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Friday, May 11, 2012

Smart IS Cool: Interview with Author Dom Testa + Contest!

Why hello there!

Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers….the place that’s pulling out all the stops to make certain you’re celebrating Children’s Book Week and you’re doing it right. ^_^ What’s the “right way” you might ask? Oh, that’s simple; making reading a part of your day, EVERY day…and passing that joy onto the next generation.

A quick recap of the week, just in case you haven’t been around the site (for shame, SHAME I tell you! Just kidding. ^_^). You’ve been given a chance to win a great bookish prize pack from yours truly (ends 05/13/12), been teased by the likes of the Young Adult series Furnace, been asked to share your moments with Mom for your chance to win a SIGNED copy of Stay Close to Mama (ends 05/13/12), and found out more about the real Prince’s Charming than you ever knew with The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. Pretty cool, right? As I told yesterday though, we’ve only just begun.

Today’s post sparked from a blog tour I was fortunate enough to participate in a month or two back for a YA sci-fi series by the name of Galahad as it was celebrating the release of the final book. Sound familiar? (If not, just click here for a refresher.) After same said tour, the author contacted me with an open invitation for another post opportunity and with a little more research into his background, I accepted in no time flat. You see, he’s not only an author (which is a feat onto itself and of course amazing) but radio show host, family man….and the founder an AWESOME-tastic site that I feel moved to shine a GREAT BIG spotlight on. Why? Because….that’s why. No really…here’s the explanation you’ve come to know and love about my site…. (right? ^_^)

When I was a youngster, I was always the book nerd. Being smart, top of the class, highest grade recipient, etcetera was something I ADORED. It wasn’t the glory that came with it, but knowing I was really GOOD at something. Now, I received plenty of encouragement at home (something not all children receive), Mom was a big believer in getting good grades and so on, but in school….I was the wallflower. I was the shy, quiet girl that floated somewhere between the cliques, would talk to anyone that wanted to talk, and basically kept to herself. You know why? Partially my personality as I’m still that quiet, shy girl when I first meet people to this day (unless it’s at the bookstore and then you’re in MY domain…), and partially the kids I spent so much time with at school.

Now I know what you might be thinking, how can I be blaming other kids?!? Trust me, I’m not; I’m merely illustrating a point. It was cool to be a jock. It was cool to be the pretty girl. It was cool to be a cheerleader, soccer player, delinquent, rebel rouser, and so on….notice a term missing in there? Smart. It was never really cool to be SMART. To your teachers you were golden, your parents adored you, maybe even your close friends accepted it, but on the whole….you were simply viewed as a person to study with, maybe even discuss a hard question or two with….but never to hang out with or celebrate the successes of. It’s a hard road and I can’t imagine that it has gotten that much incredibly easy over the years. That’s why this author’s cause brought such a light to my eyes and I knew I had to share it with all of you.

It’s something called THE BIG BRAIN CLUB. A laughable title, perhaps…but it’s the moniker for a movement that’s been a long time coming and could have quite a large effect on how many kids view being SMART. Rather than drone on and on boring you with my interpretation, author Dom Testa (the man behind the site) has granted me an interview where we capture the essence of his mission and a whole lot more. So, if you please….put your thinking caps on PROUDLY and help me welcome author Dom Testa!


INTERVIEW:  Author Dom Testa
The creative mind behind the Galahad series and founder of The Big Brain Club.

I love what the club stands for, but I must ask...what drove you to create The Big Brain Club? Any personal experiences behind it?

I've been working with students for about twenty years, hosting writing workshops and assemblies at middle schools. I'd always known that "smart kids" were stigmatized, but when I continually saw academic success mocked - and the effects that had on kids who were on the fence - I just couldn't stand by anymore. I began crafting presentations to help young people recognize that Smart Is Cool.

Plus, I was a closet nerd myself in high school. That means I hung out with the so-called "cool crowd," but also worked hard in class. Most of my friends were shocked when I graduated in the top five percent of my class. I don't want today's kids hiding their academic curiosity.

(I couldn’t agree more; asking WHY should never be frowned upon.)


If you could choose one thing for this program to accomplish, what would that be?

I'd love to see America go back to celebrating intellectual achievement instead of our bizarre - and, I believe - destructive habit of glorifying bad behavior. By helping young people to recognize that Smart Is Cool, we'll produce a generation that achieves more while reducing the number of people in need.


In reading your bio, I see you have a son...and a Ficus tree. *blink* What's with the Ficus tree? (^_^) Was/is your son a member of the club as well? choice or by habit?

Ha ha, that Ficus tree! I simply mention that in my bio to give people a good laugh. But it's true; that sucker has been with me for more than twenty years, and has survived at least five moves. It's hardy!

