Diane Tulloch — Spotlight Worthy

February 23, 2012

Diane Tulloch is a New Zealander who has travelled the world to pursue her many interests and has had some incredible experiences on her journeys. Her blog, The Patient Dreamer, is testament to those interests and her travels. Diane is also a member of Emma Walton Hamilton’s Children’s Book Hub, and we met in person at SCBWI LA ’11 (the annual Summer Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, held in Los Angeles every summer).

Diane, thanks so much for participating in this Spotlight Interview.

Thank you for inviting me Beth, I feel very privileged to be here.

 

Could you tell us briefly about the life-path that has led you to where you are today?

Sure, I am a New Zealander, my parents divorced when I was in my teens. That was a horrendous time for me.  During those years I often hid away with my nose in a book transported to beautiful, whimsical, or, interesting, adventurous places. I guess looking for a loving peaceful family.  One of my nicknames was  “bookworm.”  I loved to draw back then, usually portraits or animals.  I inherited my mother’s artistic flare.  She too loved to draw and played the piano.  Anything that I put my mind to I could do reasonably well, be it writing, art, and crafts or piano.   I had a small paying hobby making netted swans for orders which my mother delivered, when I was about fourteen.  Being a painfully shy child my first job in retail, was working alongside my Mum, hoping that being forced to interact with others would cure me.  At seventeen started in the Post Office, still shy, I remember my supervisor saying it took him 6 months to get one sentence out of me.  My husband, I met through a blind date….*blushes*.. Yes, hard to believe but true…lol through a work colleague.  He is the sweetest, gentlest and most patient person I know.  I fell into writing I guess through a series of events.  First while my husband and I enjoy Austrian folk dancing (which we took up after our first visit to Austria) I was asked one day to teach the landler dance from the Sound of Music. Reviewing the movie, I became fascinated by Julie Andrews and read everything there was about her.  An interview she gave in 1968 moved me so much that I sat down one night and started my first draft of my novel.  I felt a huge relief, almost like a cleansing days later when I was finished.  I hid the novel for nearly eight months before I found someone online that I felt comfortable enough to send to, to see if it was worth pursuing. (That special someone is being featured on my blog any day now) She sent me a lovely email which I have kept and it inspires me to never give up.  After life got in the way for a year I decided I needed to take an online course of some sort to better understand and also to give me the tools with which to tackle my novel after she had critiqued it. Enter Emma Walton Hamilton, her Home Study Picture book course and the rest as we say, is history.

 

What prompted you to consider writing for children?

When I first wrote my novel, I wasn’t really sure if it was children , YA or adult, I assumed because of my language, grammar etc. ( I never passed any official exams at school,  they terrified me).. that it was more suited to a younger audience.  My wonderful freelance editor who critiqued it suggested bringing the age of my character down if I am looking to reach younger readers.  When I saw Emma Walton Hamilton’s online course for picture books I was initially hesitant because I didn’t think I could apply it to my writing.  I emailed Emma and asked if someone considering only YA  would benefit from her course, and she explained that although for Picture Books it did give basic guidelines in plot structure,  character building,  dialogue, the show not tell,  and building story arch that applies to all genre.  So I decided to join and in the process adapted another story idea I had, to the Picture Book guidelines.  I learned so much.

 

What sets your writing apart? What is your focus? Without giving away proprietary details, what sorts of projects do you have in the works?

Because of my travels overseas and the thousands, oh yes thousands of photos we have lying around home I thought it a shame I hadn’t made a journal of our trips.  Many times when looking at a particular photo an idea for a story will suddenly pop into my head.  I would love to share some of the wonderful and interesting situations we found ourselves in, with children; different cultures, maybe experiencing an everyday incident in a different country.  Children are inquisitive, want to know, are sponges and will learn so much.  What better way than through a colourfully produced story.  I have a number of things on the go.  My novel, of course that I have just started rework on.  Two picture book stories – hopefully a series, I did last year are sitting in the wings and needing twinking.  After PiBoldMo month I have already one picture book story totally different from anything else I am doing that I am really excited about, written with one of my brother’s sons in mind.  Another one of a little Cambodian girl….. modelled on my friends little girl.   I have other story ideas eagerly waiting for me to work on.   Also another series again totally different from my cultural themes which I think will be either a chapter book or MG series.  Now that I have more confidence in what I am doing I can’t wait to start another YA Novel which I have had a very rough outline lying around for a few years,  hopefully to be written as a tribute to the famous star who first set my writing life in motion.

 

Tell us a bit about your blog, what you do there, and what you hope to add to the kidlit blogosphere through your particular focus?

