It is with great pleasure that AAPH published BECOMING MISS IZZY written by Sue Zook and Mary Lazsarski. The book is wonderfully written and has received outstanding five-star reviews. The book will be available in eBook and paperback with a launch date of June 17, 2019. For more information visit www.MissIzzy.us.
SUE ZOOK AND MARY LAZARSKI AUTHOR INTERVIEW
Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. Let them get to know the personal you.
I was the oldest child in a family of nine. I grew up in a small, diverse community in North Chicago, Illinois. My dad was a factory worker for U.S. Steel, and my stay-at-home mom started work in food service after my youngest sister, seventeen-years younger was born. I was very involved in the care of all my younger siblings. I could change diapers at six-years-old and was like a teacher assistant in the classroom from the start of kindergarten. I decided in third grade, much to my parent’s dismay, that I was going to college and be a teacher. I started a summer school program for the neighborhood kids that year. Parents loved it, but kids felt it was not fun because I ran it just like a real school.
My passion to work with kids continued over the years. I graduated from National Louis University in 1976 and got my first teaching job that falls in an area school district that had a high percentage of disadvantaged students. I gravitated toward and loved helping the underdog my entire career.
I have always had a passion for learning and continued my schooling over the years while working full time and being a mother and wife. I earned a Master of Education degree in 1980 and Certificate of Advanced Study in 1986 from National Louis University. In 1996 I received my doctorate in educational leadership and supervision from Roosevelt University.
During that time, I served in public education as a building principal in four different schools, a Director of Teaching and Learning, an assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and retired after thirty-five years in public education as a school district superintendent in 2012.
Since that time, I have continued my education and got certified as a professional organizer and a health and wellness coach. I dabbled in consulting work, nonprofit leadership, and building a health coaching practice. I continued to have this underlying, nudge to continue to help people, particularly children.
My life was turned upside down in 2012-13. Besides retiring before I was ready, I went through a divorce after almost thirty years of marriage, had my oldest brother, who was like an Irish twin die unexpectedly with heart disease, as well as a dear friend die a week later.
After all of that, I shifted my focus to helping myself. This was a new concept. I always put other peoples’ needs before my own. I am still a work in progress; however, all of it has gotten me to this point in life. My passion to help kids is still with me. That coupled with a passion for writing has gotten me where I am today as a new author, writing my first children’s series. There are many life lessons that I want to convey and teach kids about. I am hopeful, that through the eyes of Mizz Izzy, I can make that happen.
Tell the readers about Mary.
Mary is more than an amazing daughter. We are almost becoming kindred spirits. My ex and I adopted Mary when she was five-years-old. Her birth mother and I are first cousins. She was actually being raised by her birth grandma, my Aunt Mary until we adopted her. Mary shares my passion for helping others. It seems that anyone who has struggled early in their life either goes in that direction or gets on a more self-destructive path. I am so grateful that she chose the path that she did. Mary has been married to her husband, Brian for almost six years. They were together ten years before getting married in 2013. Although she has not blessed me with a grandchild, yet, Mary and Brian look forward to having a family. In the meantime, Mary works tirelessly at her job as an administrative assistant at a nonprofit drug and alcohol facility. She is called upon regularly to do all kinds of extra projects and tasks. I am so very proud of her work ethic and the kindness and compassion that she exhibits to others on a daily basis.
Even with her busy schedule, Mary finds time once a week to meet for dinner after work. We are each other’s rock and therapy during difficult times.
What inspired you to author this book, and how did you include Mary?
Besides the passion I have to help others, especially kids, I am infuriated by the epidemic of health problems in this country. Childhood obesity is a health crisis in this country. More and more kids each year are diagnosed with diabetes, heart problems, autism, ADHD, and cancers. Don’t get me started on the food and drug industry and our health care system. All of that, coupled with the amount of stress that parents and kids are under, we are becoming a sicker and sicker nation with each passing day.
Feeling frustrated with trying to build a health coaching business and feeling like that wasn’t getting me the audience or having the impact that I needed to have on this problem, I decided to write a book. Initially, I was going to do a nonfiction, self-help, personal growth book for parents. However, after much thought, I decided to make it fiction and address the problem through the eyes of a young girl and her family.
