Michelle Lynn Gallagher of Lake Harmony has opened the door to an embarrassing secret. At the age of 12, she seemed to be turning into a werewolf.
That's the fact. Her book, Witch Wolf? The Curse, a work of fantasy, nonfiction and fiction, tells her story.
Michelle tells her thinly veiled autobiographic tale through the eyes of Mick, an almost-teen whose grotesque appearance attracts constant harassment. Unlike other girls her age, Mick is maturing into a Werewolf.
In the book's fictional premise, before Mick was born, her father, after being attacked and bitten by a werewolf, is healed by the magical secrets of the town's White Witches. But the curse reappears as daughter Mick enters puberty, begins growing wolf-like hair and fangs, and is being reclaimed by a vicious she-wolf.
At 12-years-old, Gallagher was Mick.
"I knew I was different. I had lost my teeth," she said. "My baby teeth wouldn't come out, so the dentist removed them. For a year, they wouldn't grow back in. I had to have surgery. When they cut my gums open, my teeth faced each other like fangs. I was kind of a freak."
Gallagher was overweight and her hair had been cut short. She was in seventh grade at St. Joseph's Regional Academy in Jim Thorpe.
"I had no hair, no teeth and in a Catholic school uniform, I looked like a big bloated boy. I got bullied by the older boys," she said. "They pushed me to the ground, and incessantly called me names, and wrote notes pretending they were someone else."
"It was a dark time. I felt very alone. It was hard to concentrate at school, hard to be a kid. It was hard to have fun and be normal. Every time I tried to do childlike things, it would come with strings, and with major tears afterwards."
After years of orthodontic dentistry, Gallagher's teeth look near perfect and she is no longer embarrassed to talk about being teased as a 12-year-old werewolf. In fact, she's relieved and wants to tell her story so other kids will know that they are not alone, hence her book, Witch Wolf? The Curse.
Michelle Gallagher grew up in Albrightsville and went to school at St. Joe's where, although students made fun of her problematic appearance, the teachers tried to help.
"A couple of teachers took me under their wing," she said. "They would talk to me and let me know how different I was; that others were doing it because maybe they were bullied at home or were jealous, but I didn't believe my teachers."
She completed Marian High School and went on to receive a communications degree from Kutztown University. She worked at a Philadelphia radio station before becoming marketing director at an alternative radio station in San Francisco.
She worked there from 2000 until 2007 when the music industry declined. Gallagher loved San Francisco.
"It's over the rainbow, a really magical place," she said. "Everywhere you look, synchronicitous things happen and uncanny things that happen and touch you."
In November 2006, she read the book, No Plot, No Problem.
"It's part of a national novel writing organization," she explained. "Everyone commits to writing a book in 30 days. I opened to a blank page and the book just came out."
Gallagher said that she felt like it was being written by her inner child.
Although it took but 30 days to write Witch Wolf? The Curse, it would take another five years for the book to be edited and published.
Gallagher returned to her roots, settling at Lake Harmony, raising a child, working on a TV show and various writing projects. After the fifth rejection of her novel, "I decided it was time to do it on my own. I would give birth to it myself." On July 4, 2011, she self-published Witch Wolf? The Curse through Amazon.com's print-on-demand service, CreateSpace.
"I feel like I just had a a baby," Gallagher said. "I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest and I'm really excited to see where it goes. I'd like to get this book to kids who have more than a headache and tears, and sometimes and need a little encouragement."
Gallagher plans to develop Witch Wolf? into a book series. She has started her second book, Witch Wolf? Sibling Rivalry.
Witch Wolf? The Curse is available at Sellers Books & Fine Art in Jim Thorpe and online at www.createspace.com/3626806. A book signing and launch party will be held on Sept. 10 at Boulder View Tavern in Lake Harmony.