Dreaming of space adventures leads to debut of attorney's kids' book

By Lori Atherton
U-M Law

Some people spend their work commutes catching up on email or scrolling through Facebook. Others u?nwind by listening to their favorite podcast. Monica Tesler spent the better part of a year on a commuter boat dreaming of space adventures, the likes of which can be found in “Bounders,” her debut novel for middle-grade readers.

Monica Tesler, a 1998? graduate of the Univerity of Michigan Law School, wrote “Bounders” in 2012 while commuting to her job at the investment firm Oechsle International Advisers LLC in Boston, where she was previously general counsel and is now special counsel. “Bounders,” the first book in a science fiction series for 10- to 14-year-olds, will be published by Simon & Schuster on January 5.

Despite a lifelong interest in creative writing, Tesler didn’t graduate from Michigan Law with a desire to pen kids’ books. Though she infused her legal writing with as much creativity as possible—“I was somewhat known in my firm for how I tackled brief writing,” Tesler says—writing as a hobby took a back seat to the demands of her growing career and family. She credits a home renovation project in 2011 with “reigniting the creative side of my brain.”

Tesler, whose favorite book as a child was Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” was inspired to write for middle-grade ages after witnessing her son Nathan’s blossoming interest in reading kids’ fantasy series such as “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” Nathan, 11, was the first person to read “Bounders,” which focuses on 12-year-old Jasper Adams and his friends who were brought to EarthBound Academy to train as elite aeronauts. They soon learn the academy has bigger plans for them than they were initially told. Each of the characters has what Tesler calls brain differences—sensory processing difficulties or social challenges, for example—which she hopes readers will identify with. “There aren’t any diagnoses used in “Bounders,” and that is intentionally so, but children who have ADHD or autism spectrum disorders may see themselves in some of the characters in the book,” Tesler says.

Though the process of acquiring a literary agent and selling the finished manuscript took less than two years—a relatively short time frame in the publishing world—the experience was nerve-wracking for Tesler nonetheless. “It was an exercise in letting go and seeing what happens, but also refreshing the email button constantly,” she says. “When I received the email from my agent that I had an offer from Simon & Schuster, it was one of those trees-fall-in-the-forest-and-no-one-hears moments. I was alone in my house and let out a very dramatic scream and fell to the floor. It’s been very exciting, but there were definitely highs and lows on the journey to publication.”

Simon & Schuster acquired “Bounders” as part of at least a three-book series; Tesler finished the manuscript for the second book in October and is now gearing up for publicity related to the release of “Bounders,” including bookstore visits, author talks, and a book launch party at her local library. Her biggest fans—son Nathan, husband Jamey Tesler, ‘98, and youngest son, Gabriel, will be there to celebrate her success.

Tesler credits her Michigan education with “setting the stage for her to take a step into the writing world.” Particularly influential on Tesler was the Legal Imagination class taught by James Boyd White, the L. Hart Wright Collegiate Professor of Law Emeritus. “More than anyone, he was able to teach the power of language and the importance of word choice and detail,” she says. “He demonstrated that there was room for creativity in the law, and I really felt like I took that teaching and used it in my legal career.”

More information about Tesler and “Bounders” can be found on her website, monicatesler.com.