Text by Henrylito D. Tacio
Photos courtesy of Reychelle Lagat
“I used to think that life could happen as planned, even if not perfectly. But in the past few years, I have seen how the world could change in a few months, and even more in a few years. Most things in life are uncertain and unsure foundations….”
Those words came from the pen of Reychelle Lagat, a twenty-one-year-old Dabawenya who has traveled in several countries, including those in Europe, North and South America, and Asia. But what sets her apart from youngsters of her age is that she has already written two self-published books through Amazon.
“This means that I write the books, my mom and I go through them for editing, and my dad takes care of the covers and the layout,” Lagat explains. “We also have to meet some requirements that Amazon asked for. All Amazon has to do is provide the opportunity for printing the books and making it available worldwide.”
The first book was entitled, Puzzled Without You. “I did not know what I would feel as I shared this book with the world, but I can see now that God is doing great things, beyond what we ask or imagine,” she says.
In the book, she says she adds some “reflective questions after every chapter to make readers think and reflect on how to apply what they have read.”
She also says, “I hope and pray that this book will remind readers that if the world was a puzzle, it would be incomplete without each of us. And if our lives were puzzles, they would be incomplete without God. The world would be puzzled without you, and you would be puzzled without God.”
Printing the book was a herculean task. “My parents and I had to navigate through Amazon publishing and the whole process of printing,” she says. “It may sound like an easy process, but the four months of processing taught me a lot about patience and trusting God.”
The second book was Rested in You, which highlights finding true rest in Jesus. “In this season of pandemic and all throughout life, there are lots of struggles and battles people face,” she says. “As I learned to find rest in Jesus, I decided to write about what God was teaching me. (Through the book), I hope to encourage people to pause and rest, instead of feeling drained in this ‘hustle culture.’”
Although the second book was still self-published, they already learned their lesson with the first book. “It also took me four months to write the book,” she admits. “Since I hoped to have it out by my birth month as well, it took two months to finalize the book, re-read it four times for editing, wait for the forewords, and finalize its cover. We may have had some experience, but the process was still a challenge.”
If you are wondering why her books have Christian themes, it’s because Lagat grew up in a Christian family. “I understand that being a Christian is not something passed down, but personally realized,” she says. “So even if I knew almost all the Bible stories as a kid, and memorized different verses and songs, it was accepting Jesus to be my Lord and Savior that really changed my life.”
Although Lagat was born in the Philippines, she literally grew up in the United States. Her mother worked as a nurse in the US when she was still single. She returned to the Philippines when she married her boyfriend, whom she met in a church when both were still in high school. Three years after they tied the nuptial knot, Reychelle came.
Reychelle was only eight months old when her mother brought her to California. Her father followed them a year later. From California, the family moved to Lawrenceville, Georgia, where they lived for ten years.
“Living in Georgia was amazing,” she recalls. “A few things I tell people about are the four seasons change, the not-so-busy life, and the scenery. It was a wonderful place to experience full summer heat, soft spring bloom, cozy fall vibes, and cold winter view. I loved experiencing every season, especially fall and winter.”
She bade goodbyes to all these when the family moved back to the Philippines in 2011. “My ten-year old, almost eleven-year-old self, was having a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that everything I was familiar with would be replaced with unknown places and faces,” she admits.
Not that she had not been to the Philippines yet. In fact, she has visited the country two times before. “Both times, there was a new experience and more memories made,” she recalls. “I got to spend time with some relatives, explore places like Eden Nature Park and Samal Island, attend two family weddings, and even spend time with my lolo before he passed away.”
Having lived in the United States and now in the Philippines is quite unique. “I spent half of my life in America and it is a country I hold dear,” she says. “The culture in America is a little different from that in the Philippines, but both countries have things I love about them.”
Looking at it now, Lagat says, “I really am grateful to have two cultures, two countries, as part of my life,” she says. “I miss my friends and family, but thinking about everything God has allowed me to experience and go through helps me reflect on how I should think, act, and live.”
