Authors Posts by Heidi Sutton

Heidi Sutton

Heidi Sutton
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From left, Danny Meglio, Kate Keating and Jackie Hughes in a scene from 'The Wizard of Oz.' Photo by Jennifer Tully

By Heidi Sutton

The cast of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Photo by Beth Hallisey
The cast of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Photo by Beth Hallisey

The month of October means that the classic tale of the “Wizard of Oz” is back on the Engeman’s stage in Northport. Presented every year at this time with the support of the Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the beloved children’s theater musical only gets better with age. Suzanne Mason, who played the Wicked Witch of the West in last year’s production, sits in the director’s chair this time and leads an adult cast of eight through an hour and half of pure “joy and rapture.”

Based on the children’s books by L. Frank Baum, “The Wizard of Oz” tells the story of young Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, who are swept out of Kansas by a tornado and transported over the rainbow to a magical land of munchkins, witches and ruby slippers. Engeman’s “Wizard” gives us an abridged version of the classic tale (no poppies here) but tackles it with such enthusiasm that will make audiences fall in love with Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow all over again.

Kate Keating stars as Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz.' Photo by Jennifer Tully
Kate Keating stars as Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Jennifer Tully

Kate Keating reprises her role as Dorothy Gale and treats the audience to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the very beginning of the show. Keating’s enthusiastic performance is truly wonderful and at times she sounds just like a young Judy Garland. Jackie Hughes tackles the role of Scarecrow with ease, wobbly legs and all, giving us a sweet rendition of “If I Only Had a Brain,” and Danny Meglio is a terrific Tin Man on a quest to get a heart. Samm Carroll plays the dual role of meanies Ms. Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West with just the right amount of grouchiness.

However, it is Andrew McCluskey as Cowardly Lion who steals the show. In pure comedic form, he delivers a performance that would make Bert Lahr proud. Stephanie Krasner in the role of Nico the Monkey Bat, Joshua Cahn as the Wizard and Courtney Fekete as Glinda round out the supporting cast and do a fine job.

A nice touch is the constant interaction between the actors and the audience. During the frequent set changes, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man walk through the aisles asking the children which way they should go to see the Wizard. Even the Wicked Witch suddenly appears from around the corner, causing many young audience members to jump out of their seats.

Jackie Hughes as is Scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz. Photo by Jennifer Tully
Jackie Hughes as is Scarecrow in ‘The Wizard of Oz. Photo by Jennifer Tully

Designed by Jess Costagliola, the costumes are exactly what one would expect, from Dorothy’s iconic blue gingham dress to Glinda’s beautiful pink gown. That is until the munchkins come out and mix things up a bit. With giant hats and big googly eyes, their rendition of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead!” is hilarious. Wings flap on Nico the Monkey Bat and wait until you see the Wizard!

With familiar music, lots of humor and not-too-scary special effects, this “Wizard of Oz” is the perfect show with which to introduce a young child to live theater. So turn off the televisions, iPads and cell phones and start your journey down the Yellow Brick Road as soon as you can — this production is not to be missed. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. (An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program.) Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “The Wizard of Oz” through Nov. 6 followed by a holiday favorite, “Frosty,” from Nov. 26 to Dec. 31. All tickets are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

From left, Senator Kemp Hannon, Barbara Heaphy, Gloria Rocchio and Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak, Chief Executive Officer and VP for Health Systems of Stony Brook University Hospital, at the dinner fundraiser on Sept. 29.

By Heidi Sutton

From left, Kathleen Mich, WMHO trustee; Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman; Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president; Senator Kemp Hannon; Tom Manuel, The Jazz Loft president and founder; Anna Kerekes, WMHO trustee; Rob Taylor, board of trustees, The Jazz Loft; Laura Landor Stiegelmaier, director of Education and Community Outreach, The Jazz Loft; and Ed Gutleber, WMHO trustee. Photo by Barbara Heaphy
From left, Kathleen Mich, WMHO trustee; Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman; Gloria Rocchio, WMHO president; Senator Kemp Hannon; Tom Manuel, The Jazz Loft president and founder; Anna Kerekes, WMHO trustee; Rob Taylor, board of trustees, The Jazz Loft; Laura Landor Stiegelmaier, director of Education and Community Outreach, The Jazz Loft; and Ed Gutleber, WMHO trustee. Photo by Barbara Heaphy

