Greetings Friends! Please help me in welcoming Catherine DePino today! Catherine is the author of a new book for middle schoolers about bullying: Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book about Bullying
I think that all of us who work with children and/or have children are concerned about this topic.
(Catherine is offering a $20 Amazon gift card to a random commenter, so be sure to comment below!)
The kids at Ralph Bunche Middle School love to pick on Elliot Kravitz-Carnucci. He struggles with his weight, looks like a geek, makes top honors, and lives above the Carnucci Home for Funerals in South Philadelphia with his distant, workaholic father and Nonna, his quirky, overbearing grandmother.
Since his parents divorced, he splits spending his time with his funeral director father and his mother Rayna, who dreams of becoming the queen of commercials on the west coast.
At the hands of his peers, Elliot experiences a series of bullying episodes that escalate from entrapment in a school supply closet to a brutal “swirly” (head dunk in the toilet) that lands him in the hospital emergency room.
Elliot has a small circle of loyal friends and a mentor named Duke, an aging school custodian, who root for him to overcome his bullying issues so that he can enjoy his life as a teenager and a budding singer/performer. Can Elliot win his fight against the nasty bullies, or is he doomed forever? Read this funny, sad, and crazy book to find out.
And to give you a little taste, here’s an excerpt:
What were they planning to do to me? Had they all gone over the edge? I tried to scream, but all that came out from under the gag was Mmmmmmmmm.
Most of the teachers and staff had already left to get an early start on spring break. Duke was probably somewhere in the building, though, giving the place a final once over before locking up. His doctor had told him to slow down after the tests proved he had lung cancer, but it only made him work longer hours.
Kyle slammed me on the back. “Tell you what, promise not to open your mouth and I’ll take the gag off.”
I nodded yes like my head was going to roll off.
He untied the gag, and I heaved in a gulp of air.
“We don’t want you to suffocate when your head hits the water.”
Were they going to throw me in the river? Drown me? Could they be that crazy?
I tried to make a run for it, but Kyle caught me before I could make it to the door. His biceps bulged like baseballs from his lean arms. How I wished I’d added weight lifting to my fitness routine.
Canfield looked at his friends. “Part of the fun is the anticipation. Right, guys?”
Why couldn’t they look at me?
I heard on the news that when you’re threatened if you call a person by name, maybe he’ll act more human and be less likely to hurt you. Was it worth a try?
“Kyle, you don’t want to do this…”
An Interview with the Author:
Where are you from?
I’m from Bucks County, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. However, I consider myself more of a city person because for most of my life I’ve worked in city high schools and then at Temple University in Philadelphia as a student teaching supervisor. We also have a home in Ocean City New Jersey, which bills itself “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”
Tell us your latest news.
I’m thinking of writing a book for pre-teens and teenagers about getting along with adults, something along the lines of How to Get Along with the Adults in Your Life When You Just Want to Tell Them to Bug Off. With all my books, whether fiction or non-fiction, I always start with a title and then flesh out the idea. It’s easier that way. That’s how I got the idea for my book for retired women that recently came out. It’s called Fire Up Your Life in Retirement: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves.
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing poetry as a child and dreamed of writing all my life. But raising a family and working full time left little time for writing. I began by writing essays for my local paper about womens’s issues. My first one was called “I May be Over the Hill, but I’m not Dead Yet.” At around the same time, I started writing magazine articles. My first one was a coming-of-age essay about my three daughters for Christian Science Monitor.
