Diagnosis changes author’s priorities


Knowing that you have a finite amount of time to finish a task, whether it be work or sports, can motivate you to get what you need to do done.

Gonzales-raised author Liza Dora has always had a passion for writing even during her time as a coach and a teacher. But after a scary moment at a grocery store in early February, she suspected that her deadline might come up sooner rather than later.

“It was Super Bowl Sunday, that’s how I remember,” Dora retold.

Dora’s eye began to bleed in the grocery store and, prompted by her husband Darryl Dora, she went to the emergency room to check it out. After a few consultations, the diagnosis came back with ocular melanoma, a very rare skin cancer.

This prompted Dora to write her book “Is Lena Pretty?”

“Cancer didn’t make me feel this way, but cancer gave me a deadline,” she said.

“Is Lena Pretty?” is a children’s book with a simple, though very important message for young girls like her daughter Lena.

“It’s a book about self confidence for young girls,” Dora described. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the word pretty, it’s that people around girls, [like] grandparents, caretakers need to make sure that they’re complimenting other things.”

This author hopes it’ll show that girls don’t need to focus on looks to build their self-esteem. Adjectives like smart, kind or brave should be as equally if not more used than pretty.

As Dora reiterated, “pretty isn’t a bad word by any means,” but if you’re brave, sweet, etc. all these words are wonderful things to say. And laying the foundation of this way of thinking to the youth is very important.

Another big motivator for her was the “deadline” she mentioned earlier, saying that there are certain things she wants her now 19-month-old daughter Lena to know, in case Dora wasn’t going to be around to tell her.

“The motivation was my daughter. I wanted her to know to be comfortable with all aspects of personality.”

Before this book, Dora went to school here in Gonzales from kindergarten through 12th grade. She attended Texas A&M, earning a degree in chemistry. Afterwards she became a teacher and a coach before taking a break to travel with her husband as he played professional basketball oversees.

Her husband, Darryl Dora, another Gonzales alum, played college ball at Texas Tech and had a highlight of his own back in 2005 when he nailed the game-winning three over Kansas as a freshman.

“He’s a bigger deal than I am,” Liza joked.

But a year after they got married, Liza got pregnant, giving them an addition to the family that is an even bigger deal.

“My husband retired to hang with the baby and me,” she said, “and I guess the last couple of years we both got back to school. Darryl went to finish his degree at Texas Tech and I started working on a nursing degree.”

But in February, that day in the grocery store ultimately became the catalyst of change.

“I had to quit school, spend time with my daughter, stay home.”

So she did. But with this passion for writing, Dora, with the help of other writers, began a website called curisome.com.

The site hosts a couple of female writers in need of a platform to write about comedy.

“I like comedy,” Dora said, “I think women can do comedy on their own terms. It doesn’t have to be vulgar, crass or sexual, it can be silly, fun, whimsical and it can be hilarious.”

“It doesn’t have to be Sarah Silverman. It can be Tina Fey. That’s something I feel strongly about.”

After the website got up and running, Dora began writing her book the first week in April.

You’d think writing as well as doing the illustration work herself may take some time, but on May 1, “Is Lena Pretty?” was released.

“I’m a fast worker,” she said.

“I’ve always been fairly artistic.”

The book is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Hastings and there’s even a copy in the Gonzales public library.

“It’s amazing,” Dora exclaimed, “I was a huge reader growing up. I used to walk [to the Gonzales library] when I was little. It’s very cool, very very cool.”

What’s also amazing is the support she’s already gotten from the Gonzales community.

The support of the town “blew her mind,” she said. People have asked her about book signings.

“I’m overwhelmed by all the support from all the people in town.”

“I’m very grateful,” she continued, “and even since the cancer diagnosis, all the outpouring love and support, I can’t think of any other word than overwhelming.”

As for a book signing, with the help of some local Gonzaleans, Dora was able to schedule one last Saturday at the China Basket.

“Jolie [Gray] said she was actually getting stopped in town on the street by people asking if I was going to come which is so sweet and funny and weird,” Dora said. “I also had a good friend of mine, Daisy Scheske, she was really big on finding a time for me to come down. And also, Martha Jo Witt, she was my 12th grade English honors teacher. She was also instrumental in me coming back.”

Dora sold out her books within the first hour.

More book signings have been added to the calendar, with one in New Braunfels around July and one in Lubbock, where they live, in July, though the dates are still tentative. But until then, Dora will continue to write. As a matter of fact, look out for another book coming out Aug. 1 titled “People Aren’t Socks.”

“It’s a book for kids who don’t look like their parents,” she explained. “This is more about once I started really looking into children’s books I felt like there was an important message that maybe didn’t have the vehicle just yet. So I wrote one.”

Deadlines spur action.

Although it’s a scary time for the Gonzales native, with the stresses of self-publishing a book and of course the prognosis of her cancer diagnosis, Liza Dora continues to be active in her passion of writing. As she admits, there are still important things she needs to do in this world. What better time than now?