Did those experiences help her to become a writer?
“I have always been a bookworm,” she says. “I suppose it is in the imagination and excitement of reading that I feel like sharing my own thoughts, ideas, and feelings into words and stories, too. Growing up, I read more books and wrote more poems, short stories, and blogs.
“Throughout the years, I understood that because God gave me this passion (for writing), I will use it for His gory. That is what really motivates me to keep writing, I want to share exciting, encouraging, empowering, and even adventurous stories to bring hope and maybe even some fun.”
Just like most writers, Lagat has her own shares of favorite authors. “For fiction and fantasy, authors like Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, Rick Riordan, Kathryn Lasky, Wayne Thomas Batson, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and many others, continue to inspire me in my own fiction and fantasy-themed stories,” she says.
“For non-fiction books, authors like Priscilla Shirer, John Mason, John and Lisa Bevere, Christine Caine, Sadie Robertson, and many others empower and encourage me spiritually, and inspire me to keep writing for God’s glory,” she adds.
Before Amazon, she used to write for Wattpad. In her first year in high school, she had friends who were on Wattpad as readers. They enjoyed reading those different stories, and this gave her an idea to write her own stories.
“(My classmates) showed me how to use it and told me it was all free,” she says. “I did not have to pay or even ask for an editor. I could just write any story I wanted to. Since Hunger Games was big in that year, my first story was a fictional one inspired by Hunger Games. I also had to include my friends in the story, for they asked me to write about them, too.”
Lagat considers Wattpad “an amazing blessing in my life.” She explains, “I write stories I love, hoping that readers will be inspired and love them, too. It has been eight years since I wrote my first story, and God has shown me how staying faithful in the current season will lead to planted seeds growing and bearing fruits.”
Although she was aware of other stories reaching thousands and millions of reads, “I was excited and contented with the idea of hundreds of people reading stories from my heart.”
So far, she has written fifteen stories: four are Christian fantasy, ten are Christian fiction, and one is a compilation of short stories.
“Since writing is not limited, I try to write in different genres,” Lagat says. “Inspired by action and adventure books, I wrote Serene, a story about a girl who lost her memory and ended up being a sought after spy who everyone thought was lost. I thought of reminding readers that knowing our identity is important. Without a sure confidence or identity, anyone can search and chase after unsatisfying, fleeting things.”
One memorable short story she has written was entitled Finding Christmas. “(It) is inspired by the storms and typhoons that have hit the Philippines, and set during the Christmas season. I wanted to encourage and remind readers that a lot happens in life, but there is also hope and room for better days.”
To those who want to follow in her footsteps as an author, she offers some advice. “Aside from gadgets needed for writing, I recently practiced, with all the social media platforms and projects I have been blessed to work on, to keep a notebook and schedule with me.
“Sometimes, I think of topics and have to decide whether to share it on the podcast, YouTube channel, blog, small group, or sage it for a book,” she says. “When this happens, I write down the ideas I have and often find myself knowing where to share the ideas.
“Sometimes, due to all the topics coming together, I make a separate section in my notebook for each platform. This way, I can write the ideas for the chapters of my books without getting confused with the episodes for the podcast or the new blogs I want to share.”
Now, what is her formula for writing a good story?
“I think that, depending on the genre and story I’m writing, it is important to get personal revelation or personal ideas,” she says. “It’s great to be inspired by other authors, movies, and written works, but I think it is best to bring originality, authenticity, and purpose in what I write. In the morning, I make sure to finish my devotion or quiet time before I do anything else, including writing. Sometimes, God reveals things to me as I read His Word or read a devotional plan.”
Other techniques: “I also think that writing down ideas and envisioning the storyline and purpose are important,” she says. “Based on experience, it is easier to start a story than to continue it and find a good ending. I used to rely on my memory in finishing stories, but since I have more things to think of as I grow, I write story lines, characters, and ideas down in my notebook, instead of relying on my memory.”