Interview with Judy Fishel, author of Straight A's Are Not Enough

Title: Straight A's Are Not Enough
Author: Judy Fishel
Publisher: Flying Heron Books
Pages: 320
Genre: Educational
Format: Paperback

 Why do 5000 girls a year not get credit for AP Calculus? How do our mindsets affect our learning? Can we change our own brains, get smarter, or improve our willpower? What happens in your brain when you concentrate on learning? What is the major factor that divides freshmen who do well and those who struggle? These and other intriguing questions are answered in this book. Memorable stories, vivid metaphors, simple images and even a few comic strips reveal ways you can learn most effectively. Many straight A students memorize facts for exams but soon forget nearly everything. What a waste of your time and money! Wouldn't you rather take charge of your own learning and get a great education? Straight A's Are Not Enough is definitely not another book on how to make straight A's. Students who use these powerful strategies will enjoy learning, get a great education, and learn skills employers want most. They can also make straight A's.

To Purchase Straight A's Are Not Enough

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Judy.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A:  Thank you for inviting me. While teaching in a summer program for gifted students, I asked the children to share what they wanted to be when they grew up. A fourth grade girl asked me what I was going to be when I grew up. Although I thought, since I was in my fifties, I was already grown up, I responded seriously. “When I grow up,” I said, “I’m going to write a book.” The girl suggested helpfully, “You don’t need to wait until you grow up, Mrs. Fishel. You can start writing now.”

I took her advice and have been learning to write for at least 15 years. One children’s book received high praise from some agents, but never seemed to “meet their needs at this time.” I took classes, read books on how to write, analyzed the books I loved, went to conferences, and I kept writing. Finally, I entered a short story contest and won first prize ($100). A few years later another short story was published in a collection. The problem, though, is that I don’t really enjoy reading or writing short stories.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: After much reflection, I finally realized I wanted to write something important, something I was passionate about, something that might even change my readers’ lives. Realizing how many students struggle in college because they lack study skills, I decided to write this book.

I would start with my own questions: “Why do I work so hard, make excellent grades, and still learn so little?” “How can I learn more and remember longer?” “How can I get a great education?” In Straight A’s Are Not Enough, I answer these questions and more.

Students working for good grades all too often avoid thinking. They accept what the professor says or what the authors write. They memorize what they expect to be tested on and, soon after exams, forget nearly everything.

Straight A’s Are Not Enough focuses on learning rather than grades. Based on current research about the most effective learning strategies, this book suggests that students set their own goals, define what kind of education they want and need, and create plans to get that great education. They are encouraged to think deeply about what their professors say and what their authors write but still form their own opinions. And, yes, while learning more and remembering longer, these students can still make high grades.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A:  The first challenge was dealing with literary agents. I spent (or wasted) a year and a half querying agents who, if they answered at all, simply said, “Not for me.” One kind agent finally explained that this was a powerful book that should sell well, but that no major publisher would touch it. They believe “College students don’t buy anything but textbooks.”

When she recommended self-publishing, it came as a shock. My biggest challenge was overcoming the mindset that successful authors need an agent. After shedding a few tears, I took a deep breath – actually many deep breaths – and I began reading everything I could find on self-publishing.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I had to invest a great deal of time and money, but now I was in control of my book. When Howard Gardner and Daniel Pink both read the book and wrote great blurbs, I knew it was worth everything I had done.

One of my goals is to reach students who need these skills most. To my delight, contacts in India led to getting a literary agency there and they already have a publisher interested in publishing the book there. Even more exciting is a potential sale of 3-4,000 books to a college who wants to give a copy to each freshman in the fall.

As I did my “Happy Dance” I wanted to shout out to the world, “Yes, it is possible to self-publish and be successful.”

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A: My website,, is actually a complete press kit. It includes a fact sheet, a press release, the table of contents, more about the book, more about the author, plus pictures of the book cover and of the author. Eventually book reviews and a number of potential news articles will be added to the website.

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A: I plan to do a series of workshops on preparing for college with students and parents. The first one, in Florida, is scheduled for the end of April. Others will take place in western North Carolina during the summer and again in Florida later in the fall.

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: No, not an agent in the US. I queried agents but discovered this kind of book would be hard to sell.

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A:  The publicists at  are doing an outstanding job of organizing a media blitz. I sent books and press releases to most of the major journals but it is too early to know the results.

Marketing books to college students is not like marketing books to the general public. Few students read book reviews or newspaper articles about books. Very different strategies are needed to reach students.

I first sent about 20 copies of the advance reading copies to college presidents or those involved with First Year Experience. I wrote over 100 scholarship sponsors suggesting they give a book to each recipient. Then I wrote over 300 colleges with posters to recruit student ambassadors interested in promoting the book on their campus.

 The student website, includes information about the book, weekly study skills, a student-written blog, monthly contests – with prizes – and Ask Judy, where students can email me with their questions.

Most exciting is that my husband and I will both be at BEA during the last week in May. We will both be wearing bright red tee-shirts with a copy of the book cover in back and we’ll be talking to anyone who shows an interest in the book. A copy of Straight A’s Are Not Enough and handouts will be in the IBPA display.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A:  The next book will be for high school students. The tentative title is “Think College.”
Q: Thank you for your interview, (Judy).  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: The student website tied to this book is will become more active in the fall when classes start.

The website for Flying Heron Books is

The book is currently available on  but should eventually be appearing in bookstores.

Bulk purchases also available from Ingram, Baker and Taylor or through my fulfillment company, Pathway Book Service. For special discounts on large bulk orders, or to arrange speaking engagements, contact me at  

Judy Fishel was a seventh grader when she first asked the question why she worked so hard, made good grades, but learned so little. She struggled with this question through high school, college and grad schools, and for years as an award-winner teacher. Here she shares her discoveries and insights with you.

For More Information
  Visit Judy at her website

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