At 8:30 a.m., Janette Rallison will give her keynote presentation, “The Book That Will Make All the Difference: Yours”
Janette says one sentence changed her writing career. She was perfectly happy writing adult romantic comedies, because as she says, “Who doesn’t want to write about men who are tall, dark, and brooding?” That all changed, however, when she heard her seventh-grade daughter’s commentary on her Language Arts reading list.
Rallison’s daughter, Asenath had always loved books and read voraciously. “I was excited when Asenath went to junior high because I knew she would have a whole class devoted to reading,” Rallison says. “I thought she would love it.” Instead the class spent the entire year reading books in which important characters tragically died. About half way through the year, Rallison was in the room when her daughter picked up her next assigned book. Asenath read for awhile then asked, “Does someone die in this book?”
Asenath put down the book with a grunt and said, “If I didn’t already love reading, this class would make me hate it!”
That sentence struck Rallison to the core. She couldn’t help thinking about all the kids in class who hadn’t loved reading beforehand. “I realized if parents and teachers want to teach kids to love reading, we need to let them read some fun, happy books. I didn’t find enough of those at the bookstores and libraries.”
That’s when Rallison began writing young adult books for the national market. Fourteen books later, Rallison’s teen romantic comedies and her action books written under the pen name C.J. Hill, have sold over a million copies. Her books have been translated into several different languages and can be found on many state reading lists, including Utah’s Beehive Book Award.
“Being a mom of teenagers has really helped me write for kids,” she says. “You couldn’t make up the stuff that happens in their real lives. Every day when my daughter came home from school, I would ask her how her day was–and then I would go jot down notes for future novels.”
Once Rallison even used text messages on her daughter’s phone for dialogue in a novel. “My daughter had just broken up with her boyfriend, and I was writing a book with a breakup scene. I thought: why go to the trouble to come up with new dialogue when all that perfectly good dialogue is just sitting on my daughter’s cell phone?”
Rallison is the mother of five children, so she feels she’ll have material to draw from for years to come.
On Oct 15th, Rallison’s fifteenth YA book, Slayer’s Friends and Traitors, will come out under her pen name, C.J. Hill. Besides keynoting at Kanab Writers Conference, she is also teaching a class entitled How to Stay in High School Forever: Writing the Young Adult Novel.
As part of the conference, Rallison will be visiting Fredonia, Kanab, and Valley High Schools on Thursday and Friday. Her books will be available at the conference bookstore, and she’s looking forward to meeting area residents.