Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege of being able to attend the launch party for the YA anthology, Hope Nation, at the South Irving public library. For those of you who might not have heard about this wonderful collaboration check out the info below:
Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration
Title & Author: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Dr. Rose Brock and stories by 24 YA authors
Genre: YA/Anthology/Short Stories
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Philomel Books
Series Details: Standalone Anthology
Page Count: 291 pages
Description: “Hope is a decision, but it is a hard one to recognize in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. To help embolden hope, here is a powerhouse collection of essays and personal stories that speak directly to teens and all YA readers. Featuring Angie Thomas, Marie Lu, James Dashner, Nicola Yoon, David Levithan, Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Renée Ahdieh, and many more!
“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”–Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and–in some cases–even hopeless. The teens of today are the caretakers of tomorrow, and yet it’s difficult for many to find joy or comfort in such a turbulent society. But in trying times, words are power.
Some of today’s most influential young adult authors come together in this highly personal collection of essays and original stories that offer moments of light in the darkness, and show that hope is a decision we all can make.
Like a modern day Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens, Hope Nation acknowledges the pain and offers words of encouragement.
Edited by Dr. Rose Brock this collection of essays and personal experiences from some of the industry’s most beloved YA authors was the answer to a very intriguing question. Approached by a publisher in New York, Dr. Brock was asked:
“If you could publish any book you wanted what would it be?“
She quickly replied that she didn’t want to publish her own book, but realized this opportunity could serve as a much-needed platform to help those that felt lost in today’s turbulent climate find their own voices. She reached out to YA heavyweights and asked:
“Would you tell me a story about a time that you went through that was difficult?”
Intentionally keeping the prompt loose, Dr. Brock received a plethora of responses and stories that centered on everything from love, loss, resilience, hardship, tenacity and acceptance.
The coolest part of the launch party was watching Dr. Brock interact with three of the book’s contributors (Angie Thomas, Julie Murphy, and Ally Carter) on everything from why they chose to be a part of this collection of short stories and what their story meant to them. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, there were laughs, claps, and tears. I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite questions and quotes from the session:
Question 1: Why did you agree to be part of this Hope project that became Hope Nation?
Julie Murphy (Dumplin’, Ramona Blue, Side Effects May Vary, Puddin’): “After the election people were in a lot of different places for different reasons…A lot of people were in a place where they wanted to move forward in some way and get some kind of momentum going forward. I was actually approached by quite a few different people to be in nonfiction anthologies that spoke to different things that people might be feeling at that time…but the reason why I said yes to Rose’s was because it was the only one that asked me about hope and where I found hope in an unusual place…We can all agree that whatever it is that you’re fighting for there’s nothing worth fighting for if you don’t have hope.”
Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give, On The Come Up): “How do I follow that up? It’s funny because one big reason was the fact that Rose saved my life.” She proceeded to tell a hysterical anecdote about her first trip abroad to the UK and how she was flying out of Dallas to England and thought her gaming computer broke the plane, because an hour after plugging it in they had “engine problems” and had to turn back around. She was then in Dallas with her mom sans a hotel room or food. Luckily, Julie and Rose came to the rescue and got her sorted and fed.
“But beyond that for me it was the idea that we as authors have a responsibility to our readership. And that varies at times. And I felt as if right then (referring to post 2016 election) — right now especially in our country — one responsibility we do have is to give our readers hope. Young people give me hope. I’m seeing them do things that generations before them were too cowardly to do…So I feel as if I serve them and I write for them. So what do I need to do? I need to give them hope. How do I give them hope? By showing them the hope that they give me…So when I’m in the retirement home and y’all are running the country I’m gonna be like, ‘you know what? I think I had a little something to do with that.‘”
Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls series, Heist Society series, Embassy Row series, Not If I Save You First): “I was really drawn to do it number 1 because I was afraid to say no to Rose, and number 2 because it’s not often that I get to talk to them (readers) as me. You know we write hundreds of thousands of words that are fiction and it’s not that often that I get to talk to them about: ‘Oh this is…this is a true story about something that actually happened to me. This is how I ended up where I am.” She proceeded to tell us about how she grew up in a small town on a farm and never really experience crazy trauma, but that doesn’t mean that her story isn’t as valuable. Because not only are there thousands of readers out there with similar stories, but they also need to hear from a voice that did get out of the small town, achieve financial stability, and “make it.” One of the most shocking elements of her story is that the town where she grew up in today only has 4-day school weeks because “they can’t afford to run the bus on the fifth day.” Those kids need a representative for their voices because they don’t get author meet and greets or lavish field trips. She wanted to be part of an “opportunity that could come their way.”
Question 2: Share a little bit about your story (featured in Hope Nation) and why you chose to tell it.
