Friday, September 11, 2020


 As I wrote in my very first TeachingAuthors Thanku, I consider my students and writers “my storied treasures.”

Lucky me!

And now lucky you, because today I’m sharing one of those treasures - the author/poet/chronicler Carol Coven Grannickand – gifting you with the chance to win a copy of her novel in verse REENI’S TURN (Fitzroy Books) which officially debuts this Sunday! In fact, you can attend her Sunday, 1 pm CST Book Launch at the Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois simply by clicking here.

Full disclosure: Carol and I are a Mutual Admiration Society. We share a bevy of descriptive labels: Chicagoans, SCBWI-Illinois kin, children’s book creators, VERY long-time Writer’s Journey travelers, learning partners, and best of all, friends.
So you can imagine just how far my Teacher/Writing Coach buttons are poppin’ ….now that young readers will have the chance to hold REENI’S TURN in their hands and hearts.
Finally, it’s Carol’s turn! Some of you may already know Carol from her well-read chronicles of the writer’s life – published in SCBWI-Illinois’ newsletter The Prairie Wind and posted on popular blogs such as Cynsations and the Nerdy Book Club.

By underscoring the importance of resilience and learned optimism, Carol has kept scores of children’s book writers keepin’ on.

Carol’s eleven-year-old Reeni will do the same.

She’s a young dancer.  But she’s struggling with lifelong shyness, anxiety and a newly-developing and expanding body that doesn’t match the ballerina posters on her bedroom wall.  Ultimately Reeni must choose between coming to terms with her natural limitations or taking a chance on becoming the girl of her dreams. The story addresses universal themes of emotional resilience, body acceptance, and the search for courage.

Early readers lauded the “deeply-moving verse” and the connection readers will make with Reeni’s struggle.

Carol’s poetry and fiction for young readers has appeared and/or is forthcoming in Hello, Babybug, Highlights, Ladybug, Cricket, and Hunger Mountain. Her work for adults has appeared in Otherwise Engaged, A Moment of Your Time, Red Coyote, The Write City Magazine, West Texas Literary Review, 2018 Mizmor Anthology, The Lake, Broad! and other venues.

Thank you, Carol, for sharing REENI’S TURN, your Journey, your Spirit and this long-awaited singular Moment with our TeachingAuthors readers.

            My teacher’s heart kvells*
            like any Jewish mother’s
            Such storied treasures.


 As always, I’m cheering you on!

Oh, and thanks to Kiesha Shepard at Whispers From the Ridge for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Happy Reading!

Esther Hershenhorn


Remember, Readers: you can win a copy of Carol’s REENI’S TURN just by entering our Book Giveaway at the end of Carol’s interview.

. . . . . . .

Here you are, finally, after years on task, readying for your official launch this Sunday of your first published children’s book, the middle grade novel in verse REENI’S TURN. Just how gratifying is this long-awaited moment? How much better is it than those you likely creatively visualized to keep you moving forward on your Writer’s Journey?

First, thank you, Esther, for this opportunity to visit Teaching Authors. I am a regular follower who constantly learns from the TA posts, and I’m honored to be here. To your question: I’m pretty certain I never visualized this moment, or these days leading up to the launch!

What lit my way was the process of discovery of Reeni’s character and of how the story would unfold. For me, that happened through writing, rewriting, revising, and re-visioning, then putting the manuscript away for a while before trying again. I didn’t know whether REENI’S TURN would ever find a publisher, and after a while, didn’t think about it unless it seemed a draft was ready for submission. My passion for this story fueled my work over the years, even when “forward” felt “backward”.

But now, and in the context of all the important issues we face in our current world, it feels like a virtual celebration will be the perfect thing for welcoming REENI’S TURN into the world. My biggest dream was always to have the story enable conversations with children and their adults, and now that’s possible. I feel a huge amount of gratitude to family, friends, and colleagues who cheered me on over the years with kind words, critique, crucial pieces of middle grade information, and above-and-beyond multiple draft readings and feedback. 

REENI’S TURN takes on the issue of body image and the underrepresented frequency in middle grade literature of dieting among young tweens. What are your hopes for this novel in the dialogues it will create – for both the reader and our world?

 Most of us want to live in a world in which we are valued and for our character rather than our shape or size, skin color, religion, ethnicity, and more. I believe size and weight stigma, non-stereotyped chubby and fat characters, and the diet culture’s impact on young children, beg for inclusion in diverse middle grade literature. 

I’d love for REENI’S TURN to open meaningful conversations about the story and the issues it raises—specific to the story as well as unique to each tween’s life. How does the pressure to be “thin” and “trim” cause us to question our value? What about Reeni’s great strength for self-reflection? Is introspection helpful, or harmful? Is an introspective journey just as powerful as an external one when we search for self-acceptance, the ability to speak up, the leaps we take to discover courage? How do we become the person we want to be if that involves facing down fears that have always stopped us in the past? How does it feel to need the safety of your family and other loving adults, and still need to be independent, finding solutions to your own problems even if you make mistakes along the way?

