Friday, October 14, 2011



We’re kicking off our SALUTE TO EVERY WITCH WAY BUT WICKED with the Director of KIDS NEED TO READ, Denise Gary, in my hotseat! The Human recently met Denise when she was in Arizona and was impressed with Denise’s dedication and enthusiasm for the charity, and since sales of the anthology benefit them, we wanted you to know more about it!

So, without further ado – in my Hotseat – Denise Gary!

R: Good morning, Denise and welcome!
D: Thank you for having me, Rocco! You are one cool cat!

R: (blushes, as only a tuxedo cat can) AWWWW. Denise, please tell us a bit about your charity, KIDS NEED TO READ and how you become involved w/it.
D: Kids Need to Read is a true grassroots labor of love founded on the belief that literacy is a basic human right. We provide books and literacy programs where needed, with a particular emphasis on disadvantaged children and older children who have fallen through the cracks. In contrast to most other literacy programs throughout the nation, we are unique in that we serve children of all ages, not just the very young. Working with older children and adolescents has become quite a niche for us.
The genesis of KNTR and my involvement was most unusual – it came via my leadership of a Nathan Fillion fan group that we called NathanNation. The group performed covert guerilla marketing on behalf of Nathan at a time when he was relatively unknown. We really enjoyed the secret element of our work and people started calling us Nathan’s Ninjas! One of the projects involved bombarding the publisher of PJ Haarsma’s YA novel, The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1, with letters to convince them to complete an audio book read by Nathan. Nathan had already done a reading of the first three chapters and it was terrific. This led me to contact PJ, who was astonished by our group’s passion and energy, and wanted to put it to work toward something larger. He had experienced schools devoid of books and funding, so he and Nathan came up with the basic premise of KNTR and asked me if our group would be willing to help. Of course, we jumped at the chance and Kids Need to Read was born. As the project began to grow, I became its director and took on the challenge of forming it into a legal nonprofit. We have been growing at a whirlwind pace ever since.

R: What do you find most rewarding about your work?
D: It’s the thought that our books may be the inspirational sparks to give many children a better future. It’s knowing that somewhere out there, we have provided dignity and respect to children who feel no one really cares about them. And it is witnessing the multiplying effect of kindness and how it affects so many in such a positive way. In all my life . . . and I have been around for five decades . . . I have never experienced anything as beautiful as the power of kindness. I have nurtured KNTR as I did my own children, and it has enriched my life beyond measure. That is because it has caused me to be surrounded by kindness and giving every single day.

R: What are some ways people can aid your charity (other than buying a copy of EVERY WITCH WAY BUT WICKED, of course)
D: People like to help in different ways, of course. We welcome volunteers that live in the Phoenix metropolitan area who can lend a hand at our office or at our programs and events. Folks who live farther away can help by conducting fundraisers on our behalf (like EVERY WITCH WAY BUT WICKED) or by spreading awareness of our foundation and our cause. Authors and publishers can help by donating children’s and YA books directly to KNTR. We’ve had folks conduct bake sales, used book sales, Tweetathons, auctions, raffles, online fundraisers in honor of Nathan Fillion’s birthday, masquerade balls, etc. No amount is too humble. Even $5.00 will purchase a book and together, those gifts and others like them can change a life forever.

R: How would you feel about having a handsome, dashing tuxedo cat as your spokesperson? 
D: Well, as you know, we already have two very handsome, charming founders who serve as spokespeople, but I think it might be time to give them a little competition, don’t you think?

R: (blushing again) Tell us a bit about the programs you have in place for the kids now, and also any future ones you have planned.
D: We have our original program in place, which is to provide inspiring new books and literacy activities to underfunded schools and libraries, as well as to other organizations that have literacy programs in place. We select books specifically to fit the needs of each program, and include projects for older children, such as special education classes, dropout recovery programs, urban afterschool programs, and juvenile offender facilities. We have also developed some specialized community programs, where we either go to speak to kids (always providing books) or we have children’s groups perform volunteer work with us. We also conduct an AWESOME outdoor literacy festival once per year for a local school serving disadvantaged children who don’t generally have the opportunity to participate in such programs. Our Peace Packages program is aimed at encouraging peaceful conflict resolution and demonstrating that many of the world’s greatest leaders have been peacemakers. Acts of violence perpetrated by and on children is a growing issue, so we hope this project will help support violence prevention programs at schools and other organizations.
Our newest project, Reading Revolution, is being developed in partnership with Arizona State University and ASU Preparatory Academy. It is a pilot program targeting middle school students, and features an innovative yearlong curriculum aimed at increasing literacy rates and decreasing dropout rates. We are extremely excited about Reading Revolution, because it could have a major impact on literacy rates and dropout rates once we are able to expand the program to middle schools throughout the United States. For the moment, we are fine-tuning the curriculum and researching the impact at ASU Preparatory Academy before we make this program available elsewhere. I see Reading Revolution as playing an enormous role in moving childhood literacy rates in a positive direction. There is no acceptable excuse as to why our nation is not producing 100 percent literate children.

