Write Now . . .

WRITE NOW…with Dianne White

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In Dianne White’s beautiful debut, BLUE on BLUE, an encroaching storm breaks through the calm of a family’s day on their farm. Dianne’s stunning language captures the storm and its beauty in gentle rhythmic tones. Her gorgeous words delight and reassure young readers, as they wait for the storm to pass. This week on WRITE NOW, Dianne talks about how patience, perseverance and passion led to the publication of BLUE ON BLUE. Once again she offers reassurance–the storm always passes, and the waiting can be beautiful, too. Like BLUE ON BLUE, Dianne’s sage words beg to be read again and again and again. It’s my great pleasure to host on WRITE NOW the lyrical and eloquent Dianne White.

From Passion to Publication

As a new teacher, I discovered a world of children’s books I hadn’t known existed. The mid-80’s were a hey-day for trade picture books. School and library budgets were healthier, and teachers used real books (not basal readers, or excerpts of books in anthologies) to introduce subject matter, support instruction, and encourage a love of reading.

Surrounded by a growing collection of picture books in my home and classroom, it didn’t take long for me to wonder if I could write a book of my own. As it turns out, writing was just the beginning. Making those manuscripts strong enough to sell took a bit longer. 12 years, to be exact. And nearly 6 years beyond that until BLUE on BLUE, illustrated by Caldecott artist, Beth Krommes, was published.

By most people’s standards, that’s a long wait. But it wasn’t wasted time. During those 12 years I immersed myself in books for kids and filled in the gaps in my writing and reading education. I studied picture books, joined SCBWI, took classes and workshops, even returned to school and got an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

If you’ve been working towards publication for a while, or are just starting your writing career, here are 3 of my best tips.

Tip #1 – Start with passion

Like all the arts, writing is a business of persistence in the face of rejection. Yes, you’ll need an idea… or two… or three. Talent is also nice. But, to my mind, passion and perseverance are far more important. You won’t be a writer worthy of your young audience unless you’re passionate about children’s books. This passion must extend beyond the stories you want to tell.

BlueOnBlueWhiteKrommessmallCase in point. I often run into picture book writers starting out who haven’t read more than a handful of books in their chosen genre. This always surprises me. How will they understand how picture books work? Do they realize that the best picture books have a universal quality that means something, even to those who aren’t related to or don’t know the author?

Respect the genre and your young readers. Know the picture books that have gone before. Start with a passion that’s bigger than your own work.

Tip #2: Hone your craft

I’ve heard that for every 10 picture books you write, you’re lucky to sell one. Another way of saying it? KEEP writing. And that doesn’t mean keep revising the same 3 manuscripts over and over.

If you’re serious about publishing, you (and I!) already have a nice collection of favorite manuscripts. Many are pretty good. Excellent, even. But that does not mean they will ever sell.

Some manuscripts are meant to teach us how to write. They may be beloved, but let’s push ourselves to do more, set aside the fear that we’ll never write anything that compares, or the thought that our manuscript is too good to waste. Make way for the new. Write more.

Tip #3: Share your Work

I know people who don’t need a critique group but I am not one of them. Sure, over the years I’ve gotten more skillful at reading my work. There’s a lot of revision I can do on my own. Putting work aside to “rest” for a while helps. But there are plenty of times when I need outside feedback.

Find your tribe. Nobody outside this business will completely understand the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and disappointments of pursuing a career in the arts. Share the journey with your writing friends. You’ll be all the richer for it.

GIVEAWAY! Dianne is offering a signed copy of her debut, BLUE on BLUE. Comment on the post for a chance to win!

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 for 25 years, Dianne now writes full-time. Her first picture book, BLUE on BLUE, illustrated by 2009 Caldecott winner, Beth Krommes, was published by Beach Lane Books (S&S) in 2014. Visit Dianne at www.diannewrites.com or on Twitter @diannewrites.

Posted in WRITE NOW... on 10/14/2015 06:00 am
 

22 Comments

  1. What great advice, Dianne! Good thing it’s so much fun to read and write a lot :–) Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  2. Karen Jameson

    Thanks for your inspiring words, Dianne. Writing children’s books is truly a labor of love. How I wish we could return to the 80s and those glorious library budgets!

    Blue on Blue is gorgeous!

    Karen Jameson

    Reply

    • You are sooooo right, Karen! Picture books are a labor of love, but so worth it. I’m with you – if only we could return to the school library budgets of the 80’s. Luckily, things seems to be shifting a bit and there’s a new resurgence of pbks lately. Good for all of us!
      xo D

      Reply

  3. Pamela Haskin

    Your journey to publication is so encouraging. I have been working a long time like you and am just beginning to get noticed. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your success.

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  4. Dianna,
    Sometimes I end an email to a writer friend with “Keep Writing” or “Happy Writing.” Your post reminds me that I need to keep writing new stories. I have been telling myself to redo some of those filed away that are good, but not quite good enough. Your post helped me realize that it’s good to do both. Not one or the other.

    I wish you much success with your writing. Thanks again for the tips.

    Reply

    • Thanks, Linda! I’m a firm believer in not giving up on your most passionate dreams. We can’t afford to keep circling the same manuscripts, if you know what I mean. But, it’s also true that often we’ve got very strong manuscripts waiting in the wings. We just have to keep plugging away and being as smart and strategic about the whole process as we know how to be. “Keep writing, Linda!” 🙂
      Dianne

      Reply

  5. Wonderful and consistent advice Dianne. Thanks.

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  6. Kathy Halsey

    Great post and wonderful debut book! Dianne, your advice to new writers i spot on. Time, effort, having a great group of people who know writing as your tribe, all are so crucial. I am awaiting that next book!

    Reply

  7. Sydney O'Neill

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey, Dianne. Your passion for children’s books is contageous. I love reading your posts, and my whole family loves BLUE ON BLUE.

    Reply

  8. Dianne,

    All so very true. Thank you for your encouraging advice.
    It’s wonderful to know that your passion and hard work are coming together with such beautiful results.
    Congratulations! I loved your book and I look forward to seeing more.

    Michael Hale

    Reply

    • There’s so much in this business that’s out of our control, but passion and work are at least two concrete things that we CAN control. Thanks for your kind words, Michael.
      Dianne

      Reply

  9. Dianne,

    Thank you for such wonderful suggestions and advice. It is so true that passion and dedication as well as commitment to your craft is all part of the journey. I also agree 100% that a critique group is essential to opening your eyes to your own writing, how it is perceived and how to move it to the next level. My incredible critique tribe has helped me beyond words in honing my writing skills and I could not imagine journeying on with out them.

    Thank you again for sharing your journey and passion. Your writing is so exquisite that I am looking forward to many more books from you in the very near future. 🙂 T.

    Reply

  10. Rebecca Wise Eklund

    What wonderful insight and advice, as I make a declaration to myself and the world, “yes, I am a writer.” I am going to print this wisdom out to provide hope and help on my own journey. Thank you for your eloquence, Dianne!

    Reply

  11. Lorian Steider Brady

    As a teacher myself, I also fell in love with children’s books when I shared them with my students. It is great to be reminded that the writing I do now is just part of the greater journey through children’s literature that I’ve enjoyed with so many people, grown and young.

    Your words are a gentle reminder to enjoy the journey. Thanks.

    Reply

    • I love this – “… the writing I do now is just part of the greater journey through children’s literature that I’ve enjoyed with so many people.” So true. It’s a treat to share the journey!

      Reply

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