I could not be more proud of my son, Dominic III. His background included some phenomenal work in building the non-profit arm of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, so I hired him away to run The Big Brain Club. Best move I've ever made. He's not only a terrific guy (and I'm not just saying that), he's intelligent, articulate, and the best writer in the family.

(LOL…yes, the Ficus was a good laugh. ^_^ Wow….sounds like your son really took the SMART IS COOL message to heart. Congratulations!)


The World Wide Web gives us almost unlimited reach nowadays and yet some people may not know about this fantastic endeavor. What would you say to all those reading this post now to motivate them to share this site, this movement with one and all?

Our biggest challenge is going beyond the point where people say "Hey, I LOVE what you're doing!" to actually touching them in a way that makes them want to spread the word. Having people clap us on the back and say "good job" is very, very nice...but getting them to roll up their sleeves and either contribute to the cause or actively tell others about it is what drives a non-profit.

You're right about the remarkable power of the Internet. It's astonishing what kind of reach a charitable organization has today. I would strongly encourage the readers of Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers to consider the messages that the majority of young people today receive from pop culture. It can be pretty grim sometimes. The Big Brain Club is devoted to providing a counterweight to the barrage of Kardashians and Snookies that parade before today's teens. The devoted readers of Insatiable can make a difference immediately, by donating to the cause and by spreading the word.

The Big Brain Club provides not only a much-needed message to young people, but we also provide technology to middle schools for their media centers (Smartboards, iPads, iPod Touches, etc). We also professionally publish the creative writing of middle school students, turning 6th-8th grade students into published authors. It's very powerful.

(How great is that? Published authors in middle school?! That’s got to be a boost to their creative sides. Three cheers for the intellectual counterweight to all those “fluff” shows streaming before some very impressionable eyes!)


Aside from creating The Big Brain Club, you also have a radio show and are the author of the GALAHAD series, science fiction geared to the YA audience.  How does one find the time to wear so many hats?

You know, I get that question quite a bit. My experience is that people have way more time to accomplish cool things than they think. The stats show us that the average American watches three to four hours of television a day. Every day! To me that's astounding. Do people have any idea how much they can get done with 20-30 hours a week?

I'm not anti-TV, but I don't have cable or satellite. I find that I stream a documentary here or there, and maybe watch a movie every once in a while. We're a society that lives for distractions, whether it's television, or the Internet, or our phones. We're over-stimulated, I think. Just getting away from everything and unplugging opens up an entire creative world. I highly recommend it.

(Really? 3-4 hours huh? Hmm, guess I’m in the minority too. BARELY watch any TV nowadays….when I’m not working or spending time with family, I’m reading or blogging about reading. What can I say? I’m a read-aholic. I hear you on the over-stimulated….hence why although I’m for all types of reading no matter your format, I still prefer PAPER BOOKS or as a friend calls them TREE BOOKS. The experience is just something else, plus the time spent unplugged is a blessing in disguise.)


How did one road lead to the next in your career?

My radio career began right after I turned sixteen. I walked into a radio station as a shy high school junior and just asked for a job. Pretty wild, really.

The writing is something I've done since I was a kid. Ha, I still have an English composition notebook from third grade, where I proudly wrote one of my first stories, titled "My Boring Family." Should've won a Pulitzer, I think...

The radio and the writing led me to start visiting schools, where I'd read to younger students. Then I shifted to middle school campuses and began helping students develop their own creative spark. And that's where The Big Brain Club was born.


If you had to choose, which of the three would be left standing and why?

No way! They're all too much fun and too personally rewarding! I can't imagine leaving any of them behind.


Let's find out a little more about the author behind the club....

Favorite book at the moment?

Picking favorites is really tough. All time fave is Harper Lee's little ol' book. I enjoy the humor of people like Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde. Whether or not you like the writing, I don't know how you couldn't be consumed by Stieg Larrson's series. I like Neil Gaiman and John Varley. A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me a book by Hugh Laurie (TV's House), and I laughed quite a bit.

As for young adult, I'm a fan of Kenneth Oppel's work. I think Orson Scott Card's book, Ender's Game, was a landmark achievement. The same with Hugo Cabret. As a YA author I'm indebted to the people behind the syndicate that created the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, as well as Robert Arthur's Three Investigator series. All of those books - along with Asimov and Heinlein and Clarke - got me hooked on reading as a kid.


Currently reading?

Just finished Sideways by Rex Pickett, and am about to re-read Dune (the original); I last read it about thirty years ago. Yikes!


One person I look up to is....and why?

My three heroes in my life are/were my dad, my son, and John Lennon. My dad and son because they're the two most inspiring people I've known, and John because his talent, passion, dedication, and courage were off the charts.