Last Thursday evening was a night to remember, literally, as The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook hosted a fundraising dinner at its Cultural & Educational Center to introduce a new program for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients on Long Island and their caregivers, aptly titled Young at Heart. The dinner, which was catered by The Three Village Inn, attracted many health care professionals in the community who were eager to learn more about this exciting new initiative. Live music was provided by Rich Iacaona on piano, Keenan Zach on bass and Tom Manuel on trumpet.

The 26-week-long series, set to begin in November, is a collaborative effort between The WMHO, Stony Brook Medicine, the Long Island State Veterans Home and The Jazz Loft along with sponsors The Bristal Assisted Living and Aging Flower. The memory care enrichment program will feature music and memory, art, poetry and comedy. Programs will be held alternatively at The Jazz Loft and the Cultural & Educational Center. A facilitator who specializes in geriatrics and a certified nurse will be present at each program.

Senator Kemp Hannon, chair of the Senate Health Committee, regarded nationally as an expert in the health care industry, helped kicked off the program and was honored for spearheading both the reauthorization of the Health Care Reform Act and the development of New York’s Assisted Living Program.

“In our society there are causes that are popular and attract a great deal of support. [However] there are critical issues that are overlooked,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of The WMHO. “One of them is the reason we are here tonight — a disease affecting people of all ages — dementia and Alzheimer’s — which is not getting the support it should with the exception of Senator Kemp Hannon whose [Care Act] legislation brings positive steps in the right direction.”

Senator Kemp Hannon accepts a recognition award from WMHO Trustee Richard Rugen and WMHO President Gloria Rocchio. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Senator Kemp Hannon accepts a recognition award from WMHO Trustee Richard Rugen and WMHO President Gloria Rocchio. Photo by Heidi Sutton

“You are doing something very special tonight,” said Hannon. “You’re focusing on a need and you’re doing it as a community. You’re forming a consciousness that I have not heard ever before for this big, big topic.” The senator received a recognition award from The WMHO for his compassionate leadership.

Tom Manuel, founder and president of The Jazz Loft, said the initial vision for The Jazz Loft always included programs for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s and children with special needs. “I have seen firsthand how magical [music therapy can be].” Laura Landor Stiegelmaier, director of Education and Community Outreach at The Jazz Loft agreed, adding, “This is so important to us. We truly believe that we are setting an example for our community and our community at large for all that we can do for those who are suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

Barbara Heaphy, recreation director at The Bristal Assisted Living in East Northport summed it up perfectly, saying “There’s such a need for this multifaceted program and the enrichment that it will offer people all over Long Island.”

The Young At Heart committee will host a community forum to discuss memory loss at The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, 97P Main St., Stony Brook on Oct. 13 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Facilitated by Dr. Stephen G. Post of Stony Brook Medicine, the public is invited to participate in a round table discussion with medical professionals discussing solutions and caregivers talking about peaks and valleys of their experiences. Learn about the Young at Heart series and its upcoming events. Guest speakers will include Stony Brook Medicine’s Dr. Lisa Strano-Paul and Dr. Lory E. Bright-Long, Dan Cohen, founding executive director of Music & Memory Inc. and caregivers Don Estes and Karin Wile. Refreshments will be served. For more information on this free event or to RSVP, call 631-689-5888.

For more information about the Young at Heart program, please call 631-751-2244.

Glazed Autumn Leaf Cookies

Cooler temperatures, beautiful changing leaves and the familiar scent of pumpkin pie spice are all signs of fall. Whether you’re hosting a pumpkin carving party or decorating sweet treats with family, celebrate the season with pumpkin patch cupcakes and maple-flavored leaf-shaped cookies.

