My Thankful Post

Every year around this time myself and every other blogger known to man writes up their “Thankful” post. This year is no different. In years past I’ve talked about what kind of books I am thankful for or what kind of things have happened in my past that has shaped who I am. This year I think it’s only appropriate for me to talk about how thankful I am for everything that has happened to me since I began this blog two years ago.
On Halloween 2011 I started this blog and my life has changed so much since then. I have been introducing to the wonderful world of book blogging and the amazing bloggers there are out there. I have made so many friends in other bloggers. I started this blog just months after another move. There was the big move from Michigan to Tennessee when I was a senior in high school and then there was the 1.5 hour move from Knoxville to Chattanooga when in August 2011. This move would turn out to be one of the most significant changes in my life.
It’s hard to fully explain, but even though I lived in Michigan for almost 18 years of my life and most of my family and all of my friends at the time were from there, I have to say that Chattanooga feels like home. Chattanooga is home. When people ask me if I would move back to Michigan I would have said ‘Yes!’ in a heartbeat, but since moving to Chattanooga I would never move back to Michigan. I think part of it would have to be that I am a completely different person than I was when I lived there and I am happier with the person I am now.
That completely different person is because of blogging. For some it might be hard to understand how starting a simple blog can change a person so much, but it’s true. Like I already said it opened my eyes to a new world. It helped guide me to what my eventual career will be. Book publicity. I had no idea about any of that before. I have been able to meet some of my idol authors. Authors are like my rock stars. Other people get excited over singers or movie stars and I squeal like a little girl over authors.
Through blogging I have been able to get to know Ruta Sepetys, one of the nicest authors ever! And through her I was able to organize my first blog tour (and meet one of my best friends on it), start up RutaFans (the fan website), and go to my first writing conference! The conference was another event that changed my life. It was the very first time that I discovered that agents and editors and published authors want nothing more than for you to succeed. They want to see you get published and they want to help you with it. Such an incredible feeling to be around a group of people who love books as much as I do and who don’t roll their eyes when I tell them that I want to be an author one day.
Through Ruta I have gotten to meet so many people and one of them includes Sharon Cameron. As you may have noticed a few months ago I was able to organize the A Spark Unseen Blog Hop. I was lucky to be able to do a blog tour for The Dark Unwinding and was really excited when Sharon let me organize one for A Spark Unseen and even more excited when we went with my crazy blog hop idea. Sharon goes along with all of my crazy ideas and it is so much fun working with her! After the blog hop she was so amazing and has been letting me intern with her so that I can get more experience to put on my resume. Through Sharon I was able to live out a dreamlike night at this years Southern Festival of Books. I was able to meet my favorite childhood author, Margaret Peterson Haddix!!! I was also able to meet JJ Howard whose blog tour I was able to be part of! Such an incredible night! After living in a dream world for a few hours I was able to talk over my book with Sharon and what was supposed to be one question as we were about to part because an hour and a half talking in her car in the parking garage. She definitely put my brain through the wringer, but I came out with so much hope and a completely new vision for my WIP. It was an invaluable night for me.
Through blogging I have been able to meet some amazing friends. There are several that I am friends with and you can find their buttons in my sidebar, but there are a few who have become my best friends.
I met Marla when I was doing the Between Shades of Gray blog tour. It was my very first time interacting with other bloggers and we hit it off right away. I asked her to start up RutaFans with me and she went along with me. Since then she has become my main CP (critique partner) and she is the person that I throw every single one of my crazy ideas off of first. She is really able to help me through every change and every trouble spot in my book. I talk to Marla every single day for several hours. She is supportive and listening to my whenever I am complaining or when I have something exciting to share. She is an invaluable person in my life and even though she lives hours away I am thankful to have a friend like her.
Another person I was able to meet through blogging was Shalena. For a really long time in my life I hid my inner feelings. If I liked a geeky TV show I wouldn’t tell anyone about it. Up until recently I also haven’t been able to tell anyone that I was a writer without getting embarrassed. Being friends with Shalena has enabled me to start embarrassing and being all right with who I am and express my interests more. Since meeting her I am able to discuss more Doctor Who and my other nerdy TV shows more openly. I am not ashamed of the fact that one of my dreams is to go to San Diego Comic Con or that I plan on attending Dragon*Con next year in full costume.
Because of blogging I am beginning to get a really great group of friends around me that I haven’t had since I moved to Tennessee. I am happier than ever with who I am and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Moving to Chattanooga and starting this blog are things that changed my life and I am so thankful for all of the circumstances leading up to it and everything that has happened since then.

