Nicole Panteleakos was too young to remember the day the Challenger tore apart in the sky. Despite having no personal memories, the disaster fascinated and saddened her. So when she sat down to write her book "Plant Earth is Blue," the Challenger was an important part of the narrative.
Ms. Panteleakos shared this and more with six Jarvis ambassadors during her visit to the Jarvis library on Feb. 12.
Her visit was originally to be part of a bigger schoolwide recognition of the 35th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. That could not happen because of COVID. Instead, the school invited the author to a more intimate setting where she could speak with a few students and sign a copy of her book for the school library.
Journey to becoming an author
Ms. Panteleakos said she always liked to write and come up with stories. She imagined wonderful tales with her Barbies. She got her little brother to dress up and play characters until be grew old enough to refuse.
When she reached college, she wrote plays and short stories. Having an autistic relative, she wanted to write about a girl on the autism spectrum who is creative and intelligent, even if she does not seem that way on the outside. She spent two years, combining characteristics from seven children to create her 12-year-old protagonist Nova.
She also explained that an editor is critical to the process. Not only do editors check for grammar and spelling, they ensure the book is factually accurate. Her editor noticed that Nova played with a toy that had not been invented in 1986.
When asked what advice she would offer young writers, she said, "Write everything down. Write down notes. Anything can be a story"
A copy for the Jarvis library
Ms. Panteleakos wrapped up the meeting by signing a copy of her book for the school library. Students can begin signing it out when they return to school on Feb . 22.
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Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger--it's the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home.
While foster families and teachers dismiss Nova as severely autistic and nonverbal, Bridget understands how intelligent and special Nova is, and all that she can't express. As the liftoff draws closer, Nova's new foster family and teachers begin to see her potential, and for the first time, she is making friends without Bridget. But every day, she's counting down to the launch, and to the moment when she'll see Bridget again. Because Bridget said, "No matter what, I'll be there. I promise."