Since Mary and I share a passion for helping kids and writing, I asked Mary to collaborate on the project with me. The story is my own, based on personal experiences and situations I helped many families through during my time in public education. Mary’s keen writing abilities added the “juice” as we jokingly call it. This book has been a labor of love and a dream come true. It has strengthened our relationship even more and helped us to grow as we reparent our own inner child personally.
Where did you get the inspiration for your book’s cover?
The inspiration for the book came from my own life struggles, those of my daughter, and countless other children and families I had the honor and privilege of working with during my thirty-five plus years in public education. Miss Izzy’s struggles are unfortunately the current struggles of many of today’s youth. I think that in light of obesity and other health issues being at epic proportions in this country, the timing for getting this message out there couldn’t be better. I hope that Miss Izzy’s story gets in the hands of thousands and thousands of kids and helps many with the struggles that they are going through in schools and life today.
Who has been the most significant influence on you personally and as a writer?
My family has been my greatest influence. Sadly, there is so much disease and health issues in my family. Both of my parents suffered and died from health-related issues. My dad had diabetes, high blood pressure, and health problems. My mom died of cancer. My siblings and I have also faced our share of health issues and crises. We run the gamut – obesity, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases from MS, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, to name a few, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. I have a personal bias against conventional medicine. As a result, I have researched, follow, and practice for myself a holistic, mind, body, and spirit approach to health.
I practice what I preach. And, while you sometimes can’t be the prophet in your own land, I am hopeful that as a writer, I can share and spread the word about ways to live a happier and healthier lifestyle to many readers.
What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get this book written?
My biggest struggle in getting the book written was ignoring the call for too many years. I diverted my attention to other things. The biggest and most important was healing myself first. Once that happened over a three to five year period after my divorce, when I finally answered the call to write, the words started to flow.
I could have let myself get stuck again when it came to marketing and launching the book. I feel grateful, thankful, and blessed that I found Mel Caudle from Absolute Authors Publishing to help get me to the finish line!
Tell your readers about your book.
“Becoming Miss Izzy” is a coming of age book that addresses many topics and struggles of kids in that age group.
Elizabeth Ann Tanlin, dubbed Miss Izzy, by her grandmother, Momo is a 10-year-old girl like most others. She enjoys hanging with her two best friends and listening to popular music. She loves her dogs, Harmony and Hudson, and loves food even more. Is it any wonder her initials spell E.A.T.? She is ordinary enough except she worries she might be too “chubby” or maybe even fat.
While fat has its own problems, something else is more worrisome. Deep inside, something makes Elizabeth think and act differently from most girls getting ready for middle school.
Elizabeth can’t put her finger on it. A small quiet voice in her head causes her to wonder and worry. Watching and paying attention to others often fills her day. Sometimes, things make little sense to Elizabeth and add to her worry and concern. Often, she knows stuff but wonders how that is possible. Other times, she is not sure what to believe and gets confused.
Does this happen to other kids, too? On a quest for answers to her most pressing questions…
- Am I really fat?
- What’s up with those mean kids?
- Am I good enough?
- Did the doctor say I will die?
- How will I survive the start of middle school?
- Can I become the girl of my dreams?
Elizabeth experiences the worst day of her life at the end of fifth grade.
Her spirits crushed by that horrible day, her mom and Momo come to the rescue. Overwhelmed and filled with doubt and fear, Elizabeth embarks on a summer adventure that will change her life forever in more ways than one.
Difficult changes with yourself, friends, family and everyone in between become easier to handle when you learn a few things in life and come to accept who you are becoming, just
Who is your target audience, and why?
The target audience is late elementary and middle school readers, primarily girls ages 8-12 who are personally struggling or know of friends who may be struggling with the same issues that Miss Izzy is dealing with.
If you were going to give one reason for anyone looking at your book to read, why should they buy it?
This book will inspire the reader or someone they love, in an entertaining and fun way, who is struggling with many of the health, social, and emotional issues it addresses to have hope and make the necessary changes to live happier and healthier lives.
What do you consider your greatest success in life?
