparks, creating a website, and working with organizations in Australia. 


The journey to publishing their first books was not always smooth. Julie pulled an all-nighter working on the book “because [she] was so excited” and Amy worked 3 to 4 hours per day during the first weeks of fall term to wrap the project up in two months. Yet despite the bumps the authors had to surmount, the reward was a “tangible creation.”