English Teacher by Day, Writer by Night: Dr. Acerbo Authors Two Books With Two More in the Works


Dr. Acerbo holds her first novel, Apocalipsick. Photo courtesy of Lia Horyczun.

Alison Kuznitz ’15
EE Co-Editor-in-Chief

Some of the most treasured novels, ranging from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Little Women, were rejected countless times prior to becoming published.

Following in the footsteps of her predecessors, particularly Lord of the Flies author William Golding, Trumbull High School English teacher Dr. Acerbo sent her first novel, Apocalipstick, to twenty-one publishing companies.

“I got a lot of rejections, and I think it was number eighteen that said yes to it, and I was so happy,” said Dr. Acerbo.

Dr. Acerbo began her writing career as a medical editor for three years. Afterwards, she became a freelance journalist, submitting pieces for the Connecticut Post, Hollywood Scriptwriter, and the Patch.

Although Apocalipstick is her first published book, she dabbled into teen romance and coming-of-age stories shortly after graduating from college. Dr. Acerbo laughs describing her first attempts at authoring books, claiming they were “so bad.”

Teaching science fiction at THS served as the catalyst for Dr. Acerbo to further pursue her writing ambitions and finally send a manuscript to publishers. She especially found inspiration from Ray Bradbury and his short story, The Pedestrian.

“I loved what he was talking about…and I just thought it was neat that you could make up worlds – that you weren’t constrained by what was happening in reality,” says Dr. Acerbo.

The plot of Apocalipstick, as the name suggests, focuses on life after the apocalypse. The book incorporates two fictional races alongside the human survivors: “stalkers” and the “others”. While the “stalkers” follow the traditional role of zombies, the “others” are depicted through a unique blend of supernatural powers.

“It’s all about survival at the end of the world. My two main characters are Caleb, who is an ‘other,’ and Jenna, who is one of the few remaining humans,” says Dr. Acerbo. “…They have to survive and give love a chance. And, maybe there’s more to the world after the apocalypse than just surviving.”

After writing her first book and discovering her prowess for drafting action scenes, Dr. Acerbo was only getting started in the world of science fiction. Since Apocalipstick’s release in 2013, she has published an e-book entitled Remote. Additionally, she has written the sequel to Apocalipstick and expects editing to be underway in the near future.

Remote presents a futuristic world in which humans are all but controlled by technology. The female protagonist, Yara, is an “under grounder,” meaning she has chosen to lead a life in the underground devoid of technology. When Yara meets Josh, a resident of technology-laden New State, they join forces to start a rebellion.

Remote was 100,000 times easier to write…” states Dr. Acerbo. “My favorite scene, I think, was the last scene because Yara and Josh finally realize they feel something for each other. And right when they’re getting to that point, something happens that possibly, in the future, could tear them apart.”

Needless to say, writing a book can be a daunting task. In order to conquer her average 70,000 words, Dr. Acerbo strategically views each chapter as a single short story. Interestingly, she rarely writes her books in sequential order.

“I might write my first chapter and then my last chapter, and move in between…” states Dr. Acerbo. “It’s a long process, and it’s not fluid and it’s not straightforward.”

As authors know far too well, securing a deal with a publisher is the first of many hurdles. From developing symbols and imagery in the text to proofreading, Dr. Acerbo spends considerable time on the editing and revising phase.

She personally reviews each chapter approximately three to four times. Also, she receives assistance and advice from her writing group and daughter. Once her books are released, Dr. Acerbo transitions to promoting her work through social media, attending arts festivals, maintaining a blog, and giving talks with readers.

Currently, she is working on a murder mystery that highlights the Leatherman, who wandered around Connecticut during the 1800s.

Dr. Acerbo encourages all aspiring writers to participate in the annual Novel Writing Month. During November, writers are challenged to produce a work totaling at least 50,000 words. Through this exercise, writers acquire practice honing in on their craft, thereby facilitating their future writing endeavors.

For those worried about suffering from writer’s block, Dr. Acerbo offers the following advice: “You have to try and make an hour a day for writing…You just have to start – you have to sit down at the computer and write something. Even if it’s something you’re not supposed to be working on, just start writing.”

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