Thursday, December 11, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway: Dianne White on Doing the Work & Not Giving Up

By Dianne White
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I haven’t always been a writer – at least not in the way I assume my friends who write must have been as children growing up.

I never wrote stories I couldn’t wait to share with my parents and teachers; I was not the kid who stapled lined pages together to write and illustrate my own books; I never kept a journal, and I’m not one of those people with rich imaginations able to tell grand stories at the drop of a hat.

I’m not at all like many writers I admire who are either far more gifted than me or simply have a voice and heart that seems to easily capture on paper that intangible something that makes a reader fall in love with a book.

So, how did I end up with a debut picture book published by my dream editor and illustrated by a Caldecott artist? Serendipity and something more.

Blue on Blue (Beach Lane, 2014) is one of those once-in-a-lifetime books. It was quickly written and sold to the first editor who saw it. This does not usually happen! Nor has it happened with any other manuscript I’ve written over more years that I care to mention. But the happy journey of Blue on Blue’s publication points to the few things that I, and every pre-published or published children’s writer, have the power to control: Do the work and don’t give up.

an author in the making
Do the work – put in your 10,000 – or less, or more - hours of practice. However many hours it takes you is really all that matters. So don’t compare. Ask any published author and they’ll tell you that each book is its own puzzle. What sometimes looks easy to the outsider is never exactly as it seems. But practice and study and an attitude that understands there’s always room for growth will never disappoint.

As a primary grade teacher who earned a credential in the late 80’s during the height of core lit and thematic units, I had only just begun to understand the power, width, and breadth of the picture book genre. I fell in love and wanted to write such books.

But like most things, wanting to do something and learning to do it well don’t always go hand in hand. The work must be so grounded in passion that you’re willing to do what it takes to get you there. Writing is hard, and publishing is a business, after all. Writing is also art, so go in expecting to face rejection – lots of it - with the knowledge that it will never be as easy as it looks.

Okay. Sure. There will be people who will reach their publishing goals faster than you. But, in the end, we reach our goals our own way, and if it takes you longer than you think it should, then do yourself a favor and embrace the journey. Because, honestly, that’s one of the very best things about the children’s book community - the awesome, and very supportive people you’ll meet along the way. Be sure to take time to appreciate that goodness and the many terrific people rooting for you.

Don’t give up – this is where your level of passion comes into play. Writing for kids is an honor and a gift. Treasure it and understand that it is your passion that will keep you plugging away, rethinking, and revising.

When Blue on Blue debuted on Dec, 9, it was almost six years from acquisition to publication. In every single way, it’s been worth the wait. It’s a book I’m deeply proud of, most especially because it reflects the vision of a group of dedicated picture book lovers– editor Allyn Johnston, illustrator Beth Krommes, and art director Lauren Rille.

Picture books exist because of this community of artists, all of who contribute something wonderful and unique to the projects they’re involved in.

I continue to work on new picture book ideas, but I’m enjoying this time of “firsts.” It’s been a long but worthwhile journey and I can’t wait to see what new experiences and wonderful things lie just around the corner.

Cynsational Notes

Dianne White has lived and traveled around the world and now calls Arizona home. She holds an elementary bilingual teaching credential and a master's in Language and Literacy. In 2007, she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

After teaching students of all ages for 25 years, she now writes full-time. Her first picture book, Blue on Blue, illustrated by 2009 Caldecott winner, Beth Krommes, is published by Beach Lane Books.

Illustration by Beth Krommes; learn more about Blue on Blue!
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Julie Musil said...

I absolutely LOVE inspirational stories like this! Thanks so much for sharing. So much about writing and publishing is all about attitude. It's obvious that Dianne has a wonderful, thankful attitude. Big congratulations on the beautiful picture book.

Beverley Baird said...

Thanks for the inspiring post! As a "newish" writer, I dream, but I am also working at my writing.

Lori Alexander said...

Thanks for sharing the story behind the story, Dianne. What a great reminder to enjoy the journey! So happy to see BLUE ON BLUE out in the world. It's lovely!

RG Stones said...

I love this book! It feels like an instant classic.

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

What a wonderful post about not giving up! I love that you said "each book is its own puzzle!" So true!

Catherine Johnson said...

Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing and congrats.

Anonymous said...

The story of your journey is inspiring, and Blue on Blue is beautiful in every way.

Wendy said...

On a day when I was finding it hard to "believe", this perfect post came along. Thank you.

Jen Swanson said...

Great post! Came just when I needed it. Never give up!! :)

Angela Turner said...

Your post gives me hope. Thank you.

julierowanzoch said...

As much passion as I have, some patches are tougher than others. Your words, 'embrace the journey', sure hit the spot today. Thank you!

Patricia Toht said...

Congratulations, Dianne! At SCBWI LA, Andrea Welch presented your book in a breakout and I've been looking forward to reading it. Thank you for the inspiring post. said...

Dianne, thanks SO much for sharing this at a time I needed to hear it. It seems I need to hear it more and more as the years go by!

Just yesterday I read this GORGEOUS book! It's obvious to me why they wanted Beth and she agreed! The illustrations are truly BREATHTAKING! It's actually the next book on my "to buy" list :D

Congratulations on all of it and I'm so glad you persevered :D

Dianne said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words about BLUE on BLUE. It takes a village to make a book, and I think there is no better group of people than those who make up our amazing kid lit community. :-)

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