Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Author Spotlight - Award Winning Author Dr. Sherry L. Meinberg
on her award winning title...
The Cockroach Invasion
WHAT OTHER BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
I have published eleven nonfiction books total, so far, all on different subjects: Breadcrumbs for Beginners: Following the Writing Trail; Diabetes ABC; Imperfect Weddings are Best; Recess is Over! No Nonsense Strategies and Tips for Student Teachers and New Teachers; It’s All Thought! The Science, Psychology, and Spirituality of Happiness (Teacher’s Guide); Autism ABC; The Bogeyman: Stalking and its Aftermath; Toxic Attention: Keeping Safe from Stalkers, Abusers, and Intruders; Be the Boss of Your Brain! Take Control of Your Life; Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul (Story); Into the Hornet’s Nest: An Incredible Look at Life in an Inner City School.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?
When I was in the third grade, I would write stories at night, and my teacher would let me read them to the class the next morning. I loved sharing the adventures of the twins, Tizzy and Izzy. (I was shocked, in later years, to find that people actually had those names!). Unfortunately, I was an exceptional reader, and compared my beginner writings with those of adult professional authors. There was no comparison. So, at the tender age of seven, I decided that I couldn’t write. And I didn’t write, for another forty years. (I wasted all that time, when I could have been practicing!)
AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU ASPIRE TO BE?
Since I thought I could never be a writer, in the fifth grade, I decided to become an archaeologist. I even founded an Archaeology Club. My friends and I would meet at separate houses each month, and share books, articles, maps, and things we’d learned. And we had refreshments. I maintained a large scrapbook of our interests. My favorite motivating book was, The Complete Book of Marvels, by Richard Haliburton. It was fascinating! I held on to this dream, until around the 7th grade, when I found out that there was no running water at the digs. I was shaken to the core! Realizing that I wouldn’t be able to take bubble baths, I moved on to other interests. (My younger brother, however, also read the book, and caught the same history bug. And when he became older, he made 51 trips down into Aztec and Mayan territories, as an amateur archaeologist. (He had a large family, and businesses to run, so his passion became a hobby, instead of a career. He did, in fact, give many speeches about the topic and his adventures. One day, when he was visiting me from Oregon, he came across my old Archaeology scrapbook, and went nuts! He took that, and my beat-up copy of Haliburton’s book, and I never saw them again.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR TITLE?
The Cockroach Invasion says it all! The incident actually happened in my third grade classroom, years ago, and every time I thought of it, I laughed. So I decided to share the fun, and write about the invasion of kajillions of cockroaches that erupted out of Room 8’s classroom sink.
TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER.
The book publisher wanted each of the 21 small sketches on a separate disk, so I placed the disks in a tall black plastic canister, which didn’t allow marker ink to be seen. And the lid had a complicated handle on the top, so there was no way to add my name, or the title of the book. I couldn’t see how the publisher would be able to identify the title. So, I placed three realistic-looking cockroach stickers on the lid, thinking he could easily figure it out. I then took the canister to the Mail Service, so it could be carefully packed. When I got to the front of the line, I pushed the canister across the counter, and the owner freaked. Shouting, “You’ve got cockroaches!”, he waved his arms, back and forth, repeating himself as he backed up. His young female assistant, made gulping sounds, looking somewhat like a gasping fish, as she backed up alongside her boss. They both smacked into the wall behind them, and couldn’t go any further. They appeared to be terrified! During their histrionics, I was saying, “No, no, no, no,” while flapping my arms, trying to reason with them. Finally, when all else failed, I just started laughing. Because this was an unexpected response, they both calmed down, as I turned to address the long line people behind me, who were watching the nonsense with saucer-sized eyes. I simply explained, “I wrote a book about cockroaches,” as I shrugged my shoulders. Everyone was agog.
I left to drive to a local restaurant, where five friends were giving me a birthday lunch that day. I was so excited to tell them all about the fuss. I was laughing as I told the story. They, in turn, were horrified. All displayed prune faces. They looked like they had swallowed vinegar. After tackling serious subjects, for so many years, they couldn’t believe that I was going to write about cockroaches. They thought I had taken leave of my senses, and were not supportive in any way, shape, form, or fashion. Oh, well. They couldn’t deter me in the least, because I thought the story was funny, with great teaching possibilities.
