Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Interview with middle grade author Catherine DePino

Today’s guest is multipublished author Catherine DePino with her fourth book on the topic of bullying: Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book about Bullying.

During her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, Catherine will be giving away a $20 Amazon gift card to a lucky commenter. To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and leave comments there, too!

Catherine DePino has sold thirteen books for parents, teachers, and children to mainstream publishers. She self-published her fourteenth book, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying because she wanted to give it a wider forum. Her background includes a BS in English and Spanish education, a master’s in English education, and a doctorate in Curriculum Theory and Development and Educational Administration from Temple University. The author worked for many years as an English teacher, department head of English and world languages, disciplinarian, and curriculum writer in the Philadelphia School District. After this, she worked at Temple as an adjunct assistant professor and student teaching supervisor.

Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer.

For many years she served on the board of The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She holds membership in the Association of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Her new self-help book, 101 Easy Ways for Women to De-Stress, Reinvent, and Fire Up Your Life in Retirement, appeared on the market in March, 2014.

Welcome, Catherine. Please tell us a little bit about, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying.
My book’s main characer, Elliot, a freshman in high school, faces relentless bullying by some of his classmates. The story starts with his entrapment in a school supply closet and ends with a vicious head dunk in a toilet. Elliot, the book’s protagonist, lives on top of the family business, a funeral home in South Philly, with his detached, workaholic dad and Nonna, his overbearing grandmother. Since his parents divorced, his mother has lived on the west coast where she’s trying to make a name for herself in commercials. When Elliot lands in the hospital from his worst encounter with the bullies, he begins to come to terms with his bullying issues and his life. With the help of his mentor, Mr. Boardly, the school custodian, and two good friends, he works out a plan to deal with the bullies. Will he triumph and overcome? Read this crazy, sad, and funny book to find out.

What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve written four other books about bullying: two for children, one for parents, and one for teachers to use with their bully prevention classes. I believe that bullying is the biggest challenge of our generation and that we need to find solutions that work. Writing this book offered me a way to help address the problem. Of course, we have a long way to go, but I think we’re making progress.

I feel that kids, parents, and teachers can relate to Elliot K. Carnucci because I’ve seen bullying first hand in my stint as a teacher/department head, and disciplinarian. I also believe that the characters in the novel ring true because the school setting is one in which I’ve worked for many years. I know the pressures kids face and the challenges teachers and administrators encounter on a daily basis. I also thoroughly researched the funeral industry since Elliot lives in the funeral home his father operates. I believe that my middle grade novel has something for everyone: kids, parents, and grandparents. It gives some tips that can help kids in their fight against bullying and shows adults constructive ways to help kids. To get an idea of the book’s message, read my Amazon reviews.

When Nonna, my grandma, and I got home, Dad was standing in the reposing room (that’s where they lay out the dead bodies) admiring his hair and make-up job on his latest customer.
I moved close to the casket and peered in. “Didn’t Mr. Luisi have white hair?”
Nonna frowned. “White, black–he’s dead now. He doesn’t know the difference.”
Dad looked like he was in a trance. He slid Mr. Luisi’s trifocals down low on his nose, like he wore them when he read the sports page on his front porch, and straightened his plaid bow tie.
“Looks like he’s about to pop up and dance the Tarantella like he did at his daughter’s wedding,” Dad said to himself.
 Nonna poked Dad’s shoulder with her bony finger. His head spun around like Linda Blair in that movie, “The Exorcist.”
Dad looked at me all teary eyed. I didn’t know if he’d gotten emotional because of what he'd heard happened at school or if he was thrilled with the job he’d done on Mr. Luisi.
“Are you okay, Son?”
Nonna slammed her head with the palm of her hand.
“If you call being abused by a pack of punks okay, he’s fine.”
“I’ll live,” I said.

She motioned for me to follow her upstairs. Dad peeled off his rubber gloves and trudged up after us.

“Sit down,” Nonna said, offering me a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies. “Pour yourself a glass of milk. You’ll feel better.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve written a book called Cool Things to Do While a Bully’s Bugging You and am currently looking for a publisher. I’m also thinking about writing a kids’ self-help book called How to Get Along with the Adults in Your Life When You Just Want to Tell Them to Bug Off. I’ve traditionally published all of my books except for Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser, the subject of this interview. I felt that since it was somewhat controversial, I’d be better off self-publishing it. I’ve also published a prayer book for pre-teen and teenage girls called Hi, God, It’s Me: e-prayers for teenage girls after my publisher gave me back the e-rights. It’s a kid-friendly, non-preachy, non-denominational prayer book for all religions.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I knew I’d always write when I published an article in my local paper about my work as a young waitress (I was thirteen!) in a hot spot ice cream parlor in my neighborhood in suburban Philadelphia. It was called “I Was a Pig at Greenwood Dairies” and chronicled the fun my friends and I had making monster sundaes with six scoops of ice cream and every topping imaginable. Those who could demolish one of these “Pig’s Dinners” were awarded a coveted badge which proclaimed them pigs at Greenwood Dairies.

After I retired from the PhiIadelphia school system, I wrote a study guide about Cynthia Voigt’s young adult books for J. Weston Walch, an educational company; subsequently, the publisher accepted my grammar book called Grammar Workout. I’ve written many books since then and plan to write until I can no longer hammer out the words on my computer, which, I hope, is never.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write whenever I can. I’m an exercise nut (Zumba is my favorite), and always make time for that. I also like to read, cook, and visit my grandchildren.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My most interesting writing quirk is dreaming up a title to help me create a book. First the title enters my mind. Then the book begins to take shape directly from the title. Very few publishers have changed my titles because the titles always tell you exactly what my book is about. I think the title Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser is my wildest title yet. It’s also my favorite of all the books I’ve written. I hated to leave the characters behind and plan to write a sequel that takes place in the funeral home and deals with kids getting together to help each other with bullying problems. Mr. Boardly, Elliot’s mentor, was patterned after a beloved school custodian I worked with named Scotty. One of my daughters says I’m Nonna, the grandmother. However, I don’t think I’m quite as bossy or meddlesome as she is.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and a writer, and I was fortunate enough to have the honor of being both.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Please write to me on my website, I’d like to know what you think of Elliot and if you can relate to anyone in the story. I’d love to hear your readers’ feedback on any of my books.

Book links:

Thank you, Catherine! Readers, don’t forget to comment below if you’d like a chance to win the gift card.


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Catherine DePino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine DePino said...

Thanks, Lisa for hosting. I appreciate the opportunity to be on your blog.

Catherine DePino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Popple said...

I remember the Greenwood Dairies. When I was growing up, my family considered it a treat to go there for ice cream. None of us had the nerve to try the "Pig's Dinner." Thanks for a great interview and post. Barbara of the Balloons

Catherine DePino said...

Thanks for your comments about Greenwood Dairies, Barbara. I never tried the Pig's Dinner either. I used to make them though. We used six big scoops of three flavors of ice cream and topped them with every topping we could find and then smothered the whole thing with whipped cream. I couldn't believe how many people could finish them. Then they waddled out!

I appreciate your kind comments. Thanks very much.

Krysten Lindsay Hager said...

Interesting about picking the title first! Great interview

Mary Preston said...

A great interview thank you.


bn100 said...

Lovely interview

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