High Point Academy’s Norma Richman Launches Her First Novel
It’s always gratifying to realize a long term goal but even better when it becomes a team effort. Richman’s book, Galilea, Galilea: A Novel, is the culmination of a life-long interest in science and the desire to entertain with a creative ‘voice’, and more recently, to provide a fun respite from the news of the day. She notes, “The inspiration for the characters and the story comes from real life and imagining the possibilities when a young female physicist falls into the edgy business of forensic investigating.” The real-life characters? Those are a few friends and family members, along with some historical scientists who actually changed the course of modern science. The imaginary character Galilea is a “Nancy Drew meets Scooby-Doo” kind of gal, a physics instructor by day and an investigator by night, with a penchant for haute couture and fancy cocktails. Galilea’s mentor Cato is based on a friend of the author, a real physicist who began a second career as a true-to-life forensic investigator.
“The unique nature of this particular book-writing process,” says Richman, “is that even students at High Point played a role in getting Galilea, Galilea published. That’s the village.” Two of her former sixth graders are a case in point. Samantha Hardy (class of 2012)—an up-and-coming photographer with the most amazing talent for making anyone look good—produced the obligatory author photos after a fun photo shoot at Pasadena City Hall, her own creative touch very evident. While attending grad school at Northwestern University is her prime focus now, she has her own business, Sam Hardy Portraits.
Nicky Loomis, a writer and teacher now at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, was also a student in Richman’s sixth-grade classroom (1995) when she wrote in her teacher’s yearbook, “I will miss you so much but hopefully I will see you again.” Little did she know . . . Richman credits Nicky’s early support and encouragement with helping to launch Galilea two years ago as they met over coffee at the Little Flower Cafe to compare notes and challenge each other to write—fifty pages at a time until they had both reached their goals. Student becomes the mentor!
A piece of literature, shared with her students, Richman says, also provided inspiration for her character’s experiences: The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages chronicles, through the eyes of a young girl, the secret town in New Mexico where scientists developed ‘The Gadget’—the nuclear bomb. It enabled her to “introduce a myriad of ideas surrounding the history and impact of the bomb, and it provided a thoughtful look at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory, both for my students, and later for Galilea.”
On another level, adults at High Point also contributed their two-cents-worth to Richman’s publication. Debra Snyder, HPA’s own Communications Director, offered support in the form of an early review that now graces the back cover of Galilea, Galilea. And Head of School Gary Stern gave his approval for Richman’s “shout out” to High Point (aka Highfield Academy) in her book. “Both much appreciated gestures,” says Richman.
While the HPA village is clear, there was a group of women that also represented a village, Richman points out: her book designer and her proofreader, women who work from home these days, and her daughter Deborah (HPA class of ’88) who helped with marketing tips and a fantastic website www.galileabook.com. “In a way,” Richman says, “my publishing team’s village looks a little like a Venn diagram—you know, those overlapping circles that your children fill out for classroom problems?”
“My appreciation for science, a theme that runs throughout the book, grew from teaching sixth grade level physics (including robotics). That very basic understanding was complemented by research and discussions with my physics mentor, the very real Cato.
It was a two-year process in its entirety, taking in a few creative writing workshops to kick off the formulation of ideas and characters. And then writing, researching, writing, researching, and writing for a year, followed by editing, re-writing, editing, re-writing, and finally, putting it all together.”
Richman says that a secondary theme in her mind was to encourage girls to embrace science with passion and to not be afraid to write their own stories. “The finished product, to be sure, is a light weight. My first effort offers fun, zany adventures that take the reader to sunny spots in and around SoCal, and it was a learning experience for me. It was also a cherished opportunity to think back on the village. And the name? Galilea, Galilea. Where did it come from? The clues are in the book,” concludes Richman.