I reviewed this awesome book earlier this week, and you can read it here. Karole Cozzo was nice enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions about her debut novel.
As a school psychologist, what has been your experience with kids with autism?
I have worked in both public and private schools and worked with children on the autistic spectrum in both settings. Where I currently work, about 70% of the students have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. So, I hope my portrayal of life with autism is realistic and authentic–that was very important to me.
In the book, Jordyn finds herself in situations where her peers are saying horrible things about special needs kids and Jordyn says nothing. What tips would you give to teens who find themselves in similar situations?
It can certainly be hard to speak up, and if you don’t feel comfortable or confident enough to go head-to-head with those being less than kind, you can always find ways to extend YOUR kindness to the person being talked about or made fun of directly. I definitely believe in the adage “you don’t need a million friends so long as you have one good one.” When others are being cruel, never underestimate the power you have to be kind and be that one person to someone else. But, aside from that, I do encourage teens to speak up when they can. It is so hard in certain instances, but the best advice I can give is to check in with your conscience. If instinct tells you this is really wrong and listening to this gives me a bad feeling, act on those instincts. Don’t participate in such negativity just because it’s the path of least resistance. You don’t need to lecture on kindness and tolerance, but you CAN be a living example of kindness and tolerance.
Swoon Reads is a growing community that already has tons of stories on their website; how did you get involved in the community?
I’m proud to say I was one of the first people to post a manuscript online when Swoon Reads went live with beta testing! As someone who has a family and works full-time, it was extremely difficult to find the time to query agents and try to get in the door with my writing. Swoon Reads was a unique opportunity to gain direct access to a fantastic publishing team. My first manuscript did not get selected, but I am so happy I gave Swoon another go with How to Say I Love You out Loud.
How did the idea for this book come about?