Check This Out: Rural Voices

With me on the blog today is another of my classmates, the awesome Nora Shalaway Carpenter (woot woot). Nora has been here before (click here) and is here today to talk about Rural Voices, a young adult fiction anthology for which she was the acquiring editor and contributor. Rural Voices, published by Candlewick Press, is an NPR Best Book of 2020 and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.


Nora is represented by Victoria Wells Arms. Please join me in a conversation with Nora.

El Space: Thank you for being here, Nora.
Nora: Thanks so much for having me, Linda!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Nora: 1) My favorite candy is Dark Chocolate Craisins. 2) My current fave song is Can You Feel the Sun by Missio. 3) I used to like dogs more than cats, but now have a new appreciation for felines thanks to our rescued cat, Pumpkin. 4) I grew up off a dirt road in rural West Virginia. My closest neighbor was a mile away.

I could only find a photo of Milk Chocolate Craisins. They look tasty! 🥰

El Space: Please tell us how Rural Voices came to be. What, if any, goals did you have for getting this project off the ground?
Nora: I’d been secretly thinking about an anthology of rural voices for a while, but the project began after a conversation with my author friends and VCFA classmates Mary Winn Heider and Rachel Hylton. When I lamented that no one had yet compiled a YA collection of rural voices, they encouraged me to do it myself. I sent an email to my agent during that chat and the rest is history!

My biggest initial goal was to show readers that rural America was so much more complex, valuable, and diverse than the tired clichés usually presented in popular media.

El Space: How did you go about acquiring authors for Rural Voices?
Nora: This was a little tricky, because a lot of people don’t flaunt their rural roots because they are sick of being shamed about them. Luckily, I had a nice core group of rural authors that I knew from VCFA. A number of them knew other rural authors to recommend.

El Space: What were some of challenges you faced as you worked on the anthology? How long did the project take to complete?
Nora: Coordinating the submission and revision deadlines of all the contributors was one of the biggest challenges. The timeline was much faster than it might have been—about a year—because Candlewick and I really wanted the book to come out before the 2020 election.

El Space: What is one misconception you hope will be erased as readers dive in to this anthology?
Nora: I hope it challenges a lot more than one, but at minimum, I hope it shows readers that rural people are as vibrant, smart, and worthy of dignity and respect as every other person.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Nora: Ah! I’m so excited about my next project. I wish I could tell you all about it, but it is due to be announced anytime, so please keep a lookout on my social media channels—@noracarpenterwrites on IG and @norawritesbooks on Twitter! After that, I’ve got another contemporary YA in the works, this one set in rural West Virginia.

Thank you, Nora!

Looking for Nora? Check out her website and the social media channels mentioned above.

Looking for Rural Voices? Check out Bookshop, Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. And don’t forget Nora’s other books:

The Edge of Anything is a Cybils Awards Finalist, a Kirkus Best Book of 2020, and A Mighty Girl’s Book of the Year.

Comment below to be entered into a drawing to receive a copy of Rural Voices. Winner to be announced sometime next week.

Book covers and author photo courtesy of the author. Photo credit: Chip Bryan. Craisins image from Bing. Rural homes image from healthline.

39 thoughts on “Check This Out: Rural Voices

  1. I like the diversity in Nora’s authorship and admire her ability to coordinate the varied sources in Rural Voices. That takes courage, Nora. Thanks, L. Marie for featuring Nora today. You know the nicest people and create networks to showcase them. 🙂

    In a sense, I’m a rural voice and proud of my heritage. No shame in reckoning with my roots – ha!

  2. Sounds like a great idea for an anthology! I’m wondering if we’re the same over here (in the UK), and I suspect we are – most of the writers I can think of come from or flee to the big cities and write about them, leaving rural settings for cosy crime and romances full of charmingly quirky rural characters. I’ll have to look out for some genuine rural voices…

    PS As usual, L. Marie, please don’t enter me for the drawing – the book deserves a home where it stands a chance of meeting up with the intended audience!

    • Thanks, FictionFan! As you mentioned, many authors think about how they’ve “made it” when they are able to live in a large city, having escaped “Smallville.” (I can’t help thinking of the story of Superman in that regard, since the Kents lived in a small town.)

  3. Congratulations to Nora and the other authors. How sad to think people must hide their rural roots. I’ve always known them to be some of the most genuine people with kind hearts. I hope to one day return to my rural roots. Thanks for hosting, L. Marie.

  4. Great post, Linda and Nora. What a wonderful topic to showcase. Geographical regions are often labeled as having “less than” people. Sometimes it feels even more so in this current climate. Kudos for standing up for us rural voices!!

  5. Mmm! Dark chocolate craisins, also my favorite. I love this anthology, and congratulations on the new book, which I look forward to hearing more about! Oh, and I already have the book, so if my name comes up in the drawing, please pass to the next lucky person.

  6. Congratulations, Nora, on being the editor of an NPR Best Book of 2020 and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. That’s amazing! I’m impressed that you were able to put the whole thing together within a year.

    I’m glad you’ve learned to appreciate cats. They’re sweet and lovable too.

  7. Thanks for introducing me to Nora and this anthology. It sounds great. I especially like her comment: “rural people are as vibrant, smart, and worthy of dignity and respect as every other person.” I agree. About time someone focused on that idea.

  8. I grew up in a small town in NJ, an hour from Manhattan and loved it. You couldn’t pay me to live in a big city. When we travel, we skip the big cities and gravitate to waterfalls and streams in the surrounding countryside. I guess I’m a bit like Eddie Albert’s character on Green Acres:

    Green acres is the place for me
    Farm living is the life for me
    Land stretching out so far and wide
    Keep Manhattan just give me some countryside!

    Good luck with the book, Nora.

  9. Congrats to the Yoga Frog lady! (Love that book and associated merch!) Good luck with the new book.
    And thanks for introducing me to Missio, Nora!
    L.Marie, great interview, as always – and please don’t include me in the drawing, this anthology needs to get in the hands of its intended audience!

  10. What a wonderful concept. Kudos to Nora for making the Rural Voices anthology happen! As someone who spent the first 21 years of her life in a rural community, I can say those rural stereotypes were a real hindrance in seeing myself as a writer. I’m over it now ( ;)) but I’m sure those stereotypes are alive and well. Again, many thanks to Nora for showcasing the beauty and dynamism of writers from the rural side of life. And thank you, Linda, for hosting her again 🙂

  11. I really enjoyed this interview. I grew up in West Virginia, too. I’d like to ask Nora if she was able to include stories from Cynthia Rylant, a fellow West Virginian (and rural) who is a terrific children’s author. The book sounds wonderful!

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