Missouri Journalism Freshman Is a Self-Published Author and Founder of 2 Nonprofits

Riley de León Hopes to Start His Own Magazine Brand or Be Motivational Speaker

By Rebecca Dell

Columbia, Mo. (Sept. 16, 2014) — Missouri School of Journalism freshman Riley de León begins his own story in his self-published book “Life’s Not Always Written in Times New Roman: The Untold Stories of People Like You.”

“Saturday, October 13, was a pivotal moment for me in which everything I had done, everywhere I had been, and everyone I had met, flashed before my very eyes.”

Life's Not Always Written in Times New Roman: The Untold Stories of People Like You
The cover of “Life’s Not Always Written in Times New Roman” pictures author Riley de León.

In that chapter, de León – then a high school senior in Springfield, Missouri – detailed the lessons he learned when a borrowed 24,000-pound dump truck he was driving flipped over.

The idea for writing a book came to de León early in his senior year of high school, when he made lists to help sort out his own relationship problems. de León, 18, decided to broaden his focus and write a nonfiction book chronicling the experiences of high school students and interpreting those lessons through his own lens. de León worked to get stories from a cross-section of young people, including people from his hometown, those he’d met from California and Canada, and others with experiences including coming out as gay, dealing with illness and managing damaged relationships.

“If I had a book like this to reference when I was a freshman in high school, I would’ve been so much better prepared,” de León said.

After his book came out in March of 2014 – the end of his senior year – de León was shocked to receive a call from author and spiritual leader Will Bowen, who founded a movement called “A Complaint Free World.” Bowen asked de León to be his new personal assistant, booking travel for him, managing his social media, facilitating conference calls and speaking engagements such as appearances on Good Morning America. One job perk, de León quips, is that when he makes a mistake, his boss can’t complain.

Another perk is Bowen’s support and mentorship. In his Amazon.com review of de León’s book, Bowen wrote, “In this powerful little book, Riley DeLeon and other ‘experts’ – successful young adults, advise us, whatever our age, how to align our lives with our goals and live happily and successfully.”

de León’s entrance to journalism and nonfiction began years before he enrolled at the University of Missouri. As an eighth grader at Greenwood Laboratory School at Missouri State University, de León joined the yearbook staff. One year later, he became the yearbook editor, a position he’d hold for the next four years. Eventually de León made the connection between editing a yearbook and working in journalism. He decided someday he’d like to start his own lifestyle or music magazine brand, or be a motivational speaker like his mentor, Bowen. de León already knew that the Missouri School of Journalism is the best school in the country for journalism, so he thought, why go anywhere else?

So with his college plan in mind, he stayed busy throughout his high school years, working as yearbook editor and founding two nonprofits: one a sustainability organization at his high school and the other a community nonprofit focused on healthcare projects called Every Teen Helps Inspire Change, or ETHIC. de León worked at a local retailer devoted to giving back to the community, and he continued his nonprofit work his senior year with a two-week internship at Possible Health, a New York-based company that provides healthcare to rural populations in Nepal. After helping Possible Health kick-start a national crowdfunding effort, de León came back home to help raise money via ETHIC. Along the way, he was meeting the people whose stories he would tell in his book.

de León met with publishers during his internship in New York but decided to go with the more economical self-publishing route. The 144-page paperback, dedicated to de León’s high school-aged sister, lists the title of each chapter in a different font in the table of contents with each chapter listed in a different font. The text of each chapter, ironically, is in double-spaced Times New Roman font.

His friend Lauren Downie, now a freshman at the University of Kansas, acted as the publisher and helped design the book.

“I learned that when you want success more than you want to watch TV, sleep, or even scroll through your Twitter feed for hours upon end, then you will be successful,” de León writes about his experiences. “The beauty of it is that nothing can really hold you back.”

Updated: July 30, 2020

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