This month’s Hooked on Books features two great reads for teens, tweens, and the adults who love them! We are thrilled to have an interview with Sharon Neiss-Arbess to learn more about her latest title, Get Up, co-authored with David Newton, as well as her debut novel, Me and My So-Called Friends. Both books take hard looks at the challenges of being a teen, giving some helpful advice in the context of meaningful stories. Read on to learn more.
What is Hooked on Books?
Our team at Teachers on Call loves to read and encourage students and their families to do the same. With Hooked on Books, we introduce our community to the latest children’s book with a behind the scenes author interview to learn more. A large focus is introducing readers to Canadian authors and illustrators from across Ontario and coast to coast with a mix of emerging and well-known literary talent including Chris Ferrie, Jess Keating and Barbara Reid – just to name a few.
About our Author: Sharon Neiss-Arbess
Sharon Neiss-Arbess is an author, a storyteller, and a resiliency mentor. Originally from Montreal, she currently lives in Toronto, Ontario with her family.
An Interview with Sharon Neiss-Arbess
Our team at Teachers on Call love books that inspire dialogue with students. Sharon’s writing has this very purpose. Also, for adults whose guilty pleasure is teen lit, Me and My So-Called Friends is quite entertaining as well, just ask our President, Joanne Sallay. So for all our families who love the idea of a Family Book Club, these may be the books for you.
Check out Sharon’s answers to our questions below!
You are tackling complicated emotional subjects in your writing. What inspired you to tell these stories?
Complicated and emotional stuff happens and we need to talk about it.
I have a really good memory of the small details that I went through. I remember what it felt like walking down a certain hallway at school. What my grandmother’s kitchen smelled like and how I felt at a party that I didn’t want to be at.
I was trained as a copywriter and I really got a kick out of grasping someone’s attention with my writing. As I went through my 9-5 job, I knew that at some point in my life, there would be a time when I would have the opportunity to share what I remembered and combine it with my imagination.
I always wanted to write novels and I am thrilled and honoured that I am able to do so.
I have learned that the social issues have basically stayed the same after all these years. The stories that my mother and daughter have shared with me all carry the same themes. Fitting in. School pressure. Why is so and so not talking to me? We are just wearing different clothes and have different means of communication. And maybe using a little less hairspray? ;)
You describe yourself as a resiliency mentor. What does that mean and why is it important?
In my world, resiliency means that one is able to GET UP (no pun intended, but I couldn’t help myself!) after being pushed down to the ground. Hard.
By reading my books, my blogs, and social media posts, I hope that people can relate, reflect and gain more knowledge on this act. I want to teach that defeat is not permanent. And that getting the proper support and choosing the right people to be around is so crucial.
More specifically, regarding my books, the reader will relate to what Lizzie Stein went through in Me and My So-Called Friends and how she found her strength.
Each story in Get Up is brewing with “aha moments” that aren’t preachy and feels like a warm hug. And the mentor’s advice that they would give their teenage self? Priceless. I really wish I had a copy of Get Up on my nightstand when I was a teen.
You work with some extremely educated women! How does your advisory board help your work and writing?
How I love my advisory board! Each and every one of those smart, reliable, and encouraging women are there for me at a moment’s notice.
Let it be clear that I am a writer, not a social worker, teacher, or psychologist, so when I am not sure about a post or an article, I reach out to one of them for guidance.
These women also helped me produce the teacher’s manual “Brave The Waves”, which is a program that contains ten hands-on lessons that focus on key themes in the book Me and My So-Called Friends.
What’s the most significant concept you want your readers to take away from your books?
I have two!
1. The acronym for the word FAIL.
We will all experience some type of loss and failure. And it could feel like it will be forever!
Failure shapes us and makes us stronger. It’s all a part of building oneself to be more resilient! We just need the right people around us to help get us through.
2. To be yourself.
How can parents help their kids to be more resilient or deal with complicated emotions and social settings?
Parents can’t always be there to clean up the mess, but they can hand them a cup of hot chocolate with a tissue while they are in the middle of that mess. Children are stronger than you might think. With time, they will figure it out. And if they don’t, asking for outside help is a sign of strength.
Oh, don’t forget the marshmallows!
What's next for you?
Book number three! This story will take the reader to a place where they will witness miraculous lessons taught from beyond a place they have never been but wish to be. Stay tuned!
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