Ally Carter: “It’s basically about when I was in middle school in that building that had the poles in the middle of the ceilings (see above). I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and I’m from Oklahoma, it was set in Oklahoma, I found out she was a teenage girl from Oklahoma when she wrote it. And I thought well that’s something I can do! I’ll become an author, and Tom Cruise will star in the movie, and obviously the path has already been laid out for me. And so I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I also knew if I told anybody that I would be laughed out of that building with the poles in the middle of the rooms. Because you just weren’t allowed to say things like: ‘I’m going to be a famous author someday’…So it was something that I kept close and I didn’t tell anybody for a really long time what I was hoping for, but that didn’t mean I stopped hoping for it. And that didn’t mean that it wasn’t something I could work for on my own…and that was big for me as a kid that I could have this hope and I didn’t have to share it with anybody. That as long as I kept it alive myself it didn’t have to go away.”
Julie Murphy: “I think that anytime someone asks me to be in a nonfiction anthology they are asking me to do it expecting a certain kind of essay from me, which is usually about body image, or being the fattest kid in the class and what that means…and I love writing about those things. That is like home base for me. That is my passion. But when I sat down to write this essay it just wasn’t there; that spark wasn’t there. When I thought about the hardest moments of my life I didn’t think about the body I lived in because I’ve really come to embrace it. But I did think about my senior year of high school. And my last week of high school, my family lost our home. *She started to cry apologizing for her emotions and I’d be lying if I didn’t say it got to me.* My family lost our home. And it was a time in my life that everyone was really excited about their future and what came next, and I loved my family, but that was not the position that we were in…*I should also note that her parents were in the front row so the tears were real, y’all.* And so I wanted to write about this sense of looking for hope and looking for home in a place where you can’t find it. And coming to terms with the fact that home is a place you carry with you always. And hope has to be that same way. So that’s what my essay was about. It was about finding home in the people you love, in the family you choose, in the family that is your blood…*She talked about how kids see how successful she is today (I mean look at that fancy haircut 😉 ) and assume it must have always been that way, which we know isn’t often the case* I think that sometimes to become something you have to come from nothing. I love my family, and I love the home they created for me, because the home they created for me isn’t a building, it’s my heart. It’s what I carry inside of me always.
*All photos are mine except for the one above, which was taken by Victoria Tong*
Angie Thomas: “The past year of my life has been incredible. It’s something I never would’ve thought would have happened for me, a girl from the hood in Mississippi. But what has been the best part for me this past year…it hasn’t been the awards, or beating John Green on the New York Times Bestsellers List *huge applause* That was petty, he’s a great guy! I love John Green, he’s a great mentor. I love the guy. *Other authors confirm he’s great and that he was thrilled Angie beat him* But I think having that happen, and the movie, and all that stuff, that’s been great, but what’s been the best part, for me, has by far been going out and meeting the young people who have given me hope in ways they don’t realize. It’s the young boy with the saggy pants who if you were passing him on the street some of y’all probably would pull your purses closer to you because you made an assumption about him. He comes up to me and says, ‘Yo, Ma, I hate reading, but I read this book in a day! This shit is dope.’ It’s the black girl saying, ‘I never saw myself in a book until I read this.’ It’s the white kids from the well-to-do families saying, ‘I get it now why you say Black Lives Matter.’ It’s all these young people who all of the sudden have come forth and said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna read about someone who’s not like me because I want to change the way this world is, and I know I have the power to do that.’ They have given me so much hope…So, for me, my essay was about them. It’s about the hope they’ve given me. Because I promise you, you spend 15 minutes on Twitter you will lose all (the) hope you have. But, if you spend 5 minutes with these young people, who are determined to not repeat our mistakes, you will walk away with more hope than you realized you needed…It’s seeing these young people and knowing that they see the problems in our society, and knowing that they recognize, and they aren’t turning a blind eye to it. That gives me hope. So, for me, my essay was about the fact that over the past year I’ve met amazing young people who give me more hope for tomorrow than I had yesterday.”
Also, I’m not gonna post it here (if you want to know more about it comment below, and I’ll fill you in), but these wonderful authors also laid the smackdown on what to say when someone questions the content in The Hate U Give as well as how to reduce the stigma of “girl books vs. boy books.” Their answers were inspiring, honest, and at times punched me right in the gut. After all their words of wisdom, we gathered for signings, photos, and praises!
So that’s my somewhat lengthy wrap up of the Hope Nation launch party. I hope I made you feel a part of the event, and that you check out this wonderful work. All of the author’s donated their fees to the charities of their choice, which was matched by the publishers!! So support these authors, their stories, and help spread the hope!
And, as always, Happy reading!