Denise Zarrella is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who has spent the past two decades covering hard news. She has met with historic figures, including U.S. Presidents and roc stars, but the people she has been most touched by are the children at the center of many of her stories.
Zarrella began her career at Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted,” where she researched cases involving unsolved crimes and missing children. From there, she shifted gears to news and headed to Atlanta, where she became an Associated Producer at CNN’s World Headquarters. While at CNN, she began reporting for TBS’s morning show “Interact America,” and her on-air journey began.
She left CNN and TBS to become a full-time Anchor/Reporter at WBBJ, in Jackson, Tennessee. She has also world in Champaign, Illinois, and Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, which returned her to her hometown in the Poconos.
VS: What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Denise: Writing this children's book fit right into the atmosphere around here! I am a reporter and anchor for a local TV station, who writes for television for a living, but I wrote this children's book for my kids. I have two fast growing toddlers - at least they were toddlers when I started my book project.
VS: How long have you been writing?
Denise: For as long as I can remember. I was in fifth grade when I wrote my first novel on an old fashioned typewriter. I still have that old manuscript. It's hilarious!!! I used to carry around an E.T. book bag with my latest works and ideas in it. I would write whenever I got a chance. All summer long, I would write while I was at the babysitter's house. My mom always said that the Beatles song, "Paperback Writer," reminded her of me.
VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Denise: It was my husband, who wholeheartedly encouraged me to write, "Not even the Sky is the Limit." He saw a need, just as I did, for a book out there that would give people with Down Syndrome a platform to show the world all the great things they are doing. There is spectrum of severity of the chromosomal disorder, just as in Autism, for example, but many people with Down Syndrome are doing more with their lives than some people I've met without disabilities. They live life to the fullest and love without limits too!!!
VS: Can you share a little with us about your book?
Denise: "Not even the Sky is the Limit," is a book that grew out of my need to know that my life with my daughter, Gianna, who has Down Syndrome, would be just as fulfilling and fun as what other children experience. I connected with other parents with children with Down Syndrome before and after Gianna was born and constantly found myself asking everyone what their child could do, what they loved doing together. My husband Tony and I were talking one night, and I was so excited about some of the cool stories some parents were sharing with me that I said, "I wish there was a book that I could go to and see all of this right in front of me - especially on the days when I'm worried about Gianna and her development." Tony said, "Why don't you do it?" I said, "I think I will," and I did. A little over one year later here I am. People are connecting with this book in a way that I hoped they would, but the feedback is even beyond what I expected. Everyone from right to life groups, to special education teachers, to people who just support the idea of empowering people with disabilities are ordering the book and rallying around it.
VS: Do you have any other works in progress?
Denise: I have a book I've wanted to write my entire life, but I can't seem to bang it out! I have piles of notes and piles of pages of free writing, but I need to pull it all together in a form that someone would be able to follow. Someday, I'll be submitting another manuscript to my publisher. Wish me luck.
VS: What are the basic ingredients for a good book?
Denise: In terms of "Not even the Sky is the Limit," I think I have an audience of people who are just as passionate about creating equal opportunities for people with Down Syndrome as me. So, when it comes to my children's book, I've got great pictures and graphics and simply written words that kids love, but that adults are inspired by as well. When it comes to telling a great story though, in general, I think it's important to write something that people can relate to, to not hold back and to tell the truth. The truth, as they say, is better than fiction!
VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?
Denise: I think that most importantly we need to nurture their strengths and help them deal with their weaknesses. They need to feel like anything is possible with hard work and a winning attitude. We also need to teach them though, that success is so much more than the material things we are taught to associate with "making it." At the end of the day, character counts. Family counts. Dreams count. This book was my dream. I am lucky I was brought up to be resourceful, to never give up and to never let fear get in the way of what I wanted to accomplish.
VS: What is required for a character to be believable?
Denise: Characters must be like us - motivated by much of what drives us, confronted with dramas many of us face, making decisions that either make us hate them or love them. In the case of the most dynamic characters, we feel a little of both. But I think they also must be somewhat intriguing - living a life or doing things we want to know more about or want to be more connected to even if we may not want to admit that openly.
VS: What part of your book do you feel stands out to you personally?
Denise: In "Not even the Sky is the Limit," my daughter is the part of the book that stands out to me personally. Because Gianna has Down Syndrome, I also feel personally connected with every single child and adult in the book. They are all such beautiful and inspirational people - perfectly created by God. Spend some time with me and my family and you'll feel the same way.
VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book?
Denise: Honestly, funding this book was the most challenging part, but even that fell into place in a way I never predicted it would. I have now seen first hand how listening to your inner voice and putting something out there that the world needs to see can take on a life of its own. Once I started talking to people about my idea for "Not even the Sky is the Limit," where I would showcase and focus on the abilities of people with Down Syndrome, there was so much support for my idea, that things just took care of themselves. This book was so much fun to do. Because so many believed in my mission, it turned out to be the easiest and most fulfilling thing I've ever done.
Not Even The SKY Is The LIMIT, is inspired by the authors daughter Gianna, who has Down Syndrome. The book is also meant for adults, who will clearly see by turning the pages that there are no limits to what those living with disabilities can do.
A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to organizations that improve the lives of people who live with Down Syndrome.
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
ISBN: 978-1-61244-199-3 (hard cover)