Marcia Strykowski

October Author Spotlight

carolyncomanThis month it is my pleasure to have Carolyn Coman join us. Her books have received many awards including a Newbery Honor and Michael L. Printz Honor, as well as being National Book Award finalists. She has been on the faculty of the Vermont College and Hamline University MFA writing programs.

0-545-21066-6Please share a little about your books.
I don’t have a huge body of work but it’s fairly diverse: I’ve written books for adults, young adults and children; fiction and non-fiction, serious and funny; I collaborated with artist Rob Shepperson on The Memory Bank, a graphic storybook, and with photographer Judy Dater on a book of interviews, Body & Soul; carolyn writiI also wrote a professional book, Writing Stories for classroom teachers on teaching writing. Just recently I’ve completed an adult novel based on the life and writings of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch woman whose journal and letters from 1941-1943 have profoundly influenced my life. Different material has called to me at different times in my life, and different approaches, too, and since I end up following what grabs my attention, I’ve taken a pretty crooked and interesting (at least to me) path!

carolyn jamieHow has where you’ve lived or traveled influenced your work?
The North Country of NH, where I lived for 5 years, became the setting for my novel, What Jamie Saw. (I also loved the real name of the real town, Stark, NH) I used a big chunk of my advance for Many Stones to travel to South Africa to research and learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. carolyn beeBee & Jacky, another YA novel, is set in Indiana, where I lived for several years when I was a teenager. The Memory Bank unfolds in a Bank that stores memories and a Vault that stores dreams (written way before Inside Out hit the screen), so imagination provided all the travel routes for that one. It always interests me, the places that make an impression, an emotional impression that asserts itself when it’s time to place a story. It’s not necessarily a matter of how much time you’ve spent in a place, or how long ago; some places are just the right ones to write about; they stick around inside your head or heart in a certain way.

carolyn bigCould you briefly tell us your writing process?
Long and slow. A fair amount of suffering and deep doubt all along the way (except with Memory Bank, which was great fun). I write slowly, revise compulsively, far prefer revision to drafting. No matter what, each book takes years.

carolyn sneaWhat advice would you give to new authors hoping to become published?
Learn your craft. Revise, revise, revise, and don’t send out your work for consideration before it’s ready. Spend more time writing than you do exploring how to get published or marketing yourself.  Read a ton. Find and cultivate good teachers and readers of your work. Persevere.

caroly manyfavorite authors = Etty Hillesum; Rilke; Colm Toibin; MT Anderson; Martine Leavitt
favorite movie = kid movie: BIG   Adult movie: The Master
favorite vacation = a silent retreat
favorite hobby = knitting complicated mittens
favorite color = the color of any flowercarolyn tell

Thank you very much for sharing your words of wisdom, Carolyn! Find out more about her here. To contact Carolyn directly, send a message to
or leave it in the comments.



  1. Great advice for aspiring authors! Though I’ll admit, on some days, I just want to check out publishing websites, and not put in the hard work. =) Lovely covers too, I especially love Sneaking Suspicions and The Memory Bank.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those are cute covers. I agree, there’s so much information out there, it becomes very easy to spend hours researching instead of writing. Good luck with your writing goals this week!


  2. Thanks for this lovely interview. I remember reading What Jamie Saw for the first time and how it made such a lasting impression on me. I like Carolyn’s comment about certain places being the right ones to write about. Yes, so true. 🙂


    • That is a great comment about places to write about and you’re right, I think What Jamie Saw leaves a lasting impression with many readers. Thanks for reading, Jama!


  3. Wonderful and inspiring interview, Marcia and Carolyn. Wishing you both continued success with your writing.


  4. Shana Gorian

    Great interview. Thanks for sharing!


  5. Author interviews are inspiring. It’s fun to learn more about Carolyn Coman.


  6. Sarah Lamstein

    Carolyn Coman is an absolutely outstanding writer and teacher. I’m so glad to see her interviewed on your blog. She’s a gem!


    • Carolyn’s a great teacher and writer. Her book Writing Stories holds a lot of helpful information. Thanks for visiting, Sarah!


  7. slochman

    Great interview! Love your post and I love this author!


  8. The memory bank sounds wonderful, just the kind of story I enjoy. Thanks Marcia and Carolyn I very much enjoyed this author spotlight.


    • Yes, I’m adding that book to my reading list, too. Thanks, Barbara!


  9. I love that Carolyn advises spending more time writing than researching how to get published or marketing yourself. It is very easy with the internet to get lost in learning about writing and put off the actual writing! Thanks Carolyn for the reminder and thank you Marcia for the interview!


    • So true how easy it is to become distracted. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview!


  10. Great interview, Marcia! Carolyn has been a fantastic mentor to me, always asking the right questions, nudging me in directions I hadn’t thought of and encouraging me all the way. Her writing process may be slow, but her books shine. I can’t wait to read her novel on Etty Hillesum. Is it published yet? Thanks for highlighting Carolyn, one of my favorite people!


    • That’s great, Joyce, lucky you! I don’t believe her latest novel is published yet. It sounds fascinating.


  11. “A fair amount of suffering and deep doubt all along the way” — I think many of us relate to that! Great interview.


  12. Bette Norton

    Carolyn sounds like a wonderful writing teacher as well as an author herself. Her books look fascinating! I love the covers on the books! It was great to learn more about Carolyn Coman. Thank you for yet another inspiring Author’s Spotlight Post!


  13. Marcia, I love your blog! Thank you for following mine. Carolyn’s advice and insight is great, fascinating even. You’ve certainly lifting my spirits!:)


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