Carla Mooney loved to read books and write stories as a young girl. She dreamed of becoming an author someday. She wrote all through high school, but then took a different path, getting degrees in accounting and finance and working with numbers and financial statements.
Fast forward to 2006, and a twist of fate brought Mooney back to her calling. Now married with three young children, she learned that her youngest son was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 19 months.
While spending time in hospitals and doctors’ offices with her son, Mooney decided it was time to start writing again. She is now an accomplished author, with more than 40 nonfiction children’s books on library shelves. And her son is now 9 and, in February, he will be five years out of chemotherapy, which is the “magic number” to be declared cancer-free.
Mooney of Gibsonia will be the featured speaker of the “So You Want to be an Author” program Nov. 6 at South Butler Community Library. Teens and adults are welcome to attend. The program is part of the PA Forward initiative of the Pennsylvania Library Association.
“We are excited about the program,” Erin Wincek, library director, says. “(Mooney) will be talking about her whole process of writing, focusing on nonfiction books.”
The program will focus on Mooney’s experience as a nonfiction author writing for the K-12 educational market.
“I do a lot of work for the educational market,” she says. “Teens think they want to be an author and write fiction, but there’s this whole other area of writing that’s available, and they can make careers out of it. It’s more steady, recurring work.”
That work comes from publishers who are looking for books on specific topics for certain age groups. These publishers have a list of writers who are sent assignments for stories. Many times, the assignments will be a series of books — for example, stories on the civil-rights movement. There would be one book on each major event that happened: Rosa Parks, the Little Rock Nine, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and so on.
At the library event, Mooney will be discussing how she got started in the educational market and how she researches her books. She also will answer questions about her experiences.
“The public library has been an invaluable part of my work as a writer, one of the first resources I turn to when researching a new project,” she says.
Mooney also has written fiction books. When her son was ill, she heard about a company that wanted to do a story about a dog with cancer, and the company was going to donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. She wanted to write a story to honor her son.
“I drafted up two versions of the story — one in which the dog had cancer, and one in which the boy had cancer,” she says. Then, she heard about another publisher, Story Pie, that was looking for health-related children’s stories, with a portion of the proceeds going to a charity of the author’s choice.
“I submitted the story with the boy to them, and they loved it,” Mooney says. That book, “Samson’s Tale,” tells the story of Daniel, a young boy with leukemia, through the eyes of Samson, his loyal and loving golden retriever. A portion of the proceeds from the book goes to Flashes of Hope and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “Samson’s Tale” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Mooney is also the Pittsburgh-chapter director for Flashes of Hope (flashesofhope.org), a charity based in Cleveland that has photo shoots for kids with cancer. She works with the staff at Children’s Hospital and a group of volunteer professional photographers and makeup artists. The kids can get individual pictures or shots with their parents and other family members or friends.
“We’ve even done photos with therapy dogs,” Mooney says.
Asked for her best advice for teens who want to become writers, Mooney says, “Read everything you can get your hands on, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Write something out of your comfort zone, and you might find it’s a genre that you would love.”
Pamela Murphy is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.