Three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina's purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus located in Raleigh, North Carolina, so they can't cause any more problems ("expressions of creativity") for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted – a search that will take them into the mystical world of gypsy tradition and magic, more exciting and dangerous than any of them could have imagined.
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The slight voice tremor was all that was needed, but the deep, audible sigh confirmed what Carolina suspected: that she was in for another real ass-chewing. This would be the eighth time getting called into the headmaster's office in the same number of months she had been teaching at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Each time it had been because her girls had committed a serious infraction of rules or behaved in some inappropriate way that was unacceptable within the stone walls of Wood Rose.
Her girls, the ones she had been given total responsibility for, called themselves Females of Intellectual Genius, or FIGs. Everyone else, however, called them strange. Never before in the history of Wood Rose had a student even come close to approaching genius status. Certainly not in the time that Dr. Harcourt had been headmaster. Then, within the short span of one week, two seven-year-old children- -Dara Roux and Mackenzie Yarborough--were admitted, each from a different family, a different background, and a different part of the country, but each with an intelligence quotient well within the range of genius. Amazingly, several years later, a third student--Jennifer Torres--was enrolled, whose age and scores were comparable to those of the original FIGs. What Wood Rose could do for these gifted girls was now coming to a close, much to the relief of the administration, faculty, and staff alike. This would be their final year at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women, for in June-- less than six weeks away--they would graduate.
Carolina was still in bed, deep in thought as she usually was whenever she had a quiet moment to herself, when the telephone rang. For several days she had been struggling with how best to approach the headmaster. Ever since being put in charge of the FIGs shortly after getting hired at Wood Rose, she had been trying to come up with innovative ways in which she could somehow excite her girls, challenge their intellect, and, most of all, keep them out of trouble. The inherent problems of being different extended beyond their prickly relationship with Wood Rose staff members. The multi-faceted difficulties in teaching the FIGs frequently left the faculty with feelings of inferiority and impotency at the very least. None of the other residents wanted to be around them either, with the exception of the youngest residents who didn't yet comprehend the difference between being brilliant and normal, which brought about additional struggles of an inner psychological nature. Carolina had tried a variety of things, but, obviously, what she had been doing wasn't working. What had stimulated her when she was their age? What mysteries of the universe had intrigued her?
Then she had remembered.
Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and North Carolina Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. Since that time her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in several publications including the AMERICAN POETRY ANTHOLOGY, the SPARROWGRASS POETRY FORUM, THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF POETRY (Editor’s Choice Award), the NORTH CAROLINA CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE MAGAZINE, THE NEW EAST MAGAZINE, the RALEIGH (NC) NEWS AND OBSERVER, the ROCKY MOUNT (NC) SUNDAY TELEGRAM, DOG FANCY, BYLINE, TRUE STORY and THE CHRISTIAN RECORD. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ms. Casey's award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in THE COSMIC UNICORN and CROSS TIME short story anthologies. Her essays, also written for adults, appear in THE CHRYSALIS READER, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, and A CUP OF COMFORT ANTHOLOGY by the Adams Media Corporation.
Her two middle-grade/young adult novels, LEILANI ZAN and GRANDMA JOCK AND CHRISTABELLE (James C. Winston Publishing Co.) were nominated for awards of excellence by the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the National Association of University Women Literary Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award. SHYLA'S INITIATIVE (Crossquarter Publishing Group, 2002), a contemporary adult novel of fiction, received the 2003 Independent Publisher Book Award and received special recognition for literary merit by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. Ms. Casey’s novel THE COACH’S WIFE (ArcheBooks Publishing), a contemporary mystery, was listed as a Publisher’s Best Seller and was semifinalist of the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel. In 2007 her novel, THE HOUSE OF KANE (ArcheBooks Publishing), also a contemporary mystery, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination, and in December 2009 her novel, JUST LIKE FAMILY (Wandering Sage Publications), was launched by the 7-Eleven stores in St. Louis, Missouri. Her young adult novel, THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES (Gauthier Publications), was released in March 2011 and considered for the Smithsonian’s Most Notable 2011 Books. It has also been selected by Amazon for its 2013 List of Best Books. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY (Strategic Media Books), a novel for adults, was released in March 2013 and received an IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction. It has also been listed as a “2013 Best Summer Read” by Conversations Live Radio and has been placed in nomination for a Pulitzer Award.
Ms. Casey is a frequent guest speaker at writers’ conferences and universities throughout the United States. She is former director, guest author, and panelist of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida; and for thirteen years she served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Florida. She held the position of Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 to 2003.
Ms. Casey is president of the Barbara Casey Agency. She represents clients nationally and internationally in fiction and nonfiction for adults. Her past and present professional associations are numerous and include being editorial consultant for The Jamaican Writers Circle in affiliation with the University of West Indies and Mico Teachers College in Kingston. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories.
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