Laura Preble, 46
High school English teacher
Author of teen lit hit The Queen Geek Social Club
How did the book idea come to you?
I woke at 3 a.m. with the title in my head and started writing.
What’s scarier—writing the first page or the last page?
The middle is the tough part. I usually know the starting point and the destination of a story, but the characters often determine how we get there, and sometimes they get confused.
How long did it take you to land a publishing deal?
I met an editor at a writers conference whose imprint was looking for “chick lit.” I sent her 20 pages and an outline. Two weeks later she called and offered me a two-book deal—a writer’s dream!
What was it like reading your first batch of reviews?
Fun and kind of surreal. My favorites, though, are e-mails and comments from people who read the book. I answer everyone personally. (Because, so far, I’m not famous. When I get really big I'll have a pet monkey answer all my e-mails.)
How do you define “geek”?
A person who is intelligent, cutting edge, clever, and who doesn’t fit into the mainstream.
Were you a geek in school?
Most definitely. I had a Han Solo poster in my room, memorized the names of all 79 original Star Trek episodes, and read The Lord of the Rings every summer.
What education issue is most important to you?
Failure to deal with students’ personal issues—the things that keep them from succeeding in school. Students drink, smoke, and participate in risky behaviors, but there are very few resources to deal with this. It’s not something that can be bubbled into a test booklet, so no one wants to put money into it.
What’s the best way to encourage a young writer?
Read their stuff, talk to them about it, and tell them not to give up. I’d been trying to get a book published since I was 16.
Why did you become an NEA member?
Teachers are on the front lines of social change. We are hit with the tidal wave of changing ideals, morals, values, and experiences every day. We need backup. NEA is like our posse.
The Queen Geek Social Club is now in its second printing. Her next book, Queen Geeks in Love , is out in November. Get a sneak peek.
Blair Todd, 29
New Carrollton, Maryland
Middle school reading and science teacher
World traveler, international tour leader for students
Are you adventurous by nature?
Yes. If I see a mountain, I want to climb it.
Most interesting place you’ve traveled?
Worst travel experience?
Riding home on a plane for 11 hours with malaria.
What’s one travel tip you swear by?
Don’t overpack, or you won’t have room for gifts.
What makes for a good student travel leader?
Flexibility, patience, and openness.
Strict itinerary or wherever the road takes you?
Strict itinerary, because there is so much to see.
What benefits do kids get from travel?
They see that there is more to the world than just America.
Why did you become an NEA member?
Teachers must ensure that great public schools are the standard for our society.
Jacqueline Larry, 58
Thirty-one years in education wasn’t enough for Larry (MAE-Retired), who is spending her golden years organizing student programs for NEA. Six years after retiring, Larry coordinates workshops and conferences for education majors, teaching them about the benefits of the Association. Student feedback from her workshops—Teachers and the Law, Interview Skills, and Classroom Management—has been overwhelmingly appreciative.
“It was a challenge at first,” says Larry of her student organizing work, “but I thoroughly enjoy my job.”