Advice I Ignored – Book review and interview with teen author Ruby Walker
Advice I Ignored is the only book about teenage depression that was actually written by a teenager!
When Ruby Walker was fifteen, she went from a numb, silent, miserable high school dropout to a joyous loudmouth in one year flat. Advice I Ignored answers the question everyone’s been asking her since: What happened? In ten illustrated chapters, you’ll learn how to:
get out from under self-hatred
gain a sense of free will
deal with failure without falling apart
create your way through an existential crisis
use exercise to beg your brain for endorphins
have an identity beyond “sad”
Full of embarrassing stories, honest advice, and fierce hope, Advice I Ignored is a self-help book for people who hate help. And themselves.
Duffy’s Thoughts On Advice I Ignored
I get approached all the time by indie and self-published authors and often times I have to turn them down. I have considerable obligations to read vast numbers of books, and some, well, some really aren’t that good. The formatting is off, editing poor and the book cover title is in Comic Sans (instant dismissal in my book!). But, when Ruby Walker contacted me, I had to stop and read what she had to say.
Ruby Walker is a smart, creative, articulate young woman, she also suffered from depression as a teen and has had to deal with some personal trauma. Her prose, positivity, confidence, without being cocky ultimately won me over, and her illustrations are fantastic. Advice I Ignored is a fresh look, and an autobiographical reflection on 14-year-old Ruby Walker told in a diarised, conversational style, but with practical tips and oh so relatable moments of social anxiety and worry.
If you are a teen struggling with depression and anxiety, an adult working with teens, or an adult who is yet to shake off those traumatic teenage situations, Advice I Ignored Is for you. Be prepared to read about some sensitive situations, but also be prepared to read a book which demonstrates that there is always hope, whether it be through therapy, medications, fitness or a creative outlet.
An important self care read which gives a fresh approach to reducing the symptoms of depression in teens and erasing stigma relating to mental health issues in teens and young adults.
Q & A with author Ruby Walker
Wow! What a great achievement for just 18! How long did the writing process take, was it a full-time labour of love, or did you work around your day to day work and life?
I started drafting AII the summer of 2017, when I was sixteen years old. I was helping my parents fix up a house that would’ve otherwise been demolished at the time, so I spent most of my days scraping paint drips off the floors and windows with a razor blade. It was repetitive work, so I had a lot of time to listen to music and think. Every day after my work was done, I set a timer for one hour and I sat down to write. The first draft was written on a wide-ruled composition book and a legal pad. It included sketches for the illustrations. I let that sit for a semester and I didn’t look at it – but I did take a class on YA fiction writing, which helped later, I think.
In the spring of 2018, when I was 17, I picked it up again to edit. I was going to Austin Community College, and I was very privileged by the fact that I didn’t have to work to support myself at the time. I lightened my courseload and only took four credit hours (general chemistry and a lab) so I could spend most of the week writing… or avoiding writing. Sometimes I went to my parents’ office or took the bus up to the central library in Austin just to get out of the house, but mostly I was either in the living room or on our back porch, plugging away. I was terribly lonely this semester, but that was good, looking back. I ran my first 10k, I started up a cacti garden with my mother, and I learned how to thrive in solitude.
I didn’t always stay precisely on task, but somehow I got it done. I worked on it over the summer, and that summer I put together many of my illustrations as well. It’s hard to remember because this process sort of permeated everything else I did… the illustrations ran over into the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019. For a while, I had a plastic table set up in my bedroom to do illustrations on.
I did all the formatting for the paperback and kindle editions this summer, more towards the end of the summer because I kept avoiding the work and making excuses. Which leads me to the next question…
Did you worry about sharing some of the more sensitive and personal aspects of your story?
I worried all the time! Everything in the book is sensitive and personal. I mean, pretty much 100% of it is stuff I had barely talked to my closest friends about. But when I was first writing Advice I Ignored, it was easier to put things down because I never thought anybody would really read it. The only person who read the first few drafts was my mom, and even then I squirmed and covered my eyes when she tried to talk to me about what I wrote.
But I made a promise to myself: I will write the difficult things. If something made me uncomfortable to explain, then that is precisely what needs to be in the book. I mean, after a certain point you just have to say to yourself, “If I cut out all the embarrassing parts, I’ll have nothing left.” And most of all, I wanted to cut my own ego out of the equation and make the book honest.
My fear of being exposed came out a lot this summer. I did everything under the sun to avoid formatting the book because on some level I didn’t want it to get published. It was this big, looming, scary thing, y’know? After this, your secrets are public record. And the big secret, of course, was the trauma. I was pretty open about the depression but I kept that really close to my chest. Not because I was ashamed per se, but because it’s a bummer to bring up. Or, I don’t know. All I know is that it was a real struggle to tell my best friend about it this summer.
Now that it’s all out there, I feel like the weight is off my shoulders. I don’t have to keep anything secret because I have nothing to be ashamed of. It was hard to get here, but I think writing the book helped me own my issues in a way I never would’ve been able to otherwise.
Your writing style is very fluid and conversational, at times I felt like I could have quite easily been sat having a coffee with you, or on the phone. Was that a conscious decision to relate to your readers?
Yes and no. The whole time I was writing the book, it was this kind of letter-through-time to my 14-year-old self. I wasn’t consciously trying for a conversational tone, but I don’t think I could’ve written it any other way.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you embarked on writing your own book?
Eat three meals a day, exercise, and sleep. You don’t have to starve to be an artist. Every word doesn’t have to be your magnum opus, just get it done and you’ll be happy, I promise.
It’s great to see how you are owning life right now! What’s next for you? A new book? Art (your illustrations are fantastic) or something else entirely?
Right now I have no huge plans. I’m taking life one day at a time. I’m a freshman at Trinity University in San Antonio, studying art and creative writing. I’m also on the Ultimate Frisbee team! As for what’s next, I have no idea. I’d like to get more involved in local politics, and I’m getting more and more into painting.