We are excited to introduce you to author Jean Alfieri. Jean joined ACFW and ACFW Colorado Springs Chapter this year.
Her mission is to be a champion for children’s poetry and for rescue dogs by authoring, promoting and selling Zuggy’s short story poems.
Jean has a goal for 2019 - that's to appear on Good Morning America with Michael Strahan. She thinks he is such an impressive example of how to reinvent yourself, and is proof that it’s possible to become something else. She is hopeful this appearance will sky-rocket Zuggy’s nation-wide presence.
She would also like to tour the nation, delivering Zuggy readings; compose, promote and release new books, become a recognized advocate for literacy and animal rescues.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I won an 8th Grade State (Illinois) story book contest and was thrilled. Then high school happened and I forgot about writing for some 20 years, until I reconnected with a friend who I hadn't seen since middle school. (She had lost to me in that contest.) She was shocked that I was not a writer. My friend was sure that was my true calling. I mulled that over for a while, as I always loved writing. Being older, there was more life experience from which to draw. So I re-engaged!
How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?
Life never seems to slow down, and it published during a rather chaotic time. But I wouldn't let it go unrecognized. My husband and I went out to dinner and enjoyed a toast.
What inspires you to write children's books?
My material seems best suited for children. What kid doesn't love a funny story starring a pug?! Zuggy has also acquired an adult following of dog-lovers. So, I may have to re-evaluate my audience!
Have you always wanted to write children's books?
Not necessarily. But since I started, it's been hard to stop!
How many books do you have planned for Zuggy?
There are currently over 50 Zuggy poems. I'm trying to "bundle" them by theme. Right now the plan is to publish them in "collection-style" books. "Zuggy the Pug - Six Tales" was the first. "Zuggy the Pug - Four on the Floor" is currently being illustrated. And I am putting the polishing touches on the three poems for "Zuggy the Pug - Three Treats".
Is Zuggy your source for all your story ideas?
He sure is. I have friends that can write three different books in three different genres at the same time. I don't have that gift! I am more singularly focused.
What do you love/enjoy most about writing?
The accomplishment of it. It feels so good to compose a work that does more than entertains; it makes people feel an emotion. Zuggy can make his readers laugh or cry or feel indignant, right along with him. I love seeing that connection and reaction.
What is the hardest or least enjoyable part about writing?
Finding the right word. But then when I do - it's exhilarating!
How long does it take your write a book? How often do you write?
It varies greatly depending on the story. I try to write every day, but often only come up with material worth keeping every few days.
Do you have a daily habit of writing? How many hours a day do you write?
It's not a set habit, but usually whenever I can find the time, I write. Sometimes I'm a sprinter and sometimes it's just a line here and there. I'm not a planner!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
How much I still miss my first pug. That sounds sad, but it's such a joy to remember him in the stories. It's become kind-of a tribute, and I get to reflect on all our wonderful times together. (And to appreciate the great times we presently enjoy with our current pack of dogs!) It's like that saying . . . "These are the good old days"!
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
A bit of both. I'm excited when I'm in the midst of it, and at the end of the day, I'm drained.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
This may sound like a plug, but I sincerely mean it: my ACFW membership! I discovered the group online and when I saw the promo for the Spring conference, I decided to join. I had no idea how good the monthly workshops would be, how encouraging the members are, and didn't know the local chapter offered a critique group! I've participated in that regularly and the feedback and support have been invaluable! ~Psst, Good answer, Jean!
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
My whole heart.
Do you see writing a s a hobby or a passion?
It's certainly a passion for me.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your stories?
Quite often! Outside of some (obvious) embellishments, most all of Zuggy's short-story poems are based on some funny pug-moment. It's true - you can't beat the real-life stories!.
Do any of your family members make occasional cameos in your books?
Yes. I'm Mom. My husband is Dad. And Zuggy's boy is our son. "Ruff Day", in which Zuggy tries to comfort his boy after an absolutely miserable day of school, is a compilation of our son's first year in middle school. It seemed that he faced one challenge after another! .
Do you often project your own habits onto your characters?
No so much - the pug's habits are funny and entertaining enough!
If you were to write another genre, what would it be?
I've been dabbling in free-verse poetry. I've written some non-fiction articles on my dog-rescuing and Humane Society volunteer work, which has gained some attention in the community. I was recently featured on Fox 21 news in a segment for National Rescue Dog Day (May 20, 2019).
What book have you read that has had most influenced your life?
The Bible has been the most influential.
A distant second is "The Art of Racing in the Rain", by Garth Stein. It's a beautiful story about life, told by the family's dog. I highly recommend it!
Who is your favorite author? Have they impacted your writing?
My favorite book as a child was "Noisy Nora" by Rosemary Wells. Her use of rhyme and funny characters definitely impacted my writing. I love the challenge of rhyming poetry!.
What’s something you are really good at that few people know about?
Scrapbooking - I love it!
How many siblings do you have? How many of them share your passion?
I have two older brothers and we could not be more different in our interests! One is a retired EMT/Firefighter. The other is an attorney.
How many children do you have? Do you see any young writers in any of them?
Our one and only just returned from his first year in college. He's studying mechanical engineering, but would be brilliant at anything he wanted to do!
What do you like to read in your spare time?
I enjoy studying (what I supposed would be considered) my "competition". I just love children's stories that feature a dog and /or short story dog poems. They are fun, quick reads, so if you get one that's not so well written, you really haven't invested a lot of time on it, and you can learn what not to do in your own work!
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
This is shocking - I enjoy walking my dogs! It gets me up from the desk and moving. And baking (cookies, bread, pie, brownies, etc.)