Teresa Messineo is a graduate of DeSales, where she majored in English, Biology and Theology. She is the recipient of the Ross Baker Memorial Award for Writing, that university’s highest honor for writers. She spent seven years researching The Fire by Night, her historical fiction novel about frontline military nurses of the Second World War. HarperCollins published The Fire by Night in 2017, and it is currently available in three languages in seven countries.
Teresa is also the mother of four children, whom she home schooled for twenty years. She is passionate about social justice and sticking up for the underdog. Her varied interests include medicine, swing dancing, lecturing, studying foreign languages, distance swimming, hunger relief, and hiking. Teresa lives in Elverson, Pennsylvania.
Local Girl Makes Good
Teresa Messineo is a native of Berks County, Pennsylvania, and – with the exception of her undergraduate years – has lived there her entire life.
‘I love living here,’ Messineo says. ‘Some people can’t wait to move away to Philadelphia or New York, but I have found some of my closest friends right here.’
‘Berks has some really beautiful places – parks and trails, especially – but for me, all these places are interconnected with the people I love. I hiked this trail with this friend. I flipped my kayak here with another. And even a little thing like stopping in at a restaurant is more than that here – the owner coming out to give me a big hug, and catch up over a cup of coffee. I wouldn’t have that anywhere else.’
When Teresa’s debut novel, The Fire by Night, came out, Berks and surrounding counties were quick to celebrate their local author.
‘It was fantastic. The day my book came out, my daughter and I went up to the kiosk at Barnes & Noble and asked where we could find The Fire by Night. When they asked if I could spell the author’s name, it was all we could do to not bust out laughing. Later on, the manager caught us taking photos of ourselves in front of my book in the New Fiction section, and for a whole three seconds I thought I was in trouble. When he found out who I was, he invited me to a book signing, instead.’
Teresa has close ties to many places in Berks. She is a member of Immaculate Conception parish in Douglassville. She volunteered at the Got The Nerve triathlon for abled and disabled athletes sponsored by the IMAble Foundation in Wyomissing. She and her children danced in a traditional Philippine dance troupe at Holy Rosary church in Reading. She volunteered at the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church food pantry; earned a spot on the 100-mile Club for swimming at the Boyertown YMCA; was a volunteer actor at Penn State Health St. Joseph disaster drills (preparing medical staff for emergencies and pandemics like covid); and taught childbirth classes for ten years at the Reading Birth and Women’s Center, now the Reading Midwife Center, on New Holland Boulevard.
‘It was an honor to be invited to speak at our local libraries and book clubs, and it was a special joy for me to present at Twin Valley Middle and High Schools, with my own kids in attendance – that’s an experience I’ll never forget. Another of my favorite local memories is when I stopped in at my little country post office where everyone knows everyone, and handed in my slip to pick up a parcel. I was super excited and told the postal worker it was my book. ‘You bought a book from Poland?’ he asked, looking at the postmark. ‘No.’ I was jumping up and down by now. ‘I sold a book in Poland!’ He asks about my writing now, every time I’m in.’
Teresa was welcomed back to give the Discourse lecture at her alma mater, DeSales University, in neighboring Lehigh County; was televised during a book signing in Lititz in nearby Lancaster County; and even got to reconnect with Sr. Jonathan Moyles, formerly of Reading Central Catholic High School, the English teacher to whom The Fire by Night is dedicated.
Asked what her plans are now, Teresa replied that her new manuscript is nearing completion and almost ready to send off to agents and editors in New York.
‘Don’t get me wrong. I love visiting New York for my work – it’s such an exciting and beautiful city, and the people I’ve met in the publishing world have opened my eyes to such amazing possibilities. But when they ask where I’m from I tell them unhesitatingly that I’m a country girl from a little place called Berks County. That’s where my heart is.’
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