Barbara Puccia, author.
Mrs. Puccia has done something very positive with something that is very negative - bullying. It affected her growing up and she has seen it affect her own daughter. She then channeled this into creating the world of Samantha Smartypants.
And now, Mrs. Puccia is sharing the stories of Samantha in fun and entertaining ways and hopes to get kids to think how they treat each other.
RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM: You have written a children's book about a character named "Samantha Smartypants." Tell us about her.
BARBARA PUCCIA: Samantha Smartypants is a character I developed for my first book, SAMANTHA SMARTYPANTS RUNS FOR CLASS PRESIDENT. I wanted to continue her journey through my second and future books. She is a kid who's academically smart but awkward and not too sure of herself. She gets teased for being smart.
This is somewhat autobiographical, as I was teased when I was in elementary school. My daughter was an avid reader in school and not involved in sports and was teased as well. So the issue is pretty important to me.
The new book, SAMANTHA SMARTYPANTS AND THE SLIPPERY SLOPE is set in a ski resort. I was an avid skier while growing up, and so is my husband and both my daughters.
So using that setting seemed very natural for me.
RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM: Bullying seems like this is "fuel for the fire" of you writing the story. Could you talk a little more about it?
BARBARA PUCCIA: Yes, as I said before, my own experience, as well as that of my daughter and other students in her classes did fuel my interest in writing this story. I watched my daughters growing up, and saw how much "being popular" meant to the kids, especially girls from 3rd grade through middle school and even into high school.
The issue of teasing is prevalent in both books, but more important in SLIPPERY SLOPE, is the idea that people judge other people by how they look and make assumptions based on that.
In the story, Sophia, the student with cerebral palsy, is assumed to be "dumb" because she's in a wheelchair, can't talk very well, drools, and holds her arm at a weird angle. To the surprise of the other students as well as Samantha, Sophia turns out to be very smart. The other issue in both books is the idea that even though something is very hard, you shouldn't give up.
If you want to do it badly enough you can, you just have to work really hard at it.
RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM: Getting into the basic mechanics of the writing process, how long did it take you to complete this?
BARBARA PUCCIA: I got the idea for the book about a year ago, but I didn't actually start writing anything until last Spring. I finished the first draft by early July. Then I sent it out to advance readers, including elementary school teachers, librarians, fellow authors, and most importantly third-going-into-fourth grade students.
Because there is a character in the book with cerebral palsy, I also sent it out to a pediatric physiatrist who works with that population, and the Chief Clinical Officer at United Cerebral Palsy of Hudson County.
After getting everybody's feedback, I revised the manuscript multiple times, finalized it, and sent it out for review by the end of August.
RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM: Very cool! Why independently publish?
BARBARA PUCCIA: Independent publishing has gained a lot of momentum in the past few years. It is no longer looked down upon and is now accepted by major reviewers. It gives me a lot of freedom in choosing my own illustrator, and editing the book according to the readers I choose. It also means I can make my own schedule and deadlines and can get the book out faster than with a traditional publisher.
Certainly more and more writers are turning to indy publishing. I'm not sure it will ever fully replace traditional publishing, but I think a lot of great books come out of the indy world that would otherwise not have been published.
That being said, I would certainly love for a traditional publisher to pick up this series and help with its marketing and promotion.
RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM: Finally, when can we expect the next book?
BARBARA PUCCIA: I've made a tentative goal for myself to write at least one book per year. I probably won't start writing the next one until the spring since I will be busy this fall with author visits to schools, libraries, and brownie troops.
As of now, I have no idea what it will be about. I do know it will be another Samantha book and include many of the same characters from the previous two books!
RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM: Well, we are looking forward to it! Thanks for being with us!
BARBARA PUCCIA: Thank you for doing this and I will see you later.
To find out more about Barbara Puccia and her friend Samantha Smartypants, visit her at www.samanthasmartypants.com and on Twitter @barbpuccia.
Images courtesy of Barbara Puccia.