Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book about Bullying
by Catherine DePino
The kids at Ralph Bunche Middle School love to pick on Elliot Kravitz-Carnucci. He struggles with his weight, looks like a geek, makes top honors, and lives above the Carnucci Home for Funerals in South Philadelphia with his distant, workaholic father and Nonna, his quirky, overbearing grandmother.
Since his parents divorced, he splits spending his time with his funeral director father and his mother Rayna, who dreams of becoming the queen of commercials on the west coast.
At the hands of his peers, Elliot experiences a series of bullying episodes that escalate from entrapment in a school supply closet to a brutal “swirly” (head dunk in the toilet) that lands him in the hospital emergency room.
Elliot has a small circle of loyal friends and a mentor named Duke, an aging school custodian, who root for him to overcome his bullying issues so that he can enjoy his life as a teenager and a budding singer/performer. Can Elliot win his fight against the nasty bullies, or is he doomed forever? Read this funny, sad, and crazy book to find out.
EXCERPTS (Please choose only ONE to use with your post):
“Help–I can’t breathe–let me out. Somebody help…”
I pounded the inside of the musty supply closet until my knuckles turned blue. Did anybody even have the key?
What if they don’t come? What if I’m trapped here all night?
I could hear loud voices and laughing, so I knew Kyle Canfield and one of his friends from the basketball team were there, waiting to see if I would cave in and plead for mercy.
The bell blared. Classes changed. Kids stampeded through the halls. Then, silence.
Finally I heard someone shout, “I’ve got the key, Doc.”
“Thanks, Duke,” Doc Greely, the assistant principal, said to Mr. Boardly, the man who’d sprung me loose.
Mr. Boardly, the head custodian, better known as Duke, offered me his arm, and I stumbled out of the closet. He was as thin as his mop handle, but all muscle–no flab like me. A scruffy white beard covered half his face.
He slammed the closet door shut and bolted the lock. “One of the hall guards reported noise coming from this area. We came as soon as we heard.”
Duke patted my shoulder. “Let me know if I can help, Elliot.” I could hear his keys clanging as he walked down the hall humming “Duke of Earl,” that old sixties song he loved. That’s where he got his nickname.
“Up to their old tricks again, Elliot?” Doc asked on the way to his office.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m from Bucks County, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. I’ve been married for 50 years (I got married in college), have three daughters, four grandsons, and a granddaughter. I worked as a high school English teacher and department head for 31 years in the Philadelphia School System and then for Temple University as a student teacher supervisor. I earned a doctorate in curriculum theory and development from Temple after majoring in English and Spanish education.
For many years I was on the board of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, which helped me launch my writing career. Before I joined the board, many of the books I entered in contests as a conferee later got published. I highly advise attending writers’ conferences as they can help writers produce their best writing.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying is my fifth bully prevention book. Before that, I wrote two fiction books for children (Blue Cheese Breath and Stinky Feet: How to Deal with Bullies and In Your Face Pizza Face: A Girl’s Bully-Busting Book). I also wrote two books for adults: Real Life Bully Prevention for Real Kids, for teachers to use in bully-prevention programs and Who Says Bullies Rule?: Common Sense Tips to Help Your Kids Cope for parents to help their kids cope during bouts with bullying.
Elliot is my first middle grade book about bullying. I thought of the title first as I do with all my books. Knowing the title before writing gives me a sense of purpose and direction in fleshing out the book.
I also pictured Elliot clearly before writing the book—how he looked and talked and his bigger-than-life personality. I’m happy to say that he looks exactly like the artist depicted him on my cover. All of my other books but one which I received the e-rights back to from the company, are traditionally published. However, I decided to self-publish Elliot. It’s a very different type of middle-grade book with quirky characters and a funeral home setting. Elliot’s father is a funeral director and Elliot, his dad, and his wild and wooly grandmother, Nonna, live in an apartment atop the business.
I hope that after your readers look at my book, they’ll write to me at my website, www.catherinedepino.com, to tell me what they thought. I’d love to hear from them.
How do you create your characters?
I write both fiction and non-fiction. I never met a character like Elliot but I’ve met many kids who have the same bullying issues. I based the character of Mr. Boardly, the school custodian who helps Elliot, on Scotty, a caring custodian who worked in one of my schools. He, like Mr. Boardly, was always available to help students and staff. Whenever you needed help, you called on Scotty. Unfortunately, he was killed when his car was disabled on a major highway. I never forgot him, and it gave me a good feeling to meet up with his character again in Elliot.
