Please help me welcome Author Dawn Menge to my blog this morning. Welcome and good morning, Dawn.
Can you tell us your name and a little bit about yourself?
Good morning, Queenie, Thank you so much for interviewing me for your Blog. My name is Dr. Dawn Menge and I am the author of the educational series titled, “Queen Vernita’s Visitors.” There are nine books in the series and I’m in the process of releasing my tenth. The basic format of my book teaches basic math skills incorporating the days of the week, months of the year, and seasons. Queen Vernita, the majestic “Queen of the Kingdom of Oceaneers” invites twelve of her friends to explore different regions of her Kingdom. One new friend for each month of the year will accompany the Queen as she learns seven facts about the flora or fauna of the area.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I have been teaching students with severe cognitive delays for almost twenty years. I also love to travel and spend time with my five beautiful grandchildren and their parents.
When did you first start writing, and when did you finish your first book?
The original “Queen Vernita” was an assignment in a math class I took while earning my teaching credential. We were asked to create a math book and game to help our students learn different math concepts. The original Queen Vernita included my students at the time. We participated in a grant project from Cal Poly and traveled throughout the high desert performing little skits for the preK-1st graders. I would then go back the next day and answer any questions the students had about our students. We had a great time expanding the knowledge base for the general education students. We were published in the Exceptional Parent Magazine during their School Days promotion.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I have a credential in preschool, my mother was a Kindergarten teacher for twenty-five years and I spent many years helping her in her classroom. I also have a credential and Master’s as an education specialist specializing in students with Moderate to Severe disabilities.
Where do you get your ideas?
As I transitioned from my math assignment into publishing my book for the public, I changed from my students to using the children in our family. I figured they were too little to complain. After, my first book was published I received an award for first place from EVVY (The CIPA EVVYs is one of the longest-running book award competitions on the Indie publishing scene, running for nearly 26 years. The annual contest is sponsored by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), along with the CIPA Education and Literacy Foundation (ELF) and started to interview on Podcasts. The subject came up frequently about when I would be publishing my next book, and people in my life were very excited to be included in each book to come. The Queen Vernita’s series has since won thirty-one literacy awards including; Story Monster Approved, Mom’s Choice, Reader’s Favorites, Readers Views, American Children’s Book Society Scooter Award and an A+ rating from the American Children’s Book Society as a first time published author. My ideas come from actual experiences I have in my life and travels.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes, I originally had a goal to publish one book per year, but I have not been able to follow this goal in recent years due to outside factors. I am excited to be back to writing the Queen Vernita’s series.
While I was experiencing this writer’s block, I spent my time learning more about the publishing industry. I became a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the United States Board on Books for Young Children (USBBYC). I became a state Ambassador for the USBBY and was appointed to their committee to choose the Outstanding Books for Young People for/about disabilities. I attended many writing workshops and conferences and I began to pitch another story that I wrote to publishers and agents.
While attending a SCBWI conference during my writers block, I heard an amazing speech given by Kwame Alexander. He calls it his “Yes” speech. Say yes to everything, gain new experiences, and one experience leads to another. This is exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I have done just that and I recently joined his launch team for his newest release “Swing”. I drove to Hollywood to hear him speak at a small bookstore there.
I helped to paint a mural in our local downtown with an international illustrator named Phil Yeh. We had him come to my classroom and create a mural titled, “Building a World of Reader’s, Artists & Dreamers.” He co-found the Cartoonists Across America to increase literacy through the arts.
I also traveled to Sacramento, California to work with the California Department of Education (CDE) and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to create and evaluate testing items that are given to our students with severe cognitive delays. This work was very intense and many passionate discussions were created between the CDE, ETS and the teachers on how to best serve and test our students. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and analysis that were created through these collaborations.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I participate in Library functions, I present to schools, I also have had interviews and I am an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I am excited to be releasing my ninth educational book in the Queen Vernita series titled, “Queen Vernita Conquers the Volcanic Islands.” In this book the Queen explores volcanoes, makes flower leis for her friends class, dives into a shark cage, and also learns about Autism and Rett Syndrome.
I will be attending the Book Expo of America in New York City with Archway Publishing, which is an imprint of Simon and Schuster. There will be a special author party and I will have the opportunity to meet and speak to other authors and publishers during this visit.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
All of Queen Vernita’s adventures are based on my real life experiences. My grandmother, the original Queen Vernita was a world traveler and founded a credit union. She was a very proper woman who was very supportive of her grandchildren completing college. My father taught me that anything can be accomplished with hard work and integrity. My mother gave me the travel bug by raising me camping and then taking me on my first adventure to Tahiti, and I’ve never looked back.
What project are you working on now?
I have begun working on my next book in the series titled, “Queen Vernita travels on a train to the Great Ravine.” It’s is centered on a trip twenty family members took from Williams Arizona to the Grand Canyon. We then rode the Polar Express. It was a memorable trip especially since it snowed at the Grand Canyon.
When I first began participating in Book readings, I was able to visit over 10 libraries within Southern California during their summer reading program. It was a great experience for a beginning author. I would read Queen Vernita’s Visitors engaging the children in reciting the days of the week and months of the year. Then each boy, girl and sometimes parents made a Queen Vernita crown. I have also been the visiting author for my Alma Mater school district during their Young Authors Conference for the past eight years. This is a great opportunity to encourage creative writing with our youth. Each child brings their published book for me to read and sign. It is one of my greatest joys to hear, “I’d like to buy your newest adventure, I read your book every night.” There is also a young man who has won each year, from Kindergarten to 4th grade.
Do you have any events that you are participating in?
An author event at the Norman F. Feldheym library in San Bernardino on May 4, 2019 and The Snowline Young Authors Conference in May.