Samantha VanAlstyne, 25, can now list “published author” on her resume as she continues to juggle life and college during an ongoing pandemic. Earlier this year, she self-published “Hi, I’m Sam,” which details her journey with cerebral palsy and learning self-acceptance.
“It all started as a conversation with my seven-year-old niece,” VanAlstyne said, further explaining that she is a five-year-old aunt, with two on the way. “She wanted to know why I live in a group home rather than my father.”
“Then,” VanAlstyne continued, “the idea became an educational tool for children and adults who might not know how to approach the subject otherwise.”
Having always enjoyed reading and writing growing up, VanAlstyne said she wanted to be an author while other children aspire to be a firefighter or a police officer. “I’ve always breathed books and even now I read or listen to two to three books a month,” she said.
But, we can also say that being an author is in VanAlstyne’s blood. “As a child, my favorite books were the Little House on the Prairie series,” she explained, “mainly because the author is my distant maternal relative. “
VanAlstyne started the writing process last October and carefully organized her college semester schedule so that she could use her Fridays off as “work days” for writing. She saw the final product come to fruition in January, after learning how to publish the 700-word story herself as well as design the layout and cover. She also collaborated with her cousin Tessa for the illustrations for the book.
“Getting my first batch of books after publication was fun,” VanAlstyne said. “I cried when I opened the box.”
Throughout this process, VanAlstyne said she learned that the children’s book was more needed than the audience anticipated. Pictures of children holding VanAlstyne’s book were also posted on various social media platforms, which helped spread VanAlstyne’s messages of learning, love and acceptance.
“When I published it, I had hoped to sell maybe 10 copies to my family and friends,” she said six months after her book came out. “But I sold about 300 of them, which is way more than I expected.”
The Chatham, NY native moved to Hudson five years ago and currently lives and receives services through Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health New York. VanAlstyne credits team members Devereux New York for helping “thrive and become more independent”.
“We are extremely proud of Samantha and all she has accomplished,” said John Lopez, Executive Director of Devereux New York. “She is a talented young woman who, during the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to take the time to write and publish a book – in addition to taking several university courses. “
He continued, “At Devereux New York, we strive to help the people we serve pursue their dreams, and Samantha does just that.”
As summer is in full swing, VanAlstyne is pursuing her associate degree in psychology at Hudson Valley Community College – in the hopes of one day helping people with substance use disorders. She also plans to write several sequels to “Hi, I’m Sam” in the future.
“Hi, I’m Sam” can be purchased online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Walmart. Those interested in directly supporting VanAlstyne can also purchase an autographed copy from its website, samvanalstyne.com.