Darlene Kwarta is a retired special education teacher, mom to three adult children, grandma to six kids, former foster mom, author, Honor Flight Chicago volunteer, wife of a very patient man, and mom to two dogs who don’t know they’re dogs, not honored guests in our house. And yes, Mr. B. was the best principal, mentor, friend, and the kindest man Darlene ever had the honor of knowing.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
I had one student who was given a very short time to live. He had been severely abused for the first three years of his life until a nurse and her loving family adopted him. He was in my class for three wonderful years. He was given homework (basic math problems, picture books, etc.) but never turned in finished work. Without him knowing, I followed him to his afterschool bus and smiled as I saw him tear up the homework and throw it in the garbage. I was thrilled—he was becoming a typical high school kid. When it was time for him to go to high school, his mother asked if he could stay one more year “because he will die if he leaves Darlene.” He stayed another year and passed away a few months later. He was my “golden child.” I will always remember him as the child who loved life, learning new skills, and loving people. What a gift he gave me.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
I felt like I did when I had my first child. It was a miracle! I loved the cover—Atmosphere did a tremendous job on the cover.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I wanted people to learn that handicapped/disabled kids could achieve independence, contribute to society, and have a lot to offer if we can just overlook/accept their difficulties. My student had lived a short life because of abuse and yet was happy and made those around him appreciate their lives. How could he not influence everyone who knew him?
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I was a foster mom and fought to keep “my kids” for years, arguing with judges, laws, police, biological nutcases, etc. It was worth it. I got more than I gave.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Teaching people to be unafraid of spending time with people with disabilities, and learning to appreciate them. If nothing else, my kids taught others to be thankful for their own lives, health, families, etc.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
Look Around by Sergio Mendez. It is about noticing and appreciating the gifts we are given in life. Don’t take anything for granted.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
Appreciation for what we have…don’t dwell on what we don’t have. If you want it so badly, get off your duff and work to get it.
How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?
Great! Don’t give up!