I am most proud of and feel my greatest success is the countless number of people I have helped and inspired. Just knowing that I have had a positive impact on a person’s life and that they will pay it forward by helping someone else means a great deal to me.
What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?
This is a good question and not one I can be certain of since this is my first book. What I hope will set me apart is the raw, very real, and relatable way that I have the character share their struggles and emotions with the reader.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I never leave my computer with a blank page. After I have outlined my book and have a general idea of where I’m going in the next chapter, I write 1500-2500 words a day. Sometimes it might be more. I always finish a chapter and the first line, if not paragraph of the next one. That way, when I come back to write the next day, I am not staring at a blank page. I reread the previous day’s chapter and the first line/paragraph on the next page and get started. If by chance I’m not having a great day and do find myself stuck in the moment, I’ll actually do some tapping.
What has it been like working with Absolute Author Publishing House?
Working with Absolute Author Publishing House has been a true blessing! I am so grateful I found Dr. Melissa Caudle. She is the best! I was getting stuck and overwhelmed when it came to the marketing and book launch phase. All I want to do is write. However, I knew if I didn’t forge ahead, there wouldn’t be any readers for my book.
AAPH and Mel, specifically have been truly a godsend. I couldn’t have done this and gotten to the finish line without them. I am so glad to have a publisher behind my work. It is way more rewarding than if I had struggled and self-published. I will bypass all the middlemen for editing, formatting, etc. and work directly with Mel on the next two books in the Miss Izzy series.
What one piece of advice do you have for new authors.
If you have that call to write a book and share your story, like NIKE would say, “Just DO It”! Don’t resist the urge and ignore the call like I did. It can be a scary venture; but, it is so worth it. And, if you get stuck, I’ve told you whom to call upon. The Absolute Author Publishing House is there to help and guide you through the process!
Tell your readers anything else you want to share.
Although I have a lot of ideas and a wealth of experiences to draw from as I continue the books in the Miss Izzy series, I would love to hear from readers their ideas, struggles, and topics that they’d like to read about in the Miss Izzy series.
FIVE-STAR REVIEWS ALL THE WAY
“As a middle school principal, I witnessed first-hand the struggles adolescent girls have with confidence, body acceptance, and peer relationships. I am sure middle school readers will identify with Miss Izzy and will find her story entertaining, informative, and enlightening. I highly recommend this read.” Dr. Alice Mical
“To say I related to this book would be an understatement. Although I am in my fifties, I can still remember being bullied in middle school. I was overweight and was called horrible names. At one point, I had no friends because of one mean girl that everyone was afraid to stand up against. It took the courage of one student to step forward and tell everyone to leave me alone. This book has such a powerful message for any girls in the ten to the thirteen-year-old range, yet it does it in a way that is easy to understand and follow. I love that the book gives some simple tips for anyone dealing with a poor body image and low self-esteem. I would have been grateful to have this book forty years ago, but I am glad to have it now to pass along to students in the hopes that they can avoid some of the struggles I went through. All girls deserve to see the beauty within themselves and this book conveys that image in a fun and unique way!” Maggie’s Momo
“Miss Izzy is destined to be a best friend for any pre-adolescent struggling with the many challenges faced in elementary and middle school. Her strong support system, her mother and her grandmother Momo, provide sage advice that not only benefits Izzy but also serves as great guidance for readers as well. Izzy’s struggles with anxiety, bullying, and her sense of self are sure to resonate with readers. I look forward to the continued tales of Miss Izzy as she navigates through life and provides a guidebook for her audience. Sue Zook and Mary Lazarski have carefully tackled important themes such as bullying, anxiety, self-esteem, and obesity and provided a blueprint for anyone who wishes to tackle these subjects. Zook and Lazarski have the potential for being the Judy Blume of our time, as young readers are encouraged to value themselves and demonstrate compassion towards others.”
