By day, Diane Wright works in corporate training. But on the weekends, she enjoys tapping into her graphic design background with creative projects. In 2012, Diane and her father, David Wright, created the PictureBookz series of photo e-books for kids. PictureBookz help capture their love of animals and amateur photography in a way that helps educate and entertain very young children. Many books in the series also teach early learning skills such as counting and reading. Diane is also the author of the illustrated children’s book, If I Were a Cow.
What inspires you to write?
I always have a need to create in some way. The form it takes has varied throughout my life. Sometimes it is craft projects, sometimes gardening, sometime painting, sometimes writing. I’m usually inspired by wanting to make a gift for someone. In past years, this inspiration has come primarily from the children in my life.
My first children’s book, If I Were a Cow, was to be a gift for the children of several family members and friends who all had their first child in the same year. The PictureBookz series I do with my Dad was inspired one day when I needed to keep my two-year-old nephew awake and entertained in the car so that he wouldn’t fall asleep before we got home in time for his nap.
I’ve got a few more ideas in my head that I’ll get to some day. For example, I’ve got several nieces who were several years ahead in reading level and who loved to read. Their moms had trouble finding books at a fifth-grade reading with subject-matter that’s appropriate for a second grader. While those kids have already outgrown even the fifth-grade books, I think I still might want to tackle that some day for someone else’s second-graders.
Tell us about your writing process.
It’s hard for me to create if I don’t have a pen in my hand. It might be with a sketchbook or it might be with a whiteboard. I’ve even been known to take over two big sliding glass doors. But I don’t usually start out sketching images–I usually start writing out thoughts, ideas, relationships, key words, etc. I’m a list-aholic, so there’s usually at least one list involved!
For If I Were a Cow, the biggest challenge was getting the right flow of animal transformations. When one animal goes on vacation, another wants to take its place. Then someone else takes that animal’s place, and so on. So I did some diagramming to come up with the right pairs. From there, I sketched out the illustrations about what the transformed animal might look like. The story kind of wrote itself. Except that I almost forgot to write it! In trying to get the book ready to give to my nieces one Christmas, I had spent so many, many hours getting the illustrations right that when I finished, it hit me that I never wrote down the story!! I had played the story in my head so many times as I created the illustrations, but never bothered to write it down!
I wrote it first in regular prose, but then decided it needed to rhyme. I have a notebook with a rhyming guide that I made on the back cover. It’s a list of all the common sounds for starting a word. a, b, bl, br, c, ch, cl, etc. That helps me figure out the rhyming. I can take a word like cow and run through all the starting sounds to make a list of possible rhyming matches, such as bow, brow, chow, etc. I enjoy figuring out the rhyming–it’s like a logic puzzle.
What advice would you give other writers?
The best advice I could give another writer is to get lots of advice–and then ignore all of it. There are a lot of great tips and opinions out there. But at the end of they day, it’s up to you to decide who you are and what you want to do. I got discouraged about doing a rhyming book because I saw an article written by a children’s book editor who advised not to do a rhyming book unless you are a poet. That discouraged me for a while. Then one day I said to myself, “Hey, who’s to say I’m NOT a poet?!?!” I had temporarily let that person discourage me from what I knew I wanted to do. Fortunately, it was only temporarily.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My main goal with If I Were a Cow was to make a book for some of the children in my life. I had color copies made of all the pages and went to Staples to get the little books with the clear plastic sleeves to put the pages in. I assembled 10 of them and gave them away. I accomplished my goal. But what would it hurt to try to get it published. I did a fair amount of research on the process and submitted my book to several publishers. As many of you may know, that can be a pretty long road. My sister, who encouraged (prodded, nagged, cajoled, threatened) me along the way, kept me going. I considered self publishing and had had pretty good luck self-publishing computer manuals. But the children’s picture book market is very different, and it is much harder to get noticed. But I decided it was better to have it out there than not. I used CreateSpace for the print book (just as with my computer manuals, which are published under a different name) and used the Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Creating a Kindle version of a picturebook can be challenging because of the visual layout. I used a simple tool called Aerbook where I recreated the layout online, and then it converted it to the KF8 fixed layout format automatically. All of these platforms make it very easy to get your book out there. Of course, getting the book noticed is something completely different!! I’m still working on that part.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Like so many industries, the book publishing industry is getting turned on its ear. With the tools to publish and sell a book being so easy, anyone can write and publish a book. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. It means that readers aren’t limited to what major publishers think will be a commercial success. There will be more choices available and from writers who might break existing molds. But it also means that without the gate keepers, some of what is out there isn’t going to be very good. And with so many authors able to publish books, it can be harder and harder to be found. Fortunately, websites like this one and rating systems such as those on Amazon can help connect readers with the books that are right for them.
What do you use?
What genres do you write?
picture books, animals, education and reference
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print