Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
Reeni’s Turn (Fitzroy Books, September 2020) is a middle-grade novel in verse.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
Reeni is an eleven-year-old introvert and skilled dancer who longs to come out of the shadows and take her turn to solo. Her lifelong performance anxiety and her changing body challenge her obstacle-filled, but persistent search for courage, body acceptance, and her own strong voice.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
Reeni’s Turn is an easy-reading novel in free verse.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
“REENI’S TURN is a story of triumph, of a girl moving from perceived heaviness in her body and her spirit (“weighed down with secrets too heavy for a girl”) to a grounded lightness, which has nothing to do with weight, (“where flying was a possible dream”).” —Amy Alznauer, The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor, The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity, and Flying Paintings.
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
In terms of middle grade novels in verse, readers might also look at Sharon Creech’s fabulous Heartbeat and for even younger readers, Eileen Spinelli’s Where I Live Now, both of which beautifully handle intense, but so accessible, emotional arcs.
- Why this book? Why now?
Reeni’s Turn evolved from my first children’s story in Cricket Magazine, published in 2001, and dealt with the learned—and inaccurate—shame young children can feel about their non-thin bodies that keep them from shining. As a children’s writer and clinical social worker specializing in helping others find comfort with food, body, and self, I worked for a decade on and off to create an authentic middle grade story. While some picture books and many YA books exist handling body size/weight issues and eating disorders, only a few middle grade books still exist. None seemed to take on the diet industry’s impact on young children, which has long been—and still is—a destructive force in the lives of children and adults.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
After retiring from my clinical private practice, I worked for seven years as office administrator in an extraordinary early childhood center, doing hundreds of things each day that supported teachers, administrator, and the children. I loved it, and my children’s poetry-writing blossomed!
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I’d like children to believe that value, skills, and dreams are not tied to the size, shape, and weight of our bodies, and that quiet voices can still be strong voices.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
Swan Lake by P. Tchaikovsky and Challah, the Sabbath (Shabbat) bread that regularly figures into Reeni’s family life.
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I recently read Turtle Boy, the Sydney Taylor Award 2021 Gold Medalist in middle grade literature, and I’ve got a stack of “recommendeds” waiting for me!
Learn more about Carol at her website.