The kicker was that almost a year later, I went back to the Mail Service, and gave the owner a printed copy of The Cockroach Invasion. We laughed about the incident together. Then he excitedly told me that when he took a step inside his shop that morning, there was a dead cockroach on the floor. He remembered me, and thought it might be a sign. And then, suddenly, I marched through the door!
WHICH AUTHOR HAS MOST GREATLY INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING STYLE?
I read a book a day (when I’m not writing, that is). And I always have two to six books going at a time. I read most anything and everything (except for horror, graphic medical and grisly autopsy scenes, or porn). As such, I’ve read tons of authors, and glean info from them all, even if it’s just, “Yikes! Don’t do this!” I wrote a book called Breadcrumbs for Beginners: Following the Writing Trail, which quotes scores of wonderful well-known authors.
WHAT BOOK HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE?
How can one book stand out among thousands upon thousands? Many have meant so much to me that I have bought them for others. But, in terms of long-term impact, I will go back to The Complete Book of Marvels, by Richard Haliburton.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT?
According to the FBI, I have the dubious honor of being the longest-stalked person in the nation (over 50 years). The bulk of my experiences happened before the word stalking was coined or understood, so no one knew what I was talking about. As such, I set about to raise awareness. I helped as many victims as possible, on a one-to-one basis, until the numbers became too great. So I wrote The Bogeyman: Stalking and its Aftermath (2003) which chronicles my personal experiences up to that point, as well as a companion How-To: Toxic Attention: Keeping Safe From Stalkers, Abusers, and Intruders (2003). I was interviewed on numerous radio, television, and cable stations. I spoke at many conferences, conventions, and organizations. I received a ton of press, but it was a half-page article in the Los Angeles Times, by Jill Stewart, that really got things rolling. Former students from all around California, began calling. They couldn’t believe that I was being stalked, when they were in my third grade classes, and were irate.
Many movie producers sent me letters, imploring me to sign their contracts. So many, in fact, that I had to hire a media lawyer to sift through them, and find the best representation. I then signed with the William Morris Agency, for a year. As we were finally going into production, the O.J. trial began, and that was the end of that. Everyone in the world knew who Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden were, and, sadly, no one knew me. So I was kicked to the curb (understandable from a business standpoint), and they both signed contracts.
Years later, one morning in 2011, I received a phone call from a man I didn’t know, and thinking it was at my stalker’s behest, I hung up on him. He called again later, and I hung up on him. When he called a third time in the afternoon, I gave him a big lecture, which he waited out. He then explained that he was a TV producer in New York, and wanted to film my book, for the Investigation Discovery Channel (ID). I was thrilled, thinking he was talking about my latest book. Our conversation was confusing, until I finally blurted out, “What book are you talking about?” Imagine my surprise! So, The Bogeyman became the Premier episode (12/12/12) of the Stalking: Someone’s Watching series. I’ve been told that it is their most popular rerun, and I can always tell when it is shown, because more copies are sold. (Not many people can say that they hung up on a producer!)
A side story: On October 4, 2014, I hung up on yet another man. He called back, wanting to talk to my husband. When he got on the phone, my husband paled. The caller was his long-lost son (that the family hadn’t heard from in 32 years)! He and his wife had been watching my TV show rerun (in Texas), in which both my husband and I were interviewed. The two discussed the situation, and decided to make contact. How exciting is that?! We immediately informed the rest of the family!
CAN YOU PROVIDE ANY TIPS FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
Perseverance is the best trait you can have. No matter what set-backs befall you, keep on truckin’. Move forward. Don’t take no for an answer. Let nothing deter you from your goal. Find a way to accomplish what you want. Stay positive.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO PROMOTE BOOKS?
Promotion is not my area of expertise. I suggest using all the free publicity you can find, before you start spending money on publicity. My latest book, The Cockroach Invasion, has nothing to do with Halloween, but it is a scary subject for most people, and the cover of the book is scary to many, so I saturated my publicity in October. I had a Book Signing, lengthy articles in two newspapers and one magazine, and ads in four newspapers. At the same time, it won six awards, so it was listed on six different websites.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEXT BOOK.
On the last page of The Cockroach Invasion (p.116), readers are invited to choose the next adventure, featuring Room 8 third graders. There are seven titles. All revolve around science and/or mysteries in some way (ants, worms, snails, experiments, trees, footprints, volcanoes), and are incidents that actually happened in my classroom over the years. If there is not enough interest shown, however, I will return to writing adult nonfiction.LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval http://www.clcawards.org