Anthologies, Blog Tours, Young Adult Fiction

Blog Tour [Review]: Rural Voices

Author: Rural Voices
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: October 13th, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

*Thank you Candlewick Press and Jean BookNerd Blog tours for providing a review copy and for the opportunity to be on this tour. *


Rating 4/5 stars


Think you know what rural America is like? Discover a plurality of perspectives in this enlightening anthology of stories that turns preconceptions on their head.

Gracie sees a chance of fitting in at her South Carolina private school, until a “white trash”-themed Halloween party has her steering clear of the rich kids. Samuel’s Tejano family has both stood up to oppression and been a source of it, but now he’s ready to own his true sexual identity. A Puerto Rican teen in Utah discovers that being a rodeo queen means embracing her heritage, not shedding it. . . .

For most of America’s history, rural people and culture have been casually mocked, stereotyped, and, in general, deeply misunderstood. Now an array of short stories, poetry, graphic short stories, and personal essays, along with anecdotes from the authors’ real lives, dives deep into the complexity and diversity of rural America and the people who call it home. Fifteen extraordinary authors – diverse in ethnic background, sexual orientation, geographic location, and socioeconomic status – explore the challenges, beauty, and nuances of growing up in rural America. From a mountain town in New Mexico to the gorges of New York to the arctic tundra of Alaska, you’ll find yourself visiting parts of this country you might not know existed – and meet characters whose lives might be surprisingly similar to your own.  

Nora Shalaway Carpenter, David Bowles, Joseph Bruchac, Veeda Bybee, Shae Carys, S.A. Cosby, Rob Costello, Randy DuBurke, David Macinnis Gill, Nasugraq Rainey Hopson, Estelle Laure, Yamile Saied Méndez, Ashley Hope Pérez, Tirzah Price and Monica Roe


The writers bring authentic voices to their work in addition to their biographies, shared at the back of the book. This collection will be a high-interest read for middle and high school students…This book is a must-purchase for libraries serving middle and high school readers. —School Library Connection

The compilation successfully meets the challenge of serving as a cohesive whole while providing readers with enough variety of tone, pace, and voice to keep the reading experience interesting. A fresh and highly accessible contribution. —Kirkus Reviews

From laughing out loud to holding back tears, readers who enjoy emotionally resonant books will not be disappointed. Those from similar geographic areas will be nodding their heads while every reader, regardless of location, will connect to the universal triumphs and tribulations of teen life. Fans of Rainbow Rowell will dive headfirst into this collection. A great addition that explores an often misrepresented portion of readers. —School Library Journal  


Rural Voices was a read that definitely surprised me in a good way. It is an anthology that challenges what many non-rural growing folks know and think about small towns of America. It gives us delightful reads of aspiring rodeo queens, while also tackling tougher topics like child & sexual abuse. Rural Voices gave us a diverse set of authors writing about the small town life and how it had shaped how the are today in some ways.

I enjoyed this anthology mostly for the variety in stories being told. Each story challenged what I personally saw as rural small town life. This anthology also challenged many stereotypes often about small town folks. It was a page turning experience because each story provided a new face, a new town and a new intriguing read. You get spooky encounters, farming life, unique family dynamics and so much more. Rural voices knew how to me chuckle and pull at my heart strings at the same time. It was nothing like I’ve read before in anthologies and I appreciated that.

As a born and bred city girl who has probably never been to a small rural town, this anthology honestly persuaded me to get out some of these places. Somethings it’s good to read about a simple, yet fulfilling lifestyle when you come from the city of the Bronx Bombers [Yankees]. One critique I did have was in terms of pacing. As with many other short stories I have read, pacing in some of the stories started pretty slow and had to play catch up to quickly since there was a limitation in how much one can write. In regards to the individual stories themselves, I really enjoyed reading Island Rodeo Queen by Yamile Saied Méndez and What Home Is by Ashley Hope Pérez. Island Rodeo Queen is about a young girl who dreams to be a rodeo star one day. It was definitely the feel good kind of story you’ll want to read on a fall day on your porch with a side of coffee. What Home Is about the meaning of home written in poem form. This story was strong and emotional and pulled so hard at my heartstrings. I welcomed the different writing style because it made the story much more powerful.

If you are looking for an anthology that will give you a diverse set of voices while challenging what you know about small towns in America, than this is a book you’ll want to pick up.

Guest Post

Finding Inspiration by Ashley Hope Pérez

I’m the sort of writer who grows every story, poem, and novel through a slow accumulation of writing rooted in tiny bits of feeling or observation. It’s not the most efficient practice, but it’s the only way that feels true for me.

Even when I know what scene I’m working on, I still like to begin by spending time playing so that I feel lively and fresh in language. What does that look like? Read on for five of the strategies I have used to get going when it’s time to write.

