Multi award-winning children’s author, Donna McDine’s creative side laid dormant for many years until her desire to write sparked in 2007. Her latest release ‘Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters’ joins the four early reader children’s picture books, ‘A Sandy Grave’ (January 2014), ‘Powder Monkey’ (May 2013), ‘Hockey Agony’ (January 2013) and ‘The Golden Pathway’ (August 2010) all with Guardian Angel Publishing. Join McDine as her adventures continue as she ignites the curiosity of children through reading. She writes and moms from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI.
Mayra Calvani: Congratulations on the release of your book, ‘Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters.’ What was your inspiration for it?
Donna McDine: The inspiration behind my latest picture book is from a personal childhood experience from when my fraternal twin sister and I were placed into two different kindergarten classes. During my pre-kindergarten years attending preschool was not an option and Deb and I were together 24/7 for the first six years of our lives. The separation was overwhelming at first, but we adjusted rather quickly and we both flourished.
M.C.: When did your passion for children’s books begin? Did you have a favorite book when you were a child?
D.M.: As long as I can remember I enjoyed reading the Nancy Drew books. I would read them over and over again and absorb them to almost memory. My mom saved the books and she gave them to me when I had daughters of my own. They both enjoyed them and I’m proud to say I still have the collection today.
M.C.: Did you take any workshops or courses before you started writing?
D.M.: Yes, I’m a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Writing and I continue to take part in writing workshops and attending the SCBWI Professional Tuesday Series in New York City. I’ve been a member of the Crittin’ Chicks critique group for over five years now and these ladies are instrumental in my writing career. A great big shout out to Karin Larson and Marilyn Grant!
M.C.: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any difficulties along the way?
D.M.: The story flowed quite easily with it being a personal account of a time in my childhood. I enjoyed the process immensely as the memories flooded back to the forefront and the fond remembrance of childhood friends from the old neighborhood.
M.C.: What do you find most challenging about writing for children?
D.M.: Hmmm, it depends on the topic. I have to say not falling into the rabbit hole of preaching a lesson. I make a conscious effort to create a well-paced story that children can relate to in modern times.
M.C.: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
D.M.: I do not have a strict writing schedule. I grab time whenever I can. If I take the chance early morning before the day gets grooving it sets a terrific tone of accomplishment for the day. I always bring my journal with me for when the writing inspiration hits, especially during break and lunch time at work.
M.C.: Tell us about your publisher and how you found it.
D.M.: Lynda Burch, owner of Guardian Angel Publishing and I first met online at the Muse Online Writers Conference about six years ago. We connected in one of the publisher chat rooms when writers were presented the opportunity to pitch their manuscripts. After chatting for a bit Lynda offered me to submit my manuscript ‘A Golden Pathway’ and after a few rounds of edits I was offered my first book contract.
M.C.: What was it like working with an illustrator and how much control did you have over the artwork?
D.M.: Guardian Angel Publishing has a unique approach where the author has the opportunity to review the online portfolios of their illustrators and to submit three choices for possible illustration. Authors are permitted to submit illustrator notes, but it’s important to know to keep the illustration creativity to the experts, the illustrator! ‘The Golden Pathway’ and ‘Powder Monkey’ are illustrated by K.C. Snider and ‘Hockey Agony’ and ‘A Sandy Grave’ are illustrated by Julie Hammond. With ‘Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters’ I always envisioned the illustrations from the style of Jack Foster. Each of the three illustrators I have had the privilege of working with, have their own unique style and I wouldn’t change the selection of them for anything!
M.C.: Do you think that becoming an author entails sacrifices?
D.M.: Most definitely! It’s important to put other responsibilities to the side, at least for a little bit to continue working on your current W-I-P or book marketing plan. It doesn’t have to be for hours on end, but at least an hour a day should be carved out for your passion. Believe me, those dust bunnies that keep appearing or the mound of laundry that seems to multiple at the blink of an eye can wait a little bit longer. As I type this at least three loads of laundry are waiting and my swifter is starting to feel neglected, but it can wait until later or even tomorrow.
M.C.: What advice would you give to aspiring children’s writers? Do you know of any helpful resources you’d like to share?
D.M.: Read, read and read some more of the gender you are interested in writing. Visit your local library and pick the brain of the children’s librarian. Research local writer’s workshops, classes and writing groups. The wealth of information that is shared is unbelievable. Research the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and join your local chapter.
M.C.: What’s on the horizon for you?
D.M.: I’m currently immersed in my creating and implementing my author authentic connection plan and dusting off a long ago shelved W-I-P that I’m determined to get back into and get into shape for the roller coaster ride of publisher submission.