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes
Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

YIELD: Makes 24 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened

4 teaspoons McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract

2 boxes (16 ounces each) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 teaspoons Sunflower color from McCormick Color from Nature — Assorted Food Colors, divided 1/2 teaspoon Berry color from McCormick Color from Nature — Assorted Food Colors, divided

24 unfrosted cupcakes

12 regular marshmallows, halved crosswise

12 small chocolate-flavored taffy roll (Tootsie Roll), halved crosswise

DIRECTIONS: Beat butter and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating well after each addition and scraping sides and bottom of bowl frequently. Add milk; beat until light and fluffy. Remove 2 cups of the frosting into medium microwavable bowl. Tint frosting orange using 1 teaspoon of the Sunflower color and 1/4 teaspoon of the Berry color. Set aside.

Tint remaining frosting green using another 1/2 teaspoon of the Sunflower color and 1/4 teaspoon of the Berry color. Spread top of cupcakes with green frosting. Using a fork, gently touch frosting in different directions to resemble grass spikes. To make the pumpkins, microwave the orange frosting on HIGH 10 to 20 seconds or until runny. Using a fork, dip marshmallow halves into frosting mixture, then place on top of frosted cupcakes. Let stand until pumpkin frosting has dried. Press a Tootsie Roll half in center of each pumpkin for the stem. Decorate leaves and vines with remaining green frosting, if desired.

Glazed Autumn Leaf Cookies

Glazed Autumn Leaf Cookies
Glazed Autumn Leaf Cookies

YIELD: Makes 36 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

2 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons maple extract

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in medium bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and maple extract; mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Roll dough on generously floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out leaves with 2- to 3-inch leaf-shaped cookie cutters. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges start to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

To glaze cookies, hold a cookie by its edge and dip the top into the glaze. Place iced cookies on wire rack set over foil-covered baking sheet to dry. Let stand until glaze is set. For the variations below, dissolve the designated amount of the Color from Nature Food Colors with water in small bowl. Stir in any remaining ingredients until smooth.

Maroon Cookie Glaze: Use 1/2 teaspoon Berry color from McCormick Color from Nature — Assorted Food Colors, 3 tablespoons water (plus additional to dissolve color), 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon cocoa powder.

Forest Green Cookie Glaze: Use 1/2 teaspoon Sky Blue color and 1/4 teaspoon Sunflower color from McCormick Color from Nature — Assorted Food Colors, 3 tablespoons water (plus additional to dissolve color), 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon cocoa powder.

Pumpkin Cookie Glaze: Use 1 teaspoon Sunflower color and 1/4 teaspoon Berry color from McCormick Color from Nature — Assorted Food Colors, 3 tablespoons water (plus additional to dissolve color) and 2 cups confectioners’ sugar.

The cast of 'Pumpkin Patch Magic.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Just in time for Halloween, Theatre Three brings us “Pumpkin Patch Magic” or “If at First You Don’t Succeed,” a spooktacular musical for young children that is as sweet as a Kit Kat bar. Written over 20 years ago, the play has emerged from the shadows with a complete makeover and returned to the stage last Saturday. With fresh new lyrics and music by Jules Cohen, wonderful direction by Jeffrey Sanzel, a brilliant script chock full of rhyme, and a cast that is top notch, this show is sure to become an annual tradition.

It’s October in the Land of Halloween and everyone has certain chores in order for pumpkins to end up in pumpkin patches all over the world. The gnomes, known for their homegrown gnome poems, have to grow the pumpkins, the witches have to fly the pumpkins to the patch, the ghosts have to place the pumpkins in the patch without being seen and the rulers of the land have to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Fairy Loquacious Chattelot, played by Jessica Contino, serves as narrator and introduces the audience to four citizens of the Land of Halloween who are trying to help but can’t. Norman Gnome (Steven Uihlein) has trouble growing a pumpkin — during one attempt he ends up growing a head of lettuce! “I’m all thumbs and none of them are green,” he laments. His fellow gnomes, Nemo (Kyle Breitenbach) and Nathan (Dylan Poulos) feel Norman is useless and in the way. Ermengarde Broomwellsweepalot (Emily Gates), the witch, doesn’t know how to fly so is tasked by her fellow witch Ethel Broomwellsweepalot (Zoe Dunmire) with taking care of all the other chores including painting broom handles.

