I’m a late bloomer. Growing up, I aspired to be a teacher. I liked little kids, enjoyed spending time with them, and had a cosmic connection with their joyful spirit and honesty. You could say teaching was my calling.
When I was hired to teach first grade, in inner city Los Angeles, I couldn’t have been happier. Teaching, writing lessons, planning hands on projects, taking school trips, the three r’s, plus art, music, and PE, was all I’d hoped it would be. As text books were minimal in the early seventies, I began to write my own units of study: science, ecology, social studies, and more. I immersed myself in modern children’s literature. I marveled at the poetic genius of picture books. Books like: FREDERICK by Leo Leoni; WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak; ELMER, THE PATCHWORK ELEPHANT by David McKee… were favorites. I loved these little jewels of sparkling prose and began toying with the idea, that, perhaps, I could write for kids. So I penned poems to augment lessons, made up riddles and rhymes, told stories, and began inspiring my student to write, too.
At recess one day, a teaching buddy pulled me aside on the playground. “Dianne, you are so creative,” she said. “You should be doing something more than teaching in a classroom. Have you ever thought of publishing your work?”
Publish? Could I actually publish my writings? I was astonished, then intrigued. So I continued to scribble words, words, and more words. My students giggled and laughed at my work, prompting more and more experiments with rhythm, rhyme, and word play. Soon I was convinced I could succeed. I would work to become an artist, with words as my medium.
In the summer of 1984, I visited my sister in Southampton, NY, two miles from the most beautiful beaches in the world. I quit teaching and relocated to pursue my passion full-time.
I wrote, wrote, and wrote some more, then submitted pieces to publishers. I had a smattering of small successes: sold some essays to the New York Times, and other newspapers, sold a few poems and craft ideas to kids’ magazines, and created a Country Kids’ Crafts column for a local kiddie newspaper. I loved every minute…until…
My savings ran out. I needed an income, so started a cleaning service, tidying up after wealthy New York City weekenders. I liked cleaning, it was profitable, and offered plenty of spare time for writing.
In March, 2010, I spotted a call for picture book manuscripts in the Children’s Writer newsletter. I thumbed through my files, took out a promising story, spiffed it up one last time, and mailed it off. I had a contact, from Kane Miller, two weeks later. My first book deal! With a book publisher! After thirty years of writing, my first children’s book, HUSH, LITTLE BEACHCOMBER, was sold. Beyond ecstatic, I quickly sent them another book and got a second contract immediately.
Yes, I’m a late bloomer. Still, I kept writing for thirty years, getting knocked down and rejected hundreds of times, but learning it’s never too late. Call me a late bloomer, I don’t mind. I’m in full flower now!
Dianne Moritz sold paperback reprint rights for HUSH to Big Belly Books. It is scheduled to come out in a brand new edition, HEY LITTLE BEACHCOMBER, in May, 2019.