An avid reader since childhood, libraries, books, and writing are my life’s work. As a school library media specialist and teacher of gifted and talented students in the U.S. and abroad, I nurtured my students’ creativity by sharing my love of reading with them. As a young writer, I successfully pitched a column for the school newspaper, so I had a voice. Many years later I gave a voice to my toy poodle by creating the Maggie Mae Pup Reporter column in a local magazine, writing from a dog’s point of view that developed into a blog. I graduated from Syracuse University, attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and led writing workshops and open mics to encourage people of all ages to tell their stories. I live in Chappaqua, N.Y., where I proudly served on the Board of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival and am a Past President of the Chappaqua Library Board of Trustees. Visit Ronni's website to learn more about her and her work.
Facebook- Ronni Diamondstein
Thread @ maggiemaepupreporter
1. How did you begin your journey as an author?
First, I’d like to thank you, Mary, for featuring me on your blog.
I have been writing since I was a child. I wrote stories and wrote for my high school newspaper. As a school librarian I was surrounded by books and had many ideas for books of my own. I plugged away, participated in writing workshops and was fortunate to have an Op Ed published in The New York Times that got me accepted into the Breadloaf Writers Conference. I wrote for some magazines when I lived in the Netherlands and when I came back to the States continued to write.
2. What one piece of advice would you like to give to aspiring kidlit authors?
Two words: read and write!
Read lots and lots of books! I was fortunate to have spent my life reading children’s books, starting with my job in college in the children’s room of the library to becoming a teacher and school librarian.
And write! Join writing groups, take writing workshops, find a writing community. My mentor Elizabeth Hall said you need to write every day and she was right about writing! There’s a great quote about writing from Jane Yolen: “Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”
3. What are you working on? What’s next for you?
I am working on both fiction and nonfiction picture books now in addition to the articles I write for a local magazine. I love working on picture book biographies. I like interviewing people and enjoy discovering what makes people tick and then being able to tell their story in a unique way. The research process is so rewarding. And I can’t tell you how many people have said I should write stories about my dog Maggie Mae, the Pup Reporter who was a columnist for our local magazine!
4. Where did you get the idea for Jackie and the Books She Loved? What was your inspiration?
I had been researching Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for nearly 30 years. At first, I wanted to write a novel about her but then when I was talking to Margot Datz, the illustrator of Carly Simon’s children’s books that Jackie edited she suggested that I write a children’s book. I first wrote a long chapter book that got no traction and then about five years ago I thought a book about how reading and writing were a thread through her life would make an engaging story about this fabulous First Lady. As a fellow lover of books, I feel like I was the right person to write this story. Both she and President Kennedy have been inspirations in my life.
5. How was the editorial process? Did you do any revisions? If it’s a picture book, did you have a lot of collaboration with the illustrator?
Jackie and the Books She Loved is my first book and I feel very fortunate to have worked with my editor Nicole Frail at Sky Pony Press. It was a collaborative relationship. We were very much in sync regarding the revisions that needed to be made. Because it was a biography and I knew a lot about Jackie and had many resources to share, there was a lot of collaboration with the illustrator, Bats Langley, that was marvelous. One day he asked what her favorite birthday cake was. Of course, I had a book called Cooking with Madam in my collection so I could send him pictures of Jackie’s birthday cake that you’ll find in our book! And I even had a say in the endpaper design!
6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
I like that I am introducing a new generation to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who was, among other things, a fascinating First Lady. The message to young people, and people of all ages, is how important reading and books were to her, and how that can shape a person’s life. Jackie once said, “There are many wany to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” I hope this book inspires young people to read and write.