When I was a child, I believed talent was the most important thing to success. Now that I’ve grown up, I know that hard work tops talent almost every time. Running taught me that. In fact, everything I learned about life I learned from running—specifically through training for marathons—and I don’t think that I would have lasted as a writer if I wasn’t first a runner. Running taught me that I am capable of accomplishing feats I once thought insurmountable. It taught me that I am stronger than I once believed, that I can enjoy and even excel at something I wasn’t always good at, that getting knocked down isn’t what matters—it’s the getting back up. Running taught me resiliency.
These days, resiliency often gets a bad rap. And I get it. When I talk about pushing past limits or refusing to quit, I don’t mean to keep going long after it’s time to rest. Marathon training teaches the value of rest as well. If you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot continue to train. Rest is a part of the training.
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So when I talk about resiliency, often what I mean is that running taught me the true value of obstinacy. I have always been stubborn—just ask my parents. I believe that obstinacy, too, often gets a bad rap. When people compliment me on my drive or my talent or whatever it is they think I have that allows me to do what I do, I will tell them right away—it’s all due to stubbornness.
This week my middle-grade debut released. Nowhere Better Than Here only exists because of my obstinacy. See, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t think I was talented enough. For a long time, I told myself I could never be a writer because I wasn’t born good at it. (There is not time to unpack all that is wrong with that statement.) But running taught me that I could improve simply by doing. So I applied that lesson to my writing. I wrote and wrote. And I improved. (Funny how that happens.) My debut young-adult novel, Reclaimed, released in 2013. I continued writing. I wrote books I am still so proud of. They didn’t sell. At one point I thought I would never sell another book. And yet I refused to quit. I am stubborn that way. The obstinacy paid off. I’m proud of Nowhere Better Than Here than anything else I’ve ever written. This book is my heart, a love letter to home and family and stories. It exists because I refused to quit.
My main character in Nowhere Better Than HereJillian Robichaux, is also stubborn. She has to be. She is dealing with climate change and coastal erosion, with a complicated family, with problems so big she often feels overwhelmed. What can a thirteen-year-old from a tiny town do about land that seems to be disappearing from right beneath her feet? Jillian struggles with self-doubt at times, yet holds on to hope, knowing that while she can’t turn back the tide with her bare hands, there is plenty that she can do. She believes in her community, in her family and friends, in the culture and stories she strives to protect.
This is where resiliency comes in. Resiliency in the face of overwhelming odds is important to Jillian’s story, but it is important to all of us as well. Right now many of us face problems that feel too big. Jillian and her hometown of Boutin might be fictional, but the problems she faces are very real for south Louisiana. And of course Louisiana isn’t the only place suffering the effects of climate change. This issue feels insurmountable, way too big for any one of us to solve all alone. We can’t completely erase the damage done. What do we do? This is what Jillian tries to figure out as she navigates the knowledge that her hometown, the place she loves more than anywhere, is going underwater.
Censorship is also on the rise. It is frightening to me the stories and voices that those who want to ban books are attempting to silence. I have devoted my life to books—as a reader first, then as a teacher and writer. I know how powerful books are, and I know that’s why people are trying to ban then, and I know that is why we must continue to write those stories and fight for their place on our shelves.
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Those, of course, are only two of the countless problems we face, issues that threaten to overwhelm us with their magnitude. Many of you may ask yourself—what can I do? I am only one person. This is where resiliency comes in. Be stubborn. Use your voice. Fight for what you know to be true, to be right, to be necessary. You may not be able to reverse the course all by yourself. But each of us raising our voice together is a noise too loud to ignore.
Meet the author
Sarah Guillory has always had a passion for literature. Coming from a family of teachers, she learned to read before she’d even started school and has escaped into fictional worlds ever since. Sarah loves being outside, whether that’s walking her dogs, sitting under a tree with a book, or running countless miles before the sun has even come up. She teaches high school English and lives in Louisiana with her husband. She is the author of Nowhere Better Than Here and Reclaimed.
About Nowhere Better Than Here
In a town slowly being destroyed by rising tides, one girl must fight to find a way to keep her community’s spirit from drowning.
For thirteen-year-old Jillian Robichaux, three things are sacred: bayou sunsets, her grandmother Nonnie’s stories, and the coastal Louisiana town of Boutin that she calls home.
When the worst flood in a century hits, Jillian and the rest of her community band together as they always do—but this time the damage may simply be too great. After the local school is padlocked and the bridges into town condemned, Jillian has no choice but to face the reality that she may be losing the only home she’s ever had.
But even when all hope seems lost, Jillian is determined to find a way to keep Boutin and its indomitable spirit alive. With the help of friends new and old, a loveable golden retriever, and Nonnie’s storytelling wisdom, Jillian does just that in this timely and heartfelt story of family, survival, and hope.
In her stunning debut middle grade novel, Sarah Guillory has written a lush story about an indomitable girl fighting against the effects of climate change.
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: 09/20/2022
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Guest Post