The gnomes of 'Pumpkin Patch Magic.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
The gnomes of ‘Pumpkin Patch Magic.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Graham Ghost (Jason Furnari) can’t seem to turn himself invisible — his conversations with Harvey the invisible ghost are hilarious! — and Princess Pumpkin (Melanie Acampora) is a nervous mess who has trouble making decisions and therefore can’t rule the Queendom, much to the dismay of her mother Queen Honoria (Ginger Dalton). Tensions run high. Will the Fairy Loquacious Chattelot help them with some good advice? Or will her advice backfire? Will the children find pumpkins in the pumpkin patch to decorate or will Halloween be ruined?

The musical numbers, with their jazzy undertones, are the heart of the show. From the opening number, “It’s Halloween!” by the whole company, to the clever “I’m All Thumbs,” sung by the gnomes, to Graham Ghost’s solo, “I’m Gettin’ Out [Moving to a Ghost Town],” each song, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, is better than the next. Costumes by Teresa Matteson are another highlight of the production with noticeable effort and attention to detail. Choreography by Sari Feldman is fun and hip, especially during “Not Easy Being Me.”

Children are encouraged to come to the show in their Halloween costumes. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photo-ops. Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Theatre Three, 412 Man St., Port Jefferson will present “Pumpkin Patch Magic” through Oct. 29. A special sensory-sensitive performance is scheduled for Oct. 9 where the house lights will remain on throughout the performance and children may move around the theater. Next up is the 13th anniversary of “Barnaby Saves Christmas” from Nov. 25 to Dec. 30 (sensory-sensitive performance on Nov. 27.) All tickets are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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Adult Coloring Contest

We have a winner!

Karin Bagan of Setauket is the winner of our latest adult coloring contest! Karin’s intricate nautical-themed graphic was chosen over many other entries, and she wins a three-year subscription to Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Congratulations and thank you to all who entered!

Enter to win! Why should kids have all the fun? Color in this image by Karin Bagan of Setauket and enter to win a three-year subscription to the Times Beacon Record (a $99 value). Mail your winning entry to Times Beacon Record Newspapers, P.O. Box 707, Setauket, NY 11733 or email a high-resolution image to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. Deadline to enter is Oct. 15. Contest open to ages 21 and older. The winner will be announced in the issue of Oct. 20. Questions? Call 631-751-7744, ext. 109.

Kicking off last year's Paint Port Pink with a ceremony at Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

 

 

Village to raise awareness about breast cancer and breast health

Phountain on East Main Street in Port Jefferson was awash in pink during last year’s Paint Port Pink. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital
Phountain on East Main Street in Port Jefferson was awash in pink during last year’s Paint Port Pink. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

Paint Port Pink, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s month-long breast cancer awareness community outreach, returns in October with new events, initiatives and community partners.

A tree lighting ceremony in front of Village Hall Sept. 28 kicked off the event. Presented by Astoria Bank, the event’s mission is to stress the importance of screening, early detection and education about breast cancer and to help raise funds for the Fortunato Breast Health Center Fund for the Uninsured at Mather.

The Village of Port Jefferson will be all aglow as more than 80 storefronts will be decorated in mini pink lights and pink banners. Local schools will hold fundraisers and restaurants will offer pink drinks.

Pink lights shine bright on Theatre Three’s marquis at last year’s event. Photo by Heidi Sutton

This year’s outreach will also include an art show at the Port Jefferson Free Library from Oct. 1 to 31, the 10th annual Pink Rock Golf Classic at the Baiting Hollow Golf Club on Oct. 3. Mather Hospital’s 51st annual Gala, One Enchanted Evening: A Night of Entertainment featuring the Edwards Twins, will be held on Oct. 14 at East Wind Caterers in Wading River at 7 p.m. The gala will include the presentation of the Community Service Award and Theodore Roosevelt Awards for service to the hospital and the community. The month-long event will conclude with Mather Hospital’s free educational health and wellness HealthyU seminar series and health fair on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 9 a.m.