That Time I Was the New Girl…Again

It’s time for another Jodi Meadows prompt! Here is this one:

Write a blog post about a time you were new to something, or somewhere, and how you dealt with it.

I tried to do that, but I think this one is a bit more rambling than she had wanted.

My family has moved around a lot, maybe not as much as some people, but enough to say that I went to two elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. Then when I graduated I went to college in one town and then moved with my family again 1.5 hours away and went to school there too. While every move is hard for any kid and especially a shy kid, the move during high school was by far the hardest for me.
I was born and raised in Michigan and never thought that we would be moving out of it. All of my friends and family lived there and that’s just where life was for all of us. Then the auto industry tanked and a lot of people lost their jobs. My dad’s company went on strike for a long time in 2008 before offering buyouts to their employees. Knowing that the company was going down (and it was. It’s now officially out of commission) my parents made the decision to take it. After that a lot of things happened. We had been blessed with a beautiful home in a really nice neighborhood going to a great school that was only 10 years old (at the time) and we had to leave it.
There was a lot of fluttering around about what it was that we were going to be doing. First we thought we were going to move to Texas and then to Virginia. Finally my dad was able to get a job in Knoxville, Tennessee. So, halfway through my senior year of high school we moved from Michigan to Tennessee.
When we left Michigan it was the middle of winter with tons of snow on the ground and the obvious need for a winter jacket.

Moving from Michigan

When we got to Tennessee there was no snow to be seen and it was warm enough so that we only had to wear hoodies. This was a change I didn’t mind. We settled into a rental house that was much different than the one we had come from and about 1/3 of the size and I now had to share a room with my older sister like we had before we moved to our last house.

Brother and I walking towards our new house in Tennessee

It was a tough time for everyone in our family. My older sister couldn’t join us for another few weeks because she was finishing school in Michigan for the semester. Once she got down though it was my family trying to figure out how to take the circumstances that had been thrown at us and start a new life.
It was really lonely. When we lived in Michigan we spent a lot of time at our grandmother’s house and saw my cousins all the time. Now we had no one. In Michigan I had friends that I could call up and hang out with non-stop. In Tennessee I had absolutely no one save for the other four people that lived in my house. Then school started.
The first day was rough for lack of a better term. The entire school system in Tennessee was completely different from the one in Michigan. Instead of having six hours we had four blocks. I don’t think I ever completely adjusted to that. I went to a really old school that reminded me of a dungeon and that I hated. Some of my classes were in trailers because there wasn’t enough room in the school. The people there had known each other since they were babies and everyone knew everyone else. My teachers were very welcoming though. My guidance officer had put a note at the top of my schedule that told them where I was from and so everyone was very accommodating. Then I had lunch. This was the first time in my entire school career where I knew absolutely no one in my lunch period or where the other kids in my class hadn’t offered to let me sit with them. So I sat alone. It was one of the loneliest hours of my life.
The next morning came full on with a complete breakdown on my part that led my father to come up to the school and have a talk with my guidance officer who assured us that if I needed to come see her at any time during the day I could and that if I wanted to eat lunch in the office lobby (there were several tables and chairs) that I could. So I sucked it up and went back in for round two. This time though I knew I had to change something. So instead of sitting quietly in my third block class (lunch was in the middle of this class) I walked in and introduced myself to the girl that sat behind me. I asked if I could eat lunch with her and she said yes! So now I had people to sit lunch with and not be alone. I was never quite good friends with any of them, but I will always be eternally grateful because they sheltered me and gave me a place to feel safe and welcome during lunch. (Instead of all alone) The second day I also decided to wear a Twilight shirt. The first movie had just come out a few months prior and I was all over it. There was a girl in my fourth block class who turned around and said something that I will never forget, “How many of those you got?” I laugh about it so much now but our friendship began with a Twilight shirt. Fourth block and that friend became the reason why I was able to go to school every day. I am no longer close with that friend, but she was definitely the reason why I was able to get through that school. At the start of every day I knew that if I could just make it to fourth block I would get to have fun with her and not feel like the outcast I felt like everywhere else.
Then I moved again, but that story is for another time.

