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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
<p>“Cardboard Characters” took nearly three years to write, but it was worth it for author Julie Seifert.</p>

“Cardboard Characters” took nearly three years to write, but it was worth it for author Julie Seifert.

Most freshman class projects end up in a dorm room trash bin or, at best, are saved deep in the ranks of a computer file that will never be looked at again.

But for then-freshman Julie Seifert, it proved impossible to forget her class project. She was stuck with the characters she conjured up for an assignment as part of her Writing for Young Adult Fiction class at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Three years, countless edits and about 70,000 words later, the characters Seifert couldn’t shake turned into her first novel, “Cardboard Characters,” which tells the story of Leah, a girl who is cast as the lead for a high school play against her wishes.

Now a fourth-year English major at UF, Seifert, who transferred from UNC-Chapel Hill after her freshman year, has put “Cardboard Characters” up for sale on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Since the early March online release of the book, “Cardboard Characters” has been purchased more than 30 times. That’s about 30 people Seifert has managed to reach on her own — no agent, no publishing house, no wasted paper, just Seifert.

The online community is already buzzing about the book. About 30 people have added “Cardboard Characters” to their to-read list on goodreads.com, a social networking site for book-lovers, after popular young-adult book blogger Laura from the blog “My Enchanted Bookshelf” gave it a rating of “simply delectable.”

“Reading the book was like reading a note or a journal entry that she’d written and let me have a peek at. It’s witty and engaging and keeps you rooted to your seat, wanting to keep reading no matter what else demands your attention,” wrote Laura in her review of “Cardboard Characters.”

Seifert has also managed to garner some publicity for her novel through her blog, julie999.blogspot.com, which has gained an audience of about 200 visitors per day in less than nine months.

She began blogging in late August 2011, and though at first the blog was just a side project, Seifert’s witty remarks about college life, pop culture and young adult books began attracting visitors from all over the world, from the U.S. to Mexico to Bratislava, Slovakia.

“Julie’s Blog,” as she named it, is not the stereotypical literary blog, filled with entry upon entry dissecting the themes of great contemporary works of fiction; it’s brazenly fun, much like Seifert herself.

“Julie has a complete originality and unapologetic nature toward liking otherwise-scorned-by-the-elite-liberal-arts-student things like Britney Spears and modern young-adult fiction,” said Caitlin Davis, former president of the UF English Society and UF alumna. “In fact, I can’t tell you how many times she and I have spammed each other with links to our favorite Britney Spears music videos.”

But behind the Britney Spears fan, the girl who has been known to belt out what her friend and “Cardboard Characters” cover designer Adam Jalali calls a “pretty mean ’90s pop song” is a committed, aspiring writer.

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While writing her novel, Seifert transferred universities, acquired and lost a deal with a literary agent and went through a stressful graduate-school application process, but she never stopped writing.

“Julie has been through an incredible up-and-down journey with this novel. She has stuck by her writing the entire time,” said her good friend and University of Southern California senior Aly Owen, who met Seifert at a creative writer’s workshop in the summer of 2007.

Although she’ll be attending the UNC School of Information and Library Science in the fall in hopes of pursuing a career as a librarian, Seifert knows she’ll always be writing.

“Not to be really cheesy, but I just never considered stopping,” she said. “It just seems too depressing.”

For Seifert, it’s about more than the personal satisfaction or sense of accomplishment that comes with writing a novel, said her friend Owen. It’s about entertainment and the moments of “Oh, I’ve been there and felt that, too!” that make writing — and reading — fun.

“Cardboard Characters” took nearly three years to write, but it was worth it for author Julie Seifert.

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