Carolyn Coman

Posted on May 15, 2012

Carolyn’s most recent book for children, The Memory Bank, is a graphic story book created in collaboration with artist Rob Shepperson. Other books for children and young adults include What Jamie Saw (National Book Award finalist and Newbery Honor book), Many Stones (National Book Award finalist and Printz Honor book), The Big House and Sneaking Suspicions. She is also the author of Writing Stories, a professional book for classroom teachers. She has taught at Vermont College and Hamline University, in their MFA programs in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and at Pacific University, Harvard Extension, Harvard Summer School, and the New Hampshire State Prison for Women. She lives in South Hampton, New Hampshire with the love of her life (Stephen Roxburgh) and an ever-growing menagerie of animals, with grown children and grandchildren nearby.

I have been writing books for children and teaching for thirty years. I value the process of working with writers over a period of time, developing a project and watching it unfold. I’ve witnessed time and time again the extraordinary leaps emerging writers can make.

I conceived The Whole Novel Workshop, which I currently teach through namelos, in order to address the need I saw for critiques of complete manuscripts. While many organizations and conferences offer critiques of opening chapters or up to 50 pages, it’s impossible to know whether a novel is really working without reading the entire draft.

I try to look at whatever story is given me with an eye to seeing what is at its core—what is essential to it— and to work with the writer to illuminate that core through careful attention to craft, structure, character development and the balance between character and plot that is appropriate to that story. I love quiet stories, have come around to wild and adventurous ones, too, and welcome historical fiction. I don’t understand fantasy enough to be of much help. I always say what I think. I try to get writers to let themselves off hooks they may not know they’ve been hanging themselves on, even as I relentlessly ask them to get to the heart of their stories and find all the best words to render them. I respond as a writer, with deep respect for both the process and the story only that writer can tell.