Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hardest Part of My Job

Last Friday, I visited Coulter Grove Intermediate School in Maryville, talking to the 6th and 7th grade classes. In total, that was close to speaking to 400 students. 400!

I like to think that I have my spiel down pat now--I introduce myself and my book, tell them a little bit about my story of starting Ascension at age 12 and the journey from there, read an excerpt from the prologue to peak their interest, then talk about believing in your dreams and making them happen, and end with questions. I have it down, can basically do it in my sleep now. I like to think that maybe they walk away from my talks thinking, "Hey, that author is a pretty cool lady!"

I've had some awesome moments at my school visits over the past five months. My first visit, right when I walked into the classroom, a girl raised her hand and said, "She's really pretty!" At the middle school career day, we had so many people come up to the table telling us that they were writing a book or wanted to be a writer. At the other intermediate school, kids asked so many questions that we ran out of time and a horde approached me afterward.

Most of the questions I get at school visits are the basics--"what's your favorite book?" "How do you write better?" "Do your character names have meaning?" "Is your book going to be made into a movie?"

I have instant answers to these questions. Then at this past school visit, apart from the other fantastic questions the students had, one boy asked me, "What's the hardest part of your job?" This question shocked me and also made me smile. So far, the only people that have referred to my writing as my job are me, my publishing team, and my mom. Not my friends. Not my students. So I guess I just made me smile to hear that. But I also knew my response: "Talking to you guys." The writing is not so hard, though it can get frustrating. Editing can be heart breaking or tedious. But this part, selling yourself, seeing yourself as a product that needs to be pitched, a public figure, is so difficult. Now, I'm not just talking to my friends or family. I'm imparting "wisdom" on kids who I hope will eventually read my book.

Plus, speaking to that many people is just exhausting. I got in the car afterward and slumped into my seat, totally ready for a nap.

But despite the nerves that rush through my body, make my hands shake imperceptibly, I'm beginning to love talking to students. They always have great questions, and it's so encouraging to hear all these students with writing aspirations. Even if they aren't interested in my book, I hope that they hear me when I talk about believing in themselves first, that they are the ones who are going to make their dreams come true. I'm living proof of it.

But then, there are the moments that I'll always remember, like a 7th grade boy coming up to me after my talk and asking me to sign his shirt then hearing him on the way out, "Dude, she signed my shirt!" I think I reached a new level of ultra cool at that point.

Until My Next Thought,

Sunday, February 5, 2017

21 Baby!!

It's weird to think that I started my semi-consistent blog posts this time last year with notes of what I'd learned by 20. And now it's a whole year later, and I'm 21. And it's amazing to think about all of the things that have happened in the past year and thinking about everything that's to come in the future.

I guess I've learned a few more things in the past year :) I've learned that I don't need to have a million + 1 friends. I'm really satisfied with having a small group of close friends who are kind, caring, funny, and adventurous. And I'm lucky that I'm able to keep up relationships over long distances and still be super close. That's amazing to me.

I've learned that going with the flow is the key to success. If you are so stuck in your plans, your ways, disappointment will constantly be the name of the game. The road to a final published copy of Ascension was a definite roller coaster of changed dates, late edits, plot holes, and all sorts of things. And I was very blessed to have my superwoman mother, my fantastic editor, and my indescribable publisher/mentor who taught me to be flexible. That's how you succeed not only in the book world, but also life in general.

I've also realized the importance of taking time for yourself. Even if you're an extrovert, you still need time to destress from the stress of work and people and school and just society. I used to feel guilty for being alone and not spending all my time with my friends. Don't get me wrong, putting effort into your friendships is so important. My friends are invaluable to me. They make my life so much fun and are helping me get through this craziness called college. But I need alone time. I need to read books, jam out to music, or just lay down on my bed for awhile and let the stress seep out of my pores.

I used to think I was a pretty good person, but over the past few months, I've realized that there's a lot to improve about myself. And thinking about all I want to change is super overwhelming and stressful. But now, I'm taking it one day at a time--complaining less, trying to smile at people everyday so they know I'm not a grump, texting friends I haven't talked to in awhile just to check in. One day at a time.

Right now, at a time when my future is pretty ambiguous, I'm trying to stay in the day. And today is my birthday! And guess what? Because I love celebrating stuff, I'm gonna celebrate all week long! I mean, you only turn 21 once, right?

One more year older,

Monday, January 30, 2017

January Book Round Up

I've decided to start a new monthly post this year, beginning today, where I round up all the books I read that month instead of randomly telling you what I think about the absolutely outstanding books that I read. Some months might have more material than others (keep in mind, folks, I'm a junior in college), but I think this is going to be fun! It'll be a way to keep up with my own reading apart from the journal I keep. So here we go: January Book Round up!

1. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
      First off, woah, talk about heart wrenching. A boy separated from his pet fox Pax during a time of war. Except Peter knows that they are not meant to be separated, and in order to be with Pax, this young boy begins hiking through the woods, trying to retrace his trail back to Pax, and overcoming horrible struggles.
      This story is unique in the fact that it's told from the alternating perspectives of Peter AND Pax, with the fox's POV standing out completely, mixing in the feelings that we imagine our pets to have along with the natural instincts of a fox.
      This book definitely pulls at the heartstrings for any animal lover, though I challenge anyone to get through this book without grabbing at their chest at least once.

