Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Father's Day

My father's day post is delayed. BUT. I haven't technically celebrated Father's Day yet seeing as how my dear dad was returning home from a ten day business trip to China. Let's just say he was not in the celebrating mood after that entirely too long flight and eating nothing but rice and candy bars for ten days because that's all he could recognize.

I actually really love celebrating my parents A) because they always treat me so well on my birthday and the other 364 days out of the year and B) because they don't really celebrate themselves. My mom has dedicated her life to our family and her own work and volunteer work. My dad works his big brain to exhaustion providing for us and kind of making a difference in the world of biofuels (please don't ask me any further questions, I don't fully understand it). So really, they deserve to be celebrated.

I've been trying to think of some of the great literary fathers to compare my dad too, but I realize that there aren't any because Tim Rials is his own kind of dad--hilarious in his weird, witty way; serious when it comes to work; protective when it comes to me and mom; maybe a little overly caring when it comes to our dog Buddy. He taught me how to blast music in the car and not open the door until the song is over. He stopped me from falling in the lake when I caught a rainbow trout that was nearly as big as I was at age 5. He let me ride up in the front seat to get those narrow little bottles of mini M&Ms from the gas station.

Now, he encourages me, sells my book to scientists who otherwise probably wouldn't pick up Ascension, teaches me how to work hard (sometimes a little too hard). From him, I know that alone time is important for personal sanity. Dogs are also key to personal sanity.

Without trying, he gains respect from the people around him. Apparently while in China, he was served Duck Blood soup. I told this to a friend, and he came back with, "Well, they don't serve duck blood soup to just anyone." Maybe it's the grey hair that makes him so distinguished, but I don't think that's it. I think it's his calm, professional manner, his easy smile, his quick jokes and sharp wit, and the humility to never acknowledge any of this.

So happy belated father's day to all the daddio's out there! I can't wait to celebrate with mine this Sunday!

Until the next holiday,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

May Book Round Up

Yes, I'm a few days late, but I'm just going to use Book Expo as an excuse...

1. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (The Diviners Book 2)

"For dreams too, are ghosts, desires chased in sleep, gone by morning." 

    I don't believe I was doing Book Round ups when I read the first in the newest Libba Bray series, The Diviners. Based in 1920s New York following nearly 8 young characters, all with various magical abilities. I don't want to give too much away for this second one in case you haven't read the first one, but I highly recommend this series. It can get a bit muddled following all the different character lines, but it's exciting to see how all of them intersect.
    However, I think the real star of this series is the setting. I mean...I've imagined 1920s New York. Who hasn't? It seems like an exciting place and time to be alive. Libba Bray amazingly pulls readers directly into the heart of this time period. Everything from the clothing, the language, the description of the city, the historical events that Bray works into the story line...it's absolutely spectacular. It's my favorite part of the series. Apart from Theta and Henry. Read it, and you'll figure out who they are.

2. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

     I'm trying to diversify my reading, but that's not the main reason that I picked up this classic novel. When I travel to England this summer, I'll be visiting James Herriot's home in Thirsk. Herriot's collection of books are basically retellings of his experience as a vet in the English countryside. Yes, most of the stories are about the animals he treats, but he's also an impeccable observer of people, especially the unique people of his small town.
     This does not read like a autobiography at all. Herriot recreates his young life in an entertaining way, with his witty humor and crazy stories about birthing calves and foals. Plus, my favorite part was when Herriot comforts a dying woman with the notion that her beloved dogs will follow her into Heaven. That's always been a point of contention, but now I know Mr. Herriot has my back.

3. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

   A debut novel by a promising writer. Based in 1800s London, this story follows Audrey Rose, an unusual girl for her time who's trying to keep her broken family together after her mother's tragic death while also sneaking around to be her uncle's assistant as a medical examiner. However, when a serial killer begins viciously murdering low-class women and harvesting their organs, life becomes even more complicated for Audrey Rose and her messed up family.
     This was not my favorite book. I enjoyed the interesting story line and the strong female character of Audrey Rose. However, much of the novel was a bit melodramatic and the romantic interest seemed just a bit forced.

I'm currently reading The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr while also listening to The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

Until Next Time,

Monday, June 5, 2017

Most Surreal Moment of My Life

I promised a blog post about about my surreal experience with Stephen Chbosky (author, screenwriter, and director of Perks of Being a Wallflower) and RJ Palacio (author of Wonder), so here we go. Strap in.

