After seven years of researching, writing and polishing, former Pasco resident John Guzzardo has signed a contract with Solstice Publishing to produce his first full-length novel, “A 38 Day Education.”
The story, based on Guzzardo’s experiences with his own college newspaper, is told from the perspective of Jay Ferragamo, a college sophomore who is thrust into the role of editor of The Scope, only to learn the publication is almost completely broke.
Ferragamo must navigate the treacherous waters of student government to gain the necessary funding to continue publishing. He must then seek justice after learning the newspaper’s finances were wrecked by pilferage by the daughter of one of the town’s most powerful families.
“This is a complete thrill for me,” said Guzzardo, 39. “I truly believe this is a story worth telling, and it’s wonderful to know my work has a market.”
Guzzardo, who lived in New Port Richey with his family until last year, when they moved to Georgia for new employment, started writing the book in 2007. It was inspired by Guzzardo’s experiences during his first two months as editor of his campus newspaper, The Sou’Wester, while attending Georgia Southwestern State University in 1994.
While the basic premise of the book is based on real life, Guzzardo admits he took a lot of creative license. His real-life student newspaper did have financial issues, but they weren’t because of embezzlement and corruption but rather students inexperienced with finances.
“The general plot follows Jay from where he starts off to where he ends up, an insecure sophomore, what I was as the time, to an insecure sophomore with a heckuva lot more confidence at being editor,” Guzzardo said. “It’s a book about learning lessons about life. There’s mystery, intrigue, politics, a little romance here and there. Its’ as real as college gets.”
Before attending university in Americus, Ga., from 1992 to 1997, Guzzardo graduated from Ridgewood High School, in New port Richey.
After leaving college, he soon moved back to Florida in 1998 with his wife. In 2010, they adopted a teenage son, and in 2013, relocated to Atlanta.
Guzzardo, who has held a variety of jobs in the newspaper industry from advertising to circulation, is a supervisor for United Parcel Service. He said he has several manuscripts in the works of what he calls “The Scope Series” and if “A 38 Day Education” is successful, hopes to expand it into a four or five-part series set in the “same south central college universe.”
He’s also continuing his bachelors degree in history at Kennesaw State University this fall, focusing on 20th century American history.
“I like studying history because I like learning about how culture,” Guzzardo said. “When you look at the cultural history, the social economic history, highs and low of the economy, the Great Depress, how people dressed- that’s what I love. I love to take a look at everything and see how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished.”
“I believe that America’s best days are still ahead; we’re just in a speed bump. Every growing country goes through growing pains. That’s what history teaches us.”
As a child, Guzzardo was the first person in his family to grab a newspaper and read it. In college, he got involved in creative writing and eventually the college paper, which he considered a great writing outlet. The small newspaper’s staff wore a lot of hats and Guzzardo did everything from reporting to page layout in his two years before becoming editor.
In his first week in the new role, Guzzardo found out there was only $15 left in the newspaper’s fund to pay staffers and produce the weekly paper. He spent the rest of the year mending fences with student government, the paper’s main source of funding, and getting the paper up and running again. The time it took from the day he became editor to the first issue of the revived paper was 38 days, hence his book’s name. “I learned more in 38 than I did in 2 years,” Guzzardo said.
On Feb. 17 Guzzardo got a call from his agent while he was driving home from work. Solstice Publishing wanted the book to be published as an ebook and paperback. Guzzardo was so shocked, he said he was “surprised I kept my car on the road.”
The ebook is set for release on June 2, a day Guzzardo chose because it is his mother’s birthday. The paperback will be available a few days later.
“My mom has everything,” Guzzardo said. “What else can I give her? So I’m releasing my first published novel on her birthday.”