R: Can you give our readers some information about other fundraisers you have coming up? (and will Nathan Fillion be at any of them, I know lots of women are dying to know!)
D: Our major fundraiser is the KNTR Geek Prom which is sponsored by Bookmans and takes place at the end of May every year at Phoenix Comicon. It’s crazy fun and I cannot wait for the next one! We have lots of other fundraisers that folks put on for us and we have a great time at all of them. The next fundraiser is the 4th Annual Halloween Charity Screening of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog & The Guild in Los Angeles and it is coming up very soon – October 22nd. Whedonopolis and Fandom Charities conduct this screening annually and this is the second time it has benefited KNTR. They usually have some stars pop in and PJ Haarsma plans to attend to represent KNTR.
We also have the Phoenix Faerie Festival coming up on November 19th and 20th. They sponsor a children’s game for us to run and this year it will be the Ring-a-Gnome game. This is a really fun family style festival. I love to put on my wings and flower hair wreath, and pretend to be a part of Middle Earth for the weekend!
As far as Nathan goes, he has committed to participating in the Kids Need to Read panel at the Texas Library Association 2012 Conference on April 20th in Houston, Texas. We are so excited about this event! Nathan will be under contract to ABC at the time, so his presence cannot be guaranteed. We have our fingers crossed! Regardless, the panel will go on and it must be said that TLA has been extremely kind and considerate to KNTR. They extended this opportunity to KNTR whether Nathan participated or not and no other literary conference has made such a generous offer.
PJ, Nathan, and I will be awarded the Edwin P. Hubble Medal of Initiative at a dinner in Marshfield, Missouri, so there is a chance Nathan might show up there. Or he may accept his award via video. In any case, PJ and I will be there. I was very moved that our work was noticed and considered worthy of this award. Lady Bird Johnson is a hero of mine and I cannot believe my name will be on a list that shares her name! Not to mention Dr. Martin Luther King! Perhaps one day I will feel like I deserve this award, but at the moment, I feel like a little toe compared to these heroic people.

R: How would one go about requesting a donation from your organization?
D: We have an application process, which can be found at

R: Where can people write to you to find out more about your organization and make independent donations?
D: Our website at contains a lot of information, so I recommend taking a look at it first. I think it demonstrates very well how dedicated we are to helping children. Folks can write to for further information. We can also be found on Facebook (/kidsneedtoread) and Twitter (@kidsneedtoread). Donations can be made at

Denise, thank you so much for this very insightful interview!
Folks: now that you know where a portion of your .99 will go, get out there and buy EVERY WITCH WAY BUT WICKED and support this great charity!

Link to buy Every Witch Way:


also, you want to read ALL the interviews, becasue at the end, i will ask a question pertaining to one of the authors - and the first three with the correct answer will win a FREE copy of EVERY WITCH WAY BUT WICKED. YEAH!

Trust ROCCO – you don’t want to miss a minute of October! (My annual horrorfest salute will conclude the first week in November, in order to give KNTR and EVERY WITCH WAY BUT WICKED the attention it deserves!





  1. Denise, I love the story of you being a Nathan Ninja. It's amazing where that led you. This fascinates me.

    I'm a fan of Nathan's, too. (Though not a Ninja.) I honor you and him and PJ for all that you do for kids. Reading is a joy in my life, and has been since I was a child. I'm honored to be part of the anthology, and hope we make lots of money to give to KNTR.

  2. Edie, it has been a fascinating journey, one that a person could probably never make happen if they tried to do it on purpose. Life is always full of wonderful surprises!

    Thank you so much for your contribution to the anthology! We are so grateful to you and all the authors who dedicated this project to helping our cause! We dub you all honorary Ninjas! :)

  3. Thanks for the interview Rocco, you dashingly handsome cat!