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Interviews & Features

“After reading Renkl’s newest book, The Comfort of Crows, you may never see your backyard, or your neighborhood park, in quite the same way.”

~a conversation with Kathy Bratkowski for Storytellers’ Studio

A “spirit of generosity permeated this whole book that you have written in this wonderful sense of how we are obligated to relate to nature.”

~a conversation with Ken Burns for PBS’s UNUM

“I used to feel a little guilty about how much time I spent staring out the window or sitting on my back steps because it felt like I should be making every second count,” she said. “My to-do list is like everyone’s to-do list. There are emails in my inbox that I fully intend to answer that are dated somewhere in 2019.”

~a conversation with Julie Pfitzinger for PBS’s Next Avenue

“Renkl is often a lyrical writer, with sentences that trill like a magic flute her fans will follow anywhere.”

~a conversation with Danny Heitman for the Phi Kappa Phi Forum

“Fifteen minutes a day is not too much to ask, to give yourself permission to have that little bit of time. It made me feel so much better to be able to do something just for me–but also to sort through all these huge life and death things happening in my life.”

~a conversation with JoBeth McDaniel for NextTribe

[Renkl] wrote “The Comfort of Crows” to provide hope in a time when things may not be considered so hopeful.  Let’s face it: We are in a crazy time right now, and it’s not getting any better in the near future. But Margaret gives us reasons to think differently about our environment, our surroundings, and things that we can do differently.

~a conversation with Joe Lamp’l for The Joe Gardener Show

“I feel like we should tell everybody that this is not normally how we chat.”

~a conversation with Mary Laura Philpott, author of Bomb Shelter, for the Family Action Network (event)

“Don’t miss this warm and candid conversation about the gift of nature, the solace of observation and the gospel Renkl finds in her own backyard.” 

~Talking Volumes and Minnesota Public Radio (radio interview)

“Margaret Renkl shares what it takes to make a literary devotional, reflections on the natural world, and the gift books she plans to give this holiday season.”

Kirkus Reviews’ gift guide (podcast)

“Margaret Renkl calls herself a backyard naturalist—but not because she has any particular expertise. From the birds in her yard to the bugs in her flower beds, she has learned the art of attention. Nature has taught her a speed at which to live, to hope, to stave off despair.”

~Kate Bowler for Everything Happens (podcast)

“I wanted the collages to make those plants—stickywilly, passionflower, clover—and animals—foxes, skinks, bluebirds—into concrete references that are factual and tender in equal measure but that nevertheless echo Margaret’s commitment to confronting the frightening truth of global warming.”

~Billy Renkl in an interview with Poets & Writers

“There’s something so soothing, tender and vital about hearing Margaret Renkl talk about the joy, the grief and the importance of caring for every living thing out our own windows- especially the first bird we see each new year.”

~Ron Block for the Writers’ Block (podcast)

“Seasons and cycles abound in life, in nature, in stories. Margaret Renkl captures their rhythms in her new book, The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year.

~Ray Bassett for Scenic Roots and WUTC (radio interview)

“Just a few days after her publisher sent the final draft of her new book to the printer, Margaret Renkl saw the turtle. It was missing an eye, its shell was scarred — and it was cause for celebration.”

~Erica Pearson for the Star Tribune (feature)

“The yard grows wild with pollinator blooms. It’s early October in Nashville and the scorching summer just relinquished its relentless hold. Many of the black-eyed Susans, sunflowers, and zinnias have been picked dry by birds and insects. The caretaker of this garden, the author and essayist Margaret Renkl, leads me to her leaf-strewn deck out back, to show me a glimmer of hope.”

~Dina Gachman for The New York Times (feature)

“Instead of Writing, Margaret Renkl Forages for Fungi.”

~excerpt from The Comfort of Crows in LitHub

“My Life in Mice” and “My Life in Rabbits”

~excerpt from The Comfort of Crows in Narrative Magazine

“The collages and collection of essays both share a love for the achingly beautiful world and the life that animates it and a real fear that we’ve tipped past the point of saving it.”

