Saturday, April 30, 2016

Surviving Finals Week

Well, I'm in that jolly good time known as Finals Week. There are a lot of other nicknames for it, none of them I will repeat on the internet :) And I'm nearly there, folks. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just have a murderous exam and a portfolio worthy of drowning in. I just have to make it to Monday at 5:30. So wish me luck.
Despite the pure horrible-ness that is Finals week, it is possible to survive. I am living proof, a four time veteran of these nasty weeks. So here we go.

         Get all of your supplies together ahead of time. Know when and where each exam will be so that they don't sneak up on you. Make a list of all exams and pay attention in class. If you're lucky, the exam won't be comprehensive. But, unfortunately, as my Astronomy professor has made very clear, most of them are. Make sure you have all the materials you need to study successfully. Book, notes, powerpoint, notecards, etc.

        If your professor does not provide you with a study guide, don't panic. You can still make it through this. It's not too difficult to make your own study guide. Go through old tests, quizzes, activities, and notes, picking out the important things. In language classes, I highly suggest notecards. They are majorly helpful. And I know creating your own study guides can be time consuming, but I promise that it will save you time come the actual studying portion.

      It's super important to study by yourself. I completely agree with this because I just do better by myself in all things. However, groups are also a great study tool. Peers might have study materials or information that can be helpful for you. You can quiz each other, which is kind of difficult to do by yourself. And besides, in quizzing other people, you're actually committing the material to memory as well. So, ya know, two birds with one stone.

        As an English major, I faced a lot of final papers and essays instead of actual exams. Don't worry. I've still had those too. But essays have been pretty equal. I personally enjoy these more. Essays allow you to demonstrate your knowledge much better than throwing a bunch of trivia questions at you. But whatever. I'm just the student. I've been pretty good about spacing my essays out. Take breaks. Walk away from them. Go study for other things. Take a snack and netflix break. You'll feel better if the words aren't coming out just right. Just write, don't edit. Just get through it. Then read it out loud. This will show you where you've repeated words or made some other kind of error. Very helpful.

      You've done good all this semester. Eaten healthy. Gone to the gym. Or at least tried. Finals week is not the week to stress out about what food you're eating. You already have enough stress going on to cause an earth quake. Don't add anymore. So finals week is when you stack up on your comfort foods, when you ask Mom to send a box of junk. It's okay. Cry about it. Forgive yourself. And move on. Next week is a new week.

        An excellent way to reduce that stress. Go for a run. Lift some weights. Do some yoga. Just take your mind off that dark cloud of stress that's been hovering over you all semester. You can allow yourself a break.

       I know a lot of people pull all nighters during finals week, and I just think that is absolutely insane. Finals are when you need to be the most well rested. Not the most sleep deprived. I promise, there are enough hours in the day to study and still get a reasonable amount of sleep. I even suggest naps :) they've served me well over the past couple of weeks.

You can do this, I promise. As important as school is, grades do not define you. There are more important things in life. And that's hard for me to say, because I definitely like getting my A's. But, you know, just keep some perspective, focus, crank those headphones, charge those laptops, and make sure you have a good supply of coffee on hand. The week'll be over before you know it!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

People Need People...Deal with It

I apologize yet again for my tardiness. Today has been quite the day, not necessarily in the best way. But that's still no excuse. Anyways, onwards and upwards. 

       This semester has given me a lot of time to think about people. We live in a society now where a lot of people my age go around saying "I hate people." I'm guilty of saying this. Because, you know, sometimes people just really get under your skin, and humans can be really, really ignorant, stupid creatures. Sometimes I think dogs think more before they bark than we do before we speak. However, just because there are some people who make life a little more frustrating, does that mean that one person should ruin everything? It's like blaming the entirety of Christianity for one fanatic, extremist Christian. One person does not speak for the entire population. Which is why going around saying things like "I hate people" really isn't healthy. A) as my mother has always told, hate is a really strong word, and B) We're stuck with humans. We're not going anywhere anytime soon, so we better get used to each other. 
        Despite the loudmouths and ignoramuses in the world, there are some pretty great humans in this world. I've had the pleasure of knowing some of the best. Some are temporary, haven't stayed in my life. But they've all taught me something. 
        Like this lady I got to know over this past week, Miss Denny. I've met her once before through a friend of mine. But she was visiting this week, and last Saturday we helped at an aid station together for the Chickamauga race. Watching her cheer on the runners, bringing a smile to their faces as they hurried past, just made my day and made me think about the other wonderful people that I know. Let me just character profile this woman for a second: 
  • Miss Denny is an elderly woman with white-blonde hair and the bluest eyes.
  • Her smile reaches her ears. 
  • Everything you say she listens to. 
  • When the runners ran past, she shouted, "Good Morning! Congratulations! Look how far you've come, at all you've accomplished! Give yourself a pat on the back! You can do this!" (I need her in my ear when I run) 
  • She loves the South. (I've never heard anyone other than people here say that they love the South)
  • She thinks living in the South makes you prettier (I think it's because of all the sweet tea)
  • She loves living with her oldest daughter and loves all her kids and grandkids and metaphorically adopted kids. 
  • She's one of the most humble people I've ever met. 
  • She's basically an angel. 
I don't know when I'll get to see Miss Denny again. Maybe never. Maybe she'll come back to Chattanooga before I graduate. But even if I never see her again, I've met her. And that's what matter. She's made an impression on me, and I will never forget her. She taught me what encouragement is, and how people appreciate kindness. And this is only from spending a couple hours at a race together. 
I'm beyond blessed that God placed her in Chattanooga when he did. She's one of those people who just touches lives with just a warm smile or a shout of encouragement. I know those runners were talking about her after the race. 
     Some people are meant to stay in our lives, and others are meant to just make an appearance. They all teach us something, and they leave an impression. My mom is one of my best friends, and I know she's not going anywhere. I still can't believe that I've been best friends with Kylee for eight years despite the 630 miles between us for the past four. I've had friends come and go. I've met amazing people for only a couple hours who've left a huge impression on me. People are just amazing that way. 
      So stop closing people out. Open yourself up. Put your phone away when you're sitting on the bus or in the coffee shop. Say hello to people, or at the very least smile. People are not all bad, and if we go around thinking that, or assuming that they will be so before we even meet them, we're going to make our own lives horrible. What do you say? 

