Thursday, June 14, 2018

Staying in Touch

The young adult literature world is an interesting, exciting place to exist in. It's supportive, inclusive, and pushing the boundaries of great literature today. One of the frequently asked questions, since a majority of young adult authors are not actually young adults themselves, is how do you stay in touch with that part of yourself enough to write about it?
To me, that question was never relevant. When I was a teenager writing Ascension, time is frozen. I thought I'd never be older than a teenager...maybe I was in that vampire mindset a little bit too strongly. But at that point in your life, it's just hard to imagine being older than you already are, dealing with what we know call "adulting." I was fully ready to join Cheyenne in aging as slowly as possible, though I had no desire to take on her gargantuan problems.
In college, it wasn't even really that much different. Despite all the growing you do in higher education between the years of 18-22, you're still very connected to your teenage self. I can still feel very clearly the teachers who told me I wasn't reaching my potential, the first time I put myself out there to a guy and was turned down, the first time my friends betrayed me, the first time I really fought with my parents. The young adult years are a time of drama, of heightened emotions.
But even now, barely 22, I'm able to look back and see how absolutely dramatic I was and wonder exactly what I was thinking. So now I have to start asking myself--how do I stay connected to that part of myself to still be able to write young adult fiction?
There's two parts to this answer. First part--Cheyenne's voice lives in my head. I don't plan what she's going to do; she just does it through my keyboard. So she makes it easy.
Second part--so what about all the books that I'm going to write in the future? The ones I'm working on right now? That's where the real question lies, correct? I read. Okay, let me clarify, I read as much as I can get my hands on in as many genres as possible, but specifically, I have to keep up with the young adult literature, to support my community and also to stay in touch. I listen to conversations in coffee shops, or in lines at the store, or at restaurants--sorry guys, yes I am creeping. I talk to teachers to see what their students are like now.
But I realized this past weekend that I have still definitely held onto the child in myself. Yes, I am a young adult who's becoming more of an adult and less young as the days tick by. But my childhood is still fresh, my teenage years are clear. I have no shame in loving disney, in sleeping with a stuffed animal, or enjoy running around blowing bubbles with a giant bubble wand or wearing a paper flower crown on my head.
This is something that everyone should tap into though, every once in awhile at least. Being a kid is wonderful and difficult all at the same time. There's nothing wrong with tapping into that sense of wonder and innocent fun, abandoning your "adulting" abilities one day to fly a kite in the park, re-read your favorite kid's book even if you don't have kids, or just spend a good hour blowing bubbles and trying to catch them. If you need some help tapping into that mindset, just pick up one of the many wonderful children/middle grade/young adult books in the world now. They're totally immersive and will send you reeling back into that dramatic, wonderful time of your life.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Memory of Books

Books are memories. I've always heard this and never really though too much about it. But as the stresses of the summer started to set in--figuring out how to move to England, writing book 3, editing another book, and work--I deconstructed my personal library, a therapeutic exercise. I took all my books off their shelves, spreading them out in alphabet piles, which takes up my room and goes into the hallway.

It was slightly stressing me out that my books weren't in alphabetical order and that books from the same author weren't together or that series were split up. This always stresses me out (I'm weird), and now that I have bookshelves in two different rooms, that makes it even worse.

But as I pick up each book to alphabetize it, type into my inventory, and re-shelve it, memories flash back to me of when in my life I was reading each book, where I was, things that were happening around me. And that's kind of amazing to me--the fact that the written word has left that much of an impression on my mind that I can say, yes I was reading this book when I was here, doing this.

My favorite example--I was twelve years old when Twilight hit it big. I read the series in a week, right before the announcement of the movie was made. But I was reading them in Mississippi, while I was staying at my grandmother's house. As many other people probably remember from their time reading Twilight, I could not put them down, could not read them fast enough. I read well into the night, when my grandmother believed I was sleeping.

