Buckaroo Buckeye grew out of my life’s journey. I, too, am that buckeye nut. Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, I meandered many miles over the years before putting down roots in the Arizona desert. Nourished by family memories and culture, education, life experiences, and a desire to teach others, I discovered my purpose and special place in the world—just like Buckaroo Buckeye did. My true calling is helping others become successful readers, so I became a Reading Specialist. But this nut didn’t fall far from the family tree! In the early 1900s, my grandmother was a one-room schoolhouse teacher in rural Ohio.
She loved teaching children and dedicated her life to helping them learn, especially those who struggled. She was not paid much, received no fame, and very few awards. Her highest reward was the joy of watching her students achieve. Their smiles and hugs meant more than money or fame. It was her calling, and she taught until she was seventy-years-old! Her legacy transcended her career as her influence branched out to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. My joy, now, is encouraging children and adults to find the Buckaroo Buckeye in THEMSELVES! – Happy Trails
What inspired you to start writing, and when?
I am inspired by my deep roots in the Buckeye State of Ohio along with something my father used to ask in his elder years. He would often ask “do you know what a buckeye is?” To indulge, we would always answer, “No, Dad, what is a buckeye?” His response was always, “It’s a worthless nut.” Such is the premise for Buckaroo Buckeye’s story. As a Reading Specialist, literacy and struggling readers was my career focus. The value of reading had been instilled and nurtured in me from an early age. As I worked with struggling readers, I witnessed how inability to read had eroded their self-esteem and made them vulnerable to bullying. I want to inspire and encourage all, especially struggling readers, that there is a special place for each-and-every one of us in the world and through determination, nurturing, and guidance, success will be found, despite the bumps and bullies and setbacks along our life journey of self-discovery.
Tell us a little about your book.
It is not your ‘size’ in life that determines success. Buckaroo Buckeye is a tiny buckeye-nut-seed that follows his dream of finding his special place in the world. He sets off on a life journey of self-discovery to prove the other nuts wrong when they said he was a “worthless nut just like they were.” He rises above the bumps and bullies along the way.
Success comes from a tiny ‘seed’ within each of us. This tiny seed contains hopes and dreams and interests and passions. When we receive encouragement and nourishment from family, culture, education, and life experiences, the seed will sprout and grow mighty, to rise above the bumps and bullies and setbacks along the way.
“Discouraging words…discourage dreams,
Encouraging words…sprout dreams,
Parents plant the seeds.” -Kristin Anderson Cetone
Is there a particular movie that you preferred over the book version?
I am fine with a movie version of a book as-long-as it stays true to the written words and storyline. I am a visual person so visuals such as movies allow sometimes for remembering the story and its message(s). I caution however, I think the book version is superior because the reader gets to make their own visuals from the words they read, versus letting actors and movie directors interpret the words for them. This is why authors write…to paint pictures in the minds of the readers from their words.
Tell us about someone or something that just made your day.
When presenting at author events and parent workshops, I often share the story of E.R. For privacy, I do not use his full name. E.R. was a 17½ year old young man, I worked with in a local juvenile detention facility. He had revolved in and out of this facility from the age of 12. He was very street-savvy but could not read! He had an extreme fight or flight impulse and his family had cast him aside at an early age, so the judge had to keep him incarcerated for his latest crime until he was the legal age of 18, because he had fled all the previous halfway houses due to his extreme impulse. I asked if I could work with him three days a week for a couple of hours to improve his reading, rather than have him languish until he was released. The answer was an overwhelming, yes.
When I first screened him, he was reading at a first grade, nine-month ability leverl! He was not trusting me due to his failure to read for so long, but I was a welcomed vehicle for him to get out of his cell for a few hours a week. E.R. was an energetic, strong, artistic, personality. He even had a little of the practical jokester in him. He was always respectful of me and was on his good behavior at-all-times.
The authorities in this facility looked upon E.R. as someone they had raised like a child since he had been in and out so often. If he displayed sustained, good behavior, on occasion, he was allowed to ride in the secure van, with staff, when they went for a food run for lunch.
One day, after many weeks or reading tutoring, when I arrived in the tutoring room, E.R. was pacing back and forth. He immediately greeted me with the words, “I am tripping.” Wow, I didn’t know quite how to respond to this! Was he upset over something from his past, or something that had happened to him in the facility, or what? I decided to give him the chance to explain because some days he just wanted someone to talk with.
His response was, “Yesterday, I went on a food run to Burger King. Guess what? I could read the signs!” As you can imagine, I was speechless. Something that most of us take for granted, reading the signs at a fast food place, sparked this light bulb in E.R. He was so excited! For once he felt successful!! There was a long way to go for E.R. but the light had gone on for him, and as you can imagine—it made my day!
During the time I spent with him his reading ability level increased from first grade to a seventh grade, first-month word call ability. He was great at comprehending and interpreting the words.
One of your favorite quotes –
“The journey of a lifetime begins with the first step” – anonymous/Chinese proverb