My guest today is a man who not only writes books for children, but juggles that currently with his busiest time of year, tax preparation season. Please welcome children’s author, Michael Cascio.
Q. Hi Michael. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your books.
A. Hello and thanks for having me. I am the child of Italian American Immigrants and was raised in Bushwick, New York. Currently I reside in New Hyde Park, Long Island and am part owner of an accounting and financial planning practice
At the age of nine, my fourth grade teacher at St. Joseph Patron School in Bushwick realized I could not read. She took it upon herself to change that, and, on a daily basis, sat with me on the side of the classroom and introduced me to Dr. Seuss. The books were magical to me, and my love for my teacher, Miss Joan Pilla, as well as my desire to make her happy, led to my becoming a great reader
It was that year that I developed a passion for poetry. After having a poem about the Bicentennial year chosen to be part of my seventh grade yearbook, the seed was planted in my mind to one day publish a book. As I got older, poems to girlfriends, stories I’d make up and tell my younger brothers, all continued to fuel my desire to write.
After marrying my wife Stephanie and starting our family, I would often make up rhymes related to little fears the children had so that they could repeat them when they went to bed in order to ease their fear. In the year 2000, while sitting at my desk in my bedroom, I decided to put a series of these rhymes together and created the first version of When I Was a Child, I Was Always Afraid.
Are you afraid when you go to bed?
This book will put good thoughts in your head.
A month or so later, while on a field trip with my son, Michael’s third grade class, I struck up a conversation with his teacher, Miss Stromstedt. We realized that we both loved poetry and storytelling. I mentioned my poem to her and she asked if I would be interested in reading to the class for Dr. Seuss Day. I was only too happy to say yes and she asked that I also bring my story.
When I read my story to the third graders for the first time, the reaction was precious. The children wanted to open up about things they feared and wanted to discuss them. Miss Stromstedt sent a note home with Michael, which essentially said that I had to get the poem illustrated and published. She saw it not only as a great little story, but one which could help little ones overcome anxiety. I was a young dad and had many responsibilities on my shoulders. As much as I wanted to do so, I could never move forward with the project.
Two years ago, as a gift for my 52nd birthday, my son Michael paid a friend to illustrate the poem. He presented it to me in late October 2015 and I was moved tremendously. It was a full circle moment and I promised myself then and there to move forward and get it published. The hardest part of the whole project was when I realized that it would be impossible to retain an agent or a true publisher. After all, I had no other books, I wasn’t a celebrity or an internet sensation; I was just Michael Cascio, CPA, a dad, husband, son and partner.
“I’ve never forgotten, the words that he said,
I’ve kept them forever, stored safe in my head.
The lesson I learned, from my dad on that day,
Was that facing your fears, makes them go away.”
Scholastic did get back to me and urged me to get the book self published. They said the book had great merit and it would be a step in the right direction if I ever wanted to make a career of writing. I contacted Mascot books in Herndon, Virginia and used them to put the finished product together. In November, 2016 I received my first copies and the book’s official publication date is January 3, 2017. I just recently sold out of my first 1100 copies and have reordered another 1000. Most of my books have been sold at various school, bookstore and library events. I have also sold about 500 through Mascot, Amazon, Baker and Taylor, and Ingram books.
Q. That’s a wonderful story and a tremendous number of books to sell in just the first few months! Can you tell us what you consider, so far, to be your greatest success?
A. Two things stand out: first is the fact that I have now shared my children’s story, written for my own flesh and blood, with so many other little ones. I am very grateful for my son’s gift which moved me forward and helped me realize a dream. Second, back in July I reconnected with my fourth grade teacher! Now Mrs. Joan Pilla Ferraro, I tracked her down through the internet after finding a clue on my fourth grade report card. We were interviewed on a small radio show in September and met for the first time in all those years.
To be able to say thank you to this wonderful lady was a dream come true. Throughout my life I had mentioned her in high esteem. She was the one that fueled my love for learning which led to my immigrant parents realizing their dream of having their children go far with their studies. I taught both my younger brothers to read at an early age and today they are both very successful. Teachers are far too often taken for granted. They are surrogate parents during the hours that they watch over our children. A good teacher can truly make a difference in a child’s life. I am so very lucky this angel came into mine.
Q. Indeed! What has been your biggest challenge in terms of being an author?
A. In addition to the difficulty of getting published or finding an agent, for me it is finding the time to devote to the writing while running a full time business, particularly during tax season. This year I have booked a number of events, some in the evening and some in the morning, and have had a good amount of success doing so. I sometimes offer to sell my book and do a fund raiser for the PTA where I give back part of the proceeds. It works out well for everyone. I also enjoy reading to young boy scouts and girl scouts. The children are always attentive and eager to discuss their fears.
Q. What plans do you have for the future?
A. I have a second book ready to go but am hoping to retain the services of an agent. If I am not successful, I will self publish this one as well. It’s a Christmas story based on my childhood in Bushwick. There is a lot of heart in it and a wonderful lesson. This story is also written in poetry.
Q. Where can people keep up with you and buy your books?
Please follow my book’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wheniwasachildbook
“Scary basements, noisy attics, green monsters … Not at all unfamiliar is the challenge of helping your child conquer bedtime fears. Yet in rhythmic prose, Michael Cascio weaves together a unique and clever approach to overcoming the battle against bumps in the night. Awesome, incredibly expressive illustrations turn whimsical and fun as father and son go on a hunt to find a little boy’s imagination that has run off course. A story with universal appeal, Cascio relies here on the timeless, indispensable wisdom his father once bestowed on him. When I Was a Child is a heartwarming must-read for any parent hoping to soothe their child’s nighttime jitters.”
~Barbara Booth, former health and wellness editor, Reader’s Digest Books
Thank you for a wonderful interview, Michael. We wish you all the best with your books, and with our taxes! 😉
Please help Michael out with likes, follows, and most of all, reviews of the book on Amazon. Any feedback is most welcome.