2. Dark Tides by Jennifer Donnely (3rd in the Waterfire Saga)
        I read the first two books of this series a year ago and was really intrigued by the world that Donnely created, especially because mermaid stories aren't quite as popular as I might wish for them to be (The Tale of Emily Windsnap was one of my favorite books when I was younger). However, something about this third book was lacking. I don't know if there were too many characters to keep up with, but I just could not be pulled through the entirety of the story.
        However, I know that Donnely has a retelling of Beauty and the Beast coming out, and because that is the story of my heart, I'm definitely going to give it a read!

3. Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
        My sister from another mister sent me this book for Christmas, and since I am becoming more open toward creative nonfiction, I was not opposed to reading it, especially since I identify with that title. It was very interesting, thought provoking, and she backed up her claim of finding feminism in Christianity with Biblical evidence that I can go back to. She did give a lot of personal anecdotes, which were interesting, but I'd have liked a little more discussion of the actual topic.
        Sarah Bessey also has a blog, which apparently discusses most of what she has in her book, if you are interested in reading some of her work.
       Overall, I was glad I read this book. It made me question my own beliefs in a meaningful way and gave evidence to how I believe my God actually respects all human life.

4. The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

"True friends turn a bad day into something wonderful faster than a pancake flip." 

         HOLLA for an awesomely charming middle grade fiction that I devoured. I mean, I love middle grade anyway. But Natalie Lloyd just like stepped up the cuteness/seriousness game with this book. It's based in a fictional town in the mountains of Tennessee (whoop whoop!) and is filled with fantastical magic. The narrator, Emma, is spunky, faithful, loyal, and all around adorable. Though she is a confidently mature kiddo, she is self conscious of the scar from her cleft lip, but I appreciate the nod to diversity of all kinds, the movement that allows every child to see themselves in literature.
         This is an absolute must read. I do not care how old you are. Read it with your kid or the kid you babysit if you're embarrassed to read it yourself (which you shouldn't be because middle grade rocks and carries weight no matter how old you are). You might also check out A Snicker of Magic, if you like this book.

5. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

"I would come for you. And if I couldn't' walk, I'd crawl to you." 

        Y'all. Y'all. Y'all. I know I've talked about Leigh on here before, but Y'all. If you haven't listened to me yet and read something of hers, you have no idea how deprived your life is.
        Crooked Kingdom is the second installment of the Six of Crows Duology (so, tear that it's over), and it's placed in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy, with some overlapping character appearances. This is a magical high fantasy novel that reflects our own world, but with a more antiquated sense. Bardugo deals with real world issues, such as politics, racism, bigotry, rape, human trafficking in beautiful, heartbreaking, tasteful ways. Her characters are full, rich, three-dimensional humans that will ensnare any reader. The way she builds backstory makes me want to dive into this book and literally never come out. I'm not kidding.
         Yes, it's a vicious world, but I love the people in it. I want to be their friends. Really, I want to be Leigh Bardugo's friend because she is my writing idol. Ask me about the first time I met her some other time. But seriously, read this book.
          She is writing a Wonder Woman: Warbringer book, which comes out this August (so pumped), and I just saw that she's releasing a collection of short stories! Woohoo!!

Next up: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern (real life sister to Lady Cora from Downton Abbey)

What are you reading?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews!!!

It's here! It's actually here! And it's wonderful!!

I have been waiting for months for Ascension's review from Kirkus to be published. I was informed that it been read and reviewed near the beginning of December, but we made the executive decision to wait to have it published until January. So I had to sit there, knowing that it was reviewed, that it could be horrible, that they hated it, that they ripped it apart for a month and a half! A wait like that can make a person go mad. Which it almost did.

BUT IT'S HERE AND IT'S WONDERFUL! "...visit to New Orleans. Rials' tale is an exciting and fast-paced YA paranormal romance with an intriguing plot, well-drawn setting, and solid character development." WOAH BABY! Such a huge compliment from the biggest, most well-known, oldest book reviewer in the country that every library and bookstore looks at. This feels like we're hitting the big times, folks, and I couldn't be more star struck or humbled or honored. Check out the full review here

People are actually liking my words, my story that I bled over for eight years of my life, and I just can't believe it. Thank you all so much for all your wonderful support!

Those of you who have burned through Ascension will be happy to know that the second installment is with my fantastic editor right now, and she's so excited about this new manuscript. I am anxiously awaiting my edits and revisions to be completed so that we can get the next book out to you as soon as possible.

On a side note, I am so very impressed by the show of support during the Women's Marches that have happened all over the country--actually all over the world today. Feminism is for everyone. Feminism is about equality. God made us all equal, it says so in the bible. No one is less than. And today has been so inspiring. Thanks to everyone who stands up for what they believe in, no matter your vote.

But again...KIRKUS!!!!!

Until something else cool happens,

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,