Hugs and Smiles, 
Hannah E. Rials 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Rhetoric of Book Jackets

This semester has not been the easiest or the best or the most exciting by far. It's probably been one of the most difficult, honestly. I didn't feel like I was learning anything from my classes. It was just one of those "show up-sit down-and-shut up" kind of feel. We did more reading than lecturing, and the lectures were random and nearly impossible to follow, if they stayed on topic at all. Maybe that was just my mind playing tricks on me. However, now that the semester is winding down to a close, my classes are finally getting interesting; I'm learning more; professors are making sense. Why now? 

   Today, I was working on my final project for my Rhetorical Analysis class. We could either choose a piece of rhetoric to analyze or we could create a piece of rhetoric. Many of you might not think this, but the book jacket of Ascension is a piece of rhetoric. And I thought I'd share with you my thoughts on this. 
    So the classic Aristotelian view of rhetoric is a piece of writing or oratory that moves someone to action, and deliberative rhetoric is a piece that deals with future events, what could happen. Images, at this time, were not considered pieces of rhetoric. The Greeks admired beauty and the aesthetic, which is what paintings and sculptures were. However, in modern times, we completely acknowledge the rhetorical power of images. Rhetoric goes beyond words. 
     Books combine the rhetorical power of both images and words. You know the phrase, "Don't judge a book by it's cover?" Well, maybe that's applicable as a metaphor for humans, but that's a complete lie for books. EVERYONE judges the cover. That's why publishing companies pay good money for talented graphic designers. The cover is the first impression of the book. It's what catches your eye, sets it apart from all the other countless books on those shelves. Once it's caught your eye and the book is in your hands, you're pulled into the book's world. I've included some covers that I think are successfully eye-grabbing (and that I love dearly!) And you start thinking about what's in this book to create a cover page like this? So you turn it over to read the synopsis. 
     Now, a good synopsis just gives you a taste of the story. It doesn't reveal too much, just enough to get you hooked and give you a basis--introduces the character, the setting, and the major difficulty occurring in the story. If the synopsis can't keep your attention, it doesn't matter if it's the best book in the entire world! They're not going to buy it. I can tell you that my editor and I went phrase by phrase, word by word, making sure that everything was poignant and captivating. (Hopefully you agree with these two words :-D). With the basis of story imbedded in your mind, you start thinking about the story, deliberating all the details and what's going to happen to the characters. 
      If a cover and a synopsis do their job properly, then they are a very successful piece of combined rhetoric. The image draws you in, and the words seal the deal. Because what are we ultimately doing? Selling books! Books that you love, that capture your heart and keep you flipping through the pages well into the dark hours of the night. I hope that Ascension will be one of these books for all of you!! And that you learned a little bit more about what rhetoric actually is today :)

On another note, some exciting news! 
  • On Monday, I will be doing my first official for an after school creative writing club in Maury County, Tennessee. I'll be skyping with a small group of Middle school girls who are all aspiring writers. I'm so excited and nervous and anxious and...everything!! This is so exciting! Fingers crossed I don't give bad advice :) 
  • My boss Valarie Budayr's new book Dragons are Real will be coming out very soon, and it is the most adorably magical children's book I've ever seen!! I cannot wait for you all to buy it, because you should because it's magical. Did I say that already? Oh well! 
  • In just two short (hopefully) weeks, I will be done with my sophomore year of college, and a little while after that, I'll be on a train to Canada for a couple weeks on a summer excursion with my adopted sister! I literally CANNOT wait. 
Stay tuned for more information about Ascension and Canada!

As always, 
Hannah E. Rials 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Revel in the Good Moments

I got so wrapped up in this weekend's events that I nearly forgot it was Saturday! Sorry for my tardiness.
UTC has gone into crunch mode now. All the projects are due, papers need to be written, and tests need to be taken. And it seems like they're all choosing to take place on the same couple of days. How kind of them! But amidst all the crazy of the end-of-semester-goings-on, I managed to have a pretty great weekend, and I thought I'd just share that with you.

