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Pultizer-Prize winning columnist Connie Schultz discusses her new children’s book

The cover of the children's book, "Lola and the Troll," by Connie Schultz.
The cover of the children's book, "Lola and the Troll," by Connie Schultz.

The term "troll" has been around for centuries. And for much of that time, it's conjured images of monstrous creatures, sometimes living under a bridge, terrorizing passers-by. But in the last few years, that term has shifted and now often refers to users on the internet engaged in anonymous harassment.

Both concepts — the monster and the harassment — play out in the new children's book "Lola and the Troll.”

Connie Schultz, known to many in Northeast Ohio, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and journalist who spent decades working for Cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer. Now, she’s turned her skills toward a children’s book taking on bullying in “Lola and the Troll.”

Schultz joined host Jenny Hamel on the show Feb. 29 to talk about the book. She personally has endured trolls throughout her career and often is sought out by younger women starting out in journalism, she said.

Schultz told Hamel that the impact of trolls and online bullying can be corrosive, especially for women who are often the subject to hate online. Women need to have a strong support system to navigate those types of comments, Schultz said.

“We let it start affecting how we feel and feel about ourselves and how we see ourselves only with our permission," she said. "But it does help to have that conversation with people who support us. It's important to have our own tribe... of friends and colleagues who support us. But the most important thing about it is we can't let it stop us.”

The plot of “Lola and the Troll” is focused on its title heroine, whom Schultz describes as a “sweet little girl who loves life.” That is until she must walk past Tom’s house, a new boy. Every day, Tom takes aim at Lola and seeks to tear her down.

“So, he says her hair is too big, and she puts it in a tiny bun. He says her eyes are ugly and so he doesn't like the color of them, so she starts squinting and wearing sunglasses," Schultz explained. "The worst for me, thinking of as a woman with granddaughters and a daughter, he says her voice is too loud, so she starts whispering everywhere she goes."

The book culminates with Lola standing up to Tom, who Schultz says is really just a frightened boy trying to get attention.

“I've been really moved by the number of parents of boys and teachers who have been saying, 'thank you for making the troll redeemable,'" Schultz said. "Am I saying you go on Twitter (now X) and make friends with all your haters? No these (adults on social media) are supposed to be grownups and that's really different."

But when children bully there are often reasons, she said.

"They have everything to do with how they're feeling about themselves, right?" she said. "It's not to excuse it, but give us a chance to have that conversation as well."

You can listen to the rest of Hamel’s interview with Connie Schultz by clicking on the listen button at the top of the page.

“Lola and the Troll” is available everywhere books are sold.

-Connie Schultz, author, "Lola and the Troll"

Leigh Barr is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and the "Sound of Ideas Reporters Roundtable."