At this time, there were other people in the house, so I was sleeping in my grandmother's bed with her. I believe I'd just finished the third book, when suddenly I woke up to, "Hannah, Hannah, what are you saying? Why are you standing up?" I had apparently slept walked out of bed, done a loop around the house, and returned to my grandmother's room, saying, "I can't find the sunlight!"

I went peaceably back to sleep, but the next morning, my grandmother said to me, "I don't think you should be reading those scary vampire books anymore." :D I obviously did not follow this advice, quite the opposite actually.

But just going through all these books, it was a lot of fun, thinking, "Oh, I bought this book there," "Oh, this person recommended this book to me," "Oh, I read this book on the plane back from Portland," "Oh, this was the book that I threw against the wall at the end of it!" (PS it was a Maggie Stiefvater book).

Books are a walk through memory lane. I encourage you to go back through your personal library and reminisce with your books. It's a wonderful way to spend time an evening, or in my case, three evenings :)

Happy Reminiscing,

Monday, May 14, 2018

Review of The Hidden Worlds by Sandra Ingerman and Katherine Wood

"Inspiring and powerful. The Hidden Worlds is an important, educational, imaginative story that will help all readers walk away with knowledge, caring, empathy, and a sense of purpose that will challenge them to effect a change in the real world." 

-Hannah Rials, author of Ascension -Hannah Rials, author of Ascension 

The primary purpose of reading, apart from enjoyment, is, of course, to learn and expand our world. Sandra Ingerman and Katherine wood's new young adult novel The Hidden Worlds packs a lot of lessons into a short story and explores a world of mysticism--shamanism--that many do not have knowledge of.

Four young students, who are complete opposites, are coincidentally in the same place at the same time and end up being tied together when they discover hundreds of dead birds in the forest just outside of their school, and then notice that all the fish in the pond have died as well.

Later that night, they are joined together in their dreams and discover that they each have their own spirit animals who are meant to guide them through life, especially this transitionary time through puberty and into high school. Once in the dream, they start discussing all of the dead animals they found and decide they have to get to the bottom of the animal murder.

Upon further investigation, the four new friends discover that a building just outside of school bounds has been dumping toxic waste into the pond. The students are enraged that a company could get away with something like this, but they are at a loss of what to do about it.

I really enjoyed the way that Ingerman and Wood worked shamanism into this story by having the students use this form of spirituality and understanding to address problems that they would normally turn to adults for help with. However, they can't do that in this situation since they are in a place they're not supposed to be, messing around with a dangerous company. These four kids have more spiritual understanding than most adults, and are also more moralistically sound--accepting all body types, seeing everyone for what they are good at, dealing with different family issues, puberty, environmental sustainability, saving animals, and shamanism. Really all of the above. These women pack a punch with all of these lessons in just one book.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Adventure Tourism Round 2 & 3

So because I'm the worst, this is going to contain Adventures 2 & 3. But I'm also excusing myself due to it being the last three weeks of school, and I've gone down the rabbit hole and the burning light is near and all those cliches. So anyway...ADVENTURING!

Last week was probably the most adventurous, bravest moment of my entire life. Not the hiking part. The hike was beautiful. We traversed 2.5 miles from Rainbow Lake, which is mossy and spectacular, all the way up to Edwards Point, a huge cliff at the tip top of Signal Mountain. The trail up to this place is super rocky and muddy, so I do not recommend for people with bad joints or bad balance (yes, I include myself in that category, which is why my ankle is now slightly messed up). However, the view was absolutely, 100% worth it. We could see into Chattanooga and the river bend. Absolutely lovely. But here comes the adventurous part. I repelled down the cliff. Yep, little old me went over the edge. I don't live life on the edge, guys. I live over it. Ha! I will say, it took me a VERY long time to convince myself to do it, and granted, I did not do it well. I got over the edge just fine. It was the holding onto the rope and controlling my speed that got me. After 3 surgeries on my right wrist, I don't have too much grip strength in my right hand. But here's a tip--lean back more than you think you can. Leaning forward just makes you go free falling down the cliff, which I did. But I did it, and I'm extremely proud of myself. Probably will never do it again. But I recommend doing it at least once in your life time, at the very least for the free falling adrenaline.

