Interview with Joe Bruzzese, author of book for parents


Author interview with Joe Bruzzese, “A Parents’ Guide to the Middle School Years” (Ten Speed Press, 2009)bookCover-1colorJpg340

**This interview is slightly different than my usual 10 questions because Joe already had a great Q&A of his own.

What led you to write this book?

With nearly 40 million families entering middle school in the coming decade I knew there was a need to fill. My own experiences as a teacher, coach and teacher trainer gave me further cause for looking at the changes and challenges kids face as they make one of life’s toughest transitions. Books about teens have become confrontational. Often the tone and ideas of teen centered books focus on reacting to the state of chaos that has become synonymous with the teen years. I wanted to create a guide with proactive ideas that would help parents put strategies in place prior to, rather than in response to, moments of frustration.


Where did the original idea come from?

While the book focuses on the changes children experience it also highlights how parenting changes. Walking hand-in-hand through the park may have been fun in first grade, but middle school often marks the beginning of a child’s drive to establish an identity, independent of their parents. The shift in a parent-child relationship leaves many parents feeling alone and excluded. Staying connected in positive ways, throughout the middle school years, paves the way for a positive relationship as kids transition into young adulthood. Keeping kids and parents connected underlies many of the ideas and strategies I share throughout the book.


Do you have any stories about the writing process?

Talking with people is one of my strengths. Writing was a new genre to pursue, but a passion I had always wanted to explore more fully. Writing a book seemed like a nearly insurmountable goal at times. Words fled from my mind as I sat in front of my computer hunting for the “right” ideas to share. It was only when I shifted my mindset from needing to write to wanting to write that the ideas truly came to life. On the best days, words leapt onto the page. From beginning to end writing a book is a journey, not unlike the journey parents travel with their children. I cherish everyday with my own children, knowing our days together are numbered before they leave home for the last time. As truly challenging as this book was to write I relish in the thought that its message will touch parents in a truly unique way, opening a path toward a fulfilling future.


How is your book unique? 

Whereas most books attempt to provide answers this book prompts questions; questions that lead to conversations, which in turn, build relationships. The book wouldn’t be complete without the addition of a selected number of tips and strategies so I’ve included the nuts and bolts of getting organized, managing time and meeting the expectations of teachers across a seven period schedule. My intention in bringing this book to the nearly 40 million parents starting middle school is to provide a solid foundation for thriving in the years ahead.


Whether a child starts middle school or junior high in 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th grade the transition to middle school will mark a significant change in your family. Thriving throughout the middle school years doesn’t happen by accident. Kids and parents who find fulfillment during these years do so because it is their intention and vision to do so. This book lays the groundwork for building a vision that takes parents into, through and beyond the challenges and changes of the middle school years. The logistics of navigating a heavy course load at school and finding the ideal organization system, although important, comprise only a small slice of the pie that families are expected to consume during these years.

Taken at its roots, this book is a conversation about three ideas:  confidence, connection and challenge. Parents looking for a book filled with band-aids and the quick fixes will be disappointed. However, reading from beginning to end will reward the parent who is committed to taking action not just today, but everyday as their child tackles middle school and teen years to come.


Favorite childhood book?
Norman the Doorman, by Don Freeman. A stoic mouse stands guard outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, awaiting a group of friends who eventually celebrate Norman’s sculpture as part of the museum’s artist contest. The illustrations emblazoned a feeling of safety and comfort amidst the frostbitten New York winter. I loved sharing the story with my Mom at the children’s library growing up.


What was the hardest thing about writing a book?

The first word and the last word. Taking the first step requires intention, energy and a commitment to steps two, three and four. Believing in your ability to create something of meaning is a formidable obstacle to overcome. Equally foreboding was the last word. How does it end? What’s the right way to say goodbye. I never have been good at saying goodbye.


When did you know you were a writer?

I’m not. Technically yes I am a writer. Hemingway was a writer. It’s like saying you’re a swimmer because you finished first in a few races during your college years. Michael Phelps is a swimmer.


Who is your hero?

I have two. My daughter Jordyn and my son Tristan. They inspire my days (and nights). I’m in awe of the simplicity they bring to the world and the courage they summon in spite of challenges they face. I couldn’t imagine my life without them.


Where were you when your found out your book would be published?
I remember vividly sitting in front of pile of rejection letters as I opened the acceptance from Ten Speed. Instinctively, my hand had already made the move to deposit the letter a top of pile.


What book do you re-read every few years?

Change the Way You See Everything holds the premier position in my bookshelf. Inevitably I give my copy away or gift one to a friend. The message inspires my life and the choices that guide my work. Thank you to good friend and colleague, Jason Womack. My life was forever changed the day you shared this book with me.

**Joe just finished the online companion to the book – and it’s now included with the purchase of the book!

You can purchase books online at Amazon and through Joe’s site at

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