When I started my blog at the beginning of last year I wasn’t really sure what I would do, I only know I wanted to have a sort of journal going on in the back ground that I needed to house special moments, or parts of trips we had done and the people we have met along the way. I would love it to be a place where people can go and wander into a different world they never knew existed. I think that would be really special.  To have readers travel with me to amazing places, learn interesting facts, and cultures, laugh at situations we found ourselves in, visualise the scenery, the history, the wonder, and all without leaving home. I also have a quotes and poems section which I share some of my feeble attempts at poetry.  I love the book reviews and interviews sharing interesting aspects of writing.  I have found it such a joy meeting new people, the continued friendship of friends I have made through my blog, all are special, hopefully lasting.  My blog is still young, learning, and making its way in the writing world along with its author.  You know some days I find myself reading one of my own posts and wonder in amazement… did I actually write that?..  I love that I surprise myself.

 

You have taken the Just Write For Kids online/home study course in picture book writing, as have I. What, for you, was of the most value in the course? Would you recommend it to other aspiring writers?

Yes, and I am so glad I took the course. While I was mainly a quiet participant I loved that one could ask questions, print off the PDF files, read and reread the lessons and that they could be completed in your own home in your own time. These are very well set out, clear and easy to understand.   There is no one particular Lesson that stood out as they were all valuable learning tools which I still refer to today.  I love the idea of making a mock book up so one can visualise how your text would read across the page.  It helps me visualise what the pictures might look like to.  Recommend it to others?… certainly and I have, actually only last Wednesday I recommended the course to a customer at work who is joining me for our first SCBWI meeting this year here. I have posted about the course here..

 

You’re also active in the Children’s Book Hub and the Children’s Book Hub Facebook Group. Could you share with us briefly what the Hub means in terms of your writing life?

The Hub is a great resource of information of resources and teleseminars of learned special guests which we have been so privileged to have at our fingertips…literally!  I know, like you, I would dearly love for some of the guests to return.   The personal Q and A sessions are what I also love, as Emma really does her homework in sourcing answers and providing quality material to give maximum visual effect, and I am always amazed at how she manages to get across to us-  her students from various countries, in a way we all can understand, use and build on. The Hub in general has been beneficial to me in the past year in building my confidence.  I have always felt insecure in my abilities, a doubter.  The Hub also provides the opportunity to network and set oneself up for the next phase – of published author.

 

You’re a member of SCBWI – what does that provide in your life as a writer?

I am lucky that I have an active branch of the SCBWI here in my city and have attended every meeting since I joined.  I have also blogged about these.  I was only thinking the other day how I actually have an agent among them, who is prepared to read our work and make suggestions if we felt brave enough to approach her…. I plan on doing just that before this year is out.  Again the local SCBWI allows me to network and learn from published as well as unpublished authors.  I attended the LA SCBWI with you, Pat and Joanna last year, and that was amazing. Mind blowing in fact!  What I learned most there and it will always stay with me, is that no matter how great an author is or how many wonderful books they have written, they all had to start somewhere, they all made mistakes, stumbled picked themselves up and kept going….. they are like you and me.  They cared, understood what we are going through and willing to help and share their knowledge….. BRILLIANT!

 

Everyone is busy these days. I’ve discovered that “Busy” has become a standard answer to the question “How are you?” How do you carve out writing time in the daily demands of your own life?

Yes, I am afraid I give that as my stock answer to..  I find with my full time job now in an office that involves driving sometimes up to three hours a day one way to my work.  Hence after a full day of being on my feet, facing customers, sorting problems etc… I am totally exhausted and fall asleep on the couch till late evening, then attempt an hour or two writing. I just glanced at my laptop clock and it reads 1.07am in the morning already.  Usually I find my best time for writing is early morning.  I never used to be an early riser but I have programmed hubby into waking me and I can get sometimes one to two hours done if I am lucky.  This includes blog and email reading.  Weekends I can spend longer, again usually in the mornings.

 

Any words of advice or encouragement for other writers?

Join SCBWI, their newsletters, blogs etc. are great.  If you get the chance to go to one of their conferences DO IT!  Join a group , any group although I recommend Emma’s  Children’s Hub and online course,  read plenty and above all trust yourself, just write, write from the heart and NEVER give up, not even when someone says it’s not good…. That’s only one persons’ view, you will impress twenty others.   I love Jane Yolan’s comment…. “If I ever write the perfect story, then I’ll stop writing”

 

Quick and Quirky:

Of all the places in the world, where would you most like to visit and why?