Then today, though I thought we were going climbing, we actually ended up canoeing down Nickajack Lake, which is actually not a lake at all but a reservoir with train tracks running through the water. It was quite windy and freezing this morning to be out on the choppy water, but again, it was beautiful and a lot of fun. I sat in the front for the first half of our ride, and believe me, I feel it in my shoulders for sure. But we paddled to these sloping cliffs where people typically Free Solo Climb and then leap into the water safely without fear of hitting any rocks. We would've done it--I would've done it (badly)--but it was ridiculously cold so the class unanimously passed on that opportunity.

On the way back to the dock, in our boat of friends, we competed with the rest of the boats on who was going to win, though they didn't know that. We definitely cut a few people off several times. Even though I was sitting in the middle at this point and wasn't supposed to be paddling, I paddled anyway so that we came in a strong second place in a competition that only existed in our minds. This was probably the best day by far.

(Fun Sidenote, one of the leader's boats started pulling out a net and a life vest, and we are 50% sure that there very well might be a body at the bottom of the lake..............)

So who knows what's going to happen next week! But I hope you continue along for the last two weeks of my adventures (that includes college as a whole...what?!?!)

Happy Trails,

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Adventures in Adventure Tourism

My bestie roommate and I are finally getting to take another class together as a last hurrah before we graduate, and even though I am infamously the klutziest person ever, I agreed to the Adventure Tourism class. It wouldn't start until halfway through the semester, which was awesome, and it was designated time for some physical activity while checking off some bucket list items to do in Chattanooga before I leave. Today was our first adventure, and yes, I nearly died.

Mountain Biking. Chattanooga has some amazing mountains. We were voted the number one Outdoor City in America, and all I've really done is hike and paddleboard once, which inevitably ended with me falling in. I'm not a biker...the last time I seriously rode a bike was maybe 10 years ago. So yes, I was terrified. I told my mom, "If I die, tell Buddy (my dog) I love him."

We went to Enterprise South Nature Park, which is technically in Ooltewah, but it had a "nice, easy beginner," bike path. Lies. It might've been easy but not for beginners. So despite falling off several times, crashing into a couple trees, sliding down the mountain for just a slight moment, and wounding myself a couple times, I FINALLY got into a rhythm and was able to ride for a long time and just cruise down the hills and enjoy the natural beauty.

The best image was when we rode into this nice tunnel of pine trees--absolutely gorgeous! I wish I had more balance that I could've taken a picture of it. I even stuck the last cruising hill without crashing! Woo, success.

Then, before we headed back to campus, we walked up to an abandoned bunker where they stored weapons, and it was one of the creepiest, most surreal moments. The echoes in there were absolutely wild! I could see how someone could go insane from the noises reverberating in their brain. My friend stood at one side of the room, while I was at the other, and whispered, and I heard it clear as day!

But yes, mountain biking was quite the adventure. I will be quite sore after the 3 1/2 miles, but I did enjoy the new experience. Stay tuned next week for hiking and repelling...yes, I am also terrified for that.

Go adventure!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Book Review: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

A few weeks ago, Star Line received an ARC of Nic Stone's upcoming release, Odd One Out, which will drop on October 9th, 2018. So naturally, I grabbed it first cause I love this mermaid novelist.

