Author Dianna Aston on the Power of Curiosity- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!
Welcome to my blog, Blissfully Bookish! I’m excited to introduce my next guest, an author whose books I have long admired, Dianna Aston. She’s here to discuss her latest nonfiction picture book A SHELL IS COZY illustrated by Sylvia Long and published by Chronicle.
BUT first- YAY! Dianna is generously giving away a FREE copy of A ROCK IS LIVELY or DREAM SOMETHING BIG illustrated by Susan Roth To be eligible to win, please enter the Rafflecopter contest by clicking HERE. Contest ends May 5, 2023.
Please describe the journey to publication for A SHELL IS COZY.
This book was EONS in the making for various reasons, one being the intense research. The web is where I get the bulk of my information, but with this subject, the more I learned, the more questions I had, soooo…I contacted a malacologist aka shell expert. Over three years of back and forth emails, Tina Petway, assistant curator at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, has become a close friend. She even showed me a radula!
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
Like so many of us, I’ve been a lifelong shell collector, but it wasn’t until I turned 50 and moved to Port Aransas, an island town in Texas, that a question hit me – those questions hiding in plain sight. Where do shells come from? I hadn’t ever thought about it. THEN… I found a hose-like coil of nickel-sized discs while beach combing. And then another and another. Inside each disc, filled with goo, were teeny tiny shell babies! Shells come from egg casings! Shells are born as a complete animal. Tina said it was fine to give the qualities to a “shell” rather than “snail.”
I love this whole series! I appreciate the way you relate animals and other elements in nature back to children like in A Butterfly is Patient and A Beetle is Shy. What’s your secret in making nonfiction engaging for young children?
There isn’t a secret. It’s this simple: I write about what makes me curious enough to want to find out the answers. And then personify them, which shows how similar we animals on the planet are similar. Where do shells come from? Where did this parking lot pebble come from? What lays eggs besides birds? I didn’t realize I was writing science books until AN EGG IS QUIET received the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru, SB&F Prize for Excellence. I remember thinking, Oh wow! I’m a science writer! A funny incident occurred as we were about to receive the award. A scientist, whose YA book had received the prize, leaned over and said, “Why didn’t you include the platypus?” Holy sh*t. We didn’t make the same mistake in A NEST IS NOISY. The platypus nest is in there!
What is your writing process and does it vary depending on the project?
My process is what Jane Yolen calls “butt in chair.” I wrote four books when I lived in San Miguel de Allende, 2006-13. A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT was written under a cover of bougainvillea in the courtyard of my best friend’s restaurant, Dila’s, and it is dedicated to him, Dilshan Madawala from Sri Lanka. I wrote A ROCK IS LIVELY on the patio of my casita on the wild and wonderful estate of the late, great Toller Cranston, an Olympic figure skater, artist, and my mentor.Funny thing #2: My teenage son was spending a few weeks with me one summer when I was in the courtyard, computer on the table, researching butterflies. James did NOT want to be in Mexico. I was looking at a picture of a butterfly’s anatomy. “Oh my God! A butterfly has an anus!” Surly James rolled his eyes. “How else is a butterfly supposed to take a shit?” And I rolled out of my chair, laughing to the point of tears.
I usually work on more than one manuscript at a time. A SHELL IS COZY began to materialize early in ’14. Nine years later…. The research was exhausting so I would put it away at times. This one was written at a pirate pub in Port Aransas, The Gaff.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
A shell is hungry.
Some mollusks are carnivores that feed on worms, jellyfish,and even other mollusks. Many have a radula, a floss-like “tongue” with thousands of razor-sharp teeth. With its radula, the animal can saw through another shell to feed on the juicy insides.
Please share your favorite books from 2022 that have inspired you.
Hi, Lydia — The two books you asked about are:
GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Julie Morstad. (Viking) An adventurous girl travels to places in the world on a motorcycle (and by ship when crossing oceans). She is fearless. A quote: “The road is hers. She is all alone, but she is not afraid. She is free.” Like her, I had adventures on a bike through the American West and Mexico. My log book ended at 35,000 miles. I’d often wondered how to tell the story of all the people we met and places we went. Now, I don’t have to. Amy and Julie have produced a masterful story and illustrations.
The second is a non-fiction book: STRONGER THAN STEEL/Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope by Bridget Heos with photography by Andy Comins (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children). A librarian told me about it at a school visit recently. THIS is what fills me with wonder. Everything we need to know is in front of our eyes — and natural. Architecture and fashion based on shell structure. Penicillin. Rope. Anything hemp. This is a fascinating, gorgeous book!