1. Thursday afternoon, I went to paint pottery with a couple of friends, and let me tell you--that is relaxing. The place is calm with just quiet music playing in the background. There's something comforting about the brush strokes, about the attention you have to pay to your work without really working your brain too hard. Three coats for everything you paint. I'm not really artistic in the drawing/painting sense, but I can paint a decent piece of pottery. I highly suggest finding a place like this in your home town. They have all sorts of pre-made pottery pieces to choose from, so all you have to do is go at it with the paint!

2. I went to my first concert band rehearsal in 2 years on Friday. No, I'm not in concert band. UTC's band is quite small, and they don't really have a lot of wiggle room for scholarships. While I love playing oboe, I knew band would take up a lot of time, so I've only dedicated one day a week to orchestra in the past. However, the oboe professor here contacted me and asked if I would help in playing the 2nd part for the Lord of the Rings Concert next Tuesday. Now, this isn't the score's music. This five part piece was inspired by the books and composed by a dutch artist. I really love the music, and I was already a little familiar with it; MHS band played two of the movements for a competition my senior year. felt good to be rehearsing with a full band again.

3. Friday evening, I was very honored to receive a scholarship from the English Department! My parents came down, and we enjoyed listening to the head of the department speak about graduating seniors, the other awards, and the AMAZING english faculty we have here at UTC. My dad commented, and I agree, that all of the faculty members seem to be their own person, there's no two quite alike, even if they are in the same concentration of writing. Which is great. I'm very blessed to have landed in such a strong, supportive program.

4. TODAY, Chattanooga Writer's Society, my creative writing club, hosted Newbery Honor winning author Vince Vawter at Star Line Books. So technically, this was my first official public Author visit to organize, and it went splendidly! Mr. Vawter and his wife were so kind and open and gracious! He had such a nice way about him and was truly inspiring. His debut novel Paperboy, which he wrote after retiring from a 40 year newspaper career, tells the story of a boy who takes on his friend's paper route. Only problem is he has a terrible stutter that petrifies him when he tries to speak to his customers. It was so interesting to hear Mr. Vawter talk about his own experiences with his stutter and how now he loves traveling across the country to talk to people despite his stutter. He had some great stories and some great advice. My favorite quote from today: "Write a book that has a reason to exist." Those words just really stuck with me. I think my book has a reason to exist, and I hope others will believe so as well, in the very near future.

That's all I've got for now. It's been a very long, exhausting, draining week. All this excitement's got me completely worn out. So I think I'm going to wrap up this blog post by saying
          Paint pottery.        Revel in the good memories.      Appreciate your department.      Take in every experience with every author.       Keep your ears open.     Buy books from Star Line Books.


      Never let anyone tell you that you can't be, or do, whatever you want. Only you have that ability, and you shouldn't say it to yourself. Because if I can write an entire book, and Mr. Vawter can have his book translated into a BUNCH of different languages, then you can do whatever your heart desires without the opinions of anyone else. So go out and do good!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Hi, all! Time to address another difficult topic. The month of April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. So let's talk about it.
        My mom has been involved in New Hope Blount County Children's Advocacy Center for as long as my memory of living in Tennessee extends. The center is a wonderful service that gives victims of sexual and physical abuse ONE place to go so that they only have to tell their story ONE time. "One story. One Time. One place." This lessens the trauma that the children have already experienced. All the necessary treatments--forensic
interview, medical examination, children's services, and police officers--are given at the center. The child and family are met with love, careful attention, and a safe place. It has been the mission of New Hope to reach 5% of our population, which means that they are affecting change.
       However, people put blinders on when it comes to a topic such as this. "Child abuse doesn't happen in my community." "It's not a prevalent issue." "We don't need to talk about this." But it is prevalent. Child abuse is an issue in our community and around the world. 1 in 10 children will be abused before they turn 18. And this isn't a problem? In 90% of child abuse cases, the child is abused by someone they know and trust. So that stranger mindset is not necessarily the truth. An estimated 9 out of 10 child sexual abuse cases are never reported. 
       It's time to open the blinders and see the reality of our community. Just in 2015, New Hope served 327 children. Child abuse is a problem, but there are ways to spot and prevent it. It is state law that you MUST report child abuse. 
       I have spent a lot of time with New Hope and the wonderful women who make our community a better place to live. I've seen children come in to the center. I once attended a birthday party for a girl who had never had a party before. So this place has touched my heart in a way that I will never forget. These kids are scarred by people that they trusted, and the women at New Hope give them a safe place to go and a warm smile.

To learn more about child abuse and how to spot it, visit here:

Get involved in preventing child abuse in your community by signing up for a Stewards of Children Prevention training:

To help bring awareness to Child Abuse Prevention Month, New Hope is hosting a variety of events throughout the month of April. Check them out here:

I was asked to write a story in honor of survivors of child abuse to relate the trauma and emotional pain that they go through. You can read the story here:

It's time to affect change in our community. If you don't know about a center like this in your community, do some research. Children are our future, and it's our job to protect them. Take the blinders off. See our world for all that it is. Get involved. Make a difference.