Educator:

Dianne K. Salerni, a fifth-grade teacher in her 20th year at Avon Grove Intermediate School. Salerni is the author of a historical fiction novel for teens about the Fox sisters, infamous in the 1800s for their "abilities" to communicate with spirits, which one of them later confessed was a prank.

Achievement:

High Spirits: A Tale of Ghostly Rapping and Romance

, Salerni's 2007 self-published novel through iUniverse, recently bested more than 60 self-published books for best teen fiction by Reader Views, a book review company.

High Spirits

earned the honor for drawing the highest combined ratings from three teenage judges selected by Reader Views.

The New London Township mother of two had published some educational materials, but

High Spirits

was her first novel. The three Fox sisters from upstate New York became well-known in the 1850s as mediums for their ability to summon spirits, ghosts who marked their presence by making knocking noises, or rapping (like rapping, or knocking, on a door, not the music genre).

One of the sisters confessed in later years what skeptics had speculated for years, that the girls were able to create the noises on their own.

High Spirits

can be purchased online at amazon.com.

Question:

Why did you pick this subject matter?

Answer:

I've always been interested in séances and ghost stories, mostly from a skeptic's point of view. I didn't plan on writing historical fiction, I thought I would write something modern based on psychics. But when I did my research I stumbled across the story of the Fox sisters, these two teenage girls who pulled off the prank of century.

I realized that one of them, Maggie Fox, had a relationship with a famous explorer, Elisha Kent Kane. I teach explorers in the 5th grade and I was surprised that I had never heard of him, since he's fairly local. He is buried up in Laurel Hill cemetery in Philadelphia. He was an arctic explorer and adventurer, not very well-known today, but one of the most prominent explorers of the 1850s.

Q:

Are there any distant relatives of the Fox clan who have contacted you, up in arms about your book?

A:

Nope, no one from the Kanes, either.

Q:

How do you go about self-publishing?

A:

I never tried to send out the manuscript the traditional way, because it's getting harder and harder for any new person to get a publisher or agent to look at you. It was a long process, and I didn't realize that the hardest part was going to be marketing the book, because you don't get any help from your publisher on that.

Q:

How much did it cost you?

A:

Depending on how many services you buy, it can run you a few hundred or thousands. I paid for the professional copy editing, which is one of the more expensive things, but definitely worth it. You can't have your book going out with errors. I guess that's my teacher background coming in.

Q:

Have you made your money back yet?

A:

No...I don't hope to make my money back, but if I'm fairly successful at this one, then perhaps with another book in the future I can get with a more traditional publisher, so I don't have to put my own money out. I guess this is sort of getting my feet wet.

- Will Hobson