I love that my shy and fearful Reeni, propelled by her own strengths, knowing she has a safety net of support, decides to take a big leap into the unknown and try, at least once, to make a significant change in her life, and maybe in the world as well.

I hope that we see that we all have that capacity.

 I happen to know: (1) you explored both prose and poetry as story-telling choices when writing REENI’S TURN and (2) while growing and crafting REENI’S TURN, you were privy to a whole host of voices, each recommending a different way to go.  How did you come to choose the novel in verse as the best format for Reeni to share her story of self-discovery? How were you able to find your way?

 My first draft was prose, probably because it felt like a natural extension of the seed story, “The Inside Ballerina”, my first children’s story published in Cricket in 2001. But when I began the post-critique revision, rhythms and words danced around in my brain. I wrote them down, and this changed and intensified the voice of the story. I felt the difference, even though the verse and the story itself were nowhere near finished.

After a few drafts, a professional critique with a respected editor guided me in creating a middle grade story and challenged the authenticity of the verse, suggesting I revise in poetic prose. I tried. It was difficult and unpleasant, and felt like it came from a different part of my brain. I didn’t mind difficult, not at all. But the prose seemed to be fighting with the rhythms, the line breaks, the white space in my head. But I also respected that I didn’t quite know what I was doing, and I don’t regret the attempt to return it to prose.

The next summer I attended a workshop with another respected mentor. Before my ten-page critique began, she asked, “Is there some reason you didn’t write this in verse?” That workshop was a turning point in my commitment to verse, and the hard work to make each verse—which are 95% of the book—authentic. I did have a couple of more prose requests from agents who felt that “verse novels are a hard sell”, but prose no longer matched my vision for the book.

As the years and revisions went on, there were many voices, as you put it, wanting not prose instead of verse, but content in and then the same content out. During that time of adding, subtracting, reorganizing, and streamlining, REENI’S TURN won a Finalist placement from the Katherine Paterson Award and Honorable Mention in the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition. By early 2019, I had revised the book to where I wanted it to be, and had several full manuscript requests with agents when Publisher Jaynie Royal of Regal House said she loved REENI’S TURN, and offered me a contract with her PAL-listed middle grade imprint, Fitzroy Books. I accepted, revised in a way that felt good to both of us, and found out what life was like without revising REENI’S TURN.

I believe verse works best for Reeni’s story because small doses of big, intense issues in lyrical language create greater accessibility to the story itself and to the specifics of  Reeni’s journey. The rhythms change with dance, her voices, her interactions with friends and family, and more. White space allows breathing and respite time to think, feel, and heal between “scenes”.

But ultimately, I stayed with verse and worked to make it shine because I had come to trust myself as a writer and a woman with a story to tell. I didn’t want to ignore the rhythms and sounds and beats that accompanied the language in my brain.

And just as my character learns to trust and listen to her “still, small voice”, I listened to mine.

Your website showcases your writer’s diversity: you are an Author, a Poet and a Chronicler. How do you balance your writing day/life, and as important, how has each separate focus helped you grow as a writer?

 I do love different formats and genres. REENI’S TURN (MG) is so close to my heart, and was a long-lived passion and mission. My poetry for very young children is a joy-generator—I love their voices! My lyrical picture books, vastly different in their subjects and tone, are now with agent Joyce Sweeney at The Seymour Agency. I’ve written occasional short middle grade fiction—maybe I’ll write more. And as a “chronicler”, I’ve long written regular columns, blog posts, and lots of guest posts and articles exploring the inner, emotional life of the writer (mine, and others’), and I continue to enjoy that.

With all that, I must submerge myself in one writing project at a time. I often write a poem first thing in the morning (especially since COVID), but then I’ll focus on a new work, or a revision, or my column, or it might be a “business” day, especially in these last months spent focusing on the pre-launch, during which I’ll do a lot of emails, send out ARCs, order postcards, business cards, posters. I am best in the mornings, beginning at 5, but I won’t ignore empty paper and pen if something pops into my brain later in the day!

I love variety, and I love delving deeply into one thing at a time.

YAY! and HURRAY! Now it’s Carol Coven Grannick’s turn! What can your readers – of your books, your poetry, your articles and posts, look forward to enjoying down the road?                                                

I wish I knew! In terms of my columns, I’ll continue to detail my journey and the journeys of other writers I interview. I have a lot of guest posts coming out—including one at Sylvia Vardell’s site last Poetry Friday that goes more into depth about why I wrote REENI’S TURN in verse. I believe it’s important for us to share our true journeys. I hear from readers that it helps, and that makes me happy. In terms of fiction and poetry, my agent is subbing a picture book right now, with a number of others ready to go; I’m finishing an adult poetry chapbook; I’m creating a collection of early childhood poetry; and I continue to draft new picture books, the latest based on something I’m watching unfold on my balcony, even as I write this answer. 

But I love surprises, so I’m ready for anything!



To enter our drawing, use the Rafflecopter widget below.  You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options.  (Note: if the widget doesn’t appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says “a Rafflecopter giveaway” to enter.)

