Thursday, February 24, 2011

Author of the Month: Dianne de Las Casas Loves Libraries

After a week long feature on Filipino librarians and their loves, here's the interview I had with the one and the only, Dianne de Las Casas, lover of words, stories and libraries! Librarians are her natural allies. Because of this, she was inspired to write a book, There's A Dragon In the Library!  It's her newest book that explores the imaginative power of childhood and how libraries contribute to its growth and development.




With Meinard Cruz of Scholastic Book Fairs Philippines. Dianne is awarded a plaque of appreciation for her marvelous work and contribution to literacy development


In this interview, Dianne speaks of the many wonderful rewards she's gained through storytelling and shares the creative process she went through writing her new book. She also mentions Tales From the 7,000 Isles: Filipino Folk Stories, a book in progress that she and I worked on in 2010. We're targeting a Fall 2011 release in the US and hopefully, by December, Dianne and I can share the Tales From the 7,000 Isles to many Filipino children here in Manila. 


Dianne has a fantastic website. Visit Story Connection for news, storytelling tips, book activities that go along with her stories and books, videos of Dianne and announcements on the launching of her future books.


When did the idea of writing books start? Was it a childhood dream? 

Writing books for children was a childhood dream! I can remember as far back as second grade wanting to write books for kids. Books were always so magical to me. I loved getting lost in the words and exploring new worlds. One of my teachers, my 7th and 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Good, believed in me and encouraged me. I dedicated one of my books to her and even put her as a character in my new book, There's a Dragon in the Library.




Dianne walking along side an old Igorot woman whom she met in Sagada  (May 2010)

How many published books do you have under your belt? What book is the most memorable to write? And why?


Thus far, I have 12 books. By the end of 2011, I will have 18 books. Every book goes through a different process. Some take longer than others. Some come to me at the drop of a hat. The draft of my new book, There's a Dragon in the Library, was written in one night. I was inspired by a visit to the library where the librarian had a dragon's egg on her bookshelf. I began asking, "What if?" That "what if" grew into a fantastical story about a boy who discovered a book-eating dragon in the library. The manuscript didn't go anywhere for several years and it changed a little during the editing process but the essence of the story remained the same. I love this book because it is a tribute to libraries, librarians, and books.


Working on Tales from the 7,000 Isles: Filipino Folk Stories was memorable because I traveled all over the Philippines to collect stories and experience the various cultures of my motherland. As a Filipina-American, I have a very special connection to this book. I definitely feel closer to the Philippines because of the book and I had a phenomenal co-author!! 

How does your work as storyteller help or aid in book writing?


I didn't get my first book published until after I was a professional storyteller for a number of years. I definitely attribute that to my skills as a storyteller. Being a storyteller allowed me to "season" my stories in front of live audiences and really hone them. I knew what worked and what didn't work through the process of trial and error. Storytelling also helped me to narrow my focus and specialize - audience participation is what I do best. This translates very well into children's picture books. Storytelling also allowed me to build a fan base that became a built-in market for my books.


What is the book (already published and out in the market) that you wish you have written?


Oh my goodness! I wish I had written Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is one of my absolute favorite books and one of the books that made me decide as a child, that I really wanted to be an author "when I grew up." I love Roald Dahl's ability to create characters that, no matter how fantastical they may seem, children can always relate to them. Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryis one of the most original "Rags to Riches" stories ever made. Charlie is a likeable, unlikely hero. My connection to this book and my love for chocolate prompted me to write Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate, which publishes in September 2011.

Dianne during a workshop in Manila, Philipines (May 2010). She plays with a puppet of Madame Poulet to the delight of participants - teachers, librarians, parents, care givers, and allied professionals.
What advice can you share with your fans and readers?


My advice for anyone is to find your passion and then find a way to live your passion. When you discover what you are meant to do in life, happiness bubbles up like a mountain spring. You will erupt with joy and that joy will flow to others. Someone once told me, "Enthusiasm is contagious." When you love what you do, it will show. That, in turn, will inspire others. I leave you with my life's mantra:


"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined..." - Henry David Thoreau

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