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Rocky
Young Adult Novelist
Founder, HoldOn2Hope Project
Travels from: Washington, DC

Rocky is an intelligent, open-minded speaker who freely speaks about sensitive topics eloquently. — Jordyn & Insha, teen mental health advocates and hosts of Forever Blooming Podcast

Rocky Callen, the daughter of an Ecuadorian immigrant, has long lived a life of service ever since she was a 13-year-old advocating for the undocumented immigrants in her community. She interned at NASA at 12 years old, started lobbying congress at 13, and wrote and produced student radio stories at NPR at 14. She was a behavioral therapist for over ten years. She received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband, daughter, and baby boy. Rocky founded the Bleed Ink Foundation, a creative hub and resource center for writers, and the HoldOn2Hope Project, which unites creatives in suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

Told in epistolary-like style, her debut novel,  A Breath Too Late sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places. Perfect for fans of the critically-acclaimed Speak, I’ll Give You the Sun, and If I Stay. Her next project, Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes, an anthology of stories that subvert mental health stereotypes is powerful and uplifting. Through powerful prose, verse, and graphics, the characters in this anthology defy stereotypes as they remind readers that living with a mental health condition doesn’t mean that you’re defined by it. Each story is followed by a note from its author to the reader, and comprehensive back matter includes bios for the contributors as well as a collection of relevant resources. Her upcoming novel, Crashing Into You, will release Spring of 2024.

Rocky's Featured Titles

Crashing into You

Henry Holt and Co |
YA Romance

In this fiercely moving YA romance novel, Leti Rivera’s love of street racing is put to the test when tragedy strikes her family and threatens to tear her apart from the boy she’s falling for.

Seventeen-year-old Leti Rivera dreams of becoming a famous female street racer. Her brother taught her how to drive so fast that nothing can catch her.

But when Jacob Fleckenstein crashes into her life, Leti starts to think that running isn’t always the answer. Together, inside her car, they both feel like they’re flying, and Jacob’s gentleness and honesty threaten Leti’s vow to keep her heart tight in her fist and her grief locked away.

Yet after tragedy strikes following a race, Leti blames herself and swears an oath, a juramento, to give up driving. But will she be able to keep her promise when racing could be the very thing that saves Jacob . . . and herself? Perfect for fans of Netflix’s Atypical and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

Breath Too Late

Turtleback |
Young Adult Fiction

For fans of Girl in Pieces, All the Bright Places, and Girl, Interrupted comes a haunting and breathtaking YA contemporary debut novel that packs a powerful message: hope can be found in the darkness.

 

“Achingly poignant . . . a love letter and a life raft to the brokenhearted.” –New York Times bestselling author Alison McGhee

 

Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

 

But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to re-assemble. There’s her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists. And Ellie’s determined to find out why a piece of her was left behind.

 

Told in epistolary-like style, Rocky Callen’s deeply moving A Breath Too Late sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places. Perfect for fans of the critically-acclaimed Speak, I’ll Give You the Sun, and If I Stay.

 

An exquisitely played love song to life, in all of its hurts, wonders, memories, and loves. -Jeff Zentner, Morris Award winning author of The Serpent King and Goodbye Days

 

A haunting story, punctuated with brilliant points of hope and light. This is an important story. A necessary story . . . Callen’s writing radiates with passion, honesty and love. –National Book Award finalist and Printz Award-winning author An Na

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Hope Lives in the Dark: Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention

Rocky will share her own mental health journey while examining the genesis of writing her debut novel. This experience fueled Rocky’s urgency and passion to speak out about mental health issues and suicide prevention. She discusses how the audience can seek hope that lives in even the darkest of places and how we can learn to be beacons for each other. About the novel: Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

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The Power of Young Voices”

Rocky will share her work as a teen advocate, lobbying Congress and the process for showing up for real change. She will talk about the importance of stepping away from performative justice into the messy and often unseen work of social and legislative advocacy. Attendees will leave recognizing the power of their own voices and the way they can impact a system that often tries to exclude them.

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Fighting for the Dream Within

Rocky will share her journey becoming a novelist, including the painful opposition she faced along the way. She will discuss the faith, focus and ferocity required to go after a dream while overcoming barriers.

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Safe Haven: Creating Spaces that Destigmatize the Mental Health Experience

Rocky puts on a presentation developed with her co-editor of Ab(solutely) Normal and a team of librarians about the importance and ways librarians and educators can create safer spaces for mental health conversations.

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Writing from the Deep End Workshop

Using our own experiences to dig into intimate, real and raw writing that makes an impact on ourselves and others.

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Change is the Way Workshop

Embracing change as a positive and identifying behavioral techniques to create habits that serve a person’s vision for the future.

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Best Book of the Year

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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