When Tracey Barski is not busy as a stay-at-home mother, she is taking on the challenge of self-publishing.
Tracey released her debut novel, “The Alternate End of Cassidy Marchand” — a mystery, romance and speculative fiction book with a science fiction edge — in January on Amazon. The book follows the protagonist as she is transported to another version of her life in an alternate reality where she discovers she has been killed by a serial killer. There, she must deduce who the killer is and find her way back to her own world.
Tracey actually finished the book years ago as she treated writing as a hobby and a fun creative outlet for years. However, she did not consider publishing it until she received positive feedback from multiple readers, including members of a beta reading group.
“I was pretty self-conscious of my writing, so I really didn’t share it a whole lot, but I opened myself up more and more to people to read it and give me feedback,” Tracey says. “Some of that was critical feedback, and it was actually really great because it gave me really good insight into how to improve my writing. The more people I allowed to read it, the more joy I got out of their response and how positively they responded to it.”
Although self-publishing is often challenging, Tracey says she was able to avoid the main obstacle, the cost, by doing many of the tasks herself. Luckily, Tracey had a vision for the cover that she could successfully execute herself, and since she is also a part-time editor, she trusted her own editing skills as well as those of other experienced editors she knew who read her book. She has also marketed herself by remaining active on social media. Since her chief goal is not necessarily to make a large amount of money, this marketing strategy has been sufficient for her.
“Usually the bad rap that self-publishing gets is from people who don’t use any kind of an editor, so you see a lot of mistakes and grammatical errors,” Tracey says. “I relied on myself a lot for that, and luckily it worked out really well for me, but that’s not always the case.”
Beyond her roles as a mother, author and editor, Tracey also earned a degree as a sign language interpreter after gaining an interest in it while in college. She worked as an interpreter until the start of the pandemic.
“I really had a knack for it and really enjoyed it,” Tracey says. “I like the language, I like the people and it’s really cool being part of information access. I’ve made some really great friends with some of the deaf people in my area and they just have a cool culture. Most of them are really kind people and they love it when hearing people learn their language because it means they can talk to more people.”
Tracey finds it difficult to dedicate time to each of her roles. As a mother of a 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, sometimes fitting her writing into her schedule means squeezing it in during nap times or after her children go to bed.
“It’s definitely a balancing act because there are times when all I want to do is sit and write, and my kids need to eat, or they want to go to the park or we have doctors’ appointments, but I think it’s important as a mom to prioritize time for myself and time for things that make me happy,” Tracey says.
To use her time wisely, Tracey does writing sprints where she times herself and focuses on writing continuously for that period of time. Tracey also credits the support of her husband and her writing community for helping her through obstacles.
As both a writer and sign language interpreter, Tracey has also struggled with self-doubt and a lack of confidence in her skills.
“I had this really positive response with my first book,” Tracey says. “I’m afraid the second one is going to be terrible and everyone is going to hate it or the story goes in a bad direction and it just doesn’t get the same positive response. That’s always a fear: that I’m not good enough, or this first book was a fluke and the second book is going to crash and burn.”
However, she has learned to be gracious to herself when she makes mistakes.
“Just as we say negative things to ourselves, we need to say positive things to ourselves,” Tracey says.
Tracey is proud of her perseverance in all aspects of her life.
“Publishing a book wasn’t necessarily my goal or on my radar, and then I decided to do it,” she says. “I jumped in with both feet and have just really seen it pay off. I’m really proud of this accomplishment and that I can say that I work part-time as an editor, and I stay home with my kids all day long and I published a book. I didn’t give up on the things I care about.”
Currently, Tracey has finished the second book in the series and is editing it. She hopes to publish it this fall and would eventually like to complete a third book in the series as well. After that, she hopes to pursue other book ideas.
“I was just talking to someone about this the other day, about strength and vulnerability at the same time, and I think we can all be both in all areas of our lives,” Tracey says. “We can be strong and goal-oriented in our careers but also know when and where to pull back a little bit. We can be the strong, career-driven person and also the person who hangs out at home and chills out with friends, or has passions outside of career. You don’t have to be one or the other. I don’t have to be just a mom or a career-driven woman; I can be both.”