Sunday, January 15, 2017

Time to Read Diverse

I've been thinking about this a lot, mulling it over basically since YALLfest where a majority if not all of the panels discussed this in some form or fashion. Read Diverse. Write Diverse. We need more diverse writers so that children who are not of the majority can see themselves in books, connect, and know that they are not alone.
What I've been struggling with since then is how I, as a southern white woman raised in a loving home, can do anything to help this movement. I do have diverse characters in the Cheyenne Lane trilogy (as you will come to see), but they are not the focus of the story. I don't feel that I have the right to tell the story of a black child experiencing racism, or a Muslim child experiencing persecution, or a gay child just realize who they are. It would be my worst nightmare to misrepresent someone's life and their story who might try to connect with these characters.
So what do I do? What do we as white readers and writers do to spur this movement forward? We be informed; WE read diverse and uplift the amazing diverse writers that have come into the YA sphere. We put these books in our bookstores and libraries so that they may fall into the hands of a child who needs to hear that story.
The job of YA authors has become so much more than just telling stories. With the digital age, the realm of connection, we know our readers. We hear their stories, and understand their pain. We feel an obligation not only to these readers, but to our culture, to represent it accurately. The world is not filled with white, middle-upper class girls and boys. We are a race of many colors, with many troubles that connect because we are humans. All of us.
I definitely didn't know this was going to be part of the job when I first had the dream of becoming an author, but I'm going to do my best to Listen, Learn, Read, and Write to the best of my ability.

If you're interested in learning more about the diversity in movement in YA and children's literature, please visit We Need Diverse Books and Multicultural Children's Book Day.

Here's a list of YA authors and books spreading diversity into our reading:

  • Renee Ahdieh: The Wrath and the Dawn
  • Leigh Bardugo: The Grisha Trilogy & The Six of Crows Duology
  • Melissa de la Cruz: Something in Between
  • David Leviathan: Boy Meets Boy
  • Julie Murphy: Dumplin' and Ramona Blue (coming in 2017)
  • Jason Reynolds: Ghost, As Brave as You,  All American Boys, among others
  • Gabby Rivera: Juliet Takes a Breath 
  • Adam Silvera: More Happy Than Not, History is All You Left Me, & They Both Die at the End
  • Sabaa Tahir: Ember in the Ashes & A Torch Against the Night
  • Nicola Yoon: Everything, Everything & The Sun is Also a Star

And this is just a few of many to start with. I haven't read every book on this list. But I have met all except one of these authors, and they are all fantastic, wonderful, caring people.

Keep reading, y'all!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It's A New Year!

Welcome to the new year folks! I'm so excited to see what 2017 has in store; it's surely going to be awesome.
Yes, 2016 was a rollercoaster of a year, but those highs were absolutely fantastic. It was a year of firsts. On midnight in May of 2016, I was sent the choices for my book cover. Yes, it was basically midnight. I learned that the choices I make at midnight are not always the best choices. I think more clearly in the morning.
My first friend ever got married this summer, and I had the honor of being in the wedding. I heard Coldplay for the first (and mostly likely last) time. I have to say, that was the best concert I've ever been to, despite the hour delay due to a horrendous thunderstorm that lit a car on fire. That's an inconsequential detail.
My appendix came out surprisingly at the end of the month. And minutes before I was rolled into surgery, my publisher delivered my published, printed, beautiful books to my hospital room. Yes, I cried. Then, when I was on the pain pills in the recovery room, I told my nurses to feel my book and made them all come back to my room.
I started my junior year of college (halfway done!), and then a week later, I hosted my book launch party. 300 people from my hometown (and some friends even travelled!) came to support me and this dream that I've had for the past eight years. It was an amazing night that moved as a total blur, and I can't believe it finally happened.
Over the fall, I had three school visits that were fantastic. The students had excellent questions and were all very attentive.
I had 5 book signings in three months that were all super successful. AND the best part of the semester--Ascension got an award! An actual award. First place for the Royal Dragonfly Award. Yes, I cried. A lot. There were definitely tears.
I drank a lot of coffee and tea, ate some delicious food, went to Charleston, Canada, Chicago, and Asheville, read a lot of books.

So obviously--a pretty spectacular year! I can't complain much about anything.

What are the highlights of your 2016?


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Sale!!

Woohoo! It's that time of year again. Time for Audrey Press's annual Holiday Kidlit Book Love sale! What does this mean, you may ask? Well, it means that all books published under Audrey Press (which includes the Aletha imprint) are currently on sale on Amazon until December 5th!

So if you haven't gotten your copy of Ascension now is the time! But there are several other wonderful kid lit books that make great holiday presents!

