Barry Bachenheimer was in college when he first penned Please Don't Dance in My Ambulance. Years later he discovered the hidden gem in his college papers and published his prose, much to the delight of his children and other young fans.
What is your background in EMS?
I have had a life-long interest in EMS, starting when I watched Emergency! on TV as a child. That led to a 25-plus-year career in EMS, mostly as a volunteer.
In 1986, I joined the Milltown (NJ) Rescue squad as a cadet and obtained my EMT certification. In 1988, I joined the East Brunswick Rescue Squad and also went off to college at the University at Albany (NY) where I joined Five Quad, the all-student run volunteer ambulance.
While in college, I took paramedic classes and obtained my AEMT certification and rode for Colonie (NY) Emergency Medical Services. After college, I joined the West Orange (NJ) First Aid Squad where I served as an EMT for over 15 years and received life member status. I am currently riding again as an EMT with the East Brunswick Rescue Squad. I am also a Firefighter with the Roseland Volunteer Fire Department as well as an EMS instructor and director of instructional services for the Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools in West Caldwell, New Jersey.
You wrote Please Don't Dance in My Ambulance a few years ago as part of a college English assignment, and found it years later buried amongst some papers you had saved. What was your thought process behind writing/illustrating the book? Were you involved in EMS at that time?
When I wrote the book, I was a political science major and English minor, as well as director of operations for the all-student volunteer ambulance squad on campus and an AEMT with Colonie EMS. The book was part of a research paper on children's literature. I wrote it in rhyme-scheme using elements of effective children's literature that I was researching.
Though the prose was good, the Crayola crayon drawings were nothing to brag about! After finding the original creation, I knew I needed to find a better illustrator. I work with a talented artist, Mea Amacher, an art teacher at Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools. Her husband is a paramedic. I approached her with the story, and after reading it, she agreed to illustrate it. With her background, she was able to help bring my words to life with her sketches.
Is this your first attempt at writing a children's book?
Yes, this was my first attempt at a children's book. I have written a great deal of scholarly work for my Master's and Doctoral programs, but never children's literature.
How is writing for children different than writing for adults?
I have written a great deal of scholarly work that is research based. With that type of writing I am trying to make or support a point. When writing with children as the audience, the goal is the pique their interest, draw them in and engage them both with words and art, as well as provide them a valuable lesson, perhaps without them realizing it.
Do you anticipate writing more books?
Based upon feedback I have received so far, especially from kids who have read the book or had it read to them, I'd love to follow it up with another book dealing with a public safety theme. My seven-year-old daughter actually served as my inspiration. She suggested that since I'm a firefighter, too, I should write another book. She already gave me a working title, Get the duck off my truck. It would be great to co-author a book with her!
To what age group is Please Don't Dance in My Ambulance targeted? What message are you trying to relay to them?
The book is written at a level so first- and second-grade students can read it themselves. But I think children of any age would love to have it read to them. The message is that EMTs who work on ambulances are there to help people, and that while EMS is a serious business, it's also fun.
Why is it important to reach children in this age group?