After a wonderful, long last day of Book Expo, my friend Dave Connis (Temptation of Adam drops in November), my mom, and I were sitting in the Starbucks area, just relaxing when Dave looks up and says, "Hannah, that's Stephen Chbosky and RJ Palacio." I look to my right, and there they are. Two of the most amazing middle and YA authors of our time. But Stephen isn't just an author. He's also a screenwriter and director. Maybe you've heard of a little movie called Beauty and the Beast? Yeah, he directed that.
Both of us are sitting there, obviously fangirling and obsessing over whether we should go talk to them. Stephen was on a phone call that did not sound pleasant, and we didn't want to be associated with a negative phone call. So we waited until he walked away and went up to RJ, who is much less intimidating but amazingly kind! We start throwing praises on her because as you all know (and if you don't, you should) how wonderfully amazing Wonder is. We start talking to her about our books just as Stephen comes back up and joins the conversation.
The rest is kind of a blur... Stephen offered us his four point advice to young writers, which I both wrote down and recorded. He signed my napkin with the advice and wrote "You are infinite!" Perks fans will get the reference.
BUT THEN he asked Dave and I to sign our business cards, and since my book is published, asked me to bring him a signed copy the next day. He asked me...for my book... Just let that sink in. It still hasn't sunk in for me...
All four of us took a picture together, then Stephen asked Dave and me if we were friends and handed us money. "Here, drinks are on me." Me, being the weird person that I am and knowing that some people don't like hugs, asked, "Can I give you a hug?" as my chest continued to get redder and redder.  Then RJ and Stephen went to a publishing dinner.
Dave and I just sat down, looked at each other, then at my mom, and said, "What just happened?" BEA was wonderful, but that was by far the highlight of my entire summer thus far. I mean...WHAT?
**PS I got my book to Stephen. Both he and RJ remembered me. It was amazing. I got another hug.**

All this has a moral to it. Both days of BEA, Dave let me follow him around and meet some amazing people because David Arnold did that for him. Stephen listened to us because he cares about aspiring young authors and wants us to succeed. They're paying it forward. And one day, when I'm in their positions, I plan on paying it forward to a young, emerging author--introducing them to the amazing people I plan on befriending and buying them dinner in New York City, or wherever I come across them.
A message to all the writers out there--these authors that you hold on pedestals, they were you once. They want you to write and succeed. So keep writing, keep pushing, and one day, pay it forward.

Mind Blown,

Saturday, May 6, 2017

April Book Round Up

Oops, it's already May! Sorry!! Though to be honest, these past two days have been colder in East TN than they were in November!

So, as you saw in my previous post, the month of April has been rather INSANE! No exaggeration. This means that a lot of personal reading did not happen. In fact, zero personal reading got done. But that never means I didn't read. Did I have you worried there? Ha, I thought so.

Let's talk about short stories!!

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
I was assigned Russell's newest short story collection as my final project in my Traditions in Short Fiction course. Well, really, I picked it based off of the title. I wanted to read Sherman Alexei, but I'm SO glad that I got stuck with Karen Russell instead. (Funny anecdote: when I raised my hand for this, my professor said, "I knew you'd pick that one." They know me so well at UTC!)
I love this story collection. I've never read something like this before, both in format and the stories themselves. I would love to be a neuron inside Karen Russell's brain because MAN the stuff she comes up with is INSANE! And I LOVE IT! She combines horror and humor in a fantastic, artful way. I wrote down every single time I laughed out loud as I was reading her stories. I promise that you've never read anything like her stories.
I obviously enjoyed the actual story "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" about these vampire lovers who have settled in a lemon grove and learned that puncturing the thick skin of a lemon is nearly as satisfying as drinking human blood. But obviously, it's going to take a dark twist. I'm just not going to tell you. I also really enjoyed and was terrified by "The Doll of Eric Mutis." I'm not really going to tell you what it's about because that would ruin the surprise horror element of it. But she also has some not as terrifying stories, such as one about random former US presidents being turned into horses and not knowing where they are or how they got there or what they did to deserve being turned into a horse. They also don't know what will happen if they jump over the fence because the others have just disappeared!
So there's a small taste of Russell's work. She's also the author of the novel Swamplandia and the short story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology 
This was technically my textbook for this Traditions in Short Fiction class, along with a few stories not featured and articles on the art of the short story. No, I'm not recommending a textbook to you, just some of the stories that really stood out to me. If you haven't read these short stories, you should. (Also, if you don't read short stories in general, I highly suggest starting because there's some amazing work being done with them.)
1. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
2. "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner (and I'm not a huge Faulkner fan)
3. "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor
4. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates (FREAKYYYY)
5. "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker (just so good)
6. "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien (you should really read the whole collection <3)
7. "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri
8. "The Breeze" by Joshua Ferris (Warning: you are meant to be disoriented in this story)
9. "Birdsong" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

And there we go! That's basically what I read this past month (on top of all my papers and editing). Right now, I'm almost finished with Libba Bray's second installment in the Diviner's series, Lair of Dreams. SO GOOD--talk about doing research to perfectly delineate 1920s New York. Anyway, that's for next month's post.