After retiring from my job as department head and teacher at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, one of the first all-girls public schools in the country, I queried J. Weston Walch, an educational publisher about writing a grammar book that teachers could use with middle school and ESL students. The company didn’t need a grammar book, but asked if I would be interested in writing a study guide for the works of Cynthia Voigt, a YA writer. Of course, I said yes. A little later, they accepted my book, Grammar Workout.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve written poetry and stories since I was a small child. I first thought of myself as a writer when I published my very first newspaper article for a weekly paper about working at the age of 13 in an ice cream parlor that was the hot spot back then. When you devoured their gigantic sundae with six mega scoops of ice cream and five syrupy toppings, capped with a mountain of whipped cream called “The Pig’s Dinner,” the restaurant awarded you a button that boasted “I was a Pig at Greenwood Dairies. “ Of course, that became my article’s title.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I consider my first book the grammar book because it was my own idea and not one the publisher commissioned. I wrote it using a sports metaphor because I’m deeply involved in exercise. I’ve Jazzercised for many years, and Zumba is my passion these days. It exercises every part of your body, and you can lose yourself in the exotic moves and music. As with all my books, the title inspired the book. Just as exercise is fun if you find the type you love, grammar can prove rewarding too. Since that time I’ve written more grammar books. My latest one, Excuse Me, Your Participle’s Dangling: How to Use Grammar to Make Your Writing Powers Soar, targets adults and ESL students.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, I write as if I’m sitting right next to the person reading the book and talking to that person one-on-one. With Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser, I asked myself: What would the bully say to Elliot? How would Elliot react to the kids who bugged him? I also pay particular attention to body language and gestures and try to figure out ways to enhance the story by using them to reinforce the characters’ conversations.
How did you come up with the title?
Elliot came to me as a flesh and blood person; I knew how he’d look before I wrote about him. The artist did a great job of depicting him on the cover; that’s exactly how he appeared in my mind’s eye. Then I asked myself what a bully might call Elliot based on his appearance. However, to me, Elliot is the antithesis of a loser. He’s a fighter and a winner all the way.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want kids who read it to see that they can come out on top of a bullying situation. They have to be willing to work hard to stave off bullies, even though it’s not their fault and it’s totally unfair. They need to keep parents, teachers, administrators, and counselors informed every step of the way. Also, schools need to get involved by providing effective bully prevention programs and working with families to help bullied children. Above all, parents need to watch out for signs their child is being bullied and act quickly to take steps to stop the problem. I also want kids to know that no bullying situation is ever hopeless.
How much of the book is realistic?
Much of the book is based on bullying situations I’ve personally witnessed and about what kids told me about their own bullying problems.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? I used schools I’ve worked in as the setting. Like the assistant principal, Dr. Greely, I worked in discipline and dealt with kids’ problems, so I’ve patterned conversations with him after those that I’ve seen in the office with other disciplinarians. Mr. Boardly, Elliot’s mentor, is based on Scotty, a caring custodian I met at Lincoln High School in Philly. He always helped students and teachers whenever a problem plagued them. Tragically, he died crossing a busy highway when his car became disabled. I will always remember him. My kids tell me that I’m Nonna Elliot’s grandmother. I wonder if that’s good or bad! You be the judge.
I also want to mention that I didn’t know much about the funeral business before writing the story, much of which takes place in the funeral home where Elliot and his family live. but I found it fascinating to research the profession. I disvocvered that people who deal with death on a daily basis appreciate every moment and live life to the fullest more than most people.
What books have most influenced your life most?
My favorite writer is Shakespeare. No one was able to portray characters and the spectrum of human emotions as he has, especially in his tragedies. I also love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing, particularly Gatsby for its timeless wisdom and universality. J.D. Salinger’s quirky characters deeply influenced Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser. I also have to say that James Joyce’s writing is hauntingly beautiful. My favorite short story of all time is “The Dead.” I aspire to create memorable characters like the ones in his stories.
Here’s a bit more about the author:
Catherine DePino has sold thirteen books for parents, teachers, and children to mainstream publishers. She self-published her fourteenth book, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying because she wanted to give it a wider forum. Her background includes a BS in English and Spanish education, a Master’s in English education, and a doctorate in Curriculum Theory and Development and Educational Administration from Temple University. The author worked for many years as an English teacher, department head of English and world languages, disciplinarian, and curriculum writer in the Philadelphia School District. After this, she worked at Temple as an adjunct assistant professor and student teaching supervisor.
Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer.
For many years she served on the board of The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She holds membership in the Association of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Her new self-help book, 101 Easy Ways for Women to De-Stress, Reinvent, and Fire Up Your Life in Retirement,appeared on the market in March, 2014.
Some links for you:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/C.Spinelli.DePino
Fire Up Your Life: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves
Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying
I’m glad you visited today. Don’t forget to comment; I’d love one of my readers to win the prize!
And as always, thanks for stopping by!