Q&A with Rose Brock

Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers, a new work edited by educator and children’s literacy expert Rose Brock, celebrates the triumphant power of hope. The middle-grade anthology is a follow-up to Brock’s Hope Nation: Young Adult Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration; it features personal stories and essays by 22 award-winning and bestselling authors, who collectively deliver a message of hope in a time when hope is sometimes difficult to find. Contributors include Tom Angleberger, Max Brallier, JC Cervantes, Matt de la Peña, Stuart Gibbs, Adam Gidwitz, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Gordon Korman, Sarah Mlynowski, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and RL Stine. A professor at Sam Houston State University, Brock is also the cofounder (with Kristin Treviño) of the North Texas Teen Book Festival, which is the beneficiary of the proceeds from Hope Wins. PW spoke with Brock about the impetus for creating her new anthology and the impact she hopes it makes on young readers.

To back up in time, what inspired the creation and timing of Hope Nation?

The book happened organically. After the 2016 presidential election, I learned from some of the young people I know that they were struggling. They felt that they did not have a voice, since they were too young to vote. In difficult times, hope is the one thing that we have to cling to — it’s a universal thing we all seek and try to keep alive inside of us.

Yet at times that hope is elusive?

Yes, finding and hanging on to hope is much easier said than done. Young people are passionate — they feel a lot. After all my years in education, I know that adults often dismiss the young, thinking we have more life experience and we’ve seen hard times come and go. Kids do not have that perspective, and life can seem much more difficult to them.

It’s been quite beautiful, since Hope Nation was published, to see how teachers and librarians have embraced the book and recognized its ability to help kids find their own voices. Teachers are always looking for expository nonfiction to use to model their students’ own writing, and many have told me that Hope Nation has allowed kids to see that there are many styles you can use to tell your story — and that each of us has a story worth telling.

What motivated you to compile a middle-grade anthology as a companion?

My inspiration was twofold. After Hope Nation was published, I heard from a lot of educators and librarians I met at conferences, who told me that they loved the book and suggested that I do a similar anthology for younger readers.

And the other thing that happened was the pandemic. We all spent a lot of time holed up in our homes, which was scary and isolating for everyone, but for kids in particular. None of us had ever experienced anything like it, and for some it was a hopeless time. That reminded me of the requests I’d received for another book, and I decided it was time to do it.

How did you go about piecing together the components of Hope Wins?

My first priority was including stories by writers who middle-grade readers already loved — which was what I had done for young adults in Hope Nation. I intentionally did not repeat any of the same authors, since I wanted to introduce a fresh set of voices and include as wide a variety of experiences as possible.

In compiling the anthology, the other piece that I considered — and I am always going back to this — is my experience as a teacher and librarian. I often wished I had a book like this to offer kids who were looking for something to read that inspired them and helped them feel less alone. I could not think of a better measure to use when selecting these stories by some of my favorite middle-grade authors.

Given the breadth and depth of today’s middle-grade literature, how did you pare down your contributor wish-list?

That was the hardest part — if I’d had my way, I would have included 50 contributors! It was important to me to have a book that is inclusive, with a wide representation of writers. I was mindful of the fact that it was a big ask of authors who are busy writing their own books, and that some might not be able to contribute to the anthology given the time frame.

What was most personally rewarding about working on Hope Nation and Hope Wins?

I feel so fortunate that these writers trusted me to be a good ambassador of their stories — I am honored and touched. I love hearing them say that contributing to this book left them feeling more hopeful by assessing what they have within themselves and realizing what they’ve learned from their life experiences. It’s amazing what we can come up with to help us move on.

I am always most comfortable in the role of advocate for children, and I hope these anthologies help kids to stop and take stock of their own lives and discover what it is that makes them feel hopeful. I believe that hearing the challenges that their favorite authors have faced and overcome will give readers hope and help them find their own voices in order to share their experiences.

One of the contributors to Hope Wins, James Ponti, made a brief video in which some of the contributors defined what hope is to them. What is your definition?

I’ve watched that fantastic video many, many times, and it still makes me smile! For me, hope is about finding ways to be engaged and connected to the people around me. It’s through those relationships that I’m inspired to commit to working hard to create a better world.

Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers, edited by Rose Brock. Philomel, $ 17.99 May 10 ISBN 978-0-593-46393-2

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