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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - RONNI DIAMONDSTEIN

I am delighted to feature debut author Ronni Diamondstein on the blog today. Her beautiful new picture book, JACKIE AND THE BOOKS SHE LOVED, illustrated by Bats Langley, releases from Sky Pony Press on November 7. Ronnie shares about how her lifelong love of reading and writing and her admiration for the former First Lady inspired her book. Ronni also chats about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection. Welcome, Ronni!

STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories and share the process about your latest projects.

Thanks so much for featuring me on your blog, Melissa. It’s an honor to join you.

Jackie and the Books She Loved (Sky Pony Press/ Illustrated by Bats Langley, releases on November 7), was a labor of love. I had been researching Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for nearly 30 years, plus having known who she was and admiring her since I was a child. When she passed away in 1994, at first I wanted to write a novel, then my friend Margot Datz, who illustrated Carly Simon’s picture books and worked with Jackie as the editor, suggested I write for children.

It took years but I eventually came up with the right angle to tell Jackie’s story. It was something that I had in common with Jackie: a love of literature. I saw a thread of how this love of the written word influenced Jackie’s life and strung this together in the narrative. The original Jackie and the Books She Loved manuscript was much longer and in collaboration with my editor Nicole Frail the extra material was incorporated into my author’s note, back matter, and I created a timeline.

I was very lucky to be involved in the illustration process from a say in the choice of the illustrator, Bats Langley, to collaborating with him on the art. I have quite an extensive collection of books about Jackie and the Kennedys with great photographs that I shared with him. For example, the horse statue on the cover is just like the statue she had on her piano in her New York apartment. It was a marvelous collaboration!

I’m so happy to be introducing a new generation to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a remarkable person who was among other things a fascinating First Lady of the United States.

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

I’ve always been a very creative person. I designed dresses for my Barbie doll, learned to knit and crochet when I was very little and loved to sew aprons and clothes for myself as a teen. And I was always writing too! From writing stories as a little girl to creating writing opportunities in my high school newspaper to my college children’s literature class project of writing and illustrating a picture book.

As a school librarian my creative side came out in many ways. The most fun for the students was my puppet Murray D. Mouse who entertained them with the stories he told.

I like to paint and draw, and photography has been a passion of mine since I was a child. I’ve won prizes for my photography and have participated in solo and group art shows. And I love to bake and have created a recipe for “Amazing Double Chocolate Brownies.” These creative pursuits support writing. I write every day in a journal in addition to the freelance magazine writing I do and the picture books.

Nature is a source of inspiration for my creativity. Every day I post a quote on social media and a photo of nature. I walk a lot and get some of my best ideas while I am walking including the idea for a column for my dog Maggie Mae in a local magazine. She is known as Maggie Mae Pup Reporter. She has a page on my website!

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

Jackie and the Books She Loved debuts on November 7th, so I have only been able to share it with young readers at the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival in September where it was available for advance copies. It was fun to meet kids and their families who were interested in the book. Having been a school librarian for over 30 years I’ve had a lot of experience sharing beautiful books at read alouds, and then putting them in the hands of my students. I’m looking forward to my virtual launch with the Chappaqua Library on November 9 and the online event I will be doing with the National First Ladies Library on November 16 plus meeting and greeting everyone at my book signing celebration on November 25 at Susan Lawrence in Chappaqua. All these events and links to register are on my website.

I am looking forward to doing some zoom classroom visits in the future once Jackie and the Books She Loved comes out.

Staying connected to the KidLit community is vital. I have many author friends, many of whom I’ve met through my work as a school librarian and having been on the board of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival.

And I’m a member of SCBWI and 12X12 Picture Book Challenge. I’m also a lifetime member of the American Library Association which keeps me in touch with librarians and I was on the board of the Chappaqua Library.


Photo credit: Randi Childs

Ronni Diamondstein spent her life surrounded by books and immersed in the world of children’s literature. An avid reader since childhood, libraries, books, and writing are her life’s work. As a school library media specialist and teacher of gifted and talented students in the U.S. and abroad, Ronni nurtured her students’ creativity by sharing her love of reading with them. Ronni is a graduate of Syracuse University. She attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference and led writing workshops and open mics to encourage people of all ages to tell their stories. Ronni served on the Board of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival and is a past President of the Chappaqua Library Board of Trustees. Jackie and the Books She Loved is her debut picture book. Ronni lives in Chappaqua, New York with her toy poodle, Maggie Mae.



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