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Interview with Dr. Dawn Menge

She has won seventy International awards as the published author of the Queen Vernita’s Educational Series and Dragon’s Breath, including the Special Recognition Champion Award from Conquering Disabilities with Film, Best Written Word from Miracle Makers Film, Hollywood Dreams Film, and International Author Boss Award from Power Conversations Magazine. Her published works also include The Six Federal Individual Education Plan Goals and The Effectiveness of Their Implementation in Preparing for Transition.

Dr. Dawn Menge has a Ph.D. in Education. She specializes in Curriculum and Instruction. She also holds a Master’s and a Clear Credential in Moderate/Severe Disabilities and a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development. Dr. Dawn Menge has taught students with severe cognitive delays for over twenty years and mentors/lectures graduate students. She is the mother of three and the grandmother of six beautiful grandchildren.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I like to watch scary movies, I’m afraid of heights, and I love to listen to the ocean waves.

Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
A. Queen Vernita Meets the Wandering Buffalo
will be released in July. The Queen visits her friends in Wyoming, spends her Christmas on a fire lookout, collects Elk and Moose antlers, helps out a lumberjack, and fishes in the Crazy woman canyon.

Q.3 What made you write Queen Vernita’s Adventures?
It began as an assignment while earning my moderate/severe credential. When I published it, I named it after my grandmother and included all my family members. It has grown to have fourteen adventures ranging from Prek-6th grade. Has won over 70 international awards and has two screenplays. Upcoming adventures will be Death Valley, New England, and Italy/Rome.

Q.4 What actually goes on when the author and illustrator meet?
My illustrator uses the actual pictures from my adventures and turns my life into an illustration. We collaborate on what we want the chapter to convey to our young readers: learning, fun, adventure, and kindness.

Q.5 What do you love most about writing stories for children?
A child can grow up with the Queen Vernita series starting with the basic calendar skills, being active in the Queen’s castle, and developing their science, geographical, cultural awareness, and social skills with the Queen by swimming with sea turtles, sea horses, alligators, sharks, manta rays, in a lava tube, or learning Spanish, Spanish dance or about slavery and the underground railroad. A fellow teacher uses my books to teach immigrants ESL skills, and that's why I enjoyed writing about it.

Q.6 Why do you think it is important for children to develop a love for reading?
Reading together as a family creates a bond and a sense of adventure is a wonderful learning tool and gives the child a sense of belonging in the world. I love that my family’s experiences are read all over the world. The main nature of the text is an educational philosophy used to build vocabulary and facts.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while you’re working?
My schedule varies by the book. After I have traveled to an area and researched what I need, it takes a week to a month to write the book. The illustrations may take 6-12 months. I aim to publish at least one book annually as I am still teaching full-time in the classroom.

Q.8 Many writers describe themselves as “character” or “plot” writers. Which are you? What do you find to be the most challenging part of writing?
The plots for all the Queen’s adventures are based on my travels. The characters in the adventures are all based on my real family, friends, or students. I am a mixture of both.

Dragon’s Breath is based on an actual event that I had in my life. It teaches about not hurting others when you are angry or jealous. It also teaches that people are not always sorry for hurting you and may not feel remorse for their actions.

Q.9 Which children’s book most inspired you as a child?
I had a hard time learning to read. When I was in the third grade, my father sat down with me at night and taught me a love for reading. I grew up with Nancy Drew, the Boxcar Children, and The Outsiders.

Q.10 How do you select the name of your characters?
All of my books' characters are based on my life's people. We take their picture and incorporate them into the illustration. Queen Vernita is named after my grandmother Vernita, the Matriarch of our family, an astute businesswoman, and a world traveler.

Q.11 Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s book authors?
The best thing that I did when I first began writing was to join professional organizations such as the Society of Children’s book writers and illustrators, which is worldwide. I attended many of their conferences and workshops and received a lot of great advice and support.

Q.12 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
Yes, I believe in writer's block. I might have an idea for a book, and I cannot seem to sit down and write it until it is formulated in my mind. Once it is set and sorted out in my thoughts, I can generally sit down and write it out pretty quickly.

Q.13 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read my book reviews and consider any suggestions my readers might have. I love to receive letters and pictures of families reading my books. When I attend events and parents tell me that their child reads one of my books every night is an amazing feeling. 

Readers need to understand that unless they reach out to the author, they don’t know who is reading their books or how they feel about them. Buying them is just the beginning of the connection between the writer and the reader.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I have written my books in hotel rooms, airport lobbies, in restaurants, and sitting at my home. My most recent writing for a Mother’s prayer anthropology occurred after working in my classroom and being evacuated during a forest fire. I have found that you don’t need a specialized writing area to produce your thoughts. The only thing you need to produce your writing is a vision and to sit down and bring it to the world.

Q.15 Outside of your family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author?
My friends have always been incredibly supportive by listening to me, reading and editing my work, telling me to get back to work, traveling to events with me, and the best part of all is being in my books and being my cheering section.

Q.16 How will you describe your life before and after getting published?
Since I began my publishing career in 2008, I have expanded to not just being an author but judging three children’s literacy contests, writing book reviews for an educational magazine, and judging romance books. I’m on a board of a nonprofit literacy group.

Q.17 What three things should readers expect from your books?
 Adventure, education, and Opening up of the world.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
I heard a speech from a fellow writer once during a conference that inspired me to continue with my writing career. His motto is to say “yes” to new opportunities. I became part of one of his launch teams and met him at several book signings he had.

Q.19 What is your favorite book (apart from children's ones) and why?
I like to read suspense books and crime novels. I find how a person can be profiled by the activities in their lives so very interesting.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
My author journey has been one of the increased friendships around the world, learning about different cultures and areas, bringing closeness to families through literacy, and, best of all, knowing that I’m impacting children worldwide. I could not have asked for a better experience.

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Website - Dawn Menge | Rushmore Press Club

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