Kerry O’Malley Cerra is an award-winning author of middle grade books. Her first novel, Just a Drop of Water, landed on five state reading lists, won the Crystal Kite Award, a Florida Book Award, and was named to VOYA’s Top Shelf Fiction list for 2014. Her second novel, Hear Me, is out now. Stay tuned for her forthcoming book, Make a Little Wave, expected to debut sometime in 2024 with Carolrhoda Books (Lerner Publishing). Kerry’s work has received praise from The New York Times, Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, VOYA, and the Horn Book Guide calling her stories moving, perceptive, well-developed, and woven with an expert hand. Kerry lives in South Florida with her family and two poorly behaved rescue-dogs.
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Now for the fun bio…
I love dogs. The end!
Kidding. But I’m a list-girl, so here we go.
13 Things About Me:
- I love lists! I can’t function without lists.
- Thirteen is my lucky number, and of course this list has 13 items.
- The best job I ever had—other than writing for kids & teens—was at Sea World. They hired me in their stadium sales department. I walked those huge stadiums for an hour before each show selling stuffed animals, light-up spinners, and more. Over time, we learned a few of the animal signals, and we had a blast calling the whales and dolphins to splash unsuspecting visitors before shows as they searched for the best seats.
- My daughter is a marine biologist turned marine science teacher. Her passion is sharks. I used to be terrified of them, but now, I often free dive with sharks all because she educated me on their livelihood. FACT: Sharks do not eat people. Some of the best moments of my life have been while swimming with sharks and sharing them with my girl.
- I come from a huge family. My dad’s the oldest of 9 children. I have an older brother and a younger sister. There are 37 grandkids (I’m the oldest granddaughter), and there are already 56 great-grandchildren—with more on the way.
- I love working in a high school. I started as a social studies teacher and now work as a media specialist. I love both so much, but someday soon, I hope to get back to writing full time.
- I live in South Florida. I love the beach and surfing. But being deaf messes with your equilibrium, and I can’t balance well on a surfboard anymore. Still, water is my muse! I love being anywhere near it. Even a lake will do when I’m writing. But . . . I also love fall—like so much—and I’ve always longed to live in a place with seasons, so I hope to make that a reality someday soonish.
- I married my college boyfriend, and we have 3 awesome kids. My family is my world!
- I’m a sucker for stray animals, and I seem to take them in frequently. I currently have 2 poorly behaved rescue dogs who own my heart.
- I was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss at the age of 16. It’s a progressive loss, and by the age of 30, I sported my first hearing aids. They worked for a while, but eventually, as my hearing kept declining, I took the biggest gamble of my entire life and had unilateral cochlear implant surgery—meaning just in one ear. I was terrified of this, but it has proven to be the best decision I ever made. It’s not foolproof, though it’s helped me get back out and live my life. Yes, I’m still deaf—this is just an aid—but it’s a great aid, and I’m so grateful for science and technology!
- I love traveling and great adventures. Because of my hearing loss, this can be scary at times, but it doesn’t stop me from seeing the world. My favorite place so far has been Ireland. I hope to see Austria and Greece soon. I’ve also been skydiving, hot air ballooning, and shark diving.
- I was born in New Jersey, just over the bridge from Philadelphia. (Go, Eagles! Go, Phillies!) Since most of my family still live in or near Philly, I’m lucky that I get to visit often. But I didn’t grow up there. I moved to Orlando, Florida when I was two. From there we moved to Plano, Texas for a few years and then back to Orlando where I stayed until I left for college at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. (Go, Bulls!)
- Teachers are the bombdiggity! I have three who changed the course of my life. Mrs. Strelauski, my 4th grade teacher, was a firm believer in reading books out loud to her classes, and when she read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, well, it was the best book I’d ever heard! From there, I devoured books on my own. In college, I started as an elementary education major. Dr. Gloria Houston taught my Literature for the Child class. She was a published kidlit author herself. I was starstruck. I’d never met an author before, and she was so down to earth. And she was teaching me! But overall, elementary education wasn’t for me, so I switched my major to social science education, and I met another amazing teacher, Dr. Barbara Cruz. History was always a favorite subject of mine in school, but this professor changed the way I viewed the world. Because of this, she makes an appearance as the teacher in my novel Just a Drop of Water. I am a writer today because of all these women. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to repay them, though I’ve remained friends with each of them all these years and tell them frequently how grateful I am.
Bonus item: I was never a great student. But I’m proof you can be anything you want if you really set your heart on it.