For this interview we hop down the rabbit hole with children’s author Diana Pishner Walker.
Who are you? Where are you? What kind of stuff do you write?
I am a WV author from Fairmont, WV originally from Clarksburg, WV.I have been writing for about 5 years now and have 4 published books. The first was a self- published memoir and the last 3 have been children’s books with an Italian American theme.
Tell us about your most recent book, story, or other project.
My latest book is the second in a series entitled Hopping to America, A Rabbit’s Tale of La Befana. It is going to be a play at the Vintage Theater Company in August and performed also at the WV Italian Heritage Festival over Labor Day weekend on the children’s stage. The first in the series is Hopping to America, A Rabbit’s Tale of Immigration and is now being sold on the shelves of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty gift shops.
What is “Le Befana”?
Diana answered with a quote from her book:
La Befana has been an Italian tradition for centuries. La Befana, an old witch, was too busy cleaning her house to go with the three wise-men on Christmas Eve. When she realized the mistake she had made, she gathered up a bag of gifts and set out in search of the baby Jesus by herself. Even though she followed the same star as the wise men, she couldn’t find the stable with the Christ Child and to this day, Italian legend states that she still travels the world on a broom stick, wearing tattered clothing still searching. On January 6th the feast day of Epiphany, Italian children believe that La Befana will reward them with candy and presents or lumps of coal if they have not been on their best behavior by coming down their chimneys and filling their stockings.
In what genre do you primarily write? Why did you choose that one?
Children’s books primarily and it’s a great story as to how it all began.
What’s the great story of how you began writing children’s’ books (you knew I had to ask)?
I began to write children’s books after I received a phone call from a woman who is very involved with literature of all sorts and lived in my home town. I had already self- published a memoir. The phone call encouraged me to write a story about my childhood and growing up Italian. I just began to write about my life as a child and came up with Spaghetti and Meatballs Growing up Italian. This book has won several national and a few international awards.
Tell us briefly about your writing process, from once you’ve got an idea down to having a finished product ready for publication.
Basically on paper..type ..edit …type. The ideas are all family oriented and based on personal experience. So it just comes out of my head whenever a memory comes to me and then onto paper.
My children’s books are all published by the same publishing company Headline Books. So after I submit my publisher, illustrator and I work together.
How does your collaboration with your illustrator work? Do they produce their own images based on your words, do you have specific instructions for what things should look like, or something in between?
My illustrator is amazing! Her name is Ashley Teets. It’s almost as if I picture it in my head and she draws it. We work very well together and just seemed to click from the beginning. She has illustrated all 3 of my children’s books. The first one she drew from family pictures that I had taken her. The cover picture of Spaghetti and Meatballs really looks like me! When I first saw the pictures she drew for that one I went to tears.
Who is the favorite character you’ve created? Why?
My favorite character is a young bunny named Joby. The why is because he was first created by my mother.
Tell me more about Joby and how he or she came to be created by your mother and wind up in your books.
I came across a few lines at the bottom of an old Christmas card list that belonged to my mom after she had passed about a rabbit named Joby. I have no idea where she came up with the name. No one in the family is named Joby. My mom always wanted to be a children’s book author but did not pursue it. I took this as a sign and created the story for her.
What’s the weirdest subject you’ve had to research as a writer that you never would have otherwise?
Weirdest subject? Pepperoni rolls!
What’s the one thing you’ve learned, the hard way, as a writer that you’d share to help others avoid?
The one thing that I have learned the hard way is that you can NOT edit enough.
If you won $1 million (tax free, to keep the numbers round and juicy), how would it change your writing life?
A million? I would move my family near the beach, which I think is a great place to write. I would also love to be able to help young talented writers get a start…it is expensive starting out.
What’s the last great book you read or new author you discovered?
The last great book I read is The Hunger Saint by Olivia Kate Cerrone. It takes place in the coal mines in Sicily.
What do you think you’re next project will be?
My next project is already started, third book in my Hopping to America series. The bunnies in my stories have come to America and experienced their first Christmas and next I would like to write about a wedding.