Announcing our April/May reader of the month: ten-year-old Alicia Gonzalez! Be sure to keep reading for some fabulous suggestions to add to your book list!
So who is Alicia Gonzalez, and why did I pick her? Well, Alicia is just like many other smart girls you might meet: she studies hard and pursues lots of extracurricular activities like soccer and girl scouts. You would never guess that a year and a half ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that has required repeated courses of chemotherapy. In fact, if you had a conversation with her she probably wouldn’t even mention it; she would probably tell you about a play she’s writing, or a party she’s planning for her friends.
Alicia’s determination to pursue her dreams despite adversity has inspired everyone who knows her. And like many readers of this blog, she finds inspiration and strength through connections with good friends, good books, and from the creative process.
GILDA JOYCE: Alicia, you’ve been through some extreme mental and physical challenges during the past couple years, and you’ve set an amazing example of courage and determination to get through a difficult time. What has been hardest about this experience, and what helps you cope?
ALICIA: I think the hardest part has been missing some school and other activities. My family and friends have been immensely supportive and that has helped me a lot.
GJ: Are there any books that you have found particularly inspiring, comforting, or helpful?
AG: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is one book that I have found very inspiring. It shows that people with disabilities can make as big an impact as anyone on the lives of others.
GJ: Any other favorites you love that you can recommend to other readers?
AG: Books I’ve really enjoyed: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, So B It by Sarah Weeks, The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding, 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, and of course the Gilda Joyce series!
GJ: What do you love most about your favorite books?
AG: All of these books feature an admirably brave female protagonist.
GJ: Thanks for such good suggestions! You’re a writer as well as a reader. What types of stories (or other genres) do you like to write? What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
AG: I really enjoy writing poetry because there really is no wrong way to do it. That’s why I also enjoy the drafting stage of a writing project where I know that if I make a mistake I can always fix it.
GJ: I know exactly what you mean. All the same, Olympic athletes have been known to collapse from exhaustion when asked to write a short essay or story, yet you recently chose to have a creative writing workshop. Did anyone at Make-A-Wish explain that Disney World was another possible option? Do you ever find writing tiring or difficult – or is it mostly fun?
AG: What?! Someone should have told me about the Disney option! (haha) I usually have fun while writing, but often I get writer’s block when presented with the task of writing an essay.
GJ: A little bird told me that you recently started writing a mystery. Can you tell us anything about it, or any other writing goals?
AG: My mystery is still a work-in-progress, but I have just completed another project: I co-wrote a play called Stand Up, Speak Out with my friend Caroline for our Girl Scout troop. We all performed it for our leaders and parents in mid-March.
GJ: I look forward to reading (or maybe watching!) your literary works in the future, Alicia. Your courageous approach to life and your dedication to the craft of writing is an inspiration!
Read about Alicia’s Make-A-Wish Foundation-sponsored book party and mystery-writing workshop in Bethesda Magazine: