Monday, September 6, 2010

New Authors' Perceptions: Fact or Fiction?

By Dawn Menge

“On Wednesday, Judy and Queen Vernita learned that whales breathe through a hole on the top of their head called a blowhole.”

“Everyone knows that!” Replied the cutest eight year old.

“On Monday, Dawn learned that Bald Eagle’s feathers are white on top. That is why they are called Bald Eagles.”

“Everyone knows that too!” She chimed in again.

At that point I had no choice but to giggle. I was attending my fourteenth event this summer. I had been traveling throughout the Southern California Libraries reading each of my two award winning educational books. I honestly felt the same way she did. Hadn’t we heard this story before? So, I agreed with her and kept on reading.

I was so glad when I finished, it can be very disheartening to have a child critique your work. As I was cleaning up my things feeling less than successful the librarian came over very excited. She wanted to know when I would be available for another reading. It seems that people had been calling her during my reading to find out how long I would be there, the library had never had so many people at a children’s reading before. She had immediately called the head librarian to let her know how successful the event had been! I left the event feeling puzzled on my own perception of the evening.

My grandmother who is 89 is the main character in the Queen Vernita series, we thought it would be a wonderful addition to the two events I had on the same day in San Diego County if she came. She was more than thrilled at meeting all of the little children, sitting in front of them as they politely listened to me read. Helping with the crafts afterwards, being interviewed by the local newspaper and having her picture taken over and over again. At the end of our second event we spent the night at a local bed and breakfast. We happily went to bed early from pure exhaustion. As we got up the next morning to have breakfast the hotel owner stopped us and said, ‘I saw you in the newspaper”.

“Yes, we were at the library yesterday.” I said. He turned to my grandmother and said, “You are the Queen.”

“Why, yes I am.” She smiled radiantly.

He then pulled out the newspaper article and asked us both to sign it. He said he was creating a display of the famous people who had stayed in his bed and breakfast. My grandmother was tickled pink by this comment. I on the other hand went straight back to the memory of little girl who had all the answers. Perception, perception!

As a new author of only two years I have found the experiences I have had to be a constant roller coaster ride of emotions. I published my first book just as an extension of my profession as an educator. It won two awards within months and received great reviews. Many of the reviews began to ask when the next one was coming out. I then wrote my second one on my adventures in Alaska.

My third in the series was written with my brother whose expertise is astronomy. They say you should write what you know, my books are about my background, family, friends and traveling. That I have found to be the most rewarding part for me as an author.

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the Right to Literacy signing event at its only stop in Southern California. We were given the privilege of signing the scroll at the San Bernardino City Library.

The Declaration for the Right to Literacy begins:

It is a truth held evident by our United States Declaration of Independence: that all men [and women] are created equal, and thus shall have the opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. To preserve these rights, we, residents of the United States of America, designate "literacy" as the foundation of such principles and organize our powers to enable every person to affect that ideal. In that pursuit, we acknowledge and agree, as we did in Seneca Falls in 1848 and again 100 years later as part of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, that education shall be guaranteed for all members of the human family - men, women and children. The realization of this vision requires that all residents, regardless of age or status, be able to read and write in order to participate fully and equitably in our democracy . . . .

I spent the day next to other award-winning local authors. Many of which have accomplished so much. The ladies beside me had a PBS special created to promote their book, another author wrote a book about her daughter who had ADHD, another created her own publishing company, and then there was Phil Yeh, a very famous cartoonist and activist. I had such a wonderful day; I was in a whole new world and loving it.
Success comes in many forms. For me the process of writing, sharing, building on the educational foundation for our children and expanding myself professionally and personally are the rewards. Do what you love and love what you do!

Dawn Menge is the award-winning author of the educational series Queen Vernitas Visitors, Queen Vernita visits the Blue Ice Mountains and Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer. Dawn Menge holds a clear credential and masters in special education and is a doctoral candidate at Capella University in curriculum and instruction. She is employed by San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools and has taught the severely handicapped for over a decade.

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