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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

Interview with picture book author Dianne de Las Casas

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Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of 24 books, Dianne was the International Reading Association LEADER 2014 Poet Laureate, and the 2014 recipient of the Ann Martin Book Mark award. Her children’s titles include THE CAJUN CORNBREAD BOY, THERE’S A DRAGON IN THE LIBRARY, THE LITTLE “READ” HEN, THE HOUSE THAT SANTA BUILT, AND CINDERELLAPHANT. She is the proud mom of 14-year-old culinary celebrity, Kid Chef Eliana.

DeLasCasasDianne

For what age audience do you write?

I write picture books and professional development books for teachers/librarians.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, CINDERELLAPHANT, is about a pachyderm princess in pink. As you can imagine, it is a remix of the traditional Cinderella only this pretty pachyderm has step-hippos, a fairy godmouse, a peanut carriage, and a colossal sparkling glass slipper. The prince is a zebra and Baboon 5 plays at the ball. It’s a fun take on the traditional tale. Cinderella is my favorite fairy tale and I have always wanted to write a version of the story.

Henry: We need more diverse books, and elephant princesses are a step in the right direction.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I have a passion for “remixing” folk and fairytales. I would love for readers to think about ways they can give a clever twist to a traditional tale. Also, the underlying message of the book is that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. When the prince finally finds Cinderellaphant, he says, “You’re the only maiden big enough to fill a princess’ shoes!”

Henry: Readers will learn the correct answer to this eternal question, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I love creating stories… outlining them, writing them, and envisioning characters. For me, like many authors, it is the revision process that I find most challenging. But, as I tell students when I do school visits: the best writing comes from rewriting. I am currently working on a revision of a middle grade series I am working on and I’m actually finding the process not quite as daunting because I am excited about getting the revisions into the hands of my agent.

Henry: I agree with you regarding revisions. It’s always difficult to know how much marble to sculpt away until you’re left with the final, best work.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

I’ve learned that even in writing picture books, all the stories I create are autobiographical in some way. There is a little piece of my truth in every single story I choose to write. It’s very eye-opening when you can have that kind of introspective look at your own body of work.

Henry: This explains the tiara that often adorns your head. 🙂

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

My school visits! I love love love visiting schools and hearing the students’ feedback firsthand. It’s fun and they inspire me. I’ve also visited some very cool places. Guam, for instance. Guam was definitely a tropical paradise and I received such a royal welcome! I am very grateful for all of those opportunities that come my way.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Connect, communicate, and conquer! Every business is built on relationships. Find a mentor and join a network of like-minded peers (like SCBWI). You will learn so much from established writers. Go to writing conferences. Build your network. Expand your social media universe. And finally, never give up. Ever.

Henry: SCBWI is the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

You host Picture Book Month. Please tell us about that.

I am the founder of Picture Book Month. It is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November. It began in 2011 and went viral. Now, schools, libraries, and homes all over the world celebrate Picture Book Month. On our website, every day in November, we feature essays about the importance of picture books by prominent authors and illustrators. The essays are moving, inspirational, poignant, humorous, and insightful. In the age of overwhelming digital texts, I wanted to celebrate the simplicity and profundity of picture books. It’s amazing to see people around the world celebrate Picture Book Month.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

My life mantra is: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

Henry: That man could write! “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I don’t follow a writing schedule unless I have a specific deadline. I like to write late at night when all is quiet. The family is asleep and the constant chirps of email and social media are at a minimum.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would love to fly. I love to travel and the idea of being able to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted is appealing. World travel truly expands your horizons.

Henry: This would make visiting Guam again much easier.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Oh my gosh! This is a hard one. There are so many authors I love. First, I would invite my all-time favorite children’s book author, Roald Dahl. I would love to pick his brain and see how his thinker thinks. For humor at this dinner party, I’d add Jon Scieszka. He’s already a friend, so I’m sure I could pull this one off. Lastly, I’d invite Judy Blume because her books were such an integral part of my junior high experience. Three greats, don’t you think?!

Henry: Good choices. I had the pleasure of meeting Jon at a TLA conference.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I love fairies because they come in all sizes, have had pivotal roles in many a “fairy” tale (Cinderella, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty), and they represent the “what if” we all ask ourselves. “What if I could be a princess for a night?” “What if I could fly?” “What if I could change my destiny?”

Henry: Fairies do really come in all sizes and personalities. Even Shakespeare’s fairies varied between stories (Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream vs. Queen Mab in Romeo and Juliet).

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to create order out of chaos. LOL I actually love to declutter and organize. It’s very therapeutic for me. I also love to cook, especially with my daughter, Kid Chef Eliana, who is a 14-year-old celebrity chef. I love taking in stories through books and movies. I enjoy dissecting characters and deciphering plots, and deconstructing story arcs. Lastly, I love to travel. I lived all over the world as a child and travel is in my blood.

Henry: Creating order out of chaos violates entropy. I have reported you to the Physics Police.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Dianne de Las Casas – Beloved Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Sparkling Diva 😉

Henry: And author of 240 books!

Where can readers find your work?

My books can be found at any online book retailer and at bookstores across the South. Visit My website is diannedelascasas.com. Visit Picture Book Month at PictureBookMonth.com. Twitter & Instagram: @AuthorDianneDLC  Facebook: fanofdianne

DeLasCasasDianne

This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Author: Henry Herz

Children's book author

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