The Write Stuff

Gloria Smith-Zawaski authors our new children's book!

Author: By Anita Manley
Posted: Friday, March 27, 2009

She’s the sole proprietor of a public relations and copywriting business, flies her own airplane, rides a horse, is the mother of two sons and wife of Alex Zawaski, was in a flying contest last year with her best friend, and now, Gloria Smith-Zawaski of Middletown is the author of a children’s book called “The Trunk in the Attic”.

The book grew with support and inspiration from Hudson Valley Life and Hudson Valley Parent publisher Terrie Goldstein and her husband, Clay. “Terrie had the concept,” she said. “We wanted a book that would create an experience for children and would be published in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Hudson River from the Netherlands to New York.”

Goldstein created The Exciting Read Publishing Group, a separate division of f her 25-year old company, The Professional Image and Marketing Inc., to publish the book. Although she had never written a children’s book, Smith-Zawaski says the project literally fell on her lap. “It was Terrie’s idea to focus on Holland, celebrate the river and introduce kids to Holland,” she said. “When she told me about her idea, I was thinking of who I could recommend to write the book. Terrie said ‘why don’t you do it?’ I was dumbfounded!”

Having travelled to Holland herself, Smith-Zawaski recalled the sites and the culture and used those memories as part of the story about two children, Katie and Jake, and their dog Cooper. While visiting their Aunt Jean’s Ulster County farm from their home in New York City, the trio travel through time after discovering a secret hole in the barn and find themselves in Holland. Smith says the book gave her the opportunity to share her own experiences in a new way.

“I loved writing about Holland,” she said. “It put me in a wonderful place. I’d lose track of time. It was like entering another world.” Collaborating with Terrie and her husband, ideas would fly about in their meetings. “We shared a universal childhood consciousness,” said Smith-Zawaski. “I always believed if you dug a hole you would come to China. It kind of grew from there. What if someone got somewhere when they were digging? I loved writing about it.”

Smith-Zawaski had her own adventure last year when she and her friend Eileen Piasecki-Couch entered a flying contest. The two pilots flew Eileen’s 1963 Mooney 20C 180 from Bozeman, Montana to Mansfield, Massachusetts, making eight stops along the way. Although they placed near the bottom of the air race, Smith-Zawaski says she and Eileen didn’t go into the race expecting to place.

“We were there to be competitive, but we didn’t have a plane with all the bells and whistles like some of them did,” she said. “We met some top pilots. The experience was wonderful.” Would they do it again? Smith-Zawaski says not this year, but maybe next year. And what a great adventure that would make for Jake, Katie and Cooper!

In the book, the children experience the flowers, bicycling through Holland and taking the bikes on a train. They also find themselves in the attic of the Anne Frank house and in a torture chamber used hundreds of years ago. Smith-Zawaski had some misgivings about including that in the book. So she asked her son, who had accompanied her on a trip there when he was a child. “He said he loved it,” she said. “It was his favorite thing.”

Other memories included the wonderful food and the fact that dogs are allowed in restaurants. And of course, the Dutch spirit. “There’s a wonderful mix of people from all over the world,” she said. “It’s a little country with a big spirit.”

Anita Manley is a freelance writer from Newburgh. Her work often appears in Hudson Valley Life.

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