Interview with Salvatore Barbera, Author of Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow

Sal Barbera photoAlthough born in New York City, Sal was a restless baby. After only a week he moved to New Jersey and stayed there right up until he got married. Then he and his wife Sheri, his artistic and business partner, moved cross country to Arizona. 

Sal grew up on a steep hillside neighborhood in North Bergen with his four older sisters and a dog named Lady.  He fondly remembers the neighborhood as “playing stick ball in the street with friends and sledding down the hill right onto route 9 – when everything was closed due to snow.” 

Sal lives the phrase: “A day without laughter is a wasted day.” To that end, he uses his writing, illustrating and animation skills to create endearing characters and comedic stories. As the creative director for Hartman-Barbera LLC, Sal paints, sculpts, draws, animates and writes. 

When he’s not working, Sal enjoys cooking, watching TV, going to movies and playing golf.  Sal is a member of the SCBWI, The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 

His website is: 

Thank you for joining us today, Sal. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I loved growing up in New Jersey. There was New York City on the other side of the tunnel, or the beach just a short drive away. I was at the jersey shore a lot, but that was a while back when everybody had regular names. No Snookies or Situations to speak of.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I started writing stories with illustrations about our little dog Max over 15 years ago. He is the inspiration for the character Sweetles, which is one of the names we called him. He is also the muse for the series of books I’m writing now; A Sweetles Dream ®.

My wife and I wondered what he dreamt about when he was running and whooping in his dreams. So I took the liberty of using my imagination to imagine his. And that’s the premise for the book series: a little dog that sees a personal or social situation during the day and dreams up the solution at night while he’s sleeping.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I’ve always done lots of wacky drawings with captions. It was easy to make the transition to books and fun to put my drawings with the stories. Although I never actually decided to write children’s books, my stories seem to be the perfect length and style for picture books.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

Not really. Writing for a young audience is fun. Especially if you inject some humor for adults throughout the tale. It makes it fun for the adults to read the stories along with the kids.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

The questions you don’t see coming.  Kids are hilarious and come up with some very funny remarks. I’ve learned a lot about why I write answering their questions. Another favorite part of writing is when I hear or see a positive response to one of my books. That’s very rewarding.

I was recently at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival and two little girls and their Mom picked up my book. The older daughter read it from cover to cover. As she was reading, her smile got bigger and bigger. At the end, she asked her Mom if she could have the book. It actually made my eyes misty. It’s great when a complete stranger wants to own my books.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about? Book 4a

Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is about a “spotless”cow that arrives at a new farm hoping to find friendship. Instead, because she’s different from all of the other cows, they don’t want anything to do with her. She must find a way to overcome their “Spot discrimination.” The story is about how she accomplishes this in her clever, diplomatic and funny way.

What inspired you to write it?

My mother-in-law is one of my best friends. Awhile back she was going through a rough time with breast cancer, chemotherapy and radiation. She needed cheering up. So I decided to write a funny story to lift her spirits and make her laugh. That story became the tale of Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

During the month of October, Mary Elizabeth The Spotless Cow is a special price of $12.00 for your readers (list $17.99) on the publisher’s website: It’s always available on Amazon.

What is up next for you?

I’ve written and illustrated the second book in the A Sweetles Dream® series. It’s called: Ernie The Dysfunctional Frog.  I’m also working on a web series for kids with the Sweetles™ character along with his fairy tale friends. It’s a mixed media web series that will be educational and wacky too. The tagline is: “Have fun learn and play, that’s a Sweetles Day!” Think: Sesame Street meets Monty Python and that will give you an idea of what’s coming. Check the website for updates, or go to SweetlesTV on youtube.

Do you have anything else to add?

If you’re not afraid to use your imagination, you’ll be surprised at the wonderful things you can come up with.  And try to laugh every day. It’s good for your health.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Sal. We wish you much success.

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

All my best,


Mary banner

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