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
The same one-word piece of advice author/illustrator Kevin Henkes gave to me at a signing at Toad Hall bookstore in Austin: perseverance. I would add that my road to publication was due in large part to SCBWI, its conferences, the critique group we formed through the Austin chapter, and Harold Underdown’s site, The Purple Crayon. Also, I read about 40 picture books every 2 weeks. I studied them. Because I had been a journalist before – researching and writing tightly – I thought writing for children would be a cinch. It was 4 years before I “graduated” from my own university and sold my first manuscript, found in the slush pile at Candlewick! WHEN YOU WERE BORN, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Thank you, Liz Bicknell! So Kevin was spot on when he simply said, “Perseverance.”
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could meet a fictional character from one of your favorite books, who would it be?
Children’s book author and school presenter Dianna Hutts Aston’s many books include an award-winning science series, illustrated by Sylvia Long: AN EGG IS QUIET, A SEED IS SLEEPY, A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT, A ROCK IS LIVELY, A NEST IS NOISY, A BEETLE IS SHY, and the final title in the series, A SHELL IS COZY/May 8th ‘23. Used in STEAM, Montessori and homeschool curriculums worldwide, her nature books – published in ten languages – have been called ‘lyrical science’ by reviewers. Dianna believes that when given information, children develop critical thinking and knowledge of the intricacies and systems of the natural world. Her hope is that they will take to heart what they learn and become stewards of the planet we call home. She welcomes opportunities to speak to children, virtually or in person. To inquire about or book a presentation, please contact her at http://www.diannahuttsaston.org.
- FB: https://www.facebook.com/dianna.aston.5
- Insta: diannaaston
- Dianna recommends ordering from a local indie bookstore or shopping online @ bookshop.org
This entry was posted in Children's literature, Education, Inspiration & motivation, Publishing industry, Resources for writers, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing tips and tagged author, blog, books, Children's literature, giveaway, nonfiction, publishing, writing.
14 thoughts on “Author Dianna Aston on the Power of Curiosity- PLUS a GIVEAWAY!”
May 4, 2023 at 12:14 pm
Absolutely love your books! And as a shell collector, I’m looking so forward to reading this one. I also added your simple secret to the quote page in my writing planner.
LikeLiked by 1 person
May 4, 2023 at 12:13 pm
Absolutely love your books! And as a shell collector, I can’t wait to read your latest. Adding your simple secret to my quotes page in my writing planner.
May 4, 2023 at 11:35 am
Dianna, I love all your books, and I am so glad we got to meet in person. And I would love to meet Atticus Finch too! 🙂
May 1, 2023 at 12:26 pm
I love this article, especially the writing advice on the end. I love studying picture books.
April 28, 2023 at 8:24 am
Ah, Dianna, great to see you with another amazing book! The entire series is stellar! Can’t wait to read SHELL! Beautiful language and science together , as usual!
Grateful to have been your student in my early career!
April 27, 2023 at 3:10 pm
Yes, perseverance. The #1 attribute of an artist. And your teenage son! I have one of those, too, LOL. But now at 19, he texts me lovely notes, asking about my progress. Congrats on making another beautiful book!
April 27, 2023 at 10:09 am
Wonderful to see you here, Dianna! Your “university” work has created masterpieces. Looking forward to reading SHELL!
April 26, 2023 at 11:50 pm
How beautiful! This reminds me of Seashells, More Than a Home by Melissa Stewart. I’ve never been a beach person, but that book hooked me and gave me a new appreciation for seashells. I’ll be sure to pick this one up too. Thanks so much for sharing. ❤️🐚
April 26, 2023 at 11:43 pm
Dianna, your book/books look amazing! Living near the New Jersey shore, our family has always combed the beaches gathering seashells. 🙂
April 26, 2023 at 11:04 pm
Gorgeous! This book (and the others) look wonderful! Thanks for sharing!
April 26, 2023 at 9:44 pm
Your books are all beautifully written and full of info. What a perfect combo. As a shell lover, can’t wait to read this one.
April 26, 2023 at 1:35 pm
Our family collects rocks and shells, so these would especially welcome additions to our library.
April 26, 2023 at 1:33 pm
All these books are musts for sharing with our grandkids! Love them!
April 26, 2023 at 12:48 pm
Dianna, your book looks so lovely! And thank you for the encouragement.