Here's a list of Audrey Press books:

1. The Fox Diaries by Valarie Budayr
2. The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook by Donna Ashton
3. A Year in the Secret Garden by Valarie Budayr
4. Dragons are Real by Valarie Budayr
5. Ascension by Hannah Rials

All of these books are award winning books that will add a lot to any home! So get them now so that you can win at gift-giving.

Happy Book Buying,

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

      I know that everyone is probably sick and tired of seeing election junk on social media and literally everywhere on the entire planet. I'm sick of it.
      However, I can't stress it enough, please go vote. This is my first presidential election, and it's extremely disappointing--all the talk of violence and hatred of others with opposing opinions.
I thought about not voting several times throughout this election, but fiction actually convinced me to do other wise.
      As bad as our world might seem right now, as horrible and depressing as the world is portrayed in the media, we still have a voice. We have a choice. Our opinion matters, as much as we might believe differently. And here's the kicker--we have a say. We have freedom of speech. We have a hand in shaping our country, though it is becoming increasingly harder, so it seems.
     Now imagine the worlds in the books that we love so much--the controlling totalitarian regime in The Hunger Games, the corrupt kings and merchants in The Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows. The twisted government system in The Giver. 
      At least we have a choice. At least we can speak freely without being thrown into a deadly game. I know it may seem fruitless to vote. The lines are long, all you get is a sticker, blah blah blah. But this is your right, and if you just sit on your couch, then it's a waste.

      If you can't get behind the two main candidates, there are options. There are several independents (though I can honestly say that I never saw anything about any of them), and you can always write in.

     As bad as you think our country is, go read a fiction book, and you'll be kissing the ground of the world we live in. Voice your choice. Exercise your right. Please--go vote.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Having a Writing Schedule

      When I started writing Ascension almost nine years ago, I literally wrote whenever I had a free moment. Sometimes even when I didn't have a free moment. I wrote after homework, in boring classes, occasionally during church (sorry, pastors, you and Jesus were just inspiring). I wrote in the car, on planes, literally all the time. Sometimes, I'd go awhile without writing because I was editing or giving myself Christmas break.
       College life has kind of changed me just a tad. It seems like there is always something to do, even if that is giving myself a mental break (because, y'all, college kids need mental breaks). This has become extremely obvious to me this past semester. At the beginning of the semester, as I was trying to settle into my routine while trying to find time to write, it was basically impossible.
       So I've been making myself wake up an hour earlier than I would normally wake up for class. I make coffee (essential) and breakfast then sit down to write. It's not nearly enough time. I hate getting up and going to class when I'm smack-dab in the middle of a good scene. But I have to do it. Now, as a young adult, I need this set time to sit down, close my door, listen to music, and write.
       That's not to say I don't write any other time of day. Last week, I was super pumped up about getting to the end of Ascension 2.0 (though I didn't), so I wrote for maybe 3 hours one evening because I had an odd lack of homework.
       I'm also not saying that you have to write every single day. Sometimes that's not possible. If Tuesday and Thursdays are the best days for you, make those your writing days. Or just write a heck of a lot during the weekend.
      For all of you young writers and older writers and middle writers, just carve out a little bit of time, consider it like going to the gym for your mind. You need to exercise your skill, practice, hone it. This is just one of many ways to do that.
      Conveniently, a good way to do that started today! NaNoWriMo is an annual event that challenges writers to get the skeleton of a novel onto the page. In 30 days time, you will have written a 50,000 word novel. If you're interested, click here. I wish you all the best of luck in your NaNoWriMo goals!

Get Writing,

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Writer's GuideBook to Chattanooga

Welcome to Chattanooga, aka Gig City, aka The Scenic City. This cute, upcoming city at the bottom of Tennessee has really developed in terms of art and tourism over the past ten years thanks to the Aquarium. But Chattanooga is a wonderful city for writers. I mean, I can write anywhere. I write on planes, in class, in doctor waiting rooms, occasionally in church (what can I say, God inspires me?). But sometimes, you just need to be somewhere inspiring and calming and conducive to creative thought. Chattanooga has some wonderful locals for this need:

1. Rembrandts Coffee House: This is a charming coffee house/cafe in the Art District of Chattanooga. It's surrounded by the art museum, a bed and breakfast, and a great Italian Restaurant. It's just a short walk to the glass bridge and the walking bridge, so consequently the river. But they have wonderful coffee (the vanilla is my favorite) as well as tasty lunch and a variety of pastries. Their patio (in the right weather) is so peaceful and calming, so I really prefer writing outside there. But inside, during calm hours, can be another great place to just sit. If you think about it, you could be there for hours--get lunch, then a dessert, then coffee. You're good for most of the day.

2. Starline Books: Need a book inspiration or writing break? Stop into Starline Books in the Southside on Market street where you will be greeted by the warm, energetic owner. On the top level, You'll find adult fiction, signed copies, and some nonfiction. Head downstairs, and you'll find children's, young adult, and even more variety. For a small store, they have an excellent selection of books. And the rustic atmosphere is my fave.

