Alicia_Book_coverBy Mary Heyl

Attention, readers: there’s a brand new author in town, one whom you are likely to encounter in the very pages of this newspaper. Alicia Vella Dziak, assistant editor, contributing writer and graphic designer for The Ellicottville Times, published her first novel entitled Mack the Invisible on Feb. 8, 2015.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to write books,” explained Dziak, whose own childhood and teen experiences inspired her to write this young adult book, a process she began in Nov. 2014.

According to Dziak, the idea for Mack the Invisible came from her own basement, of all places.

Last fall, she found herself sorting through a large bin of school memorabilia, including journals in which Dziak reflected on her life almost daily from seventh grade through college. Dziak proceeded to read each journal, cover-to-cover, remembering the joys and pains of what many regard as the toughest years: middle school.

Speaking of her inspiration to write this book, Dziak reflected, “It’s one thing to remember how you felt during those years, but to read about it in your own words brought me back to that time and I wanted to capture some of it in a book.”

Indeed, Mack the Invisible, the musings of eighth-grader Mack Sanders, chronicles the ups and downs of being thirteen. From first kiss, to new boyfriend, to lunchroom power structures, Mack experiences all the highs and lows of middle school as she realizes who her true friends are and who she really is amidst the unpredictability of middle school.

“I hope people will read it and find parts of it funny and parts of it heartbreaking and parts of it wonderful, just like adolescence,” Dziak said.

Dziak is already working on the next Mack Sanders novel, the second in a series known as the Westbrook Ramblings. The series’ name is inspired by Westbrook, the name her daughters chose for the town and school which Mack attends, and Dziak’s own characterization of her middle school writing: ramblings. Indeed, Dziak’s daughters, one of whom is in middle school now, and the other of whom will be there soon, played a key role in the writing of Mack the Invisible, as they named many of the characters and inspired their mother.

“I always think about how hard these next few years could be,” explained Dziak. “I wanted to create a character around the same age who tells her story from the first-person point of view. Then maybe my kids and others will read it and think ‘someone else knows what I’m going through.’”

While writing about kids in middle school was one challenge, many budding and experienced writers probably can relate to the added challenges Dziak experienced in publishing her own novel. As a graphic designer, Dziak was able to use her skills and experience to create the layout of the novel and the front and back cover designs. And, she called on her friend, Ashlee Oakley, to create the cover illustration, which sets the scene for Mack at Westbrook Middle School. But while she enjoyed the freedom to design her book, she also had to find an editor and learn about marketing it, as it is not being promoted by a major publisher.

Fortunately, reader-accessibility is one of the perks of self-publishing. Readers can purchase a print version of the 214-page book on and on, and begin their journey into the world of Westbrook Middle School right away.