Oh Wow! This is a hard question, there are so many lovely places I have been to and would gladly go back again and again.  Gosh….. Umm   Austria near Christmas time because I have dear friends there and one can go anywhere from there through Europe.   I loved Laos and would go tomorrow to help the small non-profit publishing business “Big Brother Mouse” get books into the hands of small children in the jungle…. Yes I can just see me on the back of an elephant carrying a pile of books….lol. Want to join me?     New York, for obvious reasons.

 

Favorite food?

Love Potatoes and tomatoes, with cheese… yeah with cheese.  I was nearly going to say, anything, as I am a lover of Asian, Indian, Moroccan, and Thai as well.

 

What is your favorite non-book-related way to relax?

Sitting on the beach with my feet in the soothing white sand. Lying back and snoozing in the warm sun.  Also my garden.  Really I would love to be travelling…. Anywhere.

 

If you could spend a day with any fictional character, who would it be?

Okay you are going to think I’m crazy but I was reminded of whimsical books I read as a child after reviewing one of Cecily Barker’s “Fairies of the Garden” Books.  I think I would love to spend a day with a fairy, they love to sing, dance and hold grand balls, disappear on a whim.  And lets face it they can travel anywhere in the world with next to no luggage. That would
be fun.

 

Favorite real-life hero, if any?

I have always read a lot of bios especially those through Readers Digest of Courage and Endurance.   Gladys Aylward (an English woman) someone I admired years ago who rescued thousands of Chinese children as a missionary in her adopted China is one that comes to mind.  There are many others.

 

Thanks, Diane, for letting us get to know you a little better.

47 People reacted on this

  1. Diane, I think your lovely, generous, kind, open-hearted sprit comes across beautifully in this post. I think it also expresses a quiet confidence that has been growing in you about your creative gifts. I is wonderful to see. To your success, as Emma would say!

    1. Thankyou so much Joanna for your very kind words. I feel very dumb-struck, tongue-tied to know what to say. Only that I am so glad I got to meet you in LA and hope we meet up again soon…. don’t forget you always have a place to stay if ever you should drop down this way. Thankyou so much again.

      Beth thankyou also for hosting me. ( I never dreamed of being interviewed so this was a treat)

  2. Great interview Ms. Stilborn and Ms. Tulloch! You have a very interesting life Ms. Tulloch! I was happy to learn more about it! 🙂 I really enjoy reading about Ms. Tulloch’s travels on her blog! Ms. Tulloch, you are a GREAT writer, I can’t wait to read your books! I think it’s great that everone in your group helps each other so much and that you tell other people about it!
    Erik 😉

    1. Thanks, Donna. I enjoyed putting three people I’ve come to know quite well “in the spotlight” this week. Hope you saw Joanna’s and Pat’s interviews as well.

  3. Beth and Diane, such a lovely interview! It certainly captured your essence, Diane. What struck me is the passion you have for life. I love your travel logs on your blog. You are one of the most generous and caring individuals I know. And, I love the work you are doing with Big Brother Mouse in sponsoring books parties for children in Laos! You see that somethinig needs to be done, and you do it. That has been my experience with you. Before I met you at the SCBWI, I visualized your being shy because of your comments. When we met, I only observed a very confident, outgoing person who spent a lot of time networking and making many friends during the conference. You have grown so much over the past year. I have enjoyed your friendship and being on the journey with you. I wish you much success in your writing.

    1. Oh my Pat! I am blown away by your lovely comments. It is true I have surprised myself in recent months. I have certainly changed from who I was, say, a year ago. A year ago when people asked me about my writing I was very fearful, not knowing what they expected of me. Now that I have grown and learnt so much I feel confident. I am like that about most things in life. If I am unsure, I am fearful and shy away, but if I know and learn to understand then its different. Thankyou so much for mentioning Big Brother Mouse, and for your friendship it has meant a lot to me. I have not gotten to where I am with out you, your warm emails and fb messages…. thankyou Pat, I wish you much writing success.

  4. I have enjoyed this week on your blog, Beth! Thank you for sharing your journey, Diane. The travel page on your blog is fascinating, I love to read about where people have been and what they have done! It’s lovely to get to know you a bit better.

    1. Thankyou Heather for your kind words. I have been a bit lazy and so involved in campaigns, and other writing that I have not been updating my travel page of late, but I hope to do so soon. There have been many interesting places and unexpected situations that we have landed ourselves in that I am sure many would be interested, so keep an eye out in the near future for an update. So pleased to hear when people have visited my travel page, thankyou.

  5. Thanks for this wonderful interview, Beth and Diane! It’s so nice to get to know fellow bloggers and writers a little better! Diane, I love that you learned Austrian dance – that sounds like such fun!

