Interview with Alice Ozma, author of The Reading Promise

Reading promise_Alice Ozma


It’s been five years since your book was published. How has that changed your life and your career?

It would be harder to guess what would have happened if this hadn’t – I was 22 when I wrote the book. The book deal came while I was taking my finals in college. So I have no idea what path I’d have taken otherwise. This was the seed that planted my career. Teaching was on my radar, and so were non-profits, but I definitely was not down any path yet.

Which chapter did you enjoy writing the most and why?

I loved writing the first chapter. Each chapter begins with a quote from a book my father and I shared, and my dad actually found those. He reread everything we’d read together and underlined things. The quote he found for the first chapter (see below) just really spoke to me in its simplicity, and the chapter flowed from there. I recently visited a high school and a student had made a poem from that quote. So clearly I’m not the only one who loved it.

“I am terribly afraid of falling, myself,” said the Cowardly Lion, “but I suppose there is nothing to do but try it. So get on my back and we will make the attempt.”

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz-

What has been the most memorable response from a Reading Promise fan?

This past Christmas, a woman wrote me a card and included a check. She said she loved the relationship I had with my dad. Her own father had passed and she said all she wanted to do was have lunch with him one more time, so she was giving my dad and me lunch money to go spend some quality time together. I donated that money, but we went out to lunch that weekend. We were both very touched.

What projects are you working on currently?

I currently work for a literacy non-profit as the Marketing and Development Director. Marketing is obviously a very wordy practice, but development is fundraising and the like – I am surprised how much I enjoy that. If you’d told my 10th grade algebra teacher that I’d willingly do math all day some day, I think she’d have fainted.

What is your father up to?

After five years of protests on my end (I’m a bit of a safety nut), he just bought himself a convertible. I’d been really worried about the idea of a car without a roof, but he was so ridiculously happy the day he bought it, I’ve been supportive ever since. We like to put on the Beach Boys and drive around with my dog in the back. My dad loves giving people (and animals!) rides in his convertible.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Be a successful writer, not an aspiring author. A great writer – I’m not one, but my husband is – writes consistently, even when it’s not fun and even when life gets in the way. Being an author is all about what someone DOES with your writing, and that is not within your control; be a writer, not an author.

I particularly enjoy the list of books from The Streak at the end of the book. How do you keep track of books you want to read?

I keep a list in the notes app on my phone, but I am the worst at remembering to add things to it. My most recent trend is to ask friends to loan me things when they finish. That comes with the added bonus of having someone to talk to about it!

Favorite children’s book and why?

When I worked for Scholastic I reviewed a book called Wish by Matthew Cordell and instantly fell in love. It’s about the journey of trying to have a child. At the time I was maybe 24 and didn’t really know anyone who it applied to, I just loved the writing. Since then I’ve had some close friends and family impacted by fertility struggles, and every time I read this book with them and we all bawl our eyes out. It’s not sad; it’s hopeful actually. It’s just beautiful.

Favorite YA book and why?

I really love Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. There’s so much in there about doing the right thing when no one is watching, or when they ARE watching and have already decided you won’t. Those characters really speak to me. I cried all night the night I read it. I don’t know when a book impacted me so much.

What is your favorite genre and why?

I love historical fiction. I love to feel like I know a bit more about a time and place, even if the details aren’t real. When I was 8 my family went to Mt. Vernon and I was reading a book about George Washington. It was fiction, but the author had laid out the house so well, I would say “oh over here is the dining room, here’s the living room” before we even turned the corner.

Favorite coffee/tea?

I am a big tea drinker, mostly iced tea. I actually subscribe to a tea subscription service, Amoda, so it’s a cheat but – whatever has arrived most recently is my favorite! I love trying new teas. Green is always my preference, though.

Favorite chocolate, if any?

I’m a fiend for dark chocolate, but Cadbury Fruit and Nut Bars are very nostalgic to me. When I bring candy to the movies, that’s usually it.

What is your favorite thing to snack on while reading?

A bowl of fresh cherries. It’s actually a terrible reading a snack – the pages get stained and you need a bowl for your pits. But I started doing that when I was little. Even better when they are local!

What is your favorite reading spot?

Right now, the train. I commute to and from work in a train ride that’s about 20 minutes each way. If I don’t read those 20 minutes feel very long and I’m grumpy about my commute. When I’m reading I look down for a moment, look up again and it’s time to get off. I also love to read on planes. Actually, anywhere where I don’t have cell reception – it’s kind of nice to feel unreachable.

What is your favorite literary quote?

Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve always had the quote from the Lorax framed, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot – nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I once read that entire book on a conference call – my coworkers clearly humored me. I love the Lorax. Though that would be a very long tattoo!
Thank you, Alice, for the gracious interview. We enjoyed reading your answers, and I think all of us will be looking into that tea subscription service.

Purchase The Reading Promise here.
Visit The Reading Promise WEBSITE.
Like Alice Ozma’s Facebook page here.






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