Happy Reading (of short stories :D),

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week

If you didn't know that it's teacher appreciation week already, then you've been living under a rock. And if you haven't thanked your teachers yet, well, that's just rude. Time to pony up and give a big thank you...like I'm doing right now.

School was not my favorite place on earth, ever really. But it also was never the worst place. School meant friends and the classes that I liked, and band. However, it also meant the classes I didn't like, the people I tolerated, and gym. Y'all I hated gym, and I'm pretty sure gym hated me in return.

However, I was lucky to live in a district with a pretty excellent school system. It's not perfect--no school is--but I got an excellent education. My teachers cared that I was learning, and most of them didn't just teach to the test. In fact, they hated the dreaded tests. Nevertheless, they prepared me to succeed and be a well rounded person. I don't know if you realize it, but teachers shape a big part of us. Think about it, we're with them a majority of our waking hours, having them shape and mold our minds. It's bound to take some sort of effect after awhile.

I'd like to thank my amazing, caring, beautiful-hearted elementary school teachers at Fort Craig, Mrs. Owens, Mrs. Hurst, and Mrs. Dotson (P.S. Fort Craig rules forever!). Thank you to my 7th grade english teacher Mrs. Schafer, the first person outside my family I let read Ascension, which was at that time still Macy the Teenage Vampire. She still has the original binder. I obviously had to like her.

Thank you, Mr. Daugherty, for making Shakespeare cool. Thank you, Mr. Mendence, for teaching me everything I need to know about grammar and always pushing my analyses to be stronger because you knew I could. Thank you to Mrs. Russell, who I loved despite hating math and who helped me through it all. Thank you to Mrs. Wilson, who is the BEST history teacher ever! She's a queen among mortals. Thank you to Mr. Kessler who helped me catch up in statistics after my concussion. Thank you to Mrs. Romines, Mr. Hayden, Mr. Burke, Mr. Delozier, and Mr. Wilkinson for making me into a musician. Thank you Mr. Schuetz for making me a cool musician. And Jeanie Parker, even though I never took your class--you're the best there is!

I know that's not all of them, but those are the ones who have left their marks on me! And there are so many other teachers in my life that I've never had a class with but have still shaped me into who I am today! So thank you to all the educators out there for doing what you do! Keep on going, even when the going gets rough! Kids, thank your teachers.


Monday, April 24, 2017

What Have I Been Doing?

Wow, I just realized how long it has been since I've written on here. Maybe you didn't miss me, but I missed being on here! Let me tell you, April has maybe been the craziest month of my life this far! I'll just give a quick recap.

I had the pleasure of going to Nashville to attend Maggie Stiefvater and Courtney Steven's 7 Sentences Seminar, which was amazing! I swear, I learned so much in eight hours. I was amazed. We walked out of there with a story concept, character, setting, and plot. And I'm actually pretty excited by the premise! Plus, it was such an honor to get to listen to these two amazing authors that I respect and admire so much. They're also fantastic speakers!

Family Wedding in Cali! I hadn't been to California since I don't know I was ten maybe? A long time ago, and I had definitely never been to La Jolla (which is basically a super wealthy suburb of San Diego). But getting there was no piece of cake. It was actually the flight experience from Hell. There's no other way to put it. Long story short: after horrendous weather the previous day, we stood in line for six hours, from 11:30 pm to 5:30 am, to get our flight rescheduled. We even would've flown into LAX and driven to San Diego. We just wanted to get there for the wedding. But it turned out not being the worst experience. I met Chris Gallagher, a disney animator and a super awesome YA book nerd, a man who was an extra in The Office episode "Casino Night," two missionaries, and two women from New Zealand. And we did eventually make it to San Diego...just without our luggage. And our luggage did not make it back into our hands for seven more days. Thank you, Delta. FYI if you're luggage doesn't arrive, you're allowed to go shop for necessities and Delta will reimburse you. They didn't tell us that tiny detail until after we'd missed the rehearsal dinner. Again, thank you, Delta. But the wedding on the beach was absolutely beautiful, the reception was a great party; and it was so wonderful to spend time with family that I don't get to see often enough! Even if it was a blitz trip.
Also that weekend, my publisher accepted the Gold Award in New Voice: YA from the Independent Book Publisher's Association's Ben Franklin Book Award for Ascension. LIKE WHAT? You guys, this is huge. I don't think I even fully understand how huge this is. But it's huge. And it's the first trophy I've ever gotten that isn't for participation. I'm actually good at something, guys!

