Me: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Barbara: Right now I am a retired teacher who is also an author. I used to tutor, but my husband’s health took me out of that and now I spend my days basically trying to get over my husband’s passing. He died on May 2nd and since then I am getting over it slowly. Each day I feel better and better. What I miss most is his opinion, because he was my mirror and now I have my adult daughters who live with me. They are good, but it isn’t the same. We knew each other over 50 years and we were married for 48 years. It’s hard after so long to extricate yourself and become a separate person. I find that activities I used to like to do alone I do with someone else. I used to like silence, but now I try to have sound around me. Grief is hard and as Joan Didion said, it comes in waves.
Me: I am so sorry for your loss. You continued your writing through his illness?
Barbara: Yes. My second novel, After, is in line edits now. That should be released in the fall from MuseItUp Publishing.
I am working on my third novel, Footsteps on the Sand, which is about a sixteen year old boy whose parents inherit his grandfather’s beach house in the Hamptons. He finds his grandfather’s ghost when he has a surfing accident the first time he tries to surf. As the summer goes along his grandfather’s ghost accompanies him wherever he goes. I am not finished with it yet; though the novel is finished I am adding in the ghost. Also as in all my novels, there is a romance. I plan to go to a workshop to work on this in the fall.
Me: You said you were a teacher? That must have been such a privilege, to be part of so many young lives. What were the best things about it? Was there ’anything you disliked about it?
Barbara: I loved when I was able to get through to children and they learned and enjoyed what they learned. I also liked working with children who were having difficulty and finally having them understand what they had tried so long to learn. Working with children who had problems with reading and then seeing them read was the best. That’s why I decided to become a Reading Specialist.
Teaching is a hard profession. In elementary school you are in a room with these children most of the day and it can get pretty hectic. I didn’t like when kids didn’t listen to me and I was not a disciplinarian so this was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t like administration breathing down my neck and then judging me by watching me for only one lesson. I didn’t like all the paperwork and how much time it takes to plan a good functioning program. I used to work for at least three hours at night on planning and grading papers. I didn’t like that I had no freedom to use my own materials in my last position. Actually now that teaching is so regulated by the administration the freedom to teach is slowly dwindling away. There is so much bureaucracy in teaching that it is more lockstep and teaching to the tests now. I am glad I am not teaching now.
Me: I’ve heard a lot of teachers say that. It sounds stifling, as if all children are the same. Round pegs and square holes comes to mind. A real shame.
How did the idea for “If I could be like Jennifer Taylor” come about?
Barbara: I wanted to join a children’s writing workshop for credit for my Masters at Manhattanville College. They had this Creative Writing Week every summer and this year Paula Danziger, one of my literary heroes, was teaching the workshop. In order to be a part of it you had to submit three pages of a novel. I got the idea from my daughter, who was having an eating disorder at that time and who had issues about her body. The main part of her problem was her body so I made that my character’s problem too and used another character to portray the other part of her problem. Of course, the other character had a much more serious problem than my daughter’s. During the workshop, which I did get into, Paula Danziger read my pages and wrote CUT over most of what I had written. After I had rewritten it with her suggestions I realized this was something I wanted to write about further. Having learned about character development and plot development in the workshop I finished the story. Though I needed to go to a bootcamp for help with Jennifer’s plot line. Paula was very supportive as I was writing the story. That is why I dedicated the book to her. Unfortunately, she passed away before it was accepted and published. But her guidance was very important to me.
Me: Tell us more about the book.
Barbara: Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn’t help. When she is paired for a math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain. With Carolyn’s crush on Jennifer’s hunky junior quarterback, Brad her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. When Jennifer is the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer’s silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can’t be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to spend the night to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer’s secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer’s secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again?
Me: I remember High School. I can so relate to Carolyn’s desire to be popular.
Do you have a favourite part of the story?
Barbara: Yes, I do. I love the ending, because Carolyn finally realizes something very important that she never knew. I can’t tell you or it would spoil the story, but this part always makes me cry. I always wonder how something I have read and worked on so much can make me cry, but I think it’s because of the closure of the whole thing. I love endings that bring closure.
Me: Sounds intriguing. Where can we find the book?
Here are the links:
Your readers can also follow me here:
My Blog: Barbara’s Meanderings:
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit me today.