Pair of Pickens High authors offer support, encouragement

By Nicole Daughhetee
Courier Staff

PICKENS — There are currently two published fiction authors gracing the halls of Pickens High School. Small-town celebrities, Elaine Cantrell and Jennifer Gravely started writing together some time ago.

In a world where becoming a renowned published author might be as difficult as becoming a famous actor, instead of being competitive in their field, these two women have decide to work together and be a source of support for one another in their craft.

“I have had so much encouragement from Elaine,” said Gravely. “She had continued to encourage me. While each of us may be competitive, writing is not about knocking the other person.”

Working together has proved to be successful for both of the PHS teachers, but writing was a passion for each woman before they ever knew or worked with one another.

Cantrell wrote her first book, about Woody Woodpecker, when she was five.
“I dictated the book to my dad, and he wrote it down with pencil on notebook paper,” she said. “My first novel sat on a computer for 10 years before it was ever published.”

Cantrell currently has 12 publications under her belt and is in the process of working on something new and a bit different from her traditional romance novel genre.

“I’m working on a romantic comedy call Fortuna. Or maybe For Tuna. I haven’t decided yet,” she said. “I’ve let my husband read it, and he has laughed in all the right places, so I hope it’s funny.”

Like Cantrell, Gravely has always possessed a love of literature, specifically mythology, which she teaches at PHS, and it seemed writing always came to Gravely naturally. Her first novel “Knight of the Dead,” a romance suspense novel, was published and released this past July.

“I started writing about 10 or 11 years ago,” said Gravely. “I had written a book and played with the story and sequel for a long time, but it didn’t really fit into a pure romance category. Harlequin was sponsoring a writing contest, but my work didn’t fit exactly.”

Gravely abandoned her original story idea after a while and decided to try a different approach to writing during the winter of 2011. After working with and bouncing ideas around with Cantrell, Gravely decided to write a novel in the suspense romance genre.

In about three months, she had completely written Knight of the Dead. All Gravely needed was a publisher.

“Elaine is a fantastic writer, and she had already published several books,” said Gravely. “I submitted Knight of the Dead to her publisher, Astraea Press, and they picked it up.”

Gravely spent the summer going through the editing process so her novel would be ready for its July release.

“The book is getting good reviews. I just had an independent reviewer do a write-up,” said Gravely. “I don’t have a marketing plan just yet, but the book is out and available for purchase. I’ve had a lot of support from the students and faculty where I teach.”

Gravely is a graduate of Pickens High School who went on to attend college at Converse with a triple major in history, politics and English. Her love of athletics brought her to PHS as a volleyball coach, but Gravely said she didn’t want to be the stereotypical coach who only taught social studies or physical education.

“I love teaching mythology courses, and my students really enjoy it. Kids today are more visual and kinesthetic in their learning styles, so it has been a challenge to teach literature in these ways,” said Gravely. “I also teach creative writing, and we have a writer’s club at Pickens High.”

She not only inspires her students as a teacher, but Gravely is living proof that dreams are achievable through hard work and dedication. Although she encountered her share of rejection over the last decade as a writer, finally getting her work published has shown her students that giving up isn’t an option.
“Sometimes we just have to work a bit harder,” said Gravely. “We have to be able to pick up and move on, knowing there is a reason for everything that happens.”

Already a well-established author, Cantrell has been both an inspiration and a mentor for Gravely.

The first book she wrote in her adult life “A New Dream,” did not receive rave reviews. Readers, said Cantrell, were not thrilled with some of the circumstances that befell the hero. So the book sat, and she started writing another.

“A New Leaf,” the second book she wrote, was the first Cantrell published.
“Oak Tree Press was sponsoring a writing contest, and the prize was having your book published,” said Cantrell, “I decided to enter A New Leaf at the last minute and it won.”

After A New Leaf won publication, Cantrell revisited A New Dream, even though it was not a favorite the first time out of the gate. The funny thing is, this work was published and has been one of Cantrell’s best-selling books thus far.

“Most of the time when I sit down to write, I write the story for myself,” said Cantrell. “Then when I go back and do revisions, I consider my audience.”
Both Gravely and Cantrell are modest about their successes as writers. Gravely says she goes through periods of time when she doesn’t talk much about Knight of the Dead.

“People think that once you get published you automatically get rich, but it isn’t like that,” she said. “Writing is a lot like teaching. I write, like I teach, because I love doing it. I didn’t choose either path for money. I enjoy entreating other people.”

Entertainment value is what drew both Cantrell and Gravely toward the romance writing genre.

“There are too many sad stories out there. Romances always have a happy ending,” Gravely said. “They are a way for people to escape for a little while. They are entertaining.”

Cantrell agreed.

“Everyone likes a good romance,” she said. “They like to see people overcome obstacles and be happy.”

While publication is not always a guarantee, both Cantrell and Gravely encourage other writers out there to stick with their craft and never give up on their dreams.

“There is a publisher out there for every story,” assured Cantrell.
Gravely and Cantrell don’t always write together, but they certainly continue to be sources of support and encouragement to one another in their writing projects. Both women say that they can bounce ideas off one another and they are happy to proof one another’s work.

Gravely’s Knight of the Dead is available for download on Kindle through and for Nook through Barnes and Noble’s website. A simple Google search brings up various great reviews of the novel.

Elaine Cantrell has her own website and blog located at and All of her novels are also available for purchase through her website, and Barnes and Noble’s website.