What a breath of fresh air and a wonderful read Becoming Miss Izzy is. I personally love the honest approach to feelings and emotions that are felt within the book, a skill that needs to be nurtured in our children. The authors Sue Zook and Mary Lazarski kept the book entertaining while addressing hard topics. Thank you for sharing your gifts. Annemarie Sampson CPT
“Many girls entering middle school may relate to Miss Izzy. She has many feelings and worries about obesity, self-confidence, and bullying. Miss Izzy writes in her journal questions and thoughts that young middle schoolers may find it refreshing to know that they are not alone. What I really liked is the fun, fictional story-line offering realistic strategies to eating healthy, exercising, and dealing with friendships. Pre-teens and parents can pick up this book and read with ease. I highly recommend this book!” Judy H.
“It was so fun to read this book through the eyes of a child who is facing “grown-up” issues. There was so much wisdom and so many valuable tools shared to help any adult or child dealing with numerous issues, weight, self-esteem, bullying, finding one’s voice, family support, mother-daughter communication, and community support.
“A book for all ages even if written for children. Excited to hear that there will be more Miss Izzy adventures. Fun and fast read. Kudos to the authors.” Sheran Mattson, PsyD
“Becoming Miss Izzy captures some part of every girl’s experience growing up! Lizbeth is absolutely someone to relate to – as a young student facing the challenges and opportunities of figuring out who you are and how to fit in or as an adult, remembering those times of feeling alone and left out and hopefully finding family and friends who make everything all right. Lizbeth’s Mom and Momo inspire as loving, accepting role models for strong women showing young girls and women the way to authentic personhood. Their easygoing but deliberate approach to supporting Izzy offers a roadmap for parenting and grandparenting. The adventure to healthful eating and exercise habits are so relevant to all ages. The authors have really nailed this – a good read, good lessons AND a great call to action for loving oneself and being kind to others!” Kathy Ryg
“This book was a refreshing look at a family going through some common, modern-day struggles. The reader will become quickly engrossed in the lives of the characters and won’t be able to wait to see how things wrap up. I loved the family relationships being shown and the themes of school life as it takes place in today’s world. I surely hope that the author continues the story of Izzy and her whole family.” Dr. Ellen Mauer
“Well Done Ladies – WOW !!!!!!” Truly an inspirational book, I love how “Becoming Miss Izzy” transcends time. Memories surfaced of my childhood as I read each word. The book is so well written, stirring emotions within readers of all ages. Parents would be wise to read this with their girls. I love how the story strengthened family relationships while a clear plan was laid to help guide the characters to a successful outcome. Sad to think that girls today still have the same challenges that I faced as a child. So glad resources like Becoming Miss Izzy are available building self-confidence, respect within yourself and towards others.” Debbie – Grayslake, IL
“From the first page of “Becoming Miss Izzy,” I felt like I had a window into this young character’s life. The relaxed and candid way that it is written makes the reader feel like they are being included as one of Miss Izzy’s best friends, as she journeys through the difficult themes of childhood obesity and fractured family relationships. This book gets to the heart of pre-teen feelings about body image and self-acceptance, exploring how these beliefs are planted and cultivated by our life experiences and relationships. Becoming Miss Izzy is a great read for anyone wanting to reflect on their own coming of age journey or further explore how our words and interactions have a long-lasting impact on the youth around us.” Betsy Sostak
“From start to finish, I was captivated by the many themes throughout the story. From dealing with child obesity to confidence building and self-esteem, the story was extremely relatable. I was surprised by how real and raw the storylines were and how the writer captivated my attention. This book was unlike those I have read before because even though Izzy goes through so many struggles, she still comes out on top, and she does it with the support of her family. I couldn’t put this book down and read it in one day!” Jenna Stern
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Becoming Miss Izzy!” It was so uplifting to see the love, support, and wisdom of Izzy’s mother, grandmother “Momo” and her teacher, Mr. Landry, as Izzy navigates the difficult period of entering middle school. Throughout this engaging story, the authors managed to weave in sage, specific guidance for coping with very typical and challenging issues such as bullying, self-esteem, body image concerns, and anxiety. It is easy to relate to the book’s wonderful main character. As a school social worker, this is a book that I would love to share with young girls.” Rhonda Malina