I absolutely devoured this book. Stone's first release Dear Martin was a timely novel in reaction to the brutality & stereotyping against African American men, specifically young men. Odd One Out is the novel that Stone wished she'd had when she was a teen as she was figuring out who she was. This story follows the narratives of three friends, two old and one new. Courtney Cooper is a lovable basketball player, who, though he could have any girl he desired, wants his best friend Jupiter Charity-Sanchez, who also happens to like girls. Then Rae Chin moves into town and forms a wedge down through the Jupe-and-Coop duo.
After her parents divorce, her mother choosing to leave, and her older sister abandoning her, Rae is all kinds of messed up, and the only way she can keep it together is to keep on smiling and pleasing everyone. But as she becomes closer to Cooper and Jupiter, they force her to question her people-pleasing tendencies and confront the root of her problems--the day that everything fell to shambles.
Which just happens to be the same day that Cooper's dad was killed in a car accident while Cooper and his mom were at the same famous kid-scientist show in Atlanta.
Through their common connection, Cooper and Rae grow closer as they try to solve a mystery and come to terms with their own traumas. Meanwhile Rae and Jupiter have a hard time ignoring their natural chemistry, which just mixes up everyone's brains. And then there's the undeniable connection between Jupe-and-Coop, which has been building up over a lifetime.
Who loves who? Who's supposed to love who? What if who you thought you were isn't who you are at all, or only a small part of you?

Being a teenager is one of the most confusing times in a person's life, hands down. Yes, we're still figuring it all out when we're in our twenties, sometimes 30s & 40s and so on, and that's okay. But the teen years are when we really start to develop who we are deep down inside. Nic Stone weaves three tales into one with her precise, witty dialogue and unique, lively characters that pull at your heartstrings.

I can't wait to see what Nic does next. If you haven't read Dear Martin yet, be sure to check it out before Odd One Out's release in October!

Happy Reading,

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Happy International Women's Day!

What a wonderful day! I'm extremely grateful for all the women who have played a direct role in  my life. My mother, of course, is a superstar after raising me on top of all she does for her community. My mom's friends who have been my adopted aunts and loved me and been there for-- I appreciate you all. My real aunts who are all superstars, beautiful, loving, hilarious, and educated--I'm beyond thankful for them.
I have a group of kickbutt powerful friends who are all going to do some amazing things in the future, if they haven't already done so now (which many of them have).
But this blog is about books and bookish things. I have been greatly influenced over the years by the women authors whose books I have devoured. They are my inspiration, my goals, my dreams in every way, and if I hadn't seen them doing it in such an amazing way, I wouldn't have had the courage to do it myself. And I of course, wouldn't have my sanity right now if it weren't for Star Line Books, which is only here because of the stupendous owner Star. She's a flurry of energy, and I love her with all my heart.
I also got this courage through my awesome Ascension team. My publisher, Valarie Budayr, I don't even know how to fully describe because she is just full of wonderful surprises with all her many talents. She inspires me every day and keeps me going in this world. My editor Mallory is another superwoman warrior who does amazing work on my book and makes them sparkle and shine.

These are some of the female writers who have influenced my writing:

Maggie Stiefvater: The Raven Cycle
                               Shiver series
                               All the Crooked Saints 
Richelle Mead:      Vampire Academy series

Cornelia Funke:     Inkheart Trilogy

Karen Russell:       Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Nic Stone:              Dear Martin

Ruta Sepetys:         Out of the Easy 
                               Salt to the Sea 

Jamie Quatro:         Fire Sermon 

Courtney Stevens:  Dress Codes for Small Towns

Sybil Baker:           Immigration Essays (and a professor of mine)

Natalie Lloyd:        The Problim Children 
                                The Key to Extraordinary

Bren McLain:         One Good Mama Bone

Libba Bray:            The Diviners series

Jane Austen:           Pride & Prejudice

Margaret Stohl:      Beautiful Creatures (and Kami Garcia)
                               Black Widow 
                               Royce Rolls

Emily Mandel:       Station 11

Leigh Bardugo:      Grisha trilogy
                               Six of Crows Duology 
                               Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Julie Murphy:        Ramona Blue

Melissa Marr:        Wicked Lovely series

Julie Kagawa:        Iron Fey series 

Thanks to all these amazing women for shaping my writing! Now go read their work so they can write more :)