At 22, Victoria Duerstock dreamt of playing piano in concert halls and composing music for the rest of her life. Her natural creativity, though, had other plans for her.
Duerstock has quite a few creative projects under her belt. After getting a degree in piano performance and teaching music lessons to children from her home studio in Nesbit, she shifted her creative focus to writing.
With four hospitality and devotional books about bearing her name currently sitting on bookstore shelves, Duerstock found that some of the most important parts of becoming a published author were not the words she put on the pages.
“There was a lot about the writing process I didn’t know or understand,” Duerstock said. “I thought that if you just wrote a good book, someone would look at it… That’s not what happened.”
Duerstock quickly realized the issue: she wasn’t marketing herself. With little social media presence, she wasn’t the first choice for publishers. She said that, in a time where social media is its own industry, authors need to market their work themselves.
“It’s hard to learn that part of the process,” she said. “It’s not something authors want to deal with. We’re not typically sales people.”
One of the most important lessons Duerstock has learned working in a creative field, she said, is the importance of adapting and being willing to grow. A self-described type A personality, she spent a lot of time researching social media engagement by watching Youtube videos, reading online articles and even picking up a few books.
“I always have lots of different goals and things I want to achieve,” she said. “Whatever I do, I set my mind to doing it and making it happen.”
She said she grew her online platforms from just 53 followers on Twitter to almost 53,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter combined.
Taking the tools she’s learned throughout her research, Duerstock began teaching courses on growing social media platforms and learning how to better engage with audiences.
This wasn’t how Duerstock began teaching, though. Before she was putting pen to paper, Duerstock taught music lessons to students in DeSoto County. With a master’s degree in music education, she taught vocal and piano lessons out of her home studio for almost 20 years. Her students, she said, are what got her writing in the first place.
In music lessons, Duerstock said she taught her students much more than hitting the right notes. Her lessons included work ethic and persistence, and she said her students encouraged her to take those principles to her own writing. So, she dove head-first into a path toward writing.
“I started blogging and journaling in 2016,” she said. “Then, I started going to writing conferences.”
Learning how to increase her social media presence wasn’t the only shift that Duerstock made on her journey to become a published author. Though she began by exploring writing mystery fiction, she is now a popular interior design and devotionals author.
“I have always been an avid reader. I grew up on Agatha Christie,” she said. “An author at a conference suggested I try fiction writing. I had an idea for a fiction story and wanted to write a crime suspense novel.”
She said that she finished the book in about six weeks.
“It still hasn’t found a publishing home yet,” she said, laughing.
After applying what she learned in her social media engagement research, she learned what publishers were looking for, and she found herself shifting from mystery fiction novels to interior decorating and devotionals. She said that writing about hospitality was a natural overflow of her home.
Now, she has published four books in that space. Her most recent book, “Advent Devotions & Christmas Crafts for Families,” hit bookstore shelves just last month.
“A new publisher contacted me about writing about hospitality,” she said. “I always thought it would be fun to do a Christmas version (of one of my earlier books) with crafts for kids.”
Though Duerstock partially credits her hard work and endurance for her success, most of it, she said, was found through her faith and focus.
“I know it’s a product of open doors and not anything I’m spectacularly wonderful at,” she said. “I’ve just been in the right place at the right time. It’s all about being willing to do the work and willing to keep at it.”