Well, that was Easter weekend. Nothing too much insanely awesome happened here. I spent my entire Friday applying for part time work this summer. I'm still unemployed so...yep! It's okay though. The right job will come along. PLUS I got my sunflower seeds planted, and they are already sprouting. Hopefully, my mom won't kill them this year by accidentally thinking they're weeds.

Let's just say I did a lot of driving this past weekend, folks. I made the very worthwhile drive to Nashville to see one of my favorite humans and go see Jon McLaughlin with her at The City Winery. Very good wine, even better music. Seriously, if you haven't heard his music, listen to it. Not only is he a great song writer, he's an amazing pianist. His hands were a complete blur. It was also a neat concert because it was just him, and it was celebrating the 10th anniversary of his first album's release. So he just played that album, and I'd never heard that music before.
Next day, drive to Maryville to kick of Maryville College's celebration of Katherine Paterson, the magnificent author of Bridge to Terabithia among many others! We thought she'd be at the kick off of course...but that's just a lesson to all you out there. Don't just assume based off of a flyer. Get all the facts or else you'll be disappointed when she doesn't show up.
Well, Sunday she showed up, and she was more magnificent than I ever could have imagined--cute, witty, funny, sweet, and absolutely heart breaking. I think I almost started crying four times during her talk. FOUR! If you ever get the opportunity to hear her speak, GO! I mean, people drove all the way from Nashville.
Shout out to author Brooks Benjamin for having me get a Halls cough drop wrapper signed by her. Made her laugh and probably made me stand out ;)

So that's what's been going on with me.

What's going on with you?

Friday, March 31, 2017

March Book Round Up

1. History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

        "He broke me in a way everyone should be lucky to be cracked open at least once." 

    I can't explain to you how beautiful this book was--told alternative from the past to the present, the story of a boy who's in love, has his heart broken and spins into chaos after his first love dies. After Griffin's ex-boyfriend Theo moves to California for college and finds himself a new boyfriend, nearly a reflection of Griffin, he spirals into chaos. Not only has he left his boyfriend, but also his best friend. When Theo drowns in the ocean, the chaos that has been Griffin's life turns into a black hole, especially when Theo's boyfriend comes to the funeral and stays with Theo's family, basically replacing Griffin in every aspect of Theo life. Now as he searches through the past, he has to piece together his future and who he is.
     This is Adam Silvera's most recent release and the first of his that I've read, and it was absolutely beautiful. I devoured it. With some of the authors I've read, like Leigh Bardugo, I met Adam before I read his books. He spoke at Yallfest and was so inspirational and interesting to listen to. He's definitely one to keep on your list.

2. Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

    I was really excited about this book, and the world she created is pretty interesting. However, the plot was really predictable. I was very intrigued by the main character Luna. In a world of darkness, this girl, the hidden princess living in a tower, is blind. How do you survive in that kind of world without sight? But she does, and it's impressive. But the rest of her character falls flat. She's a little bit self righteous and a little bit predictable. Fowler is a lovable, slightly more complex character but again is predictable. Less so than everything else. 
    Jordan threw a huge plot twist in at the very end, which I must admit left me reeling, however I don't think I'll continue on to the second book. 

3. Vampires in the Lemon Grove & Other Short Stories by Karen Russell

"There is a loneliness that must be particular to monsters--
the feeling that each is the only child of a species." 

     So I read short stories all the time. Obviously, I'm an english major, and it's what we do as creative writing majors. However, I've never actually read a full short story collection. Technically, this is assigned reading for my final project in Traditions in Short Fiction. When I raised my hand to coincidentally take this collection, my professor said, "I knew you'd choose this one." Ha-ha! And I'm really loving it! Russell is ironic, weird, unique, and awesome!! She makes all of the unusual stuff she writes about sound completely normal while also keeping the weirdness of it. Then she throws these sentences in that are just...woah!

Up next, Saturday by Ian McEwan!

Happy Book Week!