I’m always drawn to Middle Grade books with protagonists who deal with learning differences, and MY NAME IS LAYLA also offers an interesting peek into what it means to find self-acceptance. Have a look:


School will never be the same…

On the first day of eighth grade, thirteen year-old Layla has a pretty good idea of what’s in store for her– another year of awkward social situations, mediocre grades, and teachers who praise her good behavior but find her academic performance disappointing. Layla feels certain she’s capable of more, but each time she tries to read or write, the words on the page dance and spin, changing partners and leaving her to sit on the sidelines.

Her new English teacher, Mr. McCarthy, senses her potential. When he pushes her to succeed, Layla almost rises to the challenge before making a desperate choice that nearly costs her everything she’s gained. Will she be able to get back on track? And who can she count on to help her?


What instrument did you play in orchestra, and what did you enjoy most about your experience there?

I played the violin in orchestra; my future husband was a cellist. What I loved most about the experience was that our conductor, a wonderful man named Bruce Thomspon, treated us a real musicians, not high school students, even those of us who were less talented. He always had us play from the actual scores of the symphonies, Beethoven and Brahms — not some watered down version. We rose to the occasion, and the music was inspiring and has stayed with me always. We also made wonderful friendships as we made music together.

How inspiring! MY NAME IS LAYLA is your first book for children. How did you know you wanted to write for this age group, and how did your process differ from your adult fiction?

Writing for children was actually a bit of lark. I had finished my first book for adults and was awaiting its publication, and some of my writing friends convinced me to take a workshop on “writing for youth.” I was up for trying, without having any preset notions of what might evolve. I came up with the idea for My Name Is Layla and I wrote a chapter every week over two semesters of the class, getting feedback from the other writers and the teacher. By the time the workshop ended, I had a pretty workable draft of the novel.

Nice! You’ve also published short fiction. What have you learned most from the short stories you’ve written?

I really love writing short stories. They feel much more manageable, and as a writer you are forced to make sure you’re getting your message across and choosing your language more carefully than in a longer work. I took a class on flash fiction, which was very challenging. You have to capture a novel’s worth of ideas in 300 words. It’s like writing poetry.

Very challenging indeed. What are some of your current projects?

I have a women’s fiction novel coming out in October called Both Are True and I’m looking forward to getting to work on the editing process for that in the spring. It’s the story of Jackie Martin, a woman whose self confidence and ambition have earned her a coveted position as a judge on the Manhattan Family Court—but also left her living alone at age 40. When Jackie meets newly-divorced Lou Greenberg, she thinks she’s finally found someone who will accept her exactly as she is. But Lou’s own issues, including an unresolved yearning for his ex-wife, make him bolt without explanation, and Jackie must finally begin to put herself under the same microscope as the people she judges. When their worlds collide in Jackie’s courtroom, she learns that sometimes love’s greatest gift is opening you up to love others.

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