Displaced Shore students celebrated @ OCL

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“To be a writer, tell the story that’s in your heart,” Nan Marino told a group of more than 100 fifth- and sixth-graders Tuesday April 16 at the Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library, “and always, always believe in your dreams.”

Nan Marino, a novelist and OCL librarian, spoke to the kids who all shared a common bond: Hurricane Sandy severely damaged their schools and forced them to go elsewhere for an education.  Now they are bused miles away from home to unfamiliar, sometimes crowded classrooms that create even more challenges to teaching and learning.

The Tuesday program was designed to give 108 students from the Hugh J. Boyd Jr. Elementary School, Seaside Heights, and Beach Haven Elementary School a respite from their worries by offering them activities and prizes from the library.

“Ocean County Library is hosting a party for these school children who still have no school to call their own,” said Marino. “It is allowing them to have some fun during this stressful time of recovery, rebuilding and relocation.”

The Seaside Heights students are attending classes at Central Regional High School while the Beach Haven students are in Eagleswood Township Elementary School.

The library also used the time to host the Ocean County release of Marino’s newest book, “Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace.” It is written for the tween-aged, fifth- through eighth-grade audience.

For Marino the stories heard during one’s middle-grade years are the ones people remember most as adults, and she hopes children will remember “Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace” for a long, long time.

“It’s a positive story and it’s about New Jersey,” she said.  And though it was written before Hurricane Sandy slammed into the state, she is proud to say it demonstrates the resilient characteristic that so many New Jersey residents have displayed in the storm’s aftermath.

Each of the students was given a copy of the book, compliments of publisher, Roaring Book Press (a subsidiary of Macmillan), Nan Marino and the Ocean County Library.

Students were also presented a pin commemorating the book launch and celebration.

Marino kicked off the celebration by telling the students about what it takes to be a writer, from the research and dedication needed to write and overcome rejection to the hard work of rewriting.

“Do you know how many times over the years my stories were rejected?” she asked the students. At first the guesses were tentative, and polite.  “13?” “20?” “80?” “A hundred?”  No, no, no and no; higher.

“Ten thousand?” (Kids don’t pull their punches.)

“Uh, no. I wasn’t THAT bad a writer,” but Marino did confess to several hundred rejections.

“And do you know what happened when I finished the book and sent it to the publisher?” she asked.

“You got rejected?” they groaned.

No, not this time.  The publisher liked the story, she said, but that’s when the rewriting starts, and rewriting Is hard work, too.

But it was all worth it, she said, even the long period of rejection.

In her book, 11-year old musical prodigy Elvis Ruby was supposed to win the most-coveted reality show on television, “Tween Star.”  But in the middle of its biggest night, with millions of people watching, Elvis panicked and froze on national TV.

Elvis fled to spend the summer working with his aunt and cousin at Piney Pete’s Pancake Palace, the perfect place to be anonymous. That is, until he meets Cecilia, a girl who can’t seem to help blurting out whatever’s on her mind.

“It’s a story of friendship,” said Marino, “and betrayal.”

The book is an iBookstores Best of the Month book for April.

Marino has also written “Neil Armstrong is my Uncle, and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me (2009).”  It was awarded the Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators “Golden Kite Honor” and made the NJ Garden State Children’s Book List.

Photographs of the program can be found on its Flickr page:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/oceancountylibrary/sets/72157633258317647/show/

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