Paint Port Pink is sponsored by Long Island Physician Associates, LI Anesthesia Physicians, Long Island Bone and Joint, People’s United Bank, Empire Bank, North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates, C.Tech Collections, Peconic Auto Wreckers and The Pie with the cooperation of the Village of Port Jefferson, the Port Jefferson School District, Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and other local groups.

Diane Towers with her photograph, ‘Light My Way’. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital
Diane Towers with her photograph, ‘Light My Way’. Photo courtesy of Mather Hospital

A story of survival

The photograph is one of light and serenity, of calm waters and clouds and a bridge between darkness and light. It is a perfect metaphor for what Diane Towers was feeling when she captured the scene in Ocean City, Maryland following her final treatment for breast cancer.

“To me, getting through it meant seeing something good every day, that there’s beauty all around you and every sunset is something you appreciate more and more,” said Towers, a Mount Sinai resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. “It was my first vacation after I had done chemo and I had my bald head and reconstructed body and we went away to Maryland. That picture was taken right outside our hotel room and the lights had just come on and it was just breathtaking to me. I was coming out of a dark time and seeing the light.”

Towers, a 28-year employee of John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, had discovered a lump in one of her breasts through self-examination. “It was a total shock,” she said, adding that there was no family history of breast cancer. She went to the Fortunato Breast Health Center at Mather and had a mammography and an ultrasound, but the results of both tests were negative, she said. Working with her doctor there, she had a biopsy taken and the cancer diagnosis was confirmed, she said.

“One of the things that came out of the experience for me is don’t put all your trust in technology. You have to be diligent. You are your best advocate for your health. You know your body,” she said.

After consulting with Drs. Joseph Carrucciu and Michelle Price at Fortunato, Towers elected to have a bilateral mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery. “They were wonderful advocates and just guided me,” she said. “I have to say the people at this hospital got me through this. They were amazing from the secretary when you first walked in to people in the lab. The compassion that comes out of people when you go through something like this really is amazing.”

“Here I am seven years later, finished with everything and in total remission,” Towers said. “I’ve had two children married and three grandbabies on the way and a lot of beautiful things have happened. So there is life after cancer.”

Towers entered her photo, “Light My Way,” in the Paint Port Pink’s art show. “It’s A Good Day,” at Port Jefferson Free Library. An art exhibit reception will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m., with viewing of the exhibit open to the public during normal library hours through Oct. 31. Artwork may be purchased for $50 per piece at the reception. After Oct. 5, please call Mather Hospital’s Public Affairs Office at 631-476-2723 if you would like to purchase a piece. Art work will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

For a complete list of Paint Port Pink events, partners and sponsors and to see all the entries in the art show, visit www.paintportpink.org.

Blast from the Past: Do you know when and where this photo was taken? What are these two men talking about? Email your answers to info@wmho.org. To see more wonderful vintage photographs like this, visit The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s ongoing exhibit, It Takes a Team to Build a Village, at The WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main Street, Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-2244.

Answer to last week’s Throwback Thursday:

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Merrill of Locust Valley (foreground), and Mr. and Mrs. Ward Melville of Stony Brook share a box at the 67th National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1955. Newsday/Tom Maguire

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Merrill of Locust Valley (foreground), and Mr. and Mrs. Ward Melville of Stony Brook share a box at the 67th National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1955.
Newsday/Tom Maguire

 

A great horned owl at Sweetbriar Nature Center

Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown will hold a yard sale on Oct. 29 and 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to support its mission of nature education and wildlife rehabilitation. Donations of household goods, collectibles, antiques and small pieces of furniture are requested — with nothing more than 40 pounds. No clothing, books or baby items please. All proceeds go to caring for their animals.

To drop off items or to arrange a pick up, call Joe at 631-905-5911 or Eric at 631-979-6344, ext. 302.

The cover of Cindy Sommer's new children's book. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer

By Heidi Sutton

Just in time for fall, Stony Brook resident Cindy Sommer has released her first children’s book, “Saving Kate’s Flowers” (Arbordale Publishing). Recommended for ages 3 to 8, the 32-page picture book, with gorgeous illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein, follows little Kate the rabbit in her quest to save the flowers in her family’s garden from dying at the end of the summer. After her mother teaches her about perennials, annuals and how to save seeds, Kate asks to bring the annuals inside. Unfortunately, Kate’s father is allergic to flowers! Will Kate find homes for all the flowers before the cold weather sets in?

