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Young Newtown author speaks at Tawanka Elementary School

by June Portnoy

Do you believe in magic? Fourteen-year-old Olivia Millevoi from Newtown does!

Olivia, an eighth-grader at Saint Andrew School in Newtown, spoke at Tawanka Elementary School in Feasterville last month, where she explained how her belief in “magic” motivated her to write a children’s picture book entitled, “Do You Believe in Magic?”

During two presentations, she told students in kindergarten through fourth grade that “magic” is actually the name of a black Lab, and that her book is based on a true story about Magic surviving a house fire.

In 2013, Magic and Rio, a golden Lab, were the only witnesses to a fire that occurred at Olivia’s neighbor’s home.

“When the owners returned to their house after the fire, they found Magic with his head literally underneath a sofa staying out of the smoke,” described Olivia. “What was really cool is that this dog whose name is Magic had the magic instinct to survive by staying low since smoke naturally rises. He was not taught to stay low during a fire, but he magically knew to do so. I believed this was a story that needed to be told.”

Olivia was 10 when the fire occurred, and she began writing her book when she was 11. During her presentations, Olivia offered students advice on how they too could become young authors by following some of the techniques that she used.

“Write what you know,” Olivia suggested. “The best stories are written from experiences that you went through.”

Even though Olivia did not see the fire, she explained, “This was the first time a fire happened so close to me, and I knew the family, which made it easier to write my book from Magic’s point of view.”

In addition to hearing her parents talk about the fire, Olivia contacted her neighbors to find out more about Magic’s behaviors and mannerisms to help her see the fire unfold through his eyes.

Other advice Olivia offered students was that “once you have an idea, write it. Move your fingers, and keep them moving. Do not stop to think too much.”

She also recommended to “write as much as you can in one sitting.” Olivia added that one’s workspace can be anywhere one feels comfortable, and that it doesn’t have to be in a quiet area on a neat desk, as one would expect.

Ironically, Olivia began writing her book on her iPad while sitting in the bleachers during her brother’s basketball game.

She also suggested, “Feel, don’t think. Don’t stop to worry what people will want to read…and don’t worry about your every word. Write what you are feeling in the moment.”

Olivia described the long process of getting her book published. “I started writing this book when I was 11-years-old and even though it only took me a few days to write it, my book didn’t get published ‘til I was almost 14. That’s almost three years, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen overnight.”

Olivia was fortunate to have family friend and published children’s author, Frank Murphy, guide her through the publishing process. He also helped her edit and revise her manuscript.

Olivia also worked with illustrator, Steve Marshall. Since this is a picture book, Olivia had to review Steve’s illustrations to ensure his pictures corresponded to the words on each page.

Frank encouraged Olivia to self-publish, explaining how difficult it is for children to get published by a traditional publishing company. He suggested that Olivia use CreateSpace, a self-publishing website.

“This whole process of brainstorming, writing, revising, editing and publishing takes a lot of time, explained Olivia. “Just know if you work hard and put your mind to it, you will get your book published, but it could take a few years, so don’t give up.”

Olivia’s mother, Mrs. Monica Millevoi and a third grade teacher at Tawanka, said, “The primary benefit of Olivia completing this book was teaching her about determination because it did take her a very long time to finish it, starting at one point and following through with her goal and her dream of becoming a published author.”

Olivia completed her presentation by announcing, “I’m happy to say that Magic now has a new home and is doing very well. He can see his former neighborhood from his new home.”

Olivia autographed books for Tawanka students who bought them at the school prior to her presentation. As a result of these purchases, the school raised $121.56.

This money was donated to the American Red Cross to help families who have suffered as a result of house fires. You can purchase “Do You Believe in Magic” on www.amazon.com and at www.barnesandnoble.com.

PHOTO CAP: Olivia Millevoi (left) and her mother, Monica, at Olivia’s speaking engagement.