The Dallas Morning News
Educator corrals YA authors for new book for teens
In ‘Hope Nation,’ Rose Brock has pulled together a book touching on overcoming adversity
After a year dominated by social and political upheaval, Rose Brock says she wanted to give teens hope in the form that helped her when she was a struggling teen: books.
She began looking for one particular book that would offer encouragement, a book that hadn’t been written yet — a book she didn’t feel she could write.
Fortunately, Brock has a sense of what authors resonate with young adults, and it has served her well as a teacher, then as a librarian and now as a professor and co-founder of the annual North Texas Teen Book Festival.
She reached out to 24 young-adult writers beloved by teens and asked each to contribute an original story for Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of
Inspiration. The book, published by Penguin Random House, will be launched Feb. 25.
Three contributors will join Brock at South Irving Library for the launch: Angie Thomas, debut author of the best-selling, award-winning
The Hate U Give; Fort Worth best-selling author Julie Murphy; and best-selling author Ally Carter.
“My life is about celebrating stories,” Brock says on the phone. “I wanted to collect stories from the writers that I knew teens loved, who were meaningful to them, and ask them to share how they overcame adversity.”
The selections offer diverse perspectives. Murphy’s story, “Hoping for Home,” details the agony she felt when her family lost the home they’d worked so long and hard to buy.
“And then one day, I came home from school to find both my parents home from work and waiting for me with a pile of moving boxes. Foreclosure. Our home, my bright red room included, had gone into foreclosure.”
Thomas’ story, “Now More Than Ever,” shares how frightened Thomas was to write about racism.
“After being rolled and seeing just how hateful people can be, I was hesitant for my book to even come out. ... Yet over the past few months, the love I’ve received from The
Hate U Give has stunned me.” And in “The Two Types of Secrets,” Ally Carter talks about why she kept her dream of being a writer secret for a long time.
“Your time is coming. It’s up to you to decide when to bring your dream out into the light, but it is also up to you to provide the heat and the nourishment. It’s up for you to be ready. ... And no matter what your dream or your secret might be, I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”
Brock knows from personal experience how difficult the early years can be. She came to the United States with her family as a young immigrant from Germany whose family, as she describes it, “was on the wrong side of history” — with her grandfather, a surgeon, drafted into the German army and spending the end of the war in a prisoner of war camp.
Reading didn’t come easily to her. But after she learned to read the books that teachers introduced to her, “Books were a salvation to me,” she says. “They became my substitute friends as I moved around and didn’t really feel I had my place or my people.”
She overcame early setbacks, including failing her first year of high school. Her mother, whom she adored, died when Brock was in her early 20s before her mother attained her dream of becoming an American citizen, but after her mother realized her dream of owning a bookstore. Brock became a teacher because “some teachers really had a profound impact on me.”
As a teacher, she looked for books that would inspire her students. She didn’t find them on the school reading lists in the 1990s, so she widened her search. That’s how she discovered the world of young-adult literature.
“I started reading YA and never looked back,” she says.
By 2014, after Brock had transitioned from being a teacher to a librarian, she was finishing up her Ph.D. in library science when Kristin Treviño, a librarian at the Irving Public Library, reached out to her with the idea of starting the North Texas Teen Book Festival.
They expected to attract 500 teens the first year it was held in 2015. Three thousand came. The following year, 8,000 came. Last year, this free, all-volunteer project attracted just under 11,000.
This year, 76 authors will be at the event, including 10 authors whose stories are in
Hope Nation. Thomas, Murphy and Carter will be among them. The others are Renée Ahdieh, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Gayle Forman, Brendan Kiely, David Levithan, Julie Murphy, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.
Brock, a professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, asked the writers for their contributions last March. She had read an early copy of The Hate U Give, and while she didn’t know what a sensation it would prove to be, “I knew immediately this woman had some really important things to tell the
Plan your life
Feb. 25 from 3 to 5 p.m. South Irving Library, 601 Schulze Drive, Irving. Free. 972-7214612. cityofirving.org
The stories started coming in during the summer, with a few arriving in early fall. That turnaround is remarkably fast in an industry where it usually takes a couple of years between inception and publication.
“At times, working with this many authors was similar to herding cats,” she notes. “So many moving parts, and all of these dedicated writers were trying to sandwich in this project with their already demanding deadlines.” None of the writers for Hope
Nation were paid. Each turned in a story with their fee going to the charity of their choice and the publisher matching that fee to the charity.
Being the person whose name is on the book is a different experience for Brock, who is so used to presenting authors. And yet, she says, the creation of this book is the natural evolution of what she’s been trying to do since the start of her career. “In some ways, Hope Nation is realizing a 20-year-old dream. ... It’s a collection of the very kind of stories I wish I could have given my students when they were struggling.
“As a teacher, you greet your students each day, never knowing what they experienced the night before or what obstacles life has presented them. I think of those kids who sat in my classroom and came to my library and I still want to give them a salve to ease their burdens. These stories are just that.”