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'Fuel'-ing the future

Ever wish you could go back in time and share some of your acquired adult knowledge and experience with your younger self?
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Ever wish you could go back in time and share some of your acquired adult knowledge and experience with your younger self?

Medford Lakes resident Gary Woodend did the next best thing by penning and illustrating the guidebook "Rocket Fuel for Young Adults," which shares tips, ideas and strategies he's acquired over the years as a businessman, attorney, public official, and avid reader of self-help and how-to-succeed books.

"Over the years I just kept thinking, 'Man, I wish I knew some of this stuff when I was still in school!' " Woodend said last week about the book's contents, which advises on problem solving, listening, negotiating, goal setting, time management, memorization, public speaking, remembering names and dressing for success.

"I thought if kids knew about this stuff, they'd be much better teenagers and feel better about themselves," he said.

Woodend, a former mayor of Medford Lakes, said he thought about writing the book for years before he started in 2001. He took three years to write it and another year or two to illustrate it and get it printed.

He said the key was to keep the chapters short and, whenever possible, humorous. He ended up with 33 chapters and 50 illustrations that he completed with his father's assistance.

"My father is a portrait painter and he helped. I would give him a little blurb about what I was looking for and within 10 minutes he'd have five different illustrations," Woodend said. "Then I would pick one or combine two and then refine it and refine it."

Woodend had the first copy printed in 2006. Rather than try to sell it in stores or online, he gave away copies to young people and families he knew that might benefit from reading it. He asked them to pass it along to another friend or relative when finished.

"I really didn't (write the book to) make any money," Woodend said. "It was just something I believed in doing because it might help someone."

Woodend got the chance to present his book to a full classroom of teenagers earlier this month when Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield invited him to speak at her office's Youth Development Camp.

The program provides after-school and Saturday classes to help youth offenders and at-risk children learn discipline and study skills.

"I read it and liked it and thought it would go perfect with what we're trying to teach the kids at the development camp," Stanfield said. "I think they got a real kick out of it, both the book's content and also getting to meet and interact with the author."

She said the visit went so well that she arranged for Woodend to present his work to a teenage book club in Willingboro.

Woodend said he is thrilled to have the chance to share his book.

"I only had time to cover three sections: body language, goal setting and memorization techniques. But I think the kids got something out of it," he said. "The memorization techniques were such a help to me while I was in undergrad and in law school, so I really wanted to share those."

He said his goal-setting discussions were also telling.

"I asked them what their goals were and I was shocked by their response. I thought I'd hear answers like become a lawyer or doctor or a professional basketball player, but each one said they wanted to do better in school," he said. "That's exactly what one of the chapters is about - setting goals and planning out how to achieve them."

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of "Rocket Fuel for Young Adults" can contact Gary Woodend at

Contact: or 609-871-8154