Laughing Fire Press is proud to welcome this award-winning novelist, screenwriter, songwriter, and poet as one of our authors.
Jonathan LaPoma is from Buffalo, NY. In 2005, he received a BA in history and a secondary education credential from the State University of New York at Geneseo. A few months after graduating, he and a friend took a seven-week cross-country road trip from Buffalo to the Pacific. Within a year of his return, he bought a one-way ticket to Mexico, where he lived in a small Pacific coast town for five months and traveled throughout the country in an attempt to find answers to questions that haunt many young adults trying to find their place in the world. These experiences have become the inspiration for much of his writing, which often explores themes of alienation and misery as human constructions that can be overcome through self-understanding and the acceptance of suffering.
Jonathan has written two novels, five feature-length screenplays, and hundreds of songs and poems. His screenplays have won over 30 awards/honors at various international screenwriting competitions, including first-place victories in the 2014 Hollywood Screenplay Contest (Grand Jury Prize), the 2015 Las Vegas Screenplay Contest (two wins: Grand Jury Prize and First in the Drama category), the 2014 London Film Awards (Grand Prize: Feature Screenplay category), the 2014 Awareness Film Festival, and the 2014 West Field Screenwriting Awards (The New York Award). He lives in San Diego, CA, and teaches at a public secondary school. www.jonathanlapoma.com Go behind the scenes as Jonathan discusses his writing process and how Developing Minds came to be.
DEVELOPING MINDS: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY
DEVELOPING MINDS: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY follows a group of recent college graduates who struggle with feelings of alienation and their addictions as they try to survive a year of teaching at two dysfunctional Miami public schools.
A poetic and insightful coming-of-age novel, DEVELOPING MINDS is centered on 24-year-old Luke Entelechy, an aspiring writer who sees his creative output suffer when he begins teaching at one of Miami’s most challenging middle schools. As the year progresses, however, Luke begins to relate to the neglect and abuse his students suffer, and is faced with a “haunting” decision: continue to let his dark past destroy him, or rise above the struggle to realize his potential as an artist and a “real” human being.
Equal parts disturbing and humorous, DEVELOPING MINDS offers a brutally honest look at the American public school system and the extreme measures many teachers take to cope with working in it.
DEVELOPING MINDS has been nominated for a National Book Award in fiction and is scheduled to be published by Laughing Fire Press this September. Prepublication orders can be submitted to Laughing Fire Press and amazon.com.
Advance Praise for DEVELOPING MINDS
“Inspired by his own travels, screenwriter and author LaPoma’s narrative is raw and edgy, effectively anchored by two protagonists whose brio and “same sense of adventure” keep the story alive. Luke, who principally narrates the novel, will resonate most with readers who sympathize and respect today’s teachers, who guide a greatly distracted generation of impressionable minds. Entertaining and authentic look at the troubled American educational system, courtesy of two men propelled by perseverance and adventuresome spirits.”
- Kirkus Reviews RECOMMENDED REVIEW
“Reading this story is a real hoot, made of good literature and impeccable refined style for adults who find the dandy lively and captivating comedy theatre and the lash of ironic aphorisms . . . a humorous parody, typical of the American tradition which reflects the typical pattern with a progression of suspense until the climax.”
- Kalyan Panja, Booktica
“Poignant, engaging. . . a frighteningly accurate depiction of inner-city schools . . . a full-bodied work of fiction that will ring true with both students and teachers and provide a point of hope in an industry that has become increasingly profit-minded and complex.”
“. . . readers will be gripped by the many dimensions the plot has to offer. The author captures the moments between the teachers and the students beautifully, making them real and tangible. Billy and Luke have been portrayed well and their struggle trying to cope with the harsh school system resonates well with readers. The story is honest, authentic, entertaining and poignant, and the contrasting images of a young man trying to grow in his personal life and the failures of the Miami school system have been woven together well without sounding forced. Along with that, the friendship of the two guys also gives the plot another dimension. The author’s writing style is fluid and the story has a good pace and movement. Jonathan LaPoma weaves all the sub-plots into the main plot seamlessly, making the book an engaging read.”
- Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite
“Jonathan LaPoma’s contemporary fiction novel, Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story, should be required reading for anyone who is considering or has ever considered teaching as a career. The author is a secondary school teacher, and his character’s first year at George Washington is filled with the nightmares, the moments of despair, and the occasional glimpses of satisfaction that keep teachers doing what seems all too often to be an unappreciated and thankless task. I was fascinated by the story and found myself unable to tear my eyes away from the text as Luke [the main character] learns to read his students and to understand where they are coming from. LaPoma’s characters are sharply defined and feel like real people, from the needy and mercurial Billy to the philosophical Professor. I also loved getting to know Miami and southern Florida through the author’s eyes. … Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story is most highly recommended.”
– Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
“DEVELOPING MINDS is a raunchy, yet captivating story of two best friends, one gay, one not, who decide to spend a year teaching in the dysfunctional Miami school district … Jonathan LaPoma is an extraordinary writer.”
“Sometimes the meat of a title lies not in fire and flames, but in simmering passion. Such is the nature of the coming-of-age experience depicted in Developing Minds, which offers a multi-faceted exploration of growth, maturity, and eventual transformation on the parts of all involved.”
– D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“. . . thoroughly absorbing, and it definitely gives one a lot to think about.”
A NOBLE TRUTH
Tim Pastoria, a twenty-seven year old once-rising songwriter, mysteriously disappears from the public spotlight and is now working as a repairman for ice machines in dive Buffalo, NY bars.
When his estranged best friend, Tracey Morretti, returns to Buffalo after supposedly graduating from Columbia’s School of Journalism, he struggles to persuade Tim to embark on a road trip with him across America. Tracey wants to document the misery that pervades the country and the truths that he aims to find that unite people—information he’d like to use to write a book that, he hopes, would inspire people to make positive changes in an ailing world.
And he’d like Tim’s help.
Though terrified to leave his comfort zone and suspicious of his friend’s motives, Tim reluctantly accepts Tracey’s proposal and they set off together on America’s highways.
A few states into their trip, however, it’s clear that these two men are running from different things in different ways: Tim, by burying himself in work, and Tracey, by plunging into constant motion whenever things seem to slow down.
After a few poignant encounters with people that he meets on the road, Tim realizes that the path to healing begins with being honest with oneself. He slowly comes to terms with the events that have hijacked his life—events that had caused him to quit the music scene—and he begins to write songs again. After he performs a song at an open mic night at a Denver bar and receives an enthusiastic response, he begins to think that he can find a place for himself in this world in spite of the fear and negativity that he feels around him.
As Tim begins to experience a sense of renewal, Tracey falls deeper into a state of denial about his own sordid past, and he attempts to drag Tim along with him, for better or worse. By the time the two arrive in Mexico—a symbol of the truths they are seeking—all of their dirty secrets are out in the open.
After Tim makes peace with his past, he understands the main focus for the book—and Tracey’s real, and chilling, reason for wanting to write it. Tim urges his friend to confront his own fears, but it may be too late.
Accolades for A Noble Truth
- Awareness Film Festival, 2014, 1st Place
- West Field Screenwriting Awards, 2014, 1st Place – “The New York Award”
- Rated SR – Socially Relevant Film Festival, 2014, Top Four Scripts
- Indie Gathering Film Festival, 2013, Honorable Mention
- Mountain Film Festival, 2015, Honorable Mention
- Beverly Hills Film Festival, 2014, Finalist
- Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, 2015, Finalist
- Twister Alley International Film Festival, 2015, Finalist
- Sacramento International Film Festival, 2014, Official Selection
- Oaxaca Film Festival, 2013, Official Selection
- WriteMovies, 2013, Quarterfinalist
- Filmmakers International, 2013, Second-Round Qualifier
- “I loved the heart in which this story is told. The message of reforming a dissatisfied America is a pertinent and modern theme that is relevant in today’s turbulent world. LaPoma delivers this social commentary with conviction and honesty, his writing showcasing his legitimate passion for his subject matter.”
-Cincinnati Film Festival Feedback, 2015