Monday, April 23, 2012

Interview with Author Debbie Gonzalez

We have a few special treats for our readers this week:
1) Our ongoing Blogiversary celebration and giveaway (times 3)!


2) a terrific interview with Guest Teaching Author Debbie Gonzalez. Enjoy!  -- Jeanne Marie

Debbie Gonzales is the author of eight “transitional” readers for New Zealand publisher, Giltedge.  A Montessori teacher, former school administrator, and curriculum consultant specializing in academic standards annotation, Debbie now devotes her time to various freelance projects, crafting her own works in progress, as well as serving the Austin SCBWI community as RA. Deb has earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from The Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a regular contributor for ReaderKidZ, a website dedicated to enhancing literacy for the K-5 crowd. To discover more about Deb and her various projects access and join in the fun!
First of all, thank you for inviting to me as a guest contributor. I’ve long been a fan of The work you all are doing is remarkable. I consider it an honor to know that what I have to say is of interest to this illustrious group. (A humbling honor, I might add.) I suppose, other than pecking away at my own works in progress, I bring two unique contributions to the kid-lit industry – book guides and the ones I’ve published – both of which I’m more than happy to discuss in this blog post.

When I’m crafting away at a guide, I’m often reminded of a caption on a poster I once read as a teen in the guidance counselors’ office. It said, “When you find your true vocation life is like a paid vacation.” And it’s true! I love creating crafts that compliment a story, or devising tools to illuminate aspects of literary theory with entertaining twist. I find using a book as fodder for deeper expression to be fascinating work. Isn’t it grand to be earning a wage by doing what you love to do? Aren’t we lucky people?

As a classroom teacher, I scoured countless guides and activity games in search of lessons that would enhance the reading experience for my students. I looked for clever games, interesting new ways to practice vocabulary, dramatic interpretation, and introspective discussion questions. And, when I connected with the content of a companion guide, I kept that particular book in a prominent place on my classroom bookshelf to be used time and time again. Like the good resources I used back then, I now work to create guides that will keep the book in the heart of the child reader and the hands of those who care for them – my mantra.

Every book presents its own angle for creative expression. Finding that angle is the fun of this vacation vocation. First, I search for quotes that best illustrate the author’s thematic intent and then build the guide’s content from there. I work to provide fun, cross-curricular, academically sound, self-explanatory activities that are quick and easy to implement at home or in a class room setting. I like to imagine kids, with books in hand, flipping through the pages in search of answers to discussion questions. As authors and illustrators, this is the ultimate goal, yes?

I invite you to look through the guides I’ve made thus far. They’re posted on my website at under the “Discussion Guides” tab. There you’ll find supplemental lessons for a number of picture and chapter books, middle grade and YA novels, non-fiction and academic references, and even an app! And I’m excited about the ones that I am currently working on, two of which have a wonderfully sinister Halloween theme. Can’t wait!

Regarding my own books, I’ve published a number of Word Detective Readers with an extraordinary press from New Zealand. (No surprise that my entry into publication would be with an educational press, right?) These early readers are a part of an elaborate diagnostic curriculum incorporating phonetics, word study, reading, and writing. The product’s content astounding. (I know this for a fact, as I have annotated each and every item in conjunction with the Texas, California, and the New York academic standards.) And, as an appealing plus, the program includes a fascinating pen with highly specialized camera lens that reads the text aloud in multiple languages. That’s right. Hindi, Mandarin, Spanish, Italian, whatever you fancy. The language is downloaded from the computer into the pen. The reader taps the text with the tip of the pen and the written words become multi-lingual!

I’m proud to play a role in bringing The Word Detective series and other GiltEdge products to the states. Joy Allock, the program’s creator, has been invited to speak at IRA this year. She’s absolutely brilliant, charming, and possesses an unfathomable passion for literacy. In short, she’s a ‘joy’ to be with. We’ll have booth at the convention, too. If you’re attending IRA, come by and see us.

Thanks, once again, for the opportunity to serve as a guest blogger with TeacherAuthors. Together, let’s make a difference in the lives of young readers by supporting those who teach. Sound good?


Carmen Oliver said...

Brilliant! Yes, let's continue to support the young readers and the divine that teach them! Well said, Deb!

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Oh, thank you, Debbie, for sharing yourself with our TeachingAuthors readers!
You're An Important Somebody to Know for children's book creators: you help us connect with our readers in meaningful ways!
I'll be looking for you at IRA!

Ann Jacobus said...

Great interview, Teaching Authors, of a dedicated and ingenious teaching author. Thanks!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Do you believe in miracles? Or at least Amazing Occurences?

I just met two terrific ladies, Debbie and Joy, on the shuttle to the airport at the end of IRA.

Somehow made the TeachingAuthors connection: it was Debbie Gonzales and Joy Allock!