When I create my characters, I ask myself how I think they would talk, move, and gesture. How would they react in a given situation? What are their hopes and fears? Given their personalities, what kind of direction would the story logically take? Then I try to be consistent in developing the characters in line with the answers to these questions.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
Writing to me is as important as eating, sleeping, and exercise. It’s a major part of who I am. I always loved telling stories. When I was in high school, I made up stories and read a little each day to my friends. They kept asking me to write more, and I’ve been writing ever since. I thank my mother, Mary Grace, for giving me a love of reading, which inspired me to write. She read to me constantly and helped fire my imagination.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I jot down ideas whenever they hit me: in the car, when I’m resting in bed, or when I’m out shopping. I write in one of my daughter’s old rooms because it’s painted yellow and I love that color. A sunny window in front of my desk provides brightness and a pretty view of multi-colored trees. The room is filled with filing cabinets and papers; it’s not as bad as the TV show “Hoarders,” but I have to say it’s not neat and organized although I know where everything is. I simply couldn’t function in a totally pristine environment.
I know you’re supposed to get up and move around every so often to stave off the fat when you sit at the computer. But when I’m writing that doesn’t work for me. I go to Zumba whenever I can to work off computer butt, waist, and every other part of my body. It also gives me a kind of Zen spiritual experience to lose myself in the music. I often sing the words to the songs as I dance.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
Ideas often pop into my head when I’m relaxing or doing something enjoyable like eating out or shopping. I write them down so I don’t forget and then file them in an idea file. I’ve been thinking of writing a book to help teens deal with the adults (parents, teachers, etc.,) in their lives. I’ve recently written a book for soon-to-be retired and retired women called Fire Up Your Life in Retirement: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves. My daughter sparked that idea when she said she was looking for a book for a recently retired woman and was unable to find one.
One of my most recent books was Excuse Me, Your Participle’s Dangling: How to Use Grammar to Make Your Writing Powers Soar. I’d written grammar books for teachers to use with kids, but I’d never written one just for adults. I figured there was a great need for it, and it was time. Ideas are everywhere. We just have to be receptive to them. Listen to that little voice inside you, an start writing.
What do you like to read?
I love to read both fiction and non-fiction. Currently, I’m reading, How to Talk to Your Angels, a book about contacting your angels, by Kim O’Neill. Additionally, I love to read books about psychology and persuasion. One of the best ones I’ve read is Influence: The Power of Persuasion by Cialdini.
Although it may see unusual to some of your readers, I love to read the footnotes and bibliography in non-fiction books as they lead me to more fascinating books on topics that intrigue me. I’m also fond of reading the classics and like to see what’s new on the bestseller list. I love to revisit Shakespeare’s tragedies and read poetry often, especially my favorite poet, ee cummings, who defies the rules of punctuation by avoiding capitalization and other grammatical conventions. I believe that reading poetry on a regular basis helps writers become conscious of the musicality in writing. Good writing should not only make sense; it should also sound pleasant to the ear. Reading poetry helps to build that quality in a writer.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Stay with it. Don’t get discouraged if one or many publishers don’t accept your work. Eventually, with hard work, perseverance and a willingness to revise, someone will accept your work. You can also self-publish if you find that a better course of action. Either way, you can make it. Never give up.
Anything else you’d like to share?
If you have any questions about my books or would like to discuss anything related to writing, feel free to contact me at my website, www.catherinedepino.com. I greatly appreciate the chance to be a featured guest on this wonderful blog.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Catherine DePino has sold thirteen books for parents, teachers, and children to mainstream publishers. She self-published her fourteenth book, Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying because she wanted to give it a wider forum. Her background includes a BS in English and Spanish education, a Master’s in English education, and a doctorate in Curriculum Theory and Development and Educational Administration from Temple University. The author worked for many years as an English teacher, department head of English and world languages, disciplinarian, and curriculum writer in the Philadelphia School District. After this, she worked at Temple as an adjunct assistant professor and student teaching supervisor.
Catherine has also written articles for national magazines, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Writer.
For many years she served on the board of The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She holds membership in the Association of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Her new self-help book, 101 Easy Ways for Women to De-Stress, Reinvent, and Fire Up Your Life in Retirement,appeared on the market in March, 2014.
Visit her website at www.catherinedepino.com
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/C.Spinelli.DePino
Fire Up Your Life: 101 Ways for Women to Reinvent Themselves
Elliot K. Carnucci is a Big, Fat Loser: A Book About Bullying
Excuse Me, Your Participle’s Dangling: How to Use Grammar to Make Your Writing Powers Soar
Who Says Bullies Rule?: Common Sense Tips to Help Your Child Cope
Hi, God, It’s Me: e-prayers for teenage girls
Real Life Bully Prevention for Real Kids
In Your Face, Pizza Face: A Girl’s Bully-Busting Book
101 Ways to Help Preschoolers Excel in Reading, Writing, and Speaking
Quick and Easy Grammar Games to Boost Writing Power
Blue Cheese Breath and Stinky Feet: How to Deal with Bullies
Hi, God, It’s Me: e-prayers for Teenage Boys
Ready, Get Set, Go, Grammar!
Grammar Workout: Twenty-Eight Lessons, Exercises, and Activities to Jumpstart Your Writing