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Interview with Children’s Author Donna McDine

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Donna McDine is an award-winning children’s author whose stories have been featured in multiple print and online publications. Her first book, The Golden Pathway, is about a boy who befriends a slave during the civil war. It is an illustrated story book for older readers (ages 9-12). Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Musing Our Children, and The National Writing for Children Center. You can learn more about Donna on her website. If you sign the guestbook, you’ll receive a free ebook, Write What Inspires You: Author Interviews. Donna also keeps two blogs, www.donna-mcdine.blogspot.com and www.thegoldenpathway.blogspot.com.

Thanks for the interview, Donna! When did you start writing for children?

In 2006 I came across an ad for The Institute of Children’s Literature and completed their aptitude test and application and mailed it back for consideration. This came at the perfect time for me since I was longing to find something more fulfilling outside the scope of administrative and website work. About a month afterwards I received an acceptance to ICL and haven’t looked back since.

Tell us about your historical children’s book, The Golden Pathway. What inspired you to write it?

History has always fascinated me and when I had the chance to outline a book idea for my last ICL assignment, the Underground Railroad immediately came to mind. While I did get positive feedback on my outline my ICL instructor did not feel there was enough appeal with a market flooded with the Underground Railroad books. I reluctantly put my outline away and tried to forget about it, but it kept calling to me to write it. And again perfect timing aligned, and I discovered Suzanne Lieurance at the Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club, and I dusted off my outline and eagerly began writing. This manuscript was critiqued in the early stages by Suzanne Lieurance (CWCC) and my online critique groups and placed as Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 78th Writing Competition, then edited after the competition by Lea Schizas to assist in expanding the story since it was no longer under a word constraint from the contest.

I understand The Golden Pathway is an illustrated story book and not a picture book. Could you please explain the difference between the two?

A standard picture book is 32-pages with illustrations on every page and geared towards 2-8 years old. While a story book has roughly half the amount of illustrations the text is written with the 9-12 age range in mind and (in the case of The Golden Pathway) almost 2,000 words. Each publisher has their specific guidelines they follow. Over the course of the years many teachers have realized a vast majority of students respond better to their curriculum with visuals. Hence the story book format.

Did you have to do a lot of research for this book?

Initially online, then visiting the Tappan Library and thoroughly researching the Underground Railroad.

What is the main message children will learn from this book?

Overcoming adversity against immeasurable odds and that with determination success in achieving your dreams is possible.

The illustrations in the book were done by fine Oregonian artist K.C. Snider. How was your experience working with an illustrator? Did you have input in the artwork? Do you think she captured the mood and tone of the story?

My excitement over the quality of illustrations K.C. Snider designed blew me away from the onset of the book cover design. K.C. captured the true essence of The Golden Pathway from the get go. Since The Golden Pathway is my first book I honestly did not know what to expect from the collaboration process and I was pleasantly surprised. I have read time and time again that the author and illustrator never meet, but not in the case of Guardian Angel Publishing. As long as an author tries not to micro-manage the illustrator and puts full trust in the publisher and illustrator a win-win outcome is sure to be had.

You also offer press release services to authors. Tell us all about it!

My press release service is called Dynamic Media Release Services, and with the overwhelming responsibilities an author has to promote their books I thought what better way to take the pressure off a bit is to offer this service at reasonable prices. For rates and testimonials readers should check this page.

What’s next for Donna McDine?

I’m thrilled to announce my manuscripts entitled, The Hockey Agony and Powder Monkey or Boy have been accepted by Guardian Angel Publishing. These will be my second and third story books with this publisher.

Any last words to our readers?

My road to publication has had the typical rejections (which I can wallpaper my office with) and doubts of my abilities to make a go as a published writer. I have found every writer experiences these feelings, but learn to push through the “doubting Thomas” thoughts to reach publication success. Don’t give up! Learn your craft, continued to network, and success will come your way.

Thank you, Donna, and best of luck with your book!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.