Former teacher’s book is not a typical young adult novel

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published September 18, 2013

Berkley resident Lisabeth Posthuma had her first book,
“Songs Eight Six,” released in early September.

BERKLEY — At some point while being a high school English teacher, Lisabeth Posthuma realized the books she was teaching her students didn’t have the deeper message she was looking for in literature.

“I’ve always been interested in writing — my degree is in English — and I read a lot of young adult and new adult literature so I could talk about it with my students,” Posthuma, 33, said. “But I was left looking for something with a bigger meaning after reading books. They were all so great and entertaining, but I’m the type of person that is looking for a deeper message and a life purpose, so I took a stab at writing one, myself.”

“Songs Eight Six,” was released in early September as both an electronic book and a paperback book. Posthuma, who currently lives in Berkley, said the book was named after a Bible passage and is inspired by her faith.

Posthuma started writing the book in 2011 and finished in May of this year. The process, however, was more difficult than she expected and included, at one point, deleting about a third of the book and rewriting it.

“At one point, I deleted 50,000 words, and at another point, I realized something was not quite right and I cut another 30,000 words,” she said. “It was a very painful process, but as a result, I feel like I have a solid story and kind of the one I needed to tell.”

One way “Songs Eight Six,” is different than other young adult books is the way it begins. While other books in the genre end with the boy and the girl ending up together, Posthuma said her book begins with the girl already having the perfect guy.

“I knew where I wanted to start, and I knew where I wanted to end, and that was to have the girl with the perfect boy at the beginning,” she said. “Anytime you break from the pattern, it is a risk. My goal is for that risk to pay off, and if I was not going to have the satisfying ending of the boy and girl pushed together, then I had to give my audience an equally satisfying ending.

“I feel, with the characters I have and the progression they go through, I was able to achieve that without being so cookie-cutter.”

The best way for Posthuma to make sure her risk would pay off was having beta readers throughout the process, she said.

Bethany Hanks, 21, has known Posthuma for years, having attended the same church and baby-sitting for her. Posthuma thought Hanks, now a college student at Grand Valley State University, was the perfect first beta reader, and Hanks was happy to be part of it.

“At first, I got around 300 pages, and I locked myself in my room and read the whole thing in a day and took notes,” Hanks said. “She would ask me questions about plot development or dialogue, and if it was realistic and how it made me feel. It was basically like having the writer of your favorite TV show asking what you thought of the developing plot, because I was already a fan girl of her book.”

Hanks said she reads as often as she can and is not shy about sharing her opinion when asked. When it came to the breaking-from-the-mold technique of Posthuma’s book, Hanks said it worked.

“There are a lot of young adult books that have such an engaging story, but they are so meaningless and pointless,” she said. “Lisabeth’s book has an engaging plot and romance and the supernatural, but it gives them all purpose and it is not condescending or preaching to the readers. It has meaning.”

When the book was finally complete, Posthuma said she “sobbed a lot,” as she felt she had completed one of her life’s goals. “Songs Eight Six,” is meant to be the first book in a series of four, she said, and she hopes there is enough interest in the project.

“I knew I was going to finish the book the day before I did, and I said if I died then, my life would have been a huge disappointment,” Posthuma said. “But, the second I put the last period on my manuscript, I had this overwhelming feeling that I had fulfilled my purpose. If I had died then, I would have been OK, because I felt like I had accomplished the No. 1 thing on my bucket list, and that I was leaving something behind that, hopefully, could inspire other people.”

“Songs Eight Six,” can be purchased at