Below is the recent interview with Donna Zappala conducted by Meagan Mehan reprinted from Blasting News.
Donna M. Zappala is an author of picture books and a teacher who resides in New Jersey with her husband, three daughters, and a dachshund. Donna loves chocolate, walking, and going to the beach. She also reads her books aloud at schools and organizations, such as aquariums. Recently, she spoke about her experiences as an author and her hopes for the future.
Blasting News [BN]: How did you become an author?
Donna Zappala [DZ]: I noticed that there was an absence of books available that enhanced the topics I planned to teach. I decided to write educational and entertaining picture books that are useful in classrooms.
[BN]: What books inspired you?
[DZ]: I truly enjoyed reading books written by classic authors such Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss and Margaret Wise Brown. I read “The Giving Tree” over and over. I loved that the tree had unconditional love for the boy. I remember thinking what wonderful friends the tree and the boy were. I wished I had a tree to hang out with when I was lonely. Of course, I loved books by Dr. Suess; I read “Green Eggs and Ham” so much that the book wore out and my parents needed to buy me a new one. Perhaps it was because of the rhyme, rhyme, rhyme. Oh, how I wanted to taste some green eggs and ham before it became popular to do so!
[BN]: How many books have you written?
[DZ]: I have written five children’s books thus far. Each are fictional stories with non-fictional facts woven in. All have been published by Dragonfly Publishing, Inc. ALBERT’S PERFECT PET was my first book published. It’s about a boy searching for a pet and teaches readers the differences between warm and cold blooded animals. GABBY AND THE TOOTH FAIRY teaches kids the types and names of teeth and the global customs associated with the tooth fairy. WHAT KIND OF TURTLE AM I? is one of my most popular books and an award winner. It teaches the difference between turtles, terrapins, and tortoises. IZZY’S CROSSING is about how turtles lay eggs. IZZY’S HATCHLINGS focuses on baby turtles. These books teach kids about the real issues that turtles face in a fun storybook-style way. I also published BUNNY’S VEGETABLE GARDEN and SOCKS in the Humpty Dumpty/US Kids Magazine.
[BN]: What is your dream project?
[DZ]: I already completed my dream project! I always wanted to be a writer and I am one! I was able to publish books that children enjoy as well as learn from. I feel very lucky to have published pieces in children’s magazine also. It is a wonderful experience to see my words in print and meet readers who absorb those words!
[BN]: What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?
[DZ]: To date, the most rewarding part of being an author is receiving feedback from young fans. I enjoy hearing what students think and feel about my books. I received a message from a reader a while back that thanked me for teaching him the different types of turtles. He mentioned how much he loves turtles and how he hopes to help turtles when he grows up. It was very touching. However, the ending was worth every rejection I receive as a writer. He ended his note with I really liked your hair too! I was also lucky to find my illustrator, Marco Serido.
[BN]: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
[DZ]: Still writing! I will possibly branch out into genres. I am a fan of young adult books and would be willing to explore that area. I also would love to write for other children book publishers and children’s magazines. I love writing for different types of media because I am able to use a variety of formats. I am also able to reach diverse audiences.
[BN]: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
[DZ]: Be true to yourself. Write about what you are passionate about rather than trying to keep up with what is popular. Be prepared for rejection, it’s a big part of writing children’s books. Seek out critique groups and join organizations like SCBWI. It’s helpful to stay connected.