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If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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Linda Mitchell said...

What a wonderful blog entry and interview! I love that this story took years and lots of encouragement on the way. And, that there are more stories to come. I look forward to introducing Reeni to my middle schoolers.

Sara F. Shacter said...

Another delicious spread of inspiration and concrete advice from the fabulous Carol! Can't wait to get your book in my hands!

anny said...

Carol stands as a beacon of hope and a reminder that perseverance allows luck to strike.

Patricia said...

What a lovely interview--one between friends and writers. The love shines through. I look forward to reading your book, Carol, and thanks for persevering till it became a book. You are a fine model and inspiration. With admiration...

FernandaGV said...

I loved this book and am delighted to see Carol's success! Carol's poetry is truly memorable, relatable and a treasure!!

Kathy Doherty said...

Carol, I cannot imagine writing a novel in verse. That's an amazing feat. Congratulations!

Linda B said...

I have this one bookmarked, think it is so needed for the middle schoolers, which I taught, & now have a granddaughter beginning that age group. There are so many expectations they believe they need to follow. Thanks for all about the writing, Carol!

Kitty said...

I enjoyed reading this interview so much, especially with the understanding the Esther and Carol are friends! This sounds like a much-needed book with a focus on the "tween" years. I remember being 12 and at a new school and not understanding why all the girls seemed to be on a diet! Very inspirational writer's journey as well. I am smiling after reading this story! All the best, Carol.

MrysCrtz said...

This looks like an amazing book! I love books that have a powerful theme! :)

Unknown said...

And she persisted. Congratulations on what looks like an amazing and important book for our readers.

Damon Dean said...

Loved the interview. Thanks for sharing.

Damon Dean said...

Loved the interview. Thanks for sharing.

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the interview. I admire your dedication to your work and to making your book the best it could be. Novels in verse have been some of my favorites, so I'm excited to read yours. I agree that body image needs to be addressed for middle grade readers--I know I would have enjoyed seeing this in the books I read growing up.

Shanah Salter said...

Hooray, Carol, so excited for the world to meet REENI!

Leanne Pankuch said...

What a great post and interview! Thank you, Esther. And, I'm so excited for you, Carol -- your writing journey definitely underscores the importance of perseverance in our vocation. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Reeni's Turn.

Carol Coven Grannick said...

LindaMitchell, Sara, Anny, Patricia, Fernanda, Kathy D., Linda B., Kitty, MrysCrtz, Unknown, Damon Dean, Danielle H., Shanah, and Leanne: Thank you all so much for your kind, supportive, encouraging comments. How true it is that persistence and resilience is a foundation we all need for our wonderful, meaningful, and challenging journeys! And as for the interview, it was such a pleasure to respond thoughtfully to Esther's fabulous questions—they captured so much of the journey, the story, and the issues! I look forward to sharing REENI and related conversations with children and their caring adults, and with writers!

KarolinaS said...

Wow! This looks terrific. As someone who struggled with disordered eating from the age of 8 to 35, I can't wait to read!

Carol Coven Grannick said...

Thank you, KarolinaS! I wrote REENI'S TURN to give children an option for a different way of life than you and I, and so many others, had and have! I look forward to many conversations about the book, the issues, and the need for persistence and resilience!

Kay said...

I am excited to hear more from Carol about Reeni's turn. It looks to be such an important book. I can think of so many students from my teaching days that would to read and talk with about this book. Best wishes for launch day!

Whispers from the Ridge said...

Thanks for sharing this interview. The book sounds lovely!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Terrific interview, Esther and Carol ~ both the questions and the heartfelt answers. Thank you both!

Carol Coven Grannick said...

Thank you Kay, Whispers..., and April! Esther's questions got right to all the things I love to discuss, and it was a great day I spent answering them!

author amok said...

Congratulations to Carol on Reeni's Turn! I always love hearing about the process and inspiration behind verse novels. Thanks for sharing this interview.

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Carol,
I'd hoped to attend your virtual launch yesterday but wasn't able to do so. I know this has been a long journey for you and I'm SO happy your persistence has been rewarded. I can't wait to read Reeni's Turn!

Carol Coven Grannick said...

Hi, Carmela! Thanks so much! You were there in spirit, believe me! You have always been so encouraging and supportive in word and deed, and as I said at the beginning of the launch, those words and deeds of kindness and encouragement are so important in a persistent writer's life. The launch enabled wonderful questions, similar to Esther's wonderful ones, which really opened up the issues in REENI'S TURN, which keeps me hoping that some of these conversations will go on.

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

A novel in verse! I don't know that I've ever read one before - I'm intrigued. I wish you all the best on your book launch.

WriterLynn said...

Congratulations, Carol! I'm so proud of your achievement and can't wait to read REENI'S TURN. That is amazing to create a novel in verse, and the topic is so relevant. You're inspiring!

Carol Coven Grannick said...

Thanks to all for your kind and encouraging (and celebratory) comments! This interview with Esther was such a delight. The questions really went to the heart of the story AND the journey!