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Meet Joanne Gucwa of BioFables in Northwest Suburban

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joanne Gucwa.

Joanne, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I earned a BS in Chemistry from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1968; after graduation, a food company hired me as a researcher, where I rose to Biochemistry Section Leader. I left in 1973, founding what is now Technology Management Associates, Inc. My company evolved from industrial market research to management consulting after receiving an MBA from Northwestern University in 1981.

I’ve always loved to write, so the several hundred client reports I’ve written over 30+ years as a consultant satisfied that deep attraction to language. Everything I wrote was based on fact, including an online “bioblog” of advances in biotech research; over time the desire emerged to write fiction. But what kind of fiction? “Factual fiction” and “science-based fiction” kept bubbling up, probably due to my education and professional life. While historical fiction is a well-known genre, science-based fiction often morphs into “science fiction” in people’s minds. Despite that common misconception, science-based fiction was the only genre that excited my “little grey cells” as Hercule Poirot would say.

Who would enjoy reading science-based fiction? Which target group would discover value beyond simply entertainment in this genre? As I was asking myself these questions, I found several highly-regarded studies showing that American students in various grade categories wound up on math and science tests solidly in the MIDDLE of countries around the world, with several developing nations actually ahead of us! I had my target audience.

And then an interesting idea came about: What about including these childrens’ parents and teachers as readers for these books? After all, not only can adults influence children, but adults are the ones who make the purchases. What if I could write a series of books that would appeal to both categories? And so, the concept of BioFables was born.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Traditional publishing houses that I approached didn’t quite grasp the BioFables less-traditional approach to children’s stories. Science, they understood. Fiction, they understood. A series of full color, 50-70 page children’s novels based on family life that offers valid, age-appropriate science, math and other knowledge tidbits interwoven through ordinary and not-so-ordinary adventures – a concept those publishers didn’t quite understand.

Fortunately, self-publishing print books is much easier and far less expensive than it had been even five years ago. Eventually, I discovered CreateSpace, an Amazon company; this option allows me the freedom of design, content and overall packaging of the BioFables series.

Please tell us about BioFables.
BioFables books mimic the Big Picture of what I call Life and Learning moments. Stories star 7-year-old Melody and her twin brother Mallory Maloney; supporting roles are played by their parents, Grandpa Mike and friendly, helpful people they encounter. Quick lessons in biology, chemistry and physics arise naturally as the Maloney family visit places as far away as Yellowstone National Park and as near as their own backyard vegetable garden in northwest suburban Chicago.

The biofables.com website supplements each book’s specific STEM and humanities lessons with tables that offer chapter-by-chapter subjects and links to child-friendly sites and to more advanced sites for parents and teachers for further exploration of selected topics.

Companion Books offer parents and teachers a structured approach to the learning content of each children’s book. The first Companion, for Sand Sack (Book 3 in the series), is published. Companions for the other five published BioFables children’s books are in development; Future Companion books for new children’s books will be published within 30 days of each children’s book release.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I was awed by the dark skies, liberally salted with stars, identifiable constellations and the Milky Way during summer trips to my grandparents’ farm in Southern Illinois. Reading under (and climbing) magnificent oak trees, chasing pigs and chickens, learning how to milk cows, and just being a kid with my kid brother were favorite daytime activities down on the farm.

The BioFables books reflect those happy times of exploring and learning about nature and other fascinating facts from farm relatives, and listening to an uncle (Air Force) and my Dad (accounting) discussing the nature of sonic booms and other physical phenomena.

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Image Credit:

Photos by David Roe

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