June 11, 2012

An Interview with Children's Author Genevieve Petrillo

Making purses out of books is a quirky occupation that leads to unexpected requests.  I love doing custom orders because it puts me in a position to try something new.  Most of the time, my customers ask for classic books or the not so classic (ahem, the three separate "Breaking Dawn" purse orders I conquered in December).  

I never expected to have an actual author ask for a book purse.  And Genevieve Petrillo, children's book author didn't request just any book . . . she wanted me to make a purse of her book.  How cool is that?  

A retired elementary school teacher, Genevieve's "Keep Your Ear On The Ball" is based on a true story that happened in one of her classes.  "Keep Your Ear" centers on Davey, a new student with impaired vision and how his fellow students try to relate to him.  You'd expect this story to be treacly sweet but it's very straightforward and made me think about how I can help others without stifling their independence.  The fact that the story was told simply without cliche made it all the more touching to me.  I was so impressed with her book, I had to 
"interview" Genevieve to know more.  Here's what she had to say: 

1. Before your book, you had a career as a teacher. What inspired you to write books?

My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson, read to our class every day at 3:00. As 5th graders, we were well past the age when people regularly read to us, but Mrs. Nelson did. She read chapter books, classics, a little of everything. I LOVED it. I loved the way she could hypnotize a bunch of jaded, snide, too-cool-for-school 11-year olds with the original Wizard of Oz, Treasure Island, and Pippi Longstocking, and then send us on our way, talking about literature and anxious for 3:00 to come again tomorrow. It's what made me want to be a teacher and it's what made me want to be a writer. I wanted to make kids feel the way Mrs. Nelson made us feel. 

2. What can we do to help people like Davey?

The thing that struck a chord with the real Davey was the fact that the kids and I treated him like one of the guys. I guess because at the end of the day, that's what he was! I treated him like everybody else, and included him in everything we did, NOT because I am an expert in differently-abled people, but because it was all I could think of to do. Since David taught me the value of inclusion and acceptance, I try to look at a person's abilities and start from there when offering assistance. 

3. Where is Davey today?

Davey went all through school, including college in general education, sighted classrooms. He is married with 3 beautiful kids. They live in PA where he works as a director with the Department of Labor in the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. He's also a motivational speaker, and has written a book called Feeling My Way Through Life. He's a regular guy, who works, plays, cooks, goes fishing, camping, and travels often with his family and by himself. He has a driver when he needs one, and gets around independently with a cane (no seeing eye dog). He reads Braille and uses all the latest assistive technology in his work and in his life.

4. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

My best piece of advice for writers would be not to be afraid of rejection. I try to look at each rejection letter as a stepping stone, so each one puts me that much closer to success. Keep in mind that Dr. Seuss's first story (And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street) was rejected 29 times before finally being accepted - and he was Dr. Seuss!! 

Thanks so much, Genevieve!  Everyone stay tuned to see how Genevieve's book purse turns out . . . if it's half as creative as Genevieve is I'll be happy.  For more on her books, here is here contact information:

Genevieve Petrillo
Children's Author/Poet
Web site: www.genevievepetrillo.com
Blog: www.earontheball.com

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