Dianna was blessed with a mother who read to her, so she naturally grew up to be a writer. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, thinking about what to write, or grumbling about having to do things that prevent her from writing—things like vacuuming, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. She lives in the beautiful mountains of North Idaho with her husband, daughter and two canine buddies.
For what age audience do you write?
I write middle grade fiction novels for readers ages 8-12. All my stories so far have been realistic, contemporary.
Henry: Well that’s fine, but I expect some gnomes or pixies at some future point! ☺
Tell us about some of your books.
My debut, ‘A Smidgen of Sky’ (Harcourt 2012), centers around spunky Piper Lee Deluna, a young girl from the South who is determined to stop her mother from getting remarried. Her dad disappeared in an airplane crash four years earlier, and Piper Lee still holds onto the hope that he might one day reappear. Plus, she doesn’t see any need for a new stepdad or bratty stepsister, when she and her mama are doing just fine by themselves. My second book, ‘A Million Ways Home’, will be out next fall from Scholastic Press. It’s about twelve year old Poppy, whose whole life is turned upside down when the grandmother who’s raised her suffers a stroke and ends up in a nursing home. Although the two books are very different they both feature the theme of loss and moving ahead with changed circumstances.
What do you hope readers will get from reading your books?
I try to write stories that will make young readers laugh, hope, smile, think, maybe even cry, but always help them to see that it’s okay to have strong, often mixed-up feelings about love, loss, pets, family and friends.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
Getting started on a new book is the most difficult for me. I do only a loose outline so that I know the approximate direction the story is headed, and how I’d like it to end. But pounding out that first chapter is tough for me. After that it gets easier.
Henry: Me too. Getting the first draft is always the hardest.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
That writing is very different from marketing. An author can do everything right and still not sell a lot of copies. Do what you reasonably can to promote your work, but the most important thing is to keep writing.
Henry: Yes, as a self-published author, I learned to appreciate the effort involved in all the various activities that go from transforming a story into a book in a reader’s hands.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
In 2004, I won a full scholarship to attend the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua in New York. For a whole week I got to hobnob with top writers, agents and editors. It was such a cool experience. Someday I hope to go back.
Henry: Nothing beats hobnobery in Chautauqua. Or any other location with three u’s in its name.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Do. Not. Give. Up. Ever. My dream was always to be traditionally published. But it took me eight years to connect with the right agent, and an additional eighteen months for her to sell ‘A Smidgen of Sky’. Nothing in publishing moves quickly. You have to cultivate the patience of Job and keep trying.
Henry: Yes, you must have patience like Job. But you cannot write in stone like Moses. You must revise, revise, and revise. Of course, Moses had a divine editor…
Do you have any favorite quotes?
Um . . . no. So now I feel inadequate.
Henry: Well, then allow me to offer you one. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
What’s strange about sitting in my recliner, drinking coffee, while carrying on conversations with imaginary people?
Henry: Nothing, as long as they don’t talk back to you…
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to instill a love of books in every newborn, because life is so much better when you like to read.
Henry: Ah, a literary cupid. Plus, that would increase demand for your books. Nicely done!
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Tough question! Probably S.E. Hinton, Wilson Rawls and E.B. White. I would like to tell them in person how powerfully their books—The Outsiders, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Charlotte’s Web—affected me. While I have many, many books I love, those three helped to shape me as a writer.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read, garden, play with my dogs, and spend time with my husband and sixteen year old daughter.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
I have to give this further thought—but I can tell you the funniest suggestion I’ve ever heard. “I told you I was sick.”
Henry: The lengths some people will go to in order to be right…
Where can readers find your work?
‘A Smidgen of Sky’ is widely available both online and in bookstores. A number of links to retailers are available on my site at www.diannwinget.com. You’ll also find a summary of ‘A Million Ways Home’, along with several free short stories and articles as well.
This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.