  6. Diane, how lovely to learn more about you. I must echo Joanna’s comment and say that it is fantastic to see you gaining confidence and joy in your writing. I can’t WAIT to read one of your books.

    Thanks again Beth, for sharing interviews with these three fantastic women, whom we all “know” through their blogs, but this gave us a great deal more background on them and their loveliness!

    🙂

    1. Thanks so much Julie, for your comments and your support. It’s been great to be able to shine the spotlight on three of the original Hub members this week.

    2. Thankyou So much Julie for your lovely comments, and so thrilled you enjoyed the interviews. I think I can say we have all gained strength and confidence on this journey together. You are very sweet.

  7. So nice to hear more about you Diane and I love The Sound of Music too. It’s such a shame I didn’t know you when I lived in NZ. I hope one day we can meet somewhere. I am very impressed with how many projects you are working on and how many ideas you have for the future. That’s wonderful! And thanks Beth for a great interview!

    1. Thankyou Catherine for your kind words. It is a shame we never met when you were living here, but who knows we may meet up one day. I have found one 12x12in12 member lives only a few streets away from me, and we plan to meet up soon…. so exciting!

  8. Diane — This was a fabulous interview. I enjoyed learning more about you. I love your words of encouragement – “read plenty and above all trust yourself, just write, write from the heart and never give up, not even when someone says its not good.” It is so easy to get discouraged trying to break into the children’s book market. I am so glad I have been able to find people like you that are so supportive and encouraging!

    1. Oh my Eric! Thankyou for your lovely comments. Its true one can get discouraged very easily, but I think of how I came to write and laugh at my stumblings and treasure the friends I have. One learns to overcome and let the creative juices flow…… so pleased you enjoyed the interview, I feel privilaged to be here. thankyou.

  9. Another wonderful interview, Beth – and Diane, lovely to learn more about you. It continues to be a pleasure working with you in the Hub, and your advocacy and commitment is very much appreciated. It’s so wonderful to have members of our group so far and wide, and yet so close!

    This series has been truly lovely Beth – and a wonderful forum for not-yet-published (but soon to be!) authors to share their creativity with the world, as well as to practice the important art of giving interviews. Well done!

    1. Thank you so much for your supportive and enthusiastic comments, Emma. Your encouragement, expertise, and joie de vivre have contributed so much to my development as a writer and as a person.

      1. Thankyou so much Emma for your kind words. I too have found your warm, supportive manner in which you have risen to satisfy our curiosity in the ever changing writing world, with your expertise, a delight. Thankyou for being the teacher, mentor and friend, that you are.

  10. Thanks, Beth for interviewing Diane.
    Diane-It was great learning more about you. You gave some wonderful advice and I loved the Jane Yolen quote.
    By the way…I love sliced tomatoes.. with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. I broil in oven til parmesan is slightly brown. Yum!

    1. Thankyou Penny for your lovely comment. Yummmm broil/grilled …tomatoes in Parmesan…. the best. Think that’s what I will have today for lunch…. Yes I love Jane’s quotes and humour.

  11. Thanks Beth and Diane for the interview. So fun to learn more about you Diane. I would also love to go to Austria at Christmas time. But then again I’d like to go to Vienna any time. I would love to travel as much as you! Thanks for sharing some of the adventure with us.

    1. Oh my! Hannah, I would go tomorrow if I could…lol. We travelled around much through Europe a few times over many years and every time we went we based ourselves in Austria because of our friends there. It’s heaven there. Glad you liked the interview, thankyou for your kind words.

  12. Beth…where have I been this week? I will have to go back and read the other “spotlight” interviews. 🙂
    Thank you for doing this…it’s amazing to learn so much about the people whose blogs, picture book reviews and contest entries I have been reading lately.
    Diane…lovely to learn about your journey…thank you so much for sharing everything…I will definitely look into the online class you spoke of…I love love love writing…but have never taken a course specific to children’s picture book writing…perhaps it’s about time. 🙂
    Broiled tomatoes and Parmesan cheese? When are they being served? I’ll bring the crusty Ciabatta bread!

    1. LOL Vivian, so lovely to hear your kind comments. I hope you join Emma’s online course, it’s excellent. Now about those tomatoes, cheese and potatoes, lets all go to Penny’s, sounds like she knows how to cook ’em…..lol. Thankyou Vivian!

  13. Diane,

    Thank you for sharing a bit about your journey through life — personal and writing!
    I’ve never been to Austria, but my son had when in college. As you, he too loves it and desires to return.

    Appreciate affirmation of the value of Emma’s online course.

    As you, Julie Andrews holds a special place in my heart. How many times I’ve watched Sound of Music . . . stopped counting a long time ago. LOL!

    Ciao,

    Lori

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