A local author has self-published her first book, looking to boost the confidence and self-worth of local youth.
Tina Gasnarez, a retired teacher, and administrator for Purdue Fort Wayne, spent several months last year writing, rewriting and editing her first volume, a children’s book titled Martina Gets a New Home.
The author describes the 74-page manuscript as the story of Martina Gibson, an “8-year-old African-American girl who is slowly discovering who she is and where she fits in. When her family moves into their new home and Martina starts the third grade in the middle of the school year at a new school, she is faced with challenges she has never faced before. Matina’s parents, Momma and Daddy, help her sort through her problems with love and understanding, but she must make decisions at school where she is still considered the ‘new girl.’ Will Martina find her place in her new neighborhood and school?”
Gasnarez was raised in Fort Wayne, where the 56-year-old mother of three still lives with her husband and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, and watching historical documentaries and old Twilight Zone episodes.
Gasnarez earned her bachelors’ degrees in history and international studies, and still works occasionally as an actress in local theater productions and regional commercials. When she was younger, she traveled extensively throughout Latin America.
While living in Fort Wayne, Gasnarez spent several years as a Special Education teacher at Bishop Luers High School, 333 E. Paulding Road, and currently works as a program administration specialist at Purdue Fort Wayne, 2101 E. Coliseum Blvd.
She said writing and putting the book together was a labor of love, because she’s had the idea for the story for some time, but it was a labor, nonetheless.
“It took about six months to learn all the aspects of writing and editing it myself,” Gasnarez said. “I worked with some colleagues and some Beta readers to help me trim it down and keep what was important. I even had one 10-year-old boy read it to help me get a child’s perspective.”
The author said the book is important not just for the lessons it teaches children about fitting into their new school or neighborhood, but also for the lessons it imparts to the adults who may have to help their children navigate such pitfalls.
“This is a book where kids get to talk about their feelings,” she said. “And their problems and problem-solving. And parents see that this is something they can use to talk to their kids about if they’re going through these types of problems.”
One of Gasnarez’s favorite events with her book so far was an eight-week program at McMillen Park Community Center in which a class of children were read the book and spent weeks leaning and absorbing lessons from the tome.
The roughly 12-student class ended their lesson on the book by listening to Gasnarez speak to them a few weeks ago.
“A little girl – she couldn’t have been more than eight years old — came up to me after the class,” Gasnarez said, “and she was just so surprised and overjoyed to see my picture on the book cover, because she has only been read to from the book before,” she said with a chuckle.
Gasnarez made sure each child in the class left with a personally signed copy of her book, she said.
“That program was so great, and the administrators there were so wonderful,” she said, “They just felt it was important to have someone who worked in the arts in Fort Wayne speaking to the kids.”
Gasnarez said the book has really been the fulfillment of a dream for her, not just to finally get her story down on paper, but to offer a way to help local youngsters and their parents.
“I’m a wife, I’m a mom, and I’m a nana,” Gasnarez said. “And this was just a wonderful way to realize my dreams. Never give up on them.”