Please provide readers a little information about yourself such as how long you have been a writer.
I was born and raised in the heart of New Jersey where I was a teacher for 25 years and spent some time as an education writer for a daily newspaper. After I retired, I moved to a small beach town in Florida with my husband and two rather noisy macaws and decided to start working on my bucket list. The first item was to become a writer. I got a job writing for The Island Reporter, a local paper. Two years later, I completed my first novel - Project June Bug, the story of a young teacher’s efforts to help a student with ADHD. It won several awards, including an Eric Hoffer Book Award, a Royal Palm Literary Award for women’s fiction, and a Mom's Choice silver medal. It was also named Premier Book Awards “Book of the Year.” Since then, I'vehad four stories included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections, and last year, I was offered a contract for Jacqueline, my middle grade historical fiction, which was released in July, 2015. In my spare time, I write a blog about Florida writers and spend a lot of time back in New Jersey visiting my three grown children and six gorgeous grandkids.
I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I’ve dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember. While most of my friends idolized movie or televisions stars, I always admired writers and wanted to be one of them. As a kid, I “published” a little handwritten newspaper using carbon paper (truly old school!) that I sold for a nickel. In elementary school, I loved writing short stories. In high school, I dabbled in poetry and was on the staff of the literary magazine. I minored in English in college and concentrated more on journalism after I graduated. But I never really had the time to pursue writing seriously until I retired and my kids were grown. I’m so blessed to have finally had my childhood dream come true!
Provide a brief overview of your book.
Life is good for high school teacher Jenna Bianchi. She has a job she loves, a pet parrot with attitude, and a handsome colleague who wants to be more than just friends. But everything changes when a defiant tenth-grader walks into her classroom. With a smart mouth and a swagger to match, Michael Tayler is a problem for Jenna from the Day One. But when Jenna reads Michael’s poetry assignment, she recognizes it as a cry for help. Faced with a challenge unlike anything she’s ever known, Jenna commits to doing what no one has done for Michael Tayler before.
Project June Bug is an award-winning novel that gives readers an intimate peek behind the faculty room door and an unforgettable journey into the world of ADHD.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
During my twenty-five years as a teacher, I had extensive experience working with ADHD students.These kids face unique challenges in the traditional classroom, and I became convinced that there were some easily implemented modifications that, alone or along with medication, could help them succeed. When I was studying for my Master's degree, I decided to put some of my ideas to the test. The results of my thesis project showed that these strategies did actually help ADHD students, and I used them successfully for many years. After I left teaching, I wanted to get the information out to teachers and the ADHD community. At first I thought of writing a self-help book, but then I got the idea of a novel/self-help hybrid. I figured it would be more interesting to present the information as part of a story.
Do you have other books out or do you have plans of writing more?
My latest novel, Jacqueline, is a middle grade historical based on an experience my dad had while stationed in Rennes,France shortly after D-Day. Rennes had just been liberated after a brutal period of Nazi occupation, and the citizens were desperately poor. A little girl named Jacqueline began following my father to and from the military hospital where he was stationed. Since he spoke very little French, and she spoke no English, they learned to communicate by teaching each other words and phrases and using hand gestures. A beautiful friendship blossomed, and when Dad's unit was transferred, he promised her if he ever had a daughter, he would name her Jacqueline. (That's me!) This was the only war story Dad was willing to share, and it became part of our family lore. Since he passed away in May, this book holds a special place in my heart. I just found out that it won an Eric Hoffer Book Award and a Literary Classics Book Award.
What is something you hope readers take away from reading your book?
I hope Project June Bug will help readers learn what life is like for people with ADHD through a story they'ill find both engaging and relevant. More importantly, I hope it will empower students with ADHD (and their parents and teachers) by giving them some specific strategies to help them cope with the challenges they face. Parents and teachers, working as a team, can make a huge difference in the lives of ADHD students. I also want readers to see what life is like on the teacher's side of the desk. In spite of the challenges and frustrations, it's a very rewarding profession.
What advice would you give to new authors?
Join a good critique group. The honest opinions of fellow writers can be tremendously helpful. There’s nothing that can compare to having several sets of trained eyes examining your writing for weak (and strong) points. My writer’s group gave me invaluable feedback that improved my manuscript and helped me find weak areas that I’d missed. They also cheered me on when I became discouraged. And critiquing the work of others is a great way to improve your own writing.