~feature on Billy Renkl’s art in Kolaj Magazine

Margaret Renkl takes us through her new book, The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year, why “we are not despairing creatures,” her views on faith, where she’s finding hope, and that story about the mouse in the pantry.

~Courtney Ellis for The Thing With Feathers (podcast)

This week in this season of endings and beginnings again, we welcome back writer, backyard tender, and heartfelt observer Margaret Renkl joining us to share more about her newest, likewise heartfelt book: The Comfort of Crows, A Backyard Year.

~Jennifer Jewell for Cultivating Place (podcast)

Normally I tear through things, I devour books, but I couldn’t move slowly enough through this. I needed time to savor it.

~Jenna Peery for Barnes & Noble’s Poured Over podcast

I am a big fan of good nature writing, and Renkl is among the best at it. I’m still marveling at the way she rhapsodizes over a toad, describing it as being “as soft as a great-grandmother you can hold in your hand.”

~Suzanne Van Atten for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (feature)

The “what happens when” of nature is all shifting in the face of environmental change and how we each garden has shifted, too, for Margaret Renkl and for me, and maybe for you as well—toward more native plants and messier fall cleanup and other contributions we can make to our beloved birds and the rest of the natural world that’s increasingly under pressure.

~Margaret Roach for A Way To Garden (podcast)

Renkl reminds us to pay attention in stillness and awe, but equally, she urges action in the face of climate crisis, hope in the face of despair. 

~Sara Beth West for Chapter 16 (Q&A)

“Through a regular column in The New York Times, Renkl tackles climate change, racial justice and environmental issues from her ‘blue dot’ hometown in a red state.”

~Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour (profile)

“Margaret Renkl writes about the South as few other writers do: from a patient and curious inspection of her own backyard. Literally, with the animals and plants in her own Tennessee backyard, but also more profoundly within the social kaleidoscope of the indefinable ‘South.'”

~Zoe Yarborough for StyleBlueprint (Q&A)

“Margaret Renkl joins the show to share her joy of spring and talk over the polarization that she sees hindering our progress.”

~Khalil Ekulona for WPLN’s This Is Nashville (Q&A)

“Renkl’s essays sparkle with wit, a wealth of wisdom, no few clever turns of phrase, and compassion for her subjects.”

~Jesse Davis for Memphis magazine

A conversation with the always-brilliant Stephen Usery of WYPL in Memphis can be streamed here.

Graceland, At Last “is a poignant perspective of what it’s like to live in, be born into, identify as, love fiercely, fight against, hold space for, redefine, renounce, and celebrate the South.”

~Catherine Campbell for the Southern Review of Books

“For our season finale, we’re going to zoom in on the American South.”

~Rachel Burchfield for the I’d Rather Be Reading podcast

“Margaret Renkl’s new book Graceland, At Last is a balm for anyone who has ever pushed back on Southern stereotypes. She has a true gift for finding unsung voices that push back on the stereotypes perpetuated by Southern politicians or national narratives.”

~John Hammontree for the Reckon Interview

“A poignant perspective of what it’s like to live in, be born into, identify as, love fiercely, fight against, hold space for, redefine, renounce, and celebrate the South.”

~Catherine Campbell for the Southern Review of Books

“An absolutely delightful conversation with one of my favorite writers about politics, nature, seasons, culture, lifestyle, and her beautiful journey to this point in time.”

~Paul Samuel Dolman for the What Matters Most podcast

“A hearty ‘bless your heart’ to those who misunderstand the South, the essays of Margaret Renkl’s Graceland, At Last vivify an often maligned region. Renkl is one angle of the face of the changing South: she cares about the environment, social justice, and her faith, and she sees no contradictions there. While you’re unlikely to ever hear her praise the Tennessee General Assembly, she has plenty of love for her neighbors—including Nashville’s flora and fauna.”

~Michelle Schingler for Foreword Reviews

“Renkl’s latest book is Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South, a collection of essays that discuss themes such as the beauty of the natural world, humanity and human decency, and the everlasting topic of hope.”

~Marc Griffin for Sarasota Magazine

“Instead of lecturing, Renkl adroitly leads a journey that bypasses presumptions to reveal the real South — the South of blue cities frustrated by the overpowering red states surrounding them, of ecological disasters caused by indifference, and activists who work to combat that indifference.”

