Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Dianne de Las Casas

NEW! Watch the trailer for Dianne's latest release, Dinosaur Mardi Gras !

1)   Describe your journey as an author/writer.

I began my career as a professional storyteller in 1996. I was a volunteer storyteller at my local library, doing Saturday story times. The librarian told me that I had talent as a storyteller and should pursue it s a career. I listened to her and began marketing myself as a storyteller!

As a teller of tales, I do extensive school visits, seeing thousands of kids a year. Since I was in second grade, I have always wanted to be a children's book author. I believe my work as a storyteller helped prepare me for my career as a children's book author. I honed my storytelling skills in front of a live audience, which then helped me to translate that into my signature "Tell Along Tales" for the printed page. By performing in front of kids, I learned how to make them laugh and how to engage them. Kids are honest and through their reactions at live performances, I learned how to adjust and tailor my stories for their listening ears. This, in turn, helped me to translate those oral tales into books.

2)   Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)?

Currently, I specialize in picture books. Many of my books are folktale retellings. I also write professional development books for librarians and educators. Those books have storytelling as the foundation, using different oral traditions to connect across the curriculum. I have 18 published books with more on the way. I am working on several middle grade novels as well.

3)   What was your first published work?

Not counting the literary magazine in high school or my college newspaper, my first book, Story Fest: Crafting Story Theater Scripts, came out in 2005.

4)   Tell us about your most current project.

My latest book is Dinosaur Mardi Gras. Since I live in New Orleans, I wanted to celebrate the Mardi Gras culture. What coud be better than dinosaurs and Mardi Gras together?! It's a fun parade of dinosaurs with T-Rex, the King of Canivores, as the star of the party. There are 18 named dinosaurs in the book, chomping and stomping their way through the streets of New Orleans. Between now and Mardi Gras (February 21),  I have lots of book store launch parties scheduled.
I am also the founder of Picture Book Month, an international literacy initiative that went viral around the world. This upcoming November, Picture Book Month will feature amazing picture book authors and illustrators from around the world. The website is

5)   When did you publish your first book? Describe that process.

My first children's book, The Cajun Cornbread Boy, a spicy retelling of "The Gingerbread Man," was published by Pelican Publishing Company in New Orleans in 2009. It is in its third printing. The book first went under contract in 2003. After a couple of illustrators had trouble finalizing the look of The Cajun Cornbread Boy, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the contract was cancelled. I really believed in the book and when the publisher bounced back from Katrina, I approached them again. The Cajun Cornbread Boy went back under contract and was finally published. Marita Gentry is the illustrator and I love how the book came out. The book almost died but because of my faith and persistence, The Cajun Cornbread Boy is now running across bookshelves everywhere. I now have 8 children's picture books with Pelican Publishing Company.

6)   How are your books illustrated? Do you get to select the illustrator?

I work with a couple of different illustrators: Marita Gentry and Holly Stone-Barker. Normally, the publisher selects the illustrator but, in my case, they asked me if I knew anyone. Both Marita and Holly are professional artists and the publisher loved their work so I was fortunate to be able to work with women whose work I admired.

 7)   What is a professional storyteller? How did you become one?

Simply put, a professional storyteller is someone who gets paid to tell stories. As I said above, my storytelling career began as a volunteer storyteller at my local library. That blossomed into a full-time career that eventually led me to my career as a children's book author. It all works together. I even wrote  a book about how to become a professional storyteller! It's called The Story Biz Handbook: How to Manage Your Storytelling Career from the Desk to the Stage. It's 30 chapters and nearly 400 pages on the business of storytelling. It's a great book for anyone who wants to make a living doing presentations for young people.

 8)   How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?

I have a comprehensive website with a blog. I send out a monthly email newsletter to over 14,000 subscribers. I also use a variety of social networks to spread the word, most notably Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I just started using Pinterest. Social networking really allows people to get to know each other and make great connections. It can be very time-consuming but I believe it's worth the effort when you build your platform as an author. I reach thousands of people through my social networking efforts and that word of mouth helps to spread information about my books and my platform of literacy. Facebook and Twitter have been really successful in helping me reach new audiences. When Picture Book Month went viral, it was even featured on Life Lift, the Oprah Blog.

9)   What advice would you give to budding writers?

Marketing and social networking are vital to your career as a writer. Even before you are published, it's a good idea to establish your platform. Be organized and manage your time. Deadlines are your lifelines to success. Carve out time to write every day. After all, without words, you can't be a writer.

10)  What is your definition of success as a writer?

Success as a writer is writing about something you are passionate about and finding an audience who is just as passionate as you are about your subject. After all, writers write because they have a message. Messages are meant to be shared.

Ignore the critics, embrace the praise, and above all, be kind to yourself.

Author Bio

Touring internationally, award-winning author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas sizzles on stage with “traditional folklore gone fun!” and “revved-up storytelling.” Audiences don’t just listen – they sing, clap, dance, chant, and roar with laughter. De Las Casas adapts traditional folklore, adding fun audience participation, song, and of course, humor. A dramatic storyteller, she does not stay still! Through the use of character voices, creative movement, and animated facial expressions and gestures, she creates a world of fantasy and enchantment. Childhood travels around the world contributed to shaping her future as a storyteller. De Las Casas lived in the Philippines, Hawaii, Spain and traveled across Europe and the United States. A proud Filipina-American, she now resides in the New Orleans area. Her varied cultural experiences nourished her imagination, and she continues to draw on that knowledge, adding depth and richness to her tales. A champion for literacy, she is founder of the international initiative, Picture Book Month, which was featured in Life Lift, The Oprah Blog.

Contact Dianne de Las Casas
Award-Winning Author & Storyteller

Founder of Picture Book Month

The Story Connection
P.O. Box 2656
Harvey, LA 70059

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1 comment:

  1. I am honored to be interviewed on your blog! Thank you very much.