WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION FOR WRITERS
DIANNE DE LAS CASAS
I connected with today’s Will Write for Cookies guest of honor because she shares my love for picture books. I had heard about Picture Book Month as I followed the blogs of writers, illustrators, educators and parents. A month devoted to picture books? What brilliant person had thought of that?
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 is 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.
When Dianne agreed to participate and share her thoughts with us, I was thrilled. There are lots of golden nuggets of inspiration and information that you will take away from this interview…and wait till you see her cookie recipe! So, without further ado…here’s Dianne!
Me: Welcome, Dianne! I know you are totally immersed in the picture book world. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators as a child?
DIANNE: I have always loved Roald Dahl because of his whimsical use of language. His books, the classics, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, were my favorites. I also love picture books. The perfect marriage of words and pictures has always drawn me in. Contemporary picture book authors like Peter Brown, Tammi Sauer, Jon Scieszka, and Peter Reynolds are personal favorites. From the time I was in second grade, I knew I wanted to write children’s books.
Me: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?
DIANNE: I was always an avid researcher so when I began submitting my stories for publication, I had some small successes like being published in Guidepost for Kids magazine in the very beginning of my career. Every success you have is a stepping stone to even bigger and better achievements. Don’t discount the little successes! I only received a $25 check for my story, “Stuck!” but it encouraged me to keep writing and to not give up. Tenacity and determination are must-have characteristics for a children’s book author.
One thing I have always possessed is business acumen. My advice would be to not only focus on the creative side of your writing career, but the business side as well. Be organized, keep good documentation, and learn as much as you can about contracts! Focus on building good relationships with fellow authors, editors, agents, and industry professionals. Build a strong support network and most of all, travel with an attitude of gratitude.
Me: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook with paper and pencil?
DIANNE: I love my office! When we first bought our house in 1998, one of the front rooms was a formal living room. I visualized it as an office. I wanted built-in shelves and a huge library wall. I finally saved enough money to pay for my office build in cash and. in 2011,
I built my dream office exactly the way I had visualized it and drawn it out on paper. Since the beach is my favorite place in the world, the walls are painted a vivid blue with sand-colored ceramic tile. The built-in cabinetry is white and my desk tops are a gorgeous sandy, marbled laminate. My office reminds me of Caribbean waves cresting and caressing the shore. I have a library wall that is dominated by books, books, and more books. It’s heaven I love my office!
Me: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?
DIANNE: I am definitely a night owl. When people close their curtains, shut down their electronics, and go to sleep, I power up and work. I love working in the quiet when no emails fly in and no social media notifications beep. I work both with and without a schedule. There are times when I am under deadline and there are times when I have freedom to write new stories. The thing about being a writer is that no one is forcing you to create new works. You have to be self-motivated if you want to make a career of this. My time isn’t only apportioned for writing. I also have to do the business side of things like marketing, PR, social media, and office management. I am a very active touring author as well. I do a lot of book events, speaking engagements, school visits, and conferences. Being disciplined, being a list-maker and being organized helps me tremendously.
Me: Why do you write for children?
DIANNE: I do a lot of school visits because I love the feedback from the children. I really love the “HA HA!” “AH HA!” and “AHHHH!” moments (Storyteller Elizabeth Ellis coined these terms) I observe from the kids. I love seeing when students realize that through books, they can tap into their infinite potential. They can learn new things, travel the world, learn how the world works, and become someone else, all between the pages of a book. It’s a giddy feeling to know that we are truly influencing and shaping the minds of the next generation with our books. It’s a heady and heavy responsibility. As writers, we should take it seriously. As wordsmiths, we should remember our inner child and have fun.
I feel like I am living the dream life. I am doing exactly what I love. As the saying goes, “When you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life.” Children’s literature is my passion and I love it!
I leave you with my life’s mantra, a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams… Live the life you have imagined.”
Me: Thank you so very much, Dianne! Your passion and dedication to children’s literature is inspiring and much appreciated by all of us who believe books (and someone to read them) are the best gifts you can give to children.
I know everyone is excited to see the cookie recipe you are sharing. Being involved in the career of your daughter, the famous Kid Chef, Eliana, you probably spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen. Can you tell us something about this treat?
DIANNE: The following cookie recipe is from my mother-in-law, Jennie. These cookies are a family favorite and a reflection of her island heritage in Honduras. My mother is from the Philippines and they have a lot of pineapple there as well. This cookie recipe always tastes like “home” to me. Enjoy!
Honduran Pineapple Cookies
Ingredients for filling:
4 tbsp. salted butter
2 20 oz. cans crushed pineapple, drained with juice set aside
2 tbsp. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Ingredients for dough:
1 stick or 1/2 c. butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. pineapple juice
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
5 tsp. baking powder
Directions for filling:
Over medium heat in a medium sauce pan, melt butter and add pineapple, sugar, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool.
Directions for dough:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend wet ingredients with hand mixer. Add dry ingredients and mix with hands until a dough ball forms. Split dough in half. Roll out half of dough about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter until you run out of dough. Place circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place a teaspoon of filling in middle of circle. Roll out other half of dough to same thickness and cut out circles until you run out of dough. Place circles on top of filling. Press fork around the edge of cookies, sealing edges. Bake for 20 minutes or golden brown. Makes about 24 cookies.
I KNOW YOU ALL JOIN ME IN THANKING THE INCREDIBLE DIANNE DE LAS CASAS FOR BEING HERE TODAY. HERE ARE SOME LINKS IF YOU’D LIKE TO CONTACT HER OR LEARN MORE ABOUT HER BOOKS AND THE PICTURE BOOK MONTH INITIATIVE:
Dianne de Las Casas
Award-Winning Author & Storyteller
Founder of Picture Book Month
P.O. Box 2656
Harvey, LA 70059
Author website: http://www.diannedelascasas.com