Port resident tackles children’s literature

Port resident tackles children’s literature
Dave Kerpen's book "Normal" can be pre-ordered online. (Courtesy of Publishizer)

Writing books is an old hat for Port Washington resident Dave Kerpen, the co-founder of Likeable Media whose published work has appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List.

But his newest project presented a different challenge.

“It’s my first fiction book, and the first one that is aimed at children,” Kerpen said of his upcoming novel “Normal.”

The novel, aimed at children in grades four through seven, tells the stories of four 12-year-old children growing up in New York City.

There is David, a Jewish boy living in Brooklyn with a bipolar father, two younger brothers, and an overwhelmed mother; Tiffany, an Italian-American girl in Queens with an alcoholic father, older sister and working-class mom; Albert, a Chinese-American only child living in Manhattan’s Chinatown, whose father recently left his conservative, traditional mother for a man and came out as gay; and Alexa,  an African-American girl living in the Bronx who is adjusting to life with a new, difficult step-mom after her mother passed away.

Kerpen said that he was inspired to write the book by his daughter.

“My kids have been saying for years, ‘you should write a book we can read,'” he recalled. “After I published my last book, my daughter said ‘We’ve been asking for a book for a couple of years,’ so I looked her in the eyes and said I would start on it right now.”

Kerpen said that the character of David is based on his own experiences growing up in Brooklyn. The other characters were based on friends he had as a child and on his children’s friends in Port Washington.

Of course, being a child then and being a child now are very different.

“I’m fortunate that I work in am industry — social media — that forced me to keep up with what the kids are doing in a way that most people in my generation haven’t,” Kerpen said. “One of the characters escapes the circumstances of her life by using Snapchat [a popular messaging app]. I didn’t have a smartphone growing up, I would go play Nintendo instead. But kids today, they log into Snapcaht or Instagram.”

As for writing the book itself, Kerpen thought it would be more of a challenge. His four previous were all self-help books targeted at adults. But once he got started writing, he said he found the process to be pretty straightforward.

“When I started writing it I thought I should use simple language, but my previous books are straightforward and… not jargon-y,” he said. “So I tried to write it the same way. The hardest part of fiction is getting into the heads of the characters, especially the three that were not based on me.”

The message that he hopes that children take from the book — along with their parents and teachers — is that being normal is overrated.

“While kids strive for normalcy, the real win is when you understand that your uniqueness is awesome and that’s what makes you special,” Kerpen said.

Kerpen said that breaking into children’s literature is difficult, even for a bestselling author. So he partnered with Publishizer to set up a pre-order system. Once a certain number of preorders are reached, the book will be published for stores and schools. He said he expects the physical book to hit shelves in early 2019.

The book can be preordered at publishizer.com/normal/.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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