By Anthony J. Machcinski
After a 26-year hiatus, Anna Prokos returned to her old grammar school on June 6 as an accomplished author. Prokos, who authored the children’s book “The Lucky Cake,” came to Roosevelt school in Kearny to talk to students about writing and being an author.
“It was really great to go back to my elementary school for the first time in 26 years,” Prokos said. “It was nice to see all these kids excited and how much of a difference my book made.“
“The Lucky Cake,” published in November 2011, tells the story of a Greek tradition where a cake is baked with a coin inside for the beginning of the New Year. The cake is served in order from oldest to youngest and the finder of the coin can expect to have a lucky year.
Prokos and “The Lucky Cake” achieved success, as 1,200 copies of the children’s book were sold in a threemonth span but Prokos is even happier with the reader response that her book has sparked.
“Most of the copies have been purchased by non-Greek people,” Prokos said. “Through the feedback I get, (readers) make this cake not just on New Year’s but at any time. It’s my inspiration to give kids a different cultural experience that they really have embraced.”
What really impressed her during her visit was how both teachers and students reacted.
“I think that the kids really enjoyed it,” Prokos said. “The kids had lots of questions and were very enthusiastic to ask them…The teachers really enjoyed having an author come to their school and talk about what’s its like to be an author and the careers you can have in publishing.”
One student in particular made a lasting impact with Prokos. She recounted the event, saying, “One child (that a teacher later said she didn’t think would be interested due to a disinterest in reading) wanted to talk to me directly. He asked me what were the most and least important things when writing a book. I was really struck by the fact that this child, who has not shown that much excitement in the classroom, had really wanted to ask me a question.”
Prokos answered the child by saying, “(The most important thing is to) keep rewriting as much as possible until you feel that it is done. Don’t ever settle until you’ve done it as well. (The least important thing is) a page or word limit. That’s something you can worry about at the end of it.”
Prokos found her inspiration for writing during her time at Roosevelt School while participating in a literary magazine the school published.
“My teacher created this magazine where they printed everybody’s best work throughout the year,” Prokos explained. “I remember being so excited to see my work with my name on it. I brought (the publication) home and told my parents, ‘I’m going to be a writer when I grow up’ and they didn’t believe me, but here I am today.”
With “The Lucky Cake” published, Prokos is now in the final stages of her next book, “The Lucky Year.” The book will follow the character Billy during his lucky year after finding the coin in “The Lucky Cake.” “
Right now, the book is finished and is in the design and illustration process,” Prokos said. She’s unsure about when the book will be ready for publication.