In this post, we feature two acclaimed authors: Nora Shalaway Carpenter, whose previous titles include the award-winning anthology Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions about Small-Town America, for which she was both editor and contributor, and Rocky Callen, whose previous titles include A Breath Too Late, which was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year. You can hear them speak about their new anthology, Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes, for which they are contributing co-editors, and try their “invitation to imagine” activities. You’ll also find other resources to explore. Thanks for joining us, and let us know what you think in the comments below!
- Edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen
- Published by Candlewick Press
- Release date: April 11, 2023
A teen activist wrestles with protest-related anxiety and PTSD. A socially anxious vampire learns he has to save his town by (gulp) working with people. As part of her teshuvah, a girl writes letters to the ex-boyfriend she still loves, revealing that her struggle with angry outbursts is related to PMDD. A boy sheds uncontrollable tears but finds that in doing so he’s helping to enable another’s healing. In this inspiring, unflinching, and hope-filled mixed-genre collection, 16 diverse and notable authors draw on their own lived experiences with mental health conditions to create stunning works of fiction that will uplift and empower you, break your heart, and stitch it back together stronger than before. Through powerful prose, verse, and graphics, the characters in this anthology defy stereotypes as they remind readers that living with a mental health condition doesn’t mean that you’re defined by it. Each story is followed by a note from its author to the reader, and comprehensive back matter includes bios for the contributors as well as a collection of relevant resources.
From Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes, Edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen.
“As much as we hope this anthology provides a mirror for members of the mental health community, this book is as much for people who do not struggle with mental health as it is for those who do. As struggle with mental health as it is for those who do.”Click here to read more from Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes, Edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen.
Listen to Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen talking with TeachingBooks about creating Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes. You can click the player below or experience the recording on TeachingBooks, where you can read along as you listen, and also translate the text to another language.
- Listen to Nora Shalaway Carpenter pronounce her name.
- Listen to Rocky Callen pronounce her name.
- Explore TeachingBooks’ collection of activities and resources for Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes.
Invitation to Imagine
TeachingBooks asks each author or illustrator on our Virtual Book Tour to share a writing prompt, a drawing exercise, or just an interesting question to spark curiosity and creativity. Enjoy the following activities contributed by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen.
Imagination Activity with Nora Shalaway Carpenter
This is the first prompt I use in my writing workshops. I also use it myself whenever I’m deciding which type of project to work on next:
Think about the last book/TV show/movie that you absolutely LOVED. Write down its name, then write WHY you couldn’t stop reading/watching. Was it the action you enjoyed most, or the hilarious dialogue? Was there a character you couldn’t get enough of? Did the story create a fantasy world that you wished you could live in? Was it about monsters or real people? Was there a platonic friendship or a romance that kept you turning pages or binging the series? Make a list of all the things in the story you really loved. (For example: fantasy with magic, best friends with secrets; a little scary.)
Then, brainstorm your own story that could also have those elements. Whatever type of story keeps you as a reader/watcher immersed is probably the type you should write. Note that this exercise is good to repeat before each new project because our tastes and interests evolve over time. Sometimes we’re in the mood for one type of story, and sometimes another. Figuring out what excites you as a reader/viewer is going to make creating your own story so much more fun.
Imagination Activity with Rocky Callen
When I dive into a project, I first get very clear about my vision for it. I want to anchor in the feelings and impact I want associated with the final draft. One of the first exercises I do is dare myself to imagine a dream five -star review for the project. Even if this work is only for yourself, imagine how you want to feel when you sit back and witness what you’ve created. In this five-star review, imagine the adjectives that the person uses to describe your work, imagine how the project makes them feel, imagine who they would want to share it with, imagine why they want to thank you to you for creating it. It doesn’t matter if you are doing something funny, silly, vulnerable, raw, or heartfelt. It only matters that it is yours and your art and creativity are felt.
Finish This Sentence . . . with Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen
As part of our Virtual Book Tour, TeachingBooks asks authors and illustrators to complete short sentence prompts. Enjoy Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen’s responses.
“You may not know that I can…”
You may not know that I play the violin. I’m a bit rusty now, but I began playing when I was four and continued consistently through college. I enjoy singing and love learning new instruments. I played the trombone in elementary school, then switched to the French horn in middle school. I wish I’d been able to continue, but my school made me choose between band and volleyball; I was the varsity starting setter, so I wasn’t about to let down my team. I’m currently learning the lyre as research for a book I’m writing, and my goal is to one day learn the Celtic harp. —Nora Shalaway Carpenter
“A surprising thing that helps me work…”
A surprising thing that helps me work is to do very short, task-oriented sprints of focused effort. As someone with ADHD, it takes me a lot to focus and I have found the best way to do that is to set a timer and eliminate all distractions for that specific period of time. I have written entire chapters with a series of 5 minute sprints!—Rocky Callen
“I hope that our book encourages readers to think about…”
I hope that our book may encourage readers to think about the fact that they matter and their dreams matter. I want them to know that even if times are hard or scary that they are not alone. I want them to know that we are all wondrous, messy humans who make mistakes and that’s okay…we still are worthy of good and great things. —Rocky Callen
To wrap up this Virtual Book Tour, we thank Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen for signing a book for all of us.
More Connections to Nora Shalaway Carpenter, Rocky Callen, and Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes
- Discover books like Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes on TeachingBooks.
- Candlewick’s page about Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes, edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen.
- Buy Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories That Smash Mental Health Stereotypes, edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter and Rocky Callen.
All text and images are courtesy of Nora Shalaway Carpenter, Rocky Callen, and Candlewick Press and may not be used without expressed written consent.