My older sister, Tiffani, doesn’t know it, but she helped me find my voice. She was this amazing cheerleader who was popular and fun, and I looked up to her so much. One day, she told me I should try out for the wrestling cheerleading squad—yes, that’s a thing.

I tried out, and I made the team.

I was able to stand in crowds, and even though I was terrified of what people thought of me, I still gave it my all. I started talking more in school. I started laughing more, too. Putting myself out there was the best thing in the world. One day, during my senior year of high school, a boy turned around in his seat and said to me, “I liked you better when you didn’t talk.”

For a split second I wanted to retreat back to my mute cave, but instead I thought, ‘Be strong like Tiffani.’ So, I replied, “That’s funny, because I never liked you.”

Sass. I discovered sass.

My voice had sassiness sometimes! Which, later in life would probably get me in trouble, but that’s another story.

This is why The Silent Waters is so close to my heart.

I was Maggie May, and she, in a way, was and still is me. I still sometimes have panic attacks, mostly before I publish a novel, or before I fall in love, or before I make any big life decision, because in my mind I’m still that third grader who feels as if I’m being judged. What if I screw up? What if I’m not worthy of love, or success, or living my dreams?

But then I breathe and remind myself that it’s okay to be me. It’s okay to be scared some days, and fearless the next. It’s okay to be afraid of having a voice, and still using it each day. It’s okay to be a little cracked, and yet, still whole.

So, this book was written for me, yet not only for me. This is for all of the Maggie May’s of the world who sometimes feel so lost and alone. It’s for the ones who feel invisible. It’s for the ones who have panic attacks in their dark bedrooms at night. It’s for the ones who cry themselves to sleep, and wake up the next morning with tear stains still against the pillowcases. This book is yours. This book is your anchor. This book is proof that you, too, will find your voice. You are worthy of love, and success, and your dreams coming true. Never stop speaking, even when your voice begins to shake, okay? Never give up on yourself. You are important, you are loved, and your beautiful voice matters.