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What’s Renee Garrison reading?

By Piper Castillo
Author Renee Garrison

Nightstand

Renee Garrison

Anchor Clankers, Garrison’s new YA novel, mirrors the author’s own teenage years. It’s about Suzette Leblanc, a ninth-grader who moves from Massachusetts to Florida for her father’s job in a Central Florida military academy. "It is true; I was the only girl surrounded by boys,’’ Garrison said. "The story is a fictionalized account of my life at a certain time.’’ Garrison, who graduated from the University of South Florida, spent many years as a journalist for the Tampa Tribune. Switching from news writing to fiction came with challenges, she said. "I really wasn’t sure I could write it at all, especially write what was needed for a whole novel, something like 40,000 words. When you write for a newspaper, you learn brevity is key,’’ she said. "But I ended up enjoying it. It was cathartic. Both my parents have died and are buried at Arlington, but my dad always wanted to put what he was doing in a book, and now, here it is.’’

Garrison, who lives in Deland, will be a featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Nov. 11.

What’s on your nightstand?

I’m glad you can’t see the pile of books on my nightstand. I’d be embarrassed. I have The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan. My husband and I had visited the spectacular Biltmore Estate in Asheville, and I was curious to know the backstory of the residents. That is what the book is about. I also just finished Camino Island by John Grisham. To be honest, I started it because my husband told me it really is about Fernandina Beach. My mother-in-law used to spend summers there as a child.

And did you identify the places in the book with Fernandina?

I did. I also completely identified with the character Mercer Mann, a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block. I also have another book to mention. It’s called George by Alex Gino. I attended Book Expo and at one of the panels, George was one of the books discussed. It sounded like a wonderful story. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that the book was on a banned book list.

What is the story line?

When people look at George, they think she is a boy. The teacher announces there is going to be a class play on Charlotte’s Web, and George wants to play Charlotte but the teacher says she can’t because she’s a boy. George deals with sexual stereotyping at its worst. It’s a very sweet and totally appropriate book on identity issues in elementary age children, and it was handled beautifully. I cannot believe somewhere, some educator, said it was not appropriate for elementary school.

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.