That Time I Went on an Adventure

I love Incarnate and Asunder by Jodi Meadows. There is something amazing and magical about those books. When I saw that Jodi was hosting several giveaways for her writing anniversary I knew I had to check it out. She has several giveaways going on that you can check out here. For the arc of Infinite entry she gave us this challenge:

To win a signed ARC of INFINITE, write a blog post about a time you went on an adventure, or made a difficult decision that would impact the rest of your life.

I have been very fortunate in my life so far in that I haven’t had to make very difficult decisions that would impact the rest of my life. The biggest thing that I have had to deal with was moving from Michigan to Tennessee halfway through my senior year of high school. That wasn’t MY decision though. That was my parents. Any other choice that I’ve had to make that has deeply impacted my life hasn’t been difficult to make. So here is a time I went on an adventure.

May 2011 started off like any other month. School was out for the summer so I was working full time at JCPenney (where I am still working). I spent the days I wasn’t working hanging out with my best friend, Erin. For a while, even before the movie was announced, my other friend, Courtney, had been talking about this book that I HAD to read. I put it off for a really long time and then I saw the announcement that they were making a film out of the book. The Hunger Games. Of course I read the book and fell in love with it just as Courtney had said for a long time I would.

There is a fantastic website I frequented that tells all about what movies are filming where and we had used this site to visit the set of Water for Elephants when it was filming a few hours from us. (In a turn of events I moved to where they were filming and pass one of the locations every day on my way to school) One day while checking the site, Erin and I discovered that they were filming Hunger Games in North Carolina. We lived in Knoxville so it was only a few more hours away. The next day Erin and I were on our way to Asheville. (Hotel courtesy of her mother’s rewards points)

I had never gone on a road trip before out of state without a parent and definitely never gone so far away before. It was this really crazy, scary, liberating moment. The first time I was off on my own somewhere. The scary thought being what if something happened to us and we had no one to help us?

We made it to Ashville in a few hours, checked into our hotel, and then got our laptops out and scoped out where we would be going. We had the name of a road for the first location and that was it. There was no address or city or anything else to tell us where we would be going. But we had the road. The next morning we got up packed all of our things up and drove even more hours away from Asheville.

We had a road name. Apparently that was enough. Welcome to DISTRICT 12!!

(Photo of my car and me talking on the phone there for proof that I really was there lol)

It was amazing to be there. They weren’t filming there that day, but you can see that they still had the bakery done up.

Throughout the rest of the day we went to three different filming locations. Part of what made the trip so much fun was the little amount of information we had to go off of. Like I said before, we had the name of a road and that was it. One little road in all of North Carolina. We hoped it was the right one. For the second location we went to a state part where they filmed the arena scenes. That one was much easier to find. Then we moved onto the location where they filmed the reaping. This was by far the hardest location to find.

We drove to downtown Shelby and it was frightening to be in the middle of an unknown city in a little shiny red car that stood out like a sore thumb. We had a picture of a building to go off and that was it. For this particular location we had no street name or anything. We had a picture.

This picture

And this was the building. I know it doesn’t look like it because they painted over it, removed a panel for filming, and we were at a different angle, but trust me, it was. (we know because people who were there during filming took video of the area so we used their videos to tell us where to go)

That was the last stop for us that day before heading home to Tennessee. It was such an incredible trip. It was last minute and spontaneous and for someone like me who loves to plan WAY WAY in advance and needs every detail it was refreshing and freeing to do something like this. I got to be away from my family for the first time, and I mean really away across state lines where they couldn’t get to me easily if I needed them, but it gave me a sense of independence and responsibility to make sure everything was going okay. (Although things did get a little scary in Shelby at one point, but shhh don’t tell my parents) There was also the thrill of the hunt while we tried to find all of the places. Apparently now there are websites dedicated just to this and will tell you exactly how to get there. While it would have been easier with those directions, I wouldn’t have changed the experience for anything.