‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2017 with Hayley Chewins

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of this year’s participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Hayley Chewins

Hayley Chewins grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, in a house so full of books that she learnt to read by accident. The second eldest of four daughters, she sang incessantly as a child. So incessantly, in fact, that she was sent to lessons twice a week in the interests of household peace. Hayley studied classical voice for a year before switching to a degree in English Literature and Italian. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a house full of art and music and colour, with her husband and a very small poodle. She believes in two things above all else: the magic of love, and the heroism of sisters. Her debut novel, The Turnaway Girls, will release from Candlewick and Walker Books in September 2018.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

Trigger warning: Anorexia/Eating disorders

I have had the same New Year’s resolution since I was thirteen:
lose weight.
That’s sixteen years of shrinking.
I shrank so much that I could scarcely think about anything else.
My heart was the size of a peach pit.
It was a dark time, but there were moments of exhilarating happiness, too, because I felt like I was finally shedding my body.
Getting rid of it.
Getting rid of me.
I think about it now and feel equal parts sad and angry.
There is another word for being “free of your body”:

A few months ago,
I attended a baby shower at which someone — a woman — commented on the fact that I had “put on weight”.
She made the statement and then asked me to confirm it.
“Well,” she said. “Have you?”
Eventually I managed to say that I did not know. It is a fact that I do not weigh myself anymore. I haven’t in years. Numbers turn my head into a hurricane.
To prove that she was right,
the woman then stated that my face “definitely looked bigger”.
Baby Shower Woman vs Hayley: 1 – 0

I wanted to say: women’s bodies have always been used against them.
(Let’s not forget that Eve destroyed paradise by eating.)
And you’re perpetuating that.
(I didn’t say it.)

What happened instead was that my face went hot
and I mumbled something about needing the loo.
I stared at my crumpling eyes
in the mirror
behind a locked door
and told myself I was stupid for letting it affect me.
When I got home, I sat in the shower and cried.

But the next morning,
my husband made me a cappuccino and toast in bed.
I drank.
I ate.
And then I worked on my feminist children’s book.
A book about a girl who is told to shrink, to stay silent.
A book about a girl who sings anyway.

Baby Shower Woman — My Body’s Commentator —
doesn’t know me very well.
But if she did, she would know that I’m full of music, and full of universes, too.
I write books.
My body isn’t just a body.
My body’s a place where whole worlds come alive.
I’m more than Eve.
I’m my own goddess.
I’ve made my own paradise, and I’m eating all the apples I want.

2018 is going to be the year I turn thirty,
and the year my debut novel is published.
I’m not going to throw away
a single second
thinking about how to be less.

This New Year’s, I won’t be making that same resolution:
lose weight.
My resolution is going to be: gain.
Gain strength, and joy, and love.
Gain words.
Gain worlds.
Gain all the things you lost right back.

Title The Turnaway Girls
Author Hayley Chewins
Pages 272 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Fantasy
To Be Published September 19th 2018 by Candlewick
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

On the isolated, wind-whipped island of Blightsend, turnaway girls are trained to change music into gold for the city’s musicians — but they’re not allowed to make any music themselves. In fact, the last woman to attempt singing — the notorious Sea-Singer — was thrown off the cliffs for her efforts. 

Twelve-year-old Delphernia Undersea has lived in the turnway girls’ cloister all her life. But that doesn’t change the fact that she wants to sing. Night after night, she secretly crawls inside a hollow tree to hum songs in the dark – a distraction which results in her not being able to make any gold at all.

Unsurprisingly, then, Delphernia is not chosen by one of the Masters — gifted boy-musicians who dress in bells — on the day she’s supposed to enter the city of Blightsend. That is, until Bly – a mysterious boy who speaks in poems — bangs on the cloister’s door.

And so Delphernia walks free.

But Bly has secrets of his own, and Delphernia soon finds herself having to choose between her safety and her voice.

Because — in Blightsend, anyway — a girl can’t possibly have both.

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