Renee Raney
Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

Renee Raney is an environmental educator and author of the new book “Hairy, Scary, But Mostly Merry Fairies: Curing Nature Deficiency Through Folklore, Imagination, and Creative Activities.”

She will be leading a fairy house building workshop for adults at the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County today at 2, and a fairy lure crafting workshop for children on Sept. 19 at 4 p.m.

The cost for today’s workshop is $10, and those interested should call to confirm an available spot.

To contact Raney or order one of her books, visit reneeraney.com.

How are you connected to the Anniston area?

I graduated from Anniston High School and Jacksonville State University.

 I worked at the Anniston Museum of Natural History as the education director for 10 years. Then, I worked for Jacksonville State University for 12 years as assistant director to the field schools. I built my house where I used to play house out on my grandfather’s dairy farm, so I am a longtime resident of Calhoun County.

Were you interested in nature as a child?

Yes. As a child, I decided I did not want to be a little girl anymore; I wanted to be a black-and-tan hound dog. I changed my name to Midnight for a year. I would go out on the farm and crawl around on all fours in the grass and explore. As a human, I was seeing the blue sky and green grass, but as a puppy dog, I was seeing the creatures living in the grass and the different shapes of the leaves.

Did you enjoy reading as a child?

The Anniston Public Library was my go-to place once a week as a child. Either my grandmother or mother would take me there, and I would go straight to the natural history selections and check out books on plants and animals. For me, a book is a window to travel through.

What was your favorite book as a child?

One of my favorite books to read was Kathryn Tucker Windham’s “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.” That was a true-type story that merged folklore and facts into something I call “faction” — fact-based fiction — and it was about Alabama. At that time, we did not have many books about Alabama that a child would be interested in.

Tell us about your book “Hairy, Scary But Mostly Merry Fairies.”

This is my second book. My first book was called “Calico Ghosts,” and I based it similarly to Kathryn Tucker Windham’s “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey,” but I used my own stories gathered from family, friends and Calhoun and Cleburne County.

Before Kathryn Tucker Windham passed away, she gave me her old black click pen and told me to keep writing stories. With her permission, I decided to write “Hairy, Scary, But Mostly Merry Fairies: Curing Nature Deficiency Through Folklore, Imagination, and Creative Activities.”

This book merges natural history facts with science fiction. I wrote it for children primarily, but 50 percent of my supporters are adults.

We tend to focus on kids regarding nature deficiency, but adults are guilty of it, too.

How did you get into building fairy houses?

The first chapter of my book describes my first encounter with a fairy. I was “Midnight” hiding in a field, and I saw a fairy. I ran home to tell my grandmother, who was from Ireland, and she told me that I was “fey,” which meant I could see the fairies. We went right back to the big oak tree where I saw the fairy, and we built a fairy house. Then, she took me to the library, and we checked out a book on fairies.

Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at faith.h.dorn@gmail.com.