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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | ORIGINS Blogfest

ORIGINS Blogfest

Thank you, DL Hammons, Matt McNish, Katie Mills, and Alex J Cavanaugh, for hosting this blogfest exploring the beginnings of our writing journeys.
I started writing stories before I knew how to write. My first book was  a picture book – 3 pages long and pasted together with Elmer’s Glue. The titled was penciled onto the cover by my father. It was a dragon-kidnaps-girl, boy-slays-dragon, boy-gets-girl kind of story.  In fact, that was the whole story.
I don’t remember a lot about the stories I wrote in elementary school, but I received a lot of encouragement from my fourth grade teacher, Mac Rayne, and my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Haney.  (As an interesting side note, I currently have Mac Rayne’s grandson in MY class. Nice how those things come full circle.) These stories were all hand-written in gray tablets, and sadly, I threw them away in a fit of self-loathing sometime in high school.  I wish someone had stopped me.
In high school and college I moved up to spiral-bound notebooks, along with manuscripts typed on onionskin and eventually stored on computer disks.  Some of them are dated; others can be sequenced by the covers of the notebooks. (Ahem … Empire Strikes Back …)
In high school, I submitted short stories to Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. It only took a few rejections for me to give up trying. It was also in high school that I got my first taste of censorship: in my junior year, our Catholic high school literary magazine was banned because we printed a poem about abortion.  All copies were confiscated, and the teacher sponsor was reprimanded.  The principal called the junior and senior editors into his office to yell at us, and for the first time I realized he knew NONE of our names, even though we were the top academic students in his school.  (He knew the football players, but not us.)
I wrote all the way through college and grad school, although I never again submitted my work anywhere. When I first began teaching, I stopped writing for a couple years, and I had only just started again when I met Bob Salerni.  As our relationship developed, he became the strongest advocate I’ve ever had for my writing. In the early years of our marriage, he sent manuscripts on my behalf to publishers and agents. (By mail. This was the 90’s.) Nothing ever came of it, and when we had children, I quit writing altogether.
In 2004 I took it up again, plunging into a completely new genre for me: historical fiction. I started a novel based on the real life adventures of two teenage spirit mediums, and unbeknownst to me, Bob began researching self-publishing.  By the time I had the novel ¾ completed, he approached me with his plan.
I like to tell people I broke into the publishing field backwards. First I published a book (High Spirits, iUniverse 2007), then I received a publishing contract for that same book (retitled We Hear the Dead, Sourcebooks 2010), and then I signed with an agent, Sara Crowe.  During these very exciting years, I also sold a film option to Amy Green of One Eye Open Studio and wrote my very first screenplay!
Also during these years, I was invited by Mike Katz of Strider Nolan Media to submit short stories to his pulp fiction anthology Visions. I resurrected two short stories I wrote in graduate school – Necromancerand Greydeere – and they were published respectively in 2009 and 2010. One of the neatest things about that experience was seeing my characters illustrated by Mike Katz and C. Edward Sellner.
As 2012 begins and I look forward to the publication of my next novel, The Caged Graves, by Clarion in 2013 (add CG on Goodreads!), I think back on the girl who wrote all those stories on tablets and in notebooks. I wonder what she would think if she knew her dream of becoming a published author would come true – but not until she’d passed the age of 40.  Would she be excited – or would she think it was too long to wait? (I’m afraid my teenage self would think 40 was practically dead.)

37 Responses to ORIGINS Blogfest

  1. Sarah says:

    I didn’t realize that was the route you took–and that you signed with Sara after you were connected with Sourcebooks! It goes to show there’s no one “right” or “traditional” way to go about this. There are many routes to success!

  2. That’s great that you started to submit your stories at such a young age.

  3. SA Larsenッ says:

    I love how your hubby believed in you before you truly believed in yourself. That is very special. So happy for your success!

  4. Wow! How did I now know all this cool stuff about you? Awesome origin story, thanks, Dianne!

  5. Gina says:

    Isn’t it amazing, in the saddest possible way, that students who are academically gifted almost never get the recognition they deserve if they can’t throw a football or dunk a basketball?

    Great story!

  6