3. The Camp House: placed right on MLK Boulevard, come visit The Camp House for an easy atmosphere, comfortable couches, yummy pastries, and counterculture coffee. They also have a patio for nice weather day. I can sit there for hours and write, eat a snack, even have brunch/lunch, and just enjoy the day.

4. Coolidge Park: If you're an outdoor writer, Coolidge Park is the place for you. You have a nice view of the Walking Bridge, which could be good inspiration if you're a people watcher (which, let's be honest, all writers watch people). Again, if you need sustenance, there's a plethora of restaurants and coffee shops in walking distance.

5. Mean Mug: Another great coffee shop, this one just around the corner from Starline, is tiny but quaint. So if you write during odd hours of the day, this is the place to go. They have yummy coffee, a nice selection of food and pastries, and play awesome, quiet, inspiring music. They also have a patio, because it seems that patios are essential for Chatt coffee shops.

So if you're a writer in Chatt or traveling to Chatt, be sure to check these places out, along with the cool outdoor adventures and mouthwatering restaurants that are around every corner!

From the Scenic City,

Monday, October 17, 2016

Southern Festival of Books 2016

Happy book festival season! I started off mine in the good ole city of Nashville with the Southern Festival of Books. SFOB was the first book festival I ever went to four years ago, and I swear, it was like God had sent me a weekend made just for me. It was filled with a HUGE book tent and authors, my role models, galore! Normally, I try to pack in a full schedule, but this year, I was a little bit more relaxed.

Saturday, we heard Ann Patchett, author and owner of Parnassus books, interview the successful novelist Beverly Lowry about her new book exploring the Yogurt Shop Murders in Austin, Texas. I haven't read this book, but if Ann Patchett is singing its praises, I feel like its worth a read.

Jolina Petersheim, author of The Outcast, and Libby Ware, author of Lum, served on a panel together talking about Mennonite and Melungeons in literature. All of Jolina's books take place in the Mennonite community, and Lum intersects with the Melungeon community. Jolene's newest book The Alliance questions what will happen to the Mennonite community people when modern society collapses and they go back to old ways. Will they survive because of their simple way of life or will they die because of their passivity?

We finished Saturday in a Fantasy panel with Victoria (V.E.) Schwa, Maria Dahvana Headley, and Martina Boone, who are, respectively, the authors of This Savage Song among more, Magonia among more, and The Heirs of Watson Island series. Apparently, they didn't have a plan going into the panel, but they ended up with one of the best discussions I've ever had the pleasure of sitting in on. They discussed the very idea of fantasy, female heroines in YA fantasy and their tendency to be very Joan of Arkish, which, let's be honest, how many 16 year olds are self sacrificing? It was a fabulous discussion that broke down walls and barriers and stereotypes, and I felt like I was in a room of genius. A great way to end the day! Also, Maria Dahvana Headley had the best book-dress I've ever seen.

Sunday, I'm not embarrassed to say, was all about Maggie Stiefvater. We got to the library early to get good seats for her talk, and let me tell you, she's one of the best speakers I've ever heard, not just in the author world. She uses the stage, is dramatic yet real, and truly pulls you into her world. It was absolutely fantastic and hilarious and perfect. I had my complete stack of the Raven Cycle for her to sign, and I told her about how I threw the last book of Shiver across the room because I was so pissed about the ending. She was not sorry, but I loved her reaction. I wouldn't be sorry either. That's how I felt when a reader told me that about Ascension. 
We finished the day in the best way possible--vandalizing her car Theif. Now don't worry, she was present for this vandalization. She even provided the spray paint and told us that we were doing this for the sake of individuality. And...she's gonna drive her kids to school in this car through the Election. Mwahaha.

If you haven't yet traveled to a book festival in your life, I HIGHLY encourage you to go. I can't recommend it enough. I'm serious. Just go.

Here's some great quotes and advice I picked up in the panels this weekend from our fabulous authors:
"Everyone should have a journal--just write your life story." - Jolina Petersheim
"I write about the lines between things." - V.E. Schwab
"Within the impossible parts of life, there is glitter." - Maria Dahvana Headley
"Science is magic we've learned how to explain." - Martina Boone
"Fantasy is an armor we can wear while facing difficult topics." - V.E. Schwab
"Moral gray is such a pretty color." - Maria Dahvana Headley
"I use language as spice not as substance. Language makes the world." - V.E. Schwab
"I think show-don't-tell is the most incorrect rule ever." - Martina Boone
"I have a serious objection to write-what-you-know." - Maria Dahvana Headley
"Write what you want to read. You will always be your greatest champion." - V.E. Schwab
"I'm a writing thief. I steal people and places." - Maggie Stiefvater