Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! As a part of our ongoing interview series, we at Mom’s Choice had the privilege of talking with Noel Foy and Nicholas Roberto, co-authors of the Award-Winning book Are You a Bird Like Me?! This is Noel’s second Mom’s Choice Award, as well as her second interview with us! We last spoke to her back in August 0f 2021 to catch up with her about her other MCA award-winning book, ABC Worry Free. Noel is a former classroom teacher and learning specialist whose mission is to help her clients use the Neuroscience of learning to their advantage in quick, user-friendly ways, so they can decrease stress, promote healthy change and maximize success in all facets of life. Noel received her B.A. in Education/Special Education and M.A. in American Studies from Boston College. She is certified to treat anxiety in children and teens.
Noel’s newest award-winning book, Are You a Bird Like Me?, is about the teamwork shown by a bird named Sky and her friends inspiring readers to believe in themselves and embrace the idea that differences are not dividers but ways to contribute to a common goal. This story is a reminder of all that is possible when we spread our wings and open our hearts and minds. Noel co-wrote Are You a Bird Like Me? with her son, Nicholas Roberto. Keep reading to find out more about Noel, Nicholas, and their award-winning book, Are You a Bird Like Me?!
MCA: Hi Noel and Nicholas, thank you both so much for joining us today, and congratulations on the Mom’s Choice Award! Can we first start the interview off by having you tell us about yourself, including what you’ve been up to since we last spoke in August 2021, Noel?
Noel: My family and work as an anxiety coach, children’s author, and neuroeducational consultant keep me going! Since the release of the new book, I’ve been doing lots of authors visits to schools. As a former classroom teacher and learning specialist, it’s great to be back in the classroom and get kids excited about reading and writing.
As the founder of Neuro Noel Consulting, I offer teachers, parents, students, counselors, and other professionals with workshops and one-on-one coaching on anxiety, stress management, and executive function. I’m often called “Neuro Noel,” because I share tips and key information about the brain to reduce the impact stress has on learning, behavior, and performance.
One of my greatest satisfactions is to teach individuals how to rewire their brains, so they can stress less, work smarter and enjoy more of life. It gives me tremendous joy to see my clients develop new skills, boost their confidence, and experience success in situations/areas they didn’t think possible.
When I’m not working, you’ll find me near or on the water—biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, or fishing with Nicholas.
Nicholas: I love to write, fish, and spend time with my family. I got married at the end of 2021, and we recently celebrated our daughter’s fifth birthday. My mother and I continue to write, and since we live a far distance apart, we’ve been meeting via Zoom as we put the finishing touches on our next two children’s books.
MCA: That’s amazing, it is so rewarding to be able to work at something you love with the ones that you love! What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
Noel: I always enjoyed writing and finally decided to use it in a way to address a mental health crisis: the alarming spike in anxiety. That effort led to my first book ABC Worry Free. I essentially ended up writing a book that could have benefited me when I was a kid. Back then, anxiety wasn’t discussed much, and I had no idea I could do something about it.
I wanted the story to provide an actionable strategy for anxiety…something kids and adults could use anyplace, anytime to help “pump the brakes” when anxiety presses down the accelerator too fast.
When I sent Nicholas a draft of the story, he offered many helpful suggestions that led to revisions in language, tone, and voice. Those changes made the story way better!
I enjoyed working with Nicholas and learned so much from him. I hoped he’d be game to co-author future books with me. Thankfully, he said yes!
Nicholas: I started writing screenplays because I love movies, but after the birth of my daughter I decided to shift focus to children’s books, so in a way, I guess you could say my daughter inspired me. Considering my mom’s passion for writing and her experience with educating children, we decided to team up.
MCA: Children can be the best source of inspiration! Speaking of inspiration, can you share with us how Are You a Bird Like Me? came to be?
Noel: I felt compelled to write a story about the amazing things that can happen when we work together and lift others up, even if they are not “just like us.” This inspired us to develop characters who are kind, supportive, and respectful to each other and who demonstrate teamwork, courage, and community. I feel the world needs more hope, connection, and folks like this team of characters.
Nicholas: I think we wanted to put something out there that inspires people, especially kids, to focus on what brings them together rather than what sets them apart.
MCA: What was it like for you to co-author Are You a Bird Like Me? with your son? Tell us about your writing process!
Noel: I hope the process was as much fun for Nicholas as it was for me! I’m so grateful to him for sharing his talents with me and the world.
Similar to the characters and themes in the book, the process was a collaborative effort, most of it done via Zoom and Facetime. When I shared the concept with Nicholas, he seemed excited, so we began the thinking and planning stages. Nicholas took the lead with the writing…I so appreciate his witty voice and playful touches. Once the story was ready to share with others, we asked teachers for feedback.
There were times we challenged each other about a word choice or section—if we disagreed, we kept our egos in check and had the best interest of the book at heart.
I am grateful for Nicholas’ patience throughout the process, especially at the revising stage…that part can be tedious at times. It was a constant process of trust, cooperation, respect, and perseverance.
Nicholas: It was truly a privilege working with my Mom. I think we make a great team. Living far away from each other certainly presented its challenges, but nothing we couldn’t overcome with the help of Zoom and Facetime. Our writing process is pretty straightforward; one of us comes up with an idea, presents it to the other, and if we both like it, we go to work. We typically outline the story like a screenplay using a beat sheet, which helps us identify our major plot points and gives us something to look back on when we do start writing the book. From there, we exchange drafts back and forth, make edits, and rewrites, until finally, we come up with something we’re both happy with.
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in Are You a Bird Like Me??
Noel: The book celebrates the unique traits we all bring to the table—that differences aren’t necessarily dividers but contributors to a common goal. Sometimes we need the help of others—either family members or friends we meet along the way to take us under their wings so we can spread our own. While we can do impressive things alone, it’s even more impressive what we can accomplish when we work together.
Nicholas: Friendship and determination certainly come to mind, but I’d say the main lesson is teamwork and combining our talents to achieve things that might’ve been impossible otherwise.
MCA: Can you share with us what the feedback from kids, teachers, and parents has been like for Are You a Bird Like Me??
Noel: Feedback from kids, teachers, and parents has been amazing! They so enjoy the characters, story, illustrations, and themes.
Teachers and parents tell us it’s a fun read-aloud that lends itself to great discussions and writing assignments about kindness, friendship, bravery, teamwork, facing fears, perseverance, and community.
Nicholas: The kids seem to love Nusto (the squirrel character), but my mom would be better suited for this question considering she has been doing the author readings and visits.
MCA: Do you and Nicholas plan on co-authoring more books in the future?
Noel: Oh yea! We have two books that are just about ready to share with our focus group of educators and teachers…once we receive their feedback, we’ll make necessary revisions and take the next steps to share these stories with the world.
Nicholas: Yes! We already have two new books in the works…be on the lookout!
MCA: We definitely will be, please be sure to keep us posted!
You can learn more about Noel Foy, Nicholas Roberto, and their award-winning book, Are You a Bird Like Me? by visiting her MCA Shop pages.