“I found this book to be an awesome read for any middle schooler, girls and boys alike. I’m sure many children can relate to Izzy. Body image has always been an issue for children coming of age. And bullying just seems to be an increasing problem in schools. The book gives great ideas on how to approach these things. Don’t think this book is just for kids; parents can learn a lot from reading this too.” Nancy D
“The beautiful cover and title immediately intrigued me. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. So many issues and topics facing young students are explored. Told by Izzy, the reader can feel her pain and angst with being overweight as well as the pain of not being accepted and even bullied by her peers — issues very real in our school and society, I wondered if and how Izzy could change and confront these issues. What obstacles was she going to have to overcome? As a parent, I was eager to discover the role Izzy’s parents would play. I highly recommend this book to a middle-school age girl. While not all students have some of the issues presented in the book, it may open one’s eyes to struggles friends, or other students are experiencing and even encourage “reaching out” to others.” Diane Motley
“A Refreshing, informative, great book for moms and daughters! A must-read for girls nine years of age and up having any of today’s problems. The book teaches many ways in which to like ourselves more while growing up with weight problems, bullying and all that young people go through… told in an easy and fun way! The language used is easy to understand. Thanks to mom and daughter (Sue & Mary) this makes Miss Izzy more special.” Terrie Morrissey
“All parents would want their kids to handle life’s struggles in the way that Miss Izzy does. A charming story of a young girl’s challenges with being overweight, lacking confidence, and dealing with mean kids. Izzy is relatable and will inspire readers of all ages not to give up when things happen in life and can get you down. Becoming Miss Izzy is a great story for not only readers Izzy’s age, but parents and teachers as well.” Mary Urbanik
“What an amazing read! I couldn’t put it down, and I love books like that! I found so many similarities in this book to my life with my ten-year-old daughter who is going into fifth grade! I can’t wait to read this again with my daughter. She struggles with self-confidence and has the worry of an adult. So many great topics that are touched on in this book that resonate with my daughter and me. Raw and real emotions and great lessons along the way. Absolute must read for pre-teens!” Kelly R.
“Excellent book! What an amazing read; very well-written and difficult to put down! “Becoming Miss Izzy” was filled with such real and honest emotions when worrying about the future. I felt these emotions right alongside Izzy. That’s a difficult thing to do, and kudos to Sue Zook and Mary Lazarski for writing such an important, compelling and fun-to-read book. I would recommend this book to all girls getting ready to enter middle school.” Diane Philyaw
“This book was a fun read and easy to follow. I like that it addresses the issue of body image in girls and how important it is to break this taboo and talk openly about obesity and how girls are supposed to look and grow into. I enjoyed reading it as an adult and I’m sure it will be even more impactful on girls of Izzy’s age. I also really like the front cover, it is so refreshing and makes me smile.” Dr. Jennifer Meyer UK
“Becoming Miss Izzy is a coming-of-age story about a fifth-grade girl, Elizabeth Ann Tanlin—or, as her grandmother calls her, Izzy—making the transition from elementary to middle school and coming to terms with the changes and challenges that accompany this significant transition. A running issue that this book explores is Izzy’s relationship with her health, in particular, being overweight. Embedded in the narrative are practical, research-based recommendations for a young person (really, for everyone of all ages) to enact to become healthy in terms of eating, movement/exercise, and emotional wellbeing. To me, an incredibly important aspect of this book is that while adults may particularly approve of its positive messages and instructive elements, middle-school readers will connect with Izzy herself. She will captivate them. She’s a multidimensional protagonist, who has good days, bad days, setbacks, and successes—just like they do. For anyone with an upper-elementary or middle-school child in their life, give them this book, so they can feel heard and seen at this particularly rocky period in their young lives. And you’ll know that at the same time your child is enjoying Becoming Miss Izzy, they are receiving solid instruction on how to navigate this period of their lives in positive, healthy ways.” Nancy Pile, MAT – Former Middle and High School Teacher
“Becoming Miss Izzy was delightful to read. As a woman who has struggled with weight issues since childhood, a teacher for 30 years and the mother of 4, I really appreciate the insight and excellent way in which the author has approached this topic. Through the caring mother character, she has provided the tools to cope with these issues. Not only for the young people facing the challenges but for those who see others going through it.” Fiona Eckersley