Today, I’m very happy to share my recent conversation with Lori Diez, author of the fun book Angel or Not? Angel for Sure, a great read for middle school students!
Q: Thanks so much Lori for joining us for this Spotlight interview! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
To start, I would like to credit my husband of 25 years, Randy, for making it possible for me to be a stay at home mother- which will always be my greatest achievement. We have three wonderful, hardworking children, ages 23, 19 &11, without them all, I would not have had the experiences, time or support needed to write the story.
Q: What motivated you to write this book?
My children have been in Catholic Schools for 19 consecutive years now and the lack of a fun, Catholic centered, chapter book for them to read is what inspired me to write, Angel or Not? Angel for Sure. I wanted our daughter to have a book that was centered on her school and her faith. At the same time, I wanted her to have a book that she could connect with and relate to as a young girl in Catholic school.
Q: How did you enjoy the writing process?
Although I am a dental hygienist by profession and most of my education was geared toward the sciences, I’ve always enjoyed writing. I started by putting the words down and the story seemed to develop before me. It has been a wonderful experience.
Q: For those who have not yet read Angel or Not? Angel for Sure could you please give us a brief overview of the book’s plot?
The story is about a young girl named Angel, who is entering the 4th grade at Sacred Heart Catholic School. It is the end of summer and she has been excitedly awaiting school to start; but from the moment the bell rings she finds that nothing goes as she had expected. To start with, there is a new teacher in the school named Sister Rita that ends up being Angel’s teacher. Then, Angel is confronted with a bully from second grade and has to make the decision to be an Angel or Not? The choice to- do the right thing or not, keeps Angel on her toes. Like every child, at times, she doesn’t choose wisely and must pay the consequences for her choices. The story has a strong family presence as Angel often turns to her Mother, Father and siblings for advice and support. It is a fiction story but the characters are depicted in real life circumstances making it easy for the reader to connect with Angel or any of the characters.
I have incorporated saints, sisters and priests in a variety of ways throughout the story to support our Catholic faith, morals and teachings. There are bolded words within the story that are defined in a “word bank” in the back of the book for teachers to encourage their students to use in order to increase their vocabulary skills.
Q: I fell in love with Angel, the main character in this book. Does she resemble anyone special in your life?
Oh yes. Angel was patterned after my daughter, Alexis. But the experiences that Angel has are more of a combination of events from my own childhood and from those of all my children. How does her faith help her through the challenges she encounters? I believe our faith helps us in every aspect of our life, just as it does for Angel. It gives us the strength to do the right thing, even when it might be difficult. Angel makes the decision, of right or wrong, often in her daily life – just like all children and adults. Life is full of choices and your faith undoubtedly is an influence. At times, we make poor decisions and Angel is no exception. Her choices are not always the best choice, but she learns that with every decision or choice she makes, there is a consequence. Our faith guides us, just as it does Angel, during our moral decisions and it is important in building firm values.
Q: I’ve read on your website that you intend to give a large portion of your proceeds to The Heart Gallery.
Please tell us about this non-profit organization and what has motivated you to assist them with your writing. The Heart Gallery is a photographic gallery of children in the foster care system that are available for adoption. The gallery is displayed in churches, malls and public venues and is instrumental in increasing the placement of children into loving, permanent families.
Although I was never in foster care, I was an adopted child. I was very fortunate and always felt extremely blessed to have two, amazing people that chose to be my parents. I was loved and cared for, and most importantly, I was a member of a family. One year, during Lent when we were trying to fill our rice bowls with money, I told my parents ‘If I get a dime from everyone I meet I will be able to feed all the hungry children.” It was a big vision, but since it began, I have hoped to one day make a profound difference in the lives of children.
Once the book was written, I knew that it was the opportunity that would allow my childhood dream to come true. I have decided to donate 75% of the profits from the sales of the book to the Children of the Heart Gallery, of Tampa. With the monies generated, I will be helping the children in foster care to have a better childhood, while they await adoption.
Q: You’ve written a book that is overtly Catholic in its perspective. Was this a conscious decision and how has the book been received by the Catholic schools in your area?
It was definitely a conscious decision. I intentionally wrote the book in a Catholic school setting so that all Catholic children can associate with the characters. When they read the book I want them to find a level of comfort and familiarity that they don’t find when reading a secular story. Catholic children need to know that there are other children all across the world that pray in school, read about saints, go to mass or say the rosary during school time.
The book was published in April and available in May 2010. I took it to my daughter’s school to have the children, teachers and principal review and critique the story. To say I was very worried, was an understatement, I was extremely nervous about how it would be received. Then, after the first week I started having children come up to me around the school just to tell me how much they liked the book and how they couldn’t wait until the next one comes out. I do not think I can convey in words how touched I was then, and still am, every time a child tells me they love the story. The principal and teachers at St. Lawrence Catholic School have all been very complimentary. They are as excited as I am to have a book for our students to read, that relates to their daily lives.
Q: I know that the artwork in the book was created by a very talented illustrator. Please share this artists’ background with us.
The illustrator is our middle son, Michael “Mickey” Diez. Although he doesn’t feel that he is very talented we believe otherwise. He sketched the pictures for my book over his Christmas holiday and in between his college semesters. Mickey went to Jesuit High School in Tampa where he was honored as the first junior to receive the schools “Best of Show” for his art work, a title usually given to more experienced senior students. He still draws and sketches for fun and relaxation. Like all of our children, he continues to make us proud.
Q: You’ve left the door open for a sequel – what are your plans for Angel in the future? Oh yes, in the back of the book you will find a “teaser” for the next book.
The second book is presently titled, Angel or Not? Ohhh so Not! I have completed one third of the story and hope to have it out in the spring of 2011. As with the first book I believe the moral lessons Angel learns will benefit all children. I have been asked how many books I am planning to write. I do leave that door open but would like to have four books with Angel being in fourth grade.
Q: You’re currently hosting a writing contest to encourage young readers. Could you tell our readers about how they might get their children involved in this contest?
I really do believe that if we are going to read we should learn more than just a story, we should learn a lesson.
The “Story Contest” is about anti-bulling and is an educational tool for teachers (or parents) to help open discussion about bulling and to get their students involved in putting an end to this national epidemic. Writing a story about how to handle or stop a bully from being a bully, just as Angel did, will hopefully increase awareness among the children that –bulling is not an option. Our children know right from wrong and the more open we are that bulling exists the better chance we have of helping our children stop it.
So, the contest is for any child interested in writing their own Anti-Bulling story. Their teacher or parent can submit their story to me at: [email protected] . They can visit the website: www.AngelforSure.com, for more contest rules, timeline and prize information. The winning stories will be published on the website.
Q: Lori, thank you for your time and for Angel or Not? Angel for Sure Are there any closing thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
When my children were young, I would remind them to “do the right thing” and “Be the best you can be” – The choice must be theirs to make, just as the consequences will be theirs to live with.
At the end of my story I have written what I believe any child would benefit from reading, and just in case you are reading this interview, but choose not to read the book, I would like to include it here:
Life is full of lessons. Just like Angel, you can help yourself by taking responsibility for your actions. Ask yourself if you are doing the right thing… and listen to the angel inside you, before you act. Thank you for having me it has been a true pleasure.