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Author Showcase

Spring 2006 Featured Author Tana Goertz

RT: Without giving away the details of your book, one theme in I’m Bigger Than This! is the importance of being yourself. In your story, your protagonist starts out as a character every child knows, loves, and buys at the state fair. In the end, your character turns out to be something different, maybe even "scary" to some. Why did you choose one that has a “bad rap,” so to speak?

Tana: That is an interesting question, but one I will be very happy to answer. There are several themes in I'm Bigger Than This! that I feel to be very important subjects to teach kids. One is being yourself. Another is to not judge too quickly, especially when it comes to outward appearances. A lot of people make judgments on others who are different. Some are hesitant to show their true colors. We often act (or not act) out of fear and this starts at a young age. If we just learn to overcome that, then we can own our differences, the differences of others, and celebrate them. We can all make generalizations based on what others look like or what they do, including the reputation of my main character for example, but we can't always count on them being true.

RT: I must confess that I’m not a big TV watcher, so I didn’t recognize your name as THE Tana Goertz of The Apprentice fame. That said, do you think that experience has helped you in reaching kids and spreading your message about teaching them to be true to themselves?

Tana: The experience of being on a national television show like The Apprentice has helped tremendously in reaching out to children and their parents. I have been able to travel the country, and as a result, touch people from all walks of life. In my travels, I am often asked how I have become so self-assured and confident. I tell people that it has to happen in the home! With parents so busy working and trying to keep up with everyday life, they run out of time for the most important stuff: Teaching little ones to love themselves just the way they are.

RT: Given that our fish has gone on to seek life in a bigger pond, so to speak, do you envision writing a sequel? If so, what would you want the theme(s) to be?

Tana: My partner, Monina Verano, and I have explored themes for a sequel. I'm Bigger Than This! ends with the main character in a whole new world, a bigger world. With a bigger life, comes bigger responsibilities and we are considering that to be one of several themes to highlight in the sequel. Another question that pops up is how our main character gets to the fair in the first place. Don't be surprised if we release a PREQUEL to I'm Bigger Than This! as well.

RT: As part of the pre-publication process, you opted to have a focus group for I’m Bigger Than This!. What prompted you to do so? What did you learn through this process? Is it something you’d recommend for other new authors?

Tana: I always believe in knowing your target audience. Mine was children. I also wanted parents to like the book, but if the kids didn't find it interesting and stimulating from the start, it wasn't going to make it home! For the focus group, I asked a variety of children questions about my main character, Finny. I asked them about Finny's likeability and strength of character. I also interviewed several first grade classrooms when it came time to pick the cover art. We ended up going with the top pick and to my surprise, it wasn't the one I would have chosen! I also met with another focus group to discuss the text. Since the book is written in rhyme, I wanted to make sure it flowed for our readers. I found that the children really enjoyed this aspect, and although it is challenging to read out loud in some parts, I feel this is more of a strength than a weakness. I'm Bigger Than This! is full of underlying themes and fun storytelling. It is the kind of book where you can come away with something new each time, and I definitely feel that my focus groups played an integral part in shaping the final stages of the book. As far as recommending focus groups to other new authors, I think it depends on the material. For a children's book like I'm Bigger Than This!, I think the focus group only made the overall story and presentation stronger.

RT: Although you speak to a very diverse group of organizations as a motivational speaker or product promoter, in looking at your schedule it is clear that children, more specifically education, is important to you. Where does a passion for helping kids come from?

Tana: I have always had a special place in my heart for children who don't believe or love themselves, and becoming a mother has made me even more sensitive to the issue. I can always pick out a child who isn't too sure of himself of herself. It is so unnecessary and unfair, and it tells me something isn't right at home. Through the book, I want to offer hope and some valuable lessons to some of these children who might not get it at home. Since I have been blessed with the gift of encouragement, it is my own little cause I am working towards.

RT: When did you realize that you wanted to write for children (i.e., is this a life-long interest or drawn from specific stops on your entrepreneurial journey)?

Tana: Writing for children has not been a life-long dream! It is a fairly new interest. My catalyst was watching my self-assured, confident children. I learned it from my mother and without even realizing it, I had also nurtured young, happy children with great self-esteem. This has been the only project I have ever worked on that I don't consider to be an "entrepreneurial journey". I have never felt like I needed to sell this book, even though my expertise is in sales. That is when I realized that I wrote this book for all the right reasons.

RT: Growing up, did you read very much? Did you like reading? If so, what was your most dog-eared book and why?

Tana: I loved to read while I was growing up! I was the teacher's pet and couldn't get enough of reading. I have always been fascinated by stories of love and friendship. Stories that evoked emotion in me were always my favorite. Charlotte's Web was my most dog-eared book. It was written so well with issues of love and compassion. It shows such a beautiful friendship.

RT: If you could create a publishing house for children’s literature, what kinds of books would you want to produce/endorse?

Tana: If I had my way in creating a publishing house for children's books, I would only have self-help books available. I would love to publish more books that create hope and promise for children who might not have enough support at home. Like I'm Bigger Than This!, I would tackle issues that children face in today's society. I would include realistic solutions and life lessons too.

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Tana: A lot of people don't know this, but before I taped The Apprentice, I asked my children how they would feel if I went away to New York City for 62 days. Without hesitation, they both told me to go; that they would be fine with only their dad. With that kind of assurance and strong support, I was able to go with a clear head and compete to the best of my abilities. It meant the world to me that at their young age, they were selfless and they put my wants before theirs. My daughter, Tori, was only six then, and my son Myles was nine. You never know when you are going to be away from your children, and it is moments like these when you learn how well adjusted they are. I am hoping that a book like I'm Bigger Than This! can help other children to be just as confident. Reading Tub, thank you for our discussion!

Website: http://www.heytana.com




                 

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