The most important thing I've learned on my journey thus far is....

It took me a long time to understand that we are not only constantly evolving individuals, but that everyone around us is in the midst of their own evolution. We're a swirling, confusing mix of humanity, aren't we? Coming to terms with that has made life a lot less hectic and probably much more fun.


Closing thoughts....

I never take for granted how fortunate I am. Each morning I get to host the top-rated radio show in Denver, and I have a blast each and every day with that show. Plus I get to write/create, which provides a ton of intellectual stimulation. Not only that, but people actually BUY my books! How cool is that?!

And, as I sit and write this, I'm watching the sun set behind the Rocky Mountains. I'm telling you, I'm a lucky guy! Thanks so much, Gina.

(…and thank YOU Mr. Testa for the fantastic interview and for helping to spread the message that smart IS cool to young people across the globe to achieve a better tomorrow not just for them, but the world at large!)


Now to keep the party going strong, here’s your chance to score big! Author Dom Testa was gracious enough to not only provide us with that great interview but also give you a chance to win not one…not two….not even three….but FOUR books! Three to stimulate your imagination within the sci-fi YA world and one to tantalize your intellect with trivial goodness. Here’s the scoop!

The prize…


(1) copy of EACH of the first THREE books in the Galahad series including…

The Comet’s Curse

The Web of Titan

The Cassini Code

When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth's atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake. Suddenly, mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. Only those under the age of eighteen seem to be immune. Desperate to save humanity, a renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to create a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, the "Galahad" and its crew--none over the age of sixteen--is launched.


(1) copy of The Mindbender Book, Volume 1

…benefiting The Big Brain Club! Here’s a little more about the title….
The most popular radio contest in the world is now available in print! Stump your friends, compete against family, or test yourself to find out just how big your brain is after all.

In 1993, top-rated radio host Dom Testa introduced a new game to the seven o'clock hour of his morning show. It wasn't a quiz, it wasn't trivia... it was something else. The very first Mindbender was: 'On an average day, this form of transportation carries more people than any other.' The phones lit up with guesses, but it took a while for the right answer to emerge: elevators. Now, almost 20 years later, the Mindbender really is the most popular radio contest in the world.

Finally, a collection of 100 of the best Mindbenders ever to hit the airwaves! Better still, it's organized in such a way that you can play along with friends, family, enemies or co-workers, and compete to see who has the biggest brain. Proceeds benefit The Big Brain Club, so you're making an impact in your community as well. What are you waiting for? Dive right in!

How to enter….

Just fill out THIS FORM…and you’re in to win!

...and yes, there are options for EXTRA ENTRIES.  ^_^


The rules….
Open to U.S. residents only, no P.O. Boxes please.
Entries accepted today through Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at midnight CST. Winner will be drawn and contacted by Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 and have 48 hours to respond with their mailing information. If requested information is not received within the given time frame, a new winner will be chosen.



So there you have it.

Another way to celebrate reading AND learning every day and a pretty awesome way to do it if I say so myself.


A simple message with a big impact for so many youngsters out there just finding their footing on the path of life. Encourage them when you see them trying, celebrate the triumphs, soften the downfalls and help them (as well as your friends, family and neighbors) see that a mind is a terrible thing to waste (yeah I know, borrowed that old line) no matter the age of the person holding it hostage. Set it free and see where it takes you. The sky’s the limit…only if you let it be.

Special thanks to author Dom Testa for today’s post, both interview and contest. (THANKS!) To discover more about this author, visit his site, like him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. To read all about the Galahad series, check out the About Books page on his site, or like the series Facebook page. Last but certainly not least, to find out more about The Big Brain Club as well as how you can help, visit their official website…on which I discovered you can get free Getting’ My Nerd On T-shirt with a $25 donation. (So want one! ^_^)

Until next time….happy reading!


Geo Librarian said...

I try to encourage the students I see on a weekly basis to realize that being smart is a talent, a gift, and not something to be ignored or made fun of. I also encourage students to be readers. Readers become leaders as well as stretching their mental muscles.

Felicity Grace Terry said...

Great interview, I love it that you enquire about the authors reading habits.

Alexia561 said...

Great post and interview! It's sad that kids would rather be like the cast of the Jersey Shore than study hard and try to make something of themselves. I was the quiet, nerdy type in school too! Hope his program catches on, as it's sad that kids are embarrassed to be smart.

The1stdaughter said...

What a great organization! I think I was more of a closet nerd, but not much of one because I hid behind my band-geekishness. LOL So I was just nerdy and geeky all over. :oP

Still, what a great interview and I love what he's doing to change the lives of kiddos today. It's so important!

Anonymous said...

I would and I hope do it by the example I set when working with Junior High students every day.

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