~Jim Patterson for Chapter 16

“Nominally these essays talk about the South from the point of view of a lifelong resident. But in fact they are talking about what it means to be in and of a region so thoroughly at odds with the writer’s own political priorities.”

~Richard Winham for WUTC’s “Scenic Roots,” Part 1 and Part 2

“Her writing has been a balm to millions of readers, particularly during the pandemic, when she supplied meditations on the natural world that go far beyond the surface into profound explorations of our humanity.”

~an interview with Silas House for the Berea College Convocations

“I woke up this morning and I thought, ‘I get to talk to Margaret Renkl, my life is bliss.'”

~An interview with Whitney Kimball Coe for the Rural Assembly Everywhere conference

In this episode, we talk with Renkl about how loving nature and mourning it go hand in hand, how backyard nature can provide comfort during times of grief, the impetuousness of squirrels, and how she turned her Nashville backyard into a wildlife sanctuary.”

~An interview with the Yale University podcast When We Talk About Animals

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager welcome author Margaret Renkl, who discusses the story behind her book and answers questions from readers at home.”

~An interview with Today

We’re here with Margaret Renkl. She wrote one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It is our December pick, and I loved it.”

~A longer interview with the Jenna Bush Hager for the Today show’s book club

“It’s extradordinarily comforting. All of this grief and loss somehow conveys a perspective that helps the reader.”

~An interview with Adam Ross for The Sewanee Review podcast

“Late Migrations is a loving ode to family, the Alabama landscape that cradled them, and the natural world.”

~An interview with Alabama Public Television

As her tender, complicated reflections build in weight and power, the reader becomes subsumed in Renkl’s world and memories, a place where beauty and destruction co-exist and even harmonize.”

~An interview with Appalachian Heritage

“I love the book very much. I suppose that doesn’t sound very objective, but boy, it’s a wonderful book.”

~An interview with Margaret Roach for Robin Hood Radio

“For members of the Nashville literary community, Margaret Renkl is something of a hometown hero.”

~an interview with BookPage

“Late Migrations reminds us all of the timelessness of life cycles and that while our gardens and gardening impulses may not be enough to repair everything, they are a very powerful and meaningful something in the right direction.”

~an interview with Cultivating Place for North State Public Radio

“Margaret grew up in Alabama, and her book alternates between observations of the natural world and stories from her life in the South. We talk about her writing for The New York Times, the importance of strong women in her family, the resurgence of the local bookstore, and how she learned to live with loss.”

~the Reckon interview for

Author Margaret Renkl talks to host Mary Laura Philpott about Late Migrations on Nashville Public Television’s A Word on Words

“In Late Migrations Renkl’s lush essays invite readers to come with her to the American South, to her past, to nature she observes with lyricism, and to the challenges of life passages.”

~an interview with The Adroit Journal

“In this poignant and powerful episode, Margaret talks to WPLN’s Emily Siner about documenting complicated families, grieving with animals, and writing a book in 15 minutes.”

~an interview with Nashville Public Radio

“You’ve talked about how your brother did those interviews with your grandmother, but your brother also did the art for the book, and it’s fabulous. In using your grandmother’s exact words in the book reminds me of how the art is constructed. By using a collage method, you’re taking the words of someone else and weaving them into the work itself.”

~an interview with Stephen Usery for WYPL’s Book Talk

“The ordinary becomes filled with wonderment and loss, and we discover that the shadow side of love is part of the life we all share.”

~an interview with Sally Wizik Wills for the American Booksellers Association

“This is memoir by way of adjacencies. This is the story of a tight-knit clan and their red-dirt roads, their abiding dogs, their rainstorms, their birds, their living in-between the dying. This is the story of grief accelerated by beauty and beauty made richer by grief. This is scout bees, bluebirds, ragged foxes, fur-lined bunny nests, and yes, of course, those migrating butterflies. It is the story of a girl, now a woman, who watches it all through the window of her life.”

~an interview with Beth Kephart in The Rumpus