Author Spotlight: Anthony L. Manna
January 8, 2021
We are thrilled to feature author Anthony L. Manna and his illustrated middle grade fantasy, LOUKAS AND THE GAME OF CHANCE, illustrated by Donald Babisch (Mascot Books, 2019).
Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I’m a retired literacy professor. My teaching and research centered on literacy development among children and teens. Reading, writing, speaking—with a focus on drama—and critical thinking were the topics that occupied me for years in universities and schools in the U.S.A. and in several countries overseas. One specific concentration was—and remains—literature for children, tweens, and teens. Having read, analyzed, critiqued, and recommended all types of books over the years—books I loved—I decided to try my hand at story writing for young readers. How does one craft an interesting story?
Congrats on your debut, Loukas and the Game of Chance. Tell us about the book and what inspired you.
Loukas and the Game of Chance (Mascot Books, 2019), my award-winning illustrated fantasy, for readers ages 8 & up, is actually my fourth children’s book. It is preceded by two award-winning co-authored picture books: Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale (Atheneum/Anne Schwartz, 1997) and The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2011), both illustrated by Giselle Potter. I also co-authored Folktales from Greece: A Treasury of Delights (Libraries Unlimited, 2002), an anthology of twenty stories, illustrated with photographs by Georgios Katsagelos. My inspiration evolved from the ancient tales I discovered while living and teaching in Greece, first from 1992-1994 and then from time to time in the 2000s to pursue further writing projects in Greece.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
Every sign on the road to publication reads, “writing is rewriting.” It’s all about candid, painstaking, and ultimately illuminating revision, recasting, and reimagining storyline and all that contributes to the development of the story I happen to be working on at the time.
Two enormous inspirations have helped along the way. The first is the editor extraordinaire Anne Schwartz who believed that there was a story to be told in the unsolicited picture book manuscripts my co-author and I submitted to her early on. Anne gently, perceptively guided us through revisions with recommendations that to this day help me construct a story. The second are the seasoned writers in my beloved local critlit writing group. The advice they offered in biweekly pre-pandemic meetings enlightened me about the elements that make a story entertaining, insightful, and illuminating. From them I learned to be alert and critically sincere about my writing goals, my craft, my readers.
What projects are you working on now?
There are several stories in process. I’m told by readers who’ve read selected sections of my story about deception and identity theft that it “feels” like a YA story. Another story—currently in its infancy—focuses on the misfortunes and resilience of a small group of determined, rebellious young slaves.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same advice you'd give to aspiring authors?
I wish I knew then what I came to know later.
I wish I had had dynamic writing teachers then like the ones I came to know and respect later.
We writers are forever aspiring.
Advice: Read a lot. Read the genres in your comfort zone, but move beyond the comfort to discover works you might otherwise avoid. Closely observe the elements that work as well as the ones you question. Keep a writer’s journal to record your findings about the literary elements in the works you read. Learn about mentor texts, texts that awaken you to effective craft and technique: teachmentortexts.com and Mentor Author, Mentor Texts: Short Texts, Craft Notes, and Practical Classroom Uses by Ralph Fletcher.
Always and forever keep a record of ideas you are thinking about forming into stories, poems, informational texts, plays, and so forth.
Develop or join a small group of dedicated writers who will help you grow as a writer through honest response and practical suggestions for improvement.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Animal crackers are my most comforting comfort food. I cherish those little animals and love imagining them coming alive.
Where can people find you online?
My website is a good place to start: www.anthonymannabooks.com
Anthony L. Manna, Ph.D., is an award-winning children’s book author and an award-winning educator. He draws on his experiences and passion as an educator of fifty years to inspire children and teens to become confident, skilled, and happily motivated readers and writers. He has been an actor, a children’s theater director, and has taught in schools and universities in Turkey, Greece, Albania, and the United States. He is the recipient of Kent State University’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Kent State’s Students’ Choice Award, and the International Literacy Association’s Arbuthnot Award for outstanding university teaching.
a Rafflecopter giveaway