Monthly Archives: February 2009

Spotlight Interview: Terry Centrone

terry-centroneWhere are you from and what is your background? I am a retired schoolteacher. I taught for thirty-four years in the elementary grades in upstate NY. I worked mostly K-5 but also was lucky enough to teach language skills the last four years of my career. I taught internationally in the Shanghai American School for a short time. When I returned, I worked with remedial students helping them improve their reading, writing, and language skills.

When and why did you begin writing? When I retired, I began to write because I finally had the time. The gift of retirement also motivated me to go for it.

What is your genre? I like writing for children because they are so appreciative and so sensitive to others’ feelings. I always loved when my students shared their work or expressed joy over something they had just read. My classroom was always filled with books, which also inspired me. The first book I wrote was published in 2007. How Not to be a Bully Target took me a year and a half to put together. It was written for elementary and middle school classrooms but individuals also have found it informative. It is part story and part workbook. It empowers children to stand up to bullies and encourages those who are not bullied, to refuse it. It can be found on my website www.stopthosebullies.com, and it can be ordered from www.youthlightbooks.com. Writers can reach me at tc@stopthosebullies.com. I’d like to hear other bully stories especially from kids.

What inspires you to write? Bullying—because it is a huge problem in our schools and our society. I have chosen to deal with through writing. I think society is unknowingly teaching children to be bullies. It is a major message in a lot of video games, it is shown as humor in comedy shows and cartoons, and becomes front-page news when kids go wild.

How has geographic travel played a role in your writing life? When teaching in China, I had students from all over the world. They seemed to get along well and in fact, were very mature and self-disciplined. It inspired me to bring that awareness here, through my writing.

Do you consider yourself a serious author? If you mean, do I write every day at a specific time, the answer is—no. But if you mean, do I write almost every day for several hours and do I love it, the answer is—yes. Really, the answer is in the hands of the readers.

Who or what has been your most significant influence? The authors of the books I read to my primary and elementary students everyday. I could name many but some favorites are Patricia Reilly Giff, Cynthia DeFelice, Roald Dahl, Patricia Polacco, Kate DiCamillo, and Sandra Cisneros.

Would you describe your writing as a career?Maybe second career.

Who is your favorite author and what do you enjoy about their work? Those I already listed impress me. They take me to places I never would have gone if I hadn’t read their works. They write like I want to write.

Who are you reading now? Sylvia Boorstein, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Donna Eden, Kate DiCamillo and Thich Nhat Hanh. I want to draw more happiness into my life.

How have your life experiences affected your writing? I am still dealing with bullies in my life.

Does your writing relate to your community? I used the school playground (where I taught) as the scene for the first bully attack in my book. The setting of the story is a small town in upstate NY.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since you began writing? Be different, be clever, be spontaneous, and be very persistent.

Do you have a specific writing process? No, I love a blank page but I am addicted to revision. I can’t stop.

Describe your writing space. I call it “The Office” but it is a combination room. On one side there is a huge mirror behind my computer so I can see the world outside as I write. Then beneath the window, I have my table and my tools where I make wire wrapped jewelry.

What advice do you have for other writers? Be clever, be bold, be different, but mostly be really good at your craft.

Give us your thoughts about the benefits and challenges of being a writer in the Southern Finger Lakes Region? The peace and tranquility of living in this gorgeous region of NYS is such a benefit. The challenge is that everything is a long drive away and making connections with others in the same field can be difficult.

From your point of view, what is the best-kept literary (or arts) related secret in the Southern Finger Lakes Region? There is a wonderful treasure of authors in our area. There are so many types of writing being done locally but rarely are authors brought together. Seldom are we given exposure as a group. We do not exhibit our works, as do visual artists, in a show. To get our writing known we often promote it ourselves or on the Internet. I recommend we have an Annual Southern Finger Lakes Region Writers’ Exhibition where authors can offer signings and sales to local readers. That way, writers can link up and form new and meaningful writers’ groups and connect and learn from those who have been more successful.

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