As an added bonus, the book also includes educational resources in the back to learn more about the parts of a plant, the life cycle of plants and how to pot and identify flowers. Sommer recently took time out from preparing for a book signing and reading at the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank on Oct. 1 to answer a few questions about her adorable new book.

Above, the author with her dog Pepper, a mini Australian shepherd. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer
Above, the author with her dog Pepper, a mini Australian shepherd. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer

Can you give a little background about yourself?

I have lived in Stony Brook all my life. I attended Three Village schools and graduated from Ward Melville High School. I then graduated from SUNY Oneonta with a BA in English. I’ve always been interested in reading and writing, particularly horse books. Once I had my two daughters, I found some time to finally write.

What was your favorite book as a child?

All the Black Stallion and Marguerite Henry books. I think I had them all. Why did you decide to write this children’s book? When my daughter, Samantha, was young, she asked me “Why do flowers die in winter?” and I thought that was a very good question. I wanted to give her a simple answer, but there was no easy way. So I wrote this story. Kate is actually Samantha.

Do you have a garden at home?

Yes, I have a big backyard but a small vegetable garden. I grow some cucumbers, tomatoes and basil. I have lots of flowers … I love flowers. I love anything that blooms for most of the summer; Stella d’oro lilies, hydrangeas and dianthus.

Do you have any rabbits in your yard?

Every year we have rabbits in our yard. This year there seemed to be a lot! I think they knew my book was coming out.

Will there be more adventures with Kate in the future?

There are plans for a sequel. I don’t want to give it away, but it might involve snow. Hopefully, there will be many more adventures.

You are a member of the Long Island Children’s Writers and Illustrators. Can you tell us a little about the group?

A local librarian told me about LICWI when I first started writing. I was so nervous the first time I went to a meeting, I didn’t go in! I found that they are a wonderful encouraging group, willing to help out any writer, beginner or experienced. I learn new things every time I go to a meeting. But they will tell you the truth in a constructive way. If you can’t take criticism, you should not join a writer’s group. It has made my writing stronger, and I appreciate all of their opinions and great advice.

We meet every second Saturday a month during the school year at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. We usually have a break over the summer with a garden party. For more information, you can see visit their website: www.licwi.com.

What advice would you give to someone who is writing their first book?

Read the genre for the type of book you want to write. I have read hundreds of picture books. Get to know the structure, the language and the pacing. Join a local writer’s group and the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Try to go to writing conferences. I used to go to Hofstra when they had their conferences. Sadly they no longer have them. I looked forward to meeting editors and going to workshops. SCBWI has started offering some writing events at the Huntington Public Library, and they hold many in NYC. Wait for your story to be the absolute best it can be before you send it out anywhere. And write because you love to write. Most authors do not make much money in real life.

Why do you think reading to a young child is so important?

Reading is something they will be doing for the rest of their lives, so it’s something that should be encouraged from the very start. If they are given good basics and a love of books at an early age, they will have the tools they need to accomplish whatever they want to in life.

Tell me about the book signing event on Oct. 3.

I will be in the Children’s Garden at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank on Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. during the farm’s PumpkinFest, with a rain date of Oct. 4. I will probably read my book at 1:30 p.m. with signings followed by a flower-themed craft available until around 3:30 p.m.

Any more book signings in the works?

Since this is my first book, I am eager to get started. I am doing a presentation for a girls’ book club soon. My schedule is open for presentations in elementary schools. My program is registered through Eastern Suffolk and Nassau BOCES. I would love to do a reading and craft storytime for libraries and bookstores.

savingflowers_pic3“Saving Kate’s Flowers” is available at www.Amazon.com, the publisher’s website at www.arbordalepublishing.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. For more information about the author, visit www.cindysommer.com.

Please note that this article has been updated:

The PumpkinFest in Yaphank has been rescheduled to Oct. 3 and 4.