Oh, and I like to think of these as invitations, not exercises, because the point is to sneakily invite myself to keep writing beyond the prompt. I hope you enjoy!


Ashley Hope Pérez

 List 20 things you’ve seen in the day so far. They can be objects, scenes, or interactions. then pick one that feels evocative or “alive” and free write with it.

I do this one over and over, and use dozens of variations, such as inserting one of the “live” objects into a scene, imagining my character in a place where I’ve been, or, in the case of physical items, thinking about what the character would think about them. Would they treasure an object? View it as trash? What is their relationship to the things around them?

Flex your muscles as a stylist. Find a paragraph of prose you admire. Write it out longhand just to get the feel of those amazing words coming out of your own pen (on loan). Notice the joints within and between sentences, how they fit together and flow.

Now write your own paragraph (on whatever subject you choose), modeling each sentence exactly on the paragraph you admire. Try to stick to your model; the idea is to pay attention to how writing moves at the sentence level—and to get infected by gorgeous prose. Here’s an example:

Gil Adamson’s opening sentence in her novel The Outlander: “It was night, and dogs came through the trees, unleashed and howling.”

Ashley’s sentence: It was noon, and salmon arced up out of the stream, rainbowed and gleaming.

What’s awesome about this prompt? You can use it over and over, so it’s a perfect building block for a writing ritual. Best of all, you can surprise yourself into a twist in your narrative.

Take a break from structure and write blind (literally, if you can touch type). Set a timer for 10 minutes and write without stopping, not worrying about punctuation or even making sense. Repeat words if you get stuck; there’s no wrong way to do this.

Your goal is to get to a state where your internal editor can’t block anything (some people call this “automatic writing”). Just write—riding emotions, not worrying if anything is “okay” or not. When the timer goes off, look at what you’ve written. Most of it will be gibberish, but you may well have tricked yourself into writing a gem of an image or revealing a raw emotion that you can graft onto a character.

This may work best first thing in the morning when your brain is closest to that crazy underworld of dreams.

Get to know one of your characters better—or invent one out of the blue—by forcing him or her to play two truths and a lie. If you’ve never played this party game, it goes like this. You offer three statements about yourself, two of which are true and one of which is false. The object (for others) is to identify the lie. For example:

(1) At 7, I chose the bedroom farthest away from the street because I was afraid of being tempted to sneak out of the house when I was older.

(2) At 15, I entered a photography competition with an image entitled, “Hangin’ like a Hose.”

(3) At 18, I got my first ticket in Austin, TX, for a curfew violation at Mt. Bonnell Park.

 (If you’re nosy my deception is revealed here:

This exercise can teach you a lot about your character. There are the truths themselves, which can force you to think about out-of-the-ordinary qualities of your character. But there’s also the particularity of how your character plays. What’s her strategy? Does she hope to shock and share titillating revelations, or is she trying to get through the game while sharing as little information as possible?

These are different ways of discovering more about your character(s) by taking something away from them.

INDIRECTION: Put two of your characters together somewhere that’s not a kitchen, car, or living room. Give one (or both) something they want to say, but write the scene without them explicitly saying it.

TAKE IT AWAY: Think of something your character has (a quality, a skill, an asset) that is important to your story. Take it away. What now?

NEVER WOULD I…: What’s something your character would *never* do, and what circumstances might undo that prohibition? Then what?

What I love about this is that it forces me to make my character more resourceful (in the case of the first two) and allows me to explore what would make them “act out of character”—which is essential for knowing them on a deeper level. Capturing inconsistency or deviation is part of crafting an authentic character.

Ashley Hope Pérez grew up in the Piney Woods of East Texas and is the author of three novels. Her most recent, Out of Darkness, was described by the New York Times as a “layered tale of color lines, love and struggle” and was named one of Booklist’s 50 Best YA Books of All Time. It also won a 2016 Tomás Rivera Book Award, a 2016 Américas Award, and a 2016 Michael L. Printz Honor from the American Library Association. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her two beautiful sons, Liam Miguel and Ethan Andrés, she works as an assistant professor of world literature at The Ohio State University.

About the Author/Editor

Photo Credit: Chip Bryan

Nora Shalaway Carpenter grew up on a mountain ridge deep in the West Virginia wilderness. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, she is the author of the YA novel The Edge of Anything and the picture book Yoga Frog. Before she wrote books, she worked as associate editor of Wonderful West Virginia magazine, and she has been a certified yoga teacher since 2012. She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, three young children, and world’s most patient dog and cat.  

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram

And now for a Giveaway!

Click the Rafflecopter pic to enter the giveaway!

5 Winners will receive a Copy of RURAL VOICES Edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter.

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