Interview with Dr. Dawn Menge, Professor & Author of Queen Vernita’s Educational Series, Dragon’s Breath | Cover Story June 2022
Dr. Dawn Menge has a Ph.D. in Education. She specializes in Curriculum and Instruction. She also holds a Master’s and a Clear Credential in Moderate/Severe Disabilities and a bachelor’s degree in Human Development. Dr. Dawn Menge has been teaching students with severe cognitive delays for over twenty years, and mentors/lectures graduate students. She has won more than seventy International awards as the published author of the Queen Vernita’s Educational Series and Dragon’s Breath.
Dr. Dawn Menge is the mother of three, and the grandmother of six beautiful grandchildren.
“Write about your passions and life, and that there is at least one person out in the world that needs and wants to hear your message.”
Dr. Dawn Menge
What was your inspiration for Queen Vernita’s Educational Series & for Dragon’s Breath?
The inspiration for the Queen Vernita’s series began while I was taking a credentialing class for my Moderate/Severe Disabilities credential. We were asked to create a math book and game for our class. The original book included my students and we toured around our local high desert to general education PreK-2nd grade classes and did small skits to educate the students on my student’s disabilities and behaviors. When I decided to publish it, I dedicated it to my grandmother Vernita and included all the family members. Queen Vernita’s visitors soon won first place in the EVVY awards out of Colorado and the series was then created and based on my real-life adventures, family, friends, and students.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? What do you believe is the key to being a good writer?
I never imagined that my books would be read by children in African schools and libraries throughout the world. I have a teacher friend in Washington who teaches immigrants ESL (English as a Second Language} and work skills. He uses my books to help entire families learn to read and write English through Queen Vernita adventures. This is his recent communication with me.
“My student that I started teaching English to about seven years ago spoke with me today. He now has a daughter who is turning five years young, and he is reading everything that he can get his hands on now. He just loves to read! Your books started a love of reading for this young man. This is the immigrant African native man who was born under a tree on the Savannah in Central Africa. He had never written anything in his life before I met him. No letters or numbers. He did not know the alphabet or how to count anything. Now he can read the newspaper with ease, and he is able to manage his numbers well enough to budget his finances in his home. For mathematics, we started counting the guests eating at the holiday dinner in your Visitors book. My student found that particular illustration, one that he could relate to. Having a meal with a large family. I gave him a copy of the Queen Vernita’s volcanic Islands to give to his daughter for her birthday and he really lit up! He was so happy to receive your fine book. You have had an amazing impact on this young man’s life, and now the life of his child. His little girl will be entering school next year being able to read well thanks to you. She loves to read and teach her father new words! They learn to read together. Thank you for all that you continue to do with your books, Dawn You Rock.” Wayne Branson
As a professor, how do you manage to engage students during your lectures? What is the most difficult part of teaching students with severe cognitive delays?
Being an adjunct professor has given me the opportunity to reach the newest teachers in our profession. Teaching students with severe cognitive delays can be very challenging at times and the teaching retention is minimal. I would begin our lectures with stories of what happened during the week that was amazing and then a very difficult event that may have happened. By sharing openly with others who are seasoned teachers it makes the students feel more comfortable in asking for guidance and knowing that our students can become unpredictable at times.
I think the most difficult part about teaching is getting the students into the community to gain experiences in working in different places, riding the city bus, ordering items and paying for them and gaining monetary knowledge.
What are some of your favorite pieces that you’ve written & why?
I don’t have a favorite piece as all are based on the real-life experiences that I have enjoyed. In Queen Vernita Visits Gator Country I was able to go into the bayou and hold a baby alligator. I also learned about the plantations and slavery in the area. Queen Vernita Conquers the Volcanic Islands brought my experiences in hiking down to the bottom of a lava tube and swimming with my friends, children, and grandchildren. I also learned about sea horses and had a baby seahorse wrap its tail around my finger, was sprayed by an octopus, and played tag with sea turtles as you are not allowed to touch them even when they are following you around the water. Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains had me kayaking in the glacial sea, snorkeling in a dry suit, learning about crab fishing, and watching whales breach.
A piece of advice for people who are starting with their writing journey & few words of wisdom for the young generation out there?
The best advice I can give all the new authors is to join professional organizations and network with others who have the same goals and aspirations. Also, remember that we are not competing but are here to build each other up and support each other. Write about your passions and life, and that there is at least one person out in the world that needs and wants to hear your message.
Accolades of Dr. Dawn Menge :
There are now 13 books in the Queen Vernita’s Educational Series, which have won over seventy-two international awards including the Special Recognition Champion Award from Conquering Disabilities Through Film, the International Author Boss from Power Conversations Magazine. Dragon’s Breath, which is not part of the series, has won the Best Book Award from the Miracle Makers Film Festival.
There are now 13 books in the Queen Vernita’s Educational Series, which have won over seventy-two international awards including the Special Recognition Champion Award from Conquering Disabilities Through Film, and the International Author Boss from Power Conversations Magazine. Dragon’s Breath, which is not part of the series, has won the Best Book Award from the Miracle Makers Film Festival.
● A literacy judge for three children’s literacy programs.
● Writes book reviews for Story Monster Magazine and has become a literacy judge for Indie Romance books through InDTale Magazine.
● On the board for the Hindi’s Libraries, a non-profit
● Queen Vernita Visits the Land of Little Rain has taken ten years to complete with her co-author Kent Duryee who helped to create this amazing adventure by utilizing his lifelong love for the desert and the culture and history of Tucson Arizona. It’s based on a beautiful hacienda bed and breakfast in Tucson.
This is a little snippet of the Queen’s newest adventure:
In the latest installment of Queen Vernita’s adventures, we find her searching out the warmth of the desert during a cold winter. Her friend Chango knows about the desert and together they set up camp at a beautiful bed and breakfast near Tucson called Hacienda Linda. From the Hacienda the Queen, Chango, Linda, and their friends have one adventure after the other under the desert sun for an entire year. In her first days at the Hacienda, the Queen is awakened to see one of the rarest sights the desert has to offer, a blanket of snow covering all the cactus and other desert plants. The snow is only a short-lived source of excitement because the Queen’s first trip through the desert is to visit a mission that has been functioning in the desert for over 250 years. Spring follows the desert’s winter and as things heat up, birthdays are celebrated and even a camel comes to visit the Queen! The end of summer sees the celebration of the Day of the Dead, and then they celebrate Diwali, an Indian celebration of light and love. Over the course of the year, the Queen learns so much about the desert, its plants and animals, and the traditions of its native people. Come join Queen Vernita in the Land of Little Rain!