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A Worthy Read

by Rachel Morgan

Local writer’s book to hit the big screen.

Name: Alice Ozma
Age: 26
Occupation: Manager of Reading Programs and Sales Media at Scholastic Book Fairs
Fun fact: Loves farmers' markets
Hobby: Reading

A self-described bibliophile, Alice Ozma penned her first book at age 22, and is now watching it unfold on the big screen. The South Jersey native’s book, The Reading Promise, is a tale of a father-daughter reading pact and the life lessons that unfolded as the pages turned. Released in 2012, the book is now being turned into a film produced by Relativity and Walden Media, the screenplay penned by Doug Atchison, who also wrote 2006’s Akeelah and the Bee.

Ozma’s book is based on her real-life relationship with her dad, Jim Brozina, and the life lessons they encountered while reading together every night. It started as a goal to read 100 consecutive nights, but when that was up, the father-daughter duo continued “The Streak,” reading for a total of 3,218 consecutive nights—nearly 9 years—until Ozma left for college. We sat down with the Millville native and Rowan University graduate to discuss everything from the writing process to watching her life story be transformed onscreen to just what the next chapter holds. She even weighed in on the old book-lovers’ debate—Kindle or actual book?

On writing her first book…
I was actually on a rather tight publishing schedule, so I tried to write a chapter a day. For the most part, I succeeded. It was a tough time to write because our house was under construction, so there was a ton of noise, and it was an incredible heat wave. That was one of the hottest summers on record. When I look back on writing, I remember sweat and noise. I’m kind of surprised I was able to get it done.

A life-changing experience…
I have been given the sort of opportunities every English major dreams of—I’ve presented in incredible settings, met some of my heroes, and traveled the country talking about books. I also got my job at Scholastic Book Fairs through my book—I’m the Manager of Reading Programs and Sales Media. Those are wonderful. But I’m surprised by how shy it turns out I am. When a stranger has read my book, I am happy, but I have no idea what to say. I am really bad at self-promoting. I’ve been sent to cocktail hours to talk up the book and left without anyone knowing I’m an author. You need a certain level of fearlessness to truly put yourself out there, and I guess I lack that.

Valuable lessons…
One that has always stuck with me is my father’s sense that time equals respect. If I am late for something I’m supposed to do with you, I am disrespecting you. Time is valuable, and time with loved ones is precious, and you shouldn’t take it for granted or squander it. My father is the most punctual person I know, and when you’re with him, he’s totally present.

E-readers vs. real books…
I personally like physical books, myself, but I think it’s odd that people are making this into a battle. People should really read however they are most comfortable. I am well aware of the studies indicating that reading is more efficiently processed with physical books—but I’m also aware that my husband’s reading increased tenfold when he got a Kindle. Whatever it takes to get people reading is fine with me.

Turning the book into a movie…
It’s been a long process, but short in Hollywood time. I’ve been keeping it a secret for quite some time, until the news was released recently. One of the women leading the charge is actually my father’s former student, so this is a story very close to her heart. The team is quite lovely. It’s been a pleasure getting to know them. Whatever else happens is a bonus.

Getting involved with the film…
The team seems to value my opinion and asks for it often. But I trust them—you really have to, if you’re going to hand over your life story to someone. They are the professionals. I plan to let them do their jobs. It’s fun just to be a fly on the wall in that process most of the time. Having any sort of true creative responsibilities honestly sounds like a lot of work.

Seeing her life on the big screen…
I’m trying to take it one step at a time and not get too far ahead of myself. I don’t think they have a date yet, and I don’t know if they’ve had casting conversations. Things move slowly in that world. I’m happy just to get a glimpse into it. I have no expectations, which makes the process a lot less stressful. Can you imagine how challenging it would be to try to micromanage a movie about your life? I leave it to the professionals and accept any inaccuracies as artistic license.

Favorite South Jersey haunts…
I still live in South Jersey, in Collingswood, so I suppose that has to be on my haunts list. I recently got married at the glass museum at Wheaton Arts and had my reception at the Levoy Theater, both in Millville, both lovely places to spend a day. I am constantly going to farmers’ markets. It’s kind of an addiction. I am friends with many of the farmers. If my husband loves the peaches in the fridge, it’s nice to be able to say, “Oh, great, I’ll let Rose know.”

Next chapter in life…
My life has been full of change—I graduated from college, moved to Philly and wrote the book, started working for Scholastic, moved back to New Jersey and bought a house, got married and released the movie news all within a four-year period. Pretty crazy. So I would actually love it if the next chapter is rather dull. Working, reading, and settling into this great life of mine.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 September, 2014).
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