“Getting that first book in print was not easy” Dianne stated. She went to a lot of conferences where she met with editors and especially focused on those companies that do not take unsolicited manuscripts. It also didn’t hurt to learn more about the business and production processes in the book industry. Dianne also pointed out that these conferences are important to learn what is hot and what is not–the publishing cycle is acyclical–you need to be on the leading edge of the next curve, not at the tail end of what is currently the rage. She tried twenty different publishers before her first manuscript was purchased, and her advise to aspiring writers is to constantly work on improving your craft and make sure that the story you are writing is one that you connect with and that you are going to like working on for a very long time.
Her book Ten Monkey Jamboree was only a 6-page manuscript. Sounds easy–but it took two years of work to edit it down, cutting and thinking about every word and how each worked in the text. The same is true of the manuscript for Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins. Dianne was faced with the following challenges–do the math and make it work within the plot line/problem; make the storyline simple, but it must make sense; really work on the rhyme to make it smooth for reading aloud and to make sure that it really works. The rhyme needs to fun and not awkward or forced. Many people may think that it is easier to write for kids than adults but as Dianee noted “that is just not true.”
One of the really valuable things Dianne has undertaken is to record the whole process that she goes through. Since she sometimes teaches writing classes for adults, the files and the information are valuable to help others understand the steps. It also makes it easier for her, since she now understands completely what is involved in every stage of the author and publishing process. During school visits, Dianne can also show kids the creative process and the necessity of revisions. She once worried that she might not have many ideas for books, which is not true–Dianne has more ideas for books than she could ever write. Her ideas are contained in notebooks and she is very disciplined. Everyday, she writes three pages. In addition, Dianne belongs to a critique group of established writers. “It is a great way to develop the craft” according to Dianne.
Today, Dianne works and live in Pennsylvania and Florida, with her husband, sons and pets. She is a frequent speaker at schools and loves being with students.
Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins
Sam tells her Gramps that she is going to take the wagon and pick lots of pumpkins. As she returns with a full wagon, it “wobbles” and “tips” and the pumpkins roll down the hill. Four of them “dash through the open front door” and lie cracked on the floor. Not to worry, however. Gramps knows just what to do with them. He and Sam make pumpkin pies. The rhyming text flows jauntily along and includes many sure-to-please descriptive words and phrases, such as “chunky pumpkins” and “lumpy pumpkins” as well as “a stump-bumping, ditch-jumping slide.” The illustrations add another whole storyline about a little mouse that has made its home inside one of the pumpkins. It can be seen sitting on the wagon with its suitcase. A little bird and a black cat follow along as Sam gathers the pumpkins. There are multiple classroom uses here: for math: the multiplication; for language arts: the rhyming text, the descriptive words and phrases, and a discussion of the storyline. It will certainly be a good choice to read during the fall and through Thanksgiving. Making Sam and her family members anthropomorphic raccoons adds to the fantasy element here. 2004, Margaret K McElderry/Simon & Schuster, $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).
Maggie and her owner have a grand chase and tug-of-war over her pillow. It is around the room, back and forth, up and down the stairs, and finally the girl gets the pillow. Only, Maggie captures it and the whole adventure begins again. This sunny, square picture book exudes warmth as the tawny puppy and the yellow pillow stand out against the various parts of the household. The rhyming text has some nice language twists to charm listeners: a “pillow-pulling pup,” “a tail-wagging, floor-dragging, zig-zagging ride,” and “Maggie shoots down the hall, a puppy bullet.” The rhythm does not always work perfectly but the overall-clad girl owner certainly doesn’t mind as she tells her story, and neither will laughing readers in this good-natured romp. 2002, McElderry, $14.95. Ages 3 to 7. Reviewer: Susan Hepler, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Ten Monkey Jamboree
In this rhyming counting book, a group of ten rollicking monkeys leap, twist, spin, twirl and flip their way through a musical extravaganza, briefly interrupted by an encounter with a not-all-that-menacing tiger. The art is colorful and exuberant, filling each page with frenetic activity. Rather than a traditional counting book text, introducing first one monkey, then two and so on, here the monkeys present themselves in different groups, all summing to ten (for example, seven monkeys leap, two monkeys twirl, one monkey hangs by her knees, leading to ten monkeys having “a tail-tangling, tree-dangling jungle jamboree”). Children will enjoy counting the number of monkeys depicted in each scene–“Two monkeys munch mountains of berries. Five monkeys crunch crispy green leaves.” But they may also find the arithmetically based structure to the story difficult to discern and miss the more familiar counting-book pattern. The rhymes of the text come and go unpredictably, with no settled rhyme scheme, making the verse somewhat difficult to read aloud. 2001, Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16.00. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
School Visits: K-5 and Preschool students Ages 4 to 5. Topics include, but are not limited to the following:
- How a Book Goes from an Idea in a Writer’s Head to a Book on a Shelf
- Every Story Tells a Picture
The usual arrangement would be 30 minutes with the kindergartners and 45 minutes with the upper grades. Dianne will do up to 5 sessions in a day. Dianne’s sessions range in price from $500 to $800 per day depending on the number of presentations and whether there is a workshop. Her sessions are most effective when there is a small group setting of up to 40 students. If requested, additional writing workshop sessions that focus on the five senses, brainstorming and using real experience as a springboard for creative composition can be added for an additional fee. One example is a workshop entitled “Exploring the World through Poetry.”
- Adults Interested in Writing and Publishing and Teachers and Librarians Looking to Motivate Students to Write. Dianne provides tips and encourages questions.
- Meet the Author. An informal program which includes a slide show describing Dianne’s evolution from childhood to published author. This is an interactive session and questions are encouraged.
- Everything that You Wanted to Know About Children’s Publishing but Were Afraid to Ask. This session is targeted to those who want to become children’s book authors and includes a lot of questions and answers.
- How My Visual Training and Background Helped Me Become a Writer
- How the Picture Book Format Differs in its Creative Challenges
Adult presentations and conference workshops are negotiable and programs can be extensive.
To learn more about Dianne and her publications please visit www.ochiltreebooks.com.