Getting to Know...

Getting to Know...

Moira Rose Donohue

Local resident Moira Rose Donohue recently penned her first children's book “Alfie the Apostrophe.” Donohue will hold a book signing at the Tysons Corner Barnes & Noble bookstore on Saturday, June 3, at 11 a.m. She will also be available for school visits this fall. Visit her Web site at

Years in the community. “I'm originally a Queens, N.Y. girl, but I moved to Northern Virginia in 1980 to work for the federal government. I have lived here ever since, except for a brief stint (less than three years) in San Francisco. I returned to the area in spring, 1988, and settled in the Falls Church/McLean area.”

Family. “My immediate family comprises my husband of 21 years, Robert Tobiassen, my 18-year-old son, Peter, who will be attending the Honors College at New Jersey Institute of Technology this fall, my almost-sweet-16 daughter, Rose, a percussionist and a sophomore at McLean High, and my irrepressible dog, a pug named Sniffles.”

Education. “I graduated from Mississippi University for Women in 1975 and from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1978. I completed a writing course with the Institute for Children's Literature several years ago. I continue to learn about writing through the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and my critique groups who have given me so much support over the years. I learn about my shortcomings through raising my teenagers!”

Current job/primary occupation? “My current career as an author, a mid-life career change for me, allows me the flexibility to work from home and be available to my family. Previously, I practiced law for 20 years, working primarily as a legislative attorney in the banking area. I was lucky enough to be involved in the early stages of a case concerning a quotation mark in a significant banking law provision. Some lawyers argued that Congress had simply forgotten the quotation mark, while others argued that its omission was intentional and the law, long thought to be in effect, had been repealed almost 100 years ago. The case ultimately went to the Supreme Court!”

Achievements. “I just saw my first children's book, ‘Alfie the Apostrophe,’ published. ‘Alfie the Apostrophe’ clues students in on the secret personalities of punctuation marks while telling a fun story about finding your own talent. I thought that after the rigor of drafting legislation, writing and selling a children's book would be easy. But I found I had a lot to learn. And while I sold a few short stories, plays and a poem to magazines, it still took me eight years, and some good luck, to sell a book. I guess that's why I consider it my big achievement.”

Activities/interests/hobbies? “OK, it's true — I am a grammar and punctuation geek. I was the only non-English major who took grammar in college. For me, it was a fun elective. That's why I read ‘Eat, Shoots & Leaves’ by Lynne Truss, which was my inspiration for ‘Alfie the Apostrophe.’ I also love old movies (especially with gangsters), opera (especially Puccini), and dancing. I adore mysteries, languages and, as embarrassing as it is to admit, math.”

Favorite local restaurant or place in the community? “My family and I are huge fans of Pulcinella's in McLean. I think I could eat their pasta every day.”

What are your community concerns? “My biggest concern is the local school system. My children have had a wonderful experience at McLean High School. But I would like to see the primary schools in our area focus more energy on skills-based learning, like grammar, phonics, computer skills, research skills, foreign languages, and, of course, punctuation. And we must convince Fairfax to find more money for teacher salaries so we can continue to attract and retain highly capable teachers. Our middle schools should provide a much more positive educational experience across the board, but someone with a greater mind than mine needs to figure out how to do that.”

What community “hidden treasure” do you think more people should know about? “The McLean Community Center, although it's not exactly ‘hidden.’ I have spent many happy hours at the Alden Theater, attended community and private functions at the spacious meeting rooms and most importantly, taken fabulous classes there, including my first adult tap dancing class. It is an excellent facility, run by capable, flexible people.”

Where do you see yourself in five years? “I hope to sell a few more children's books, including a chapter book I just finished. Once my kids are firmly ensconced in college, I hope to have some time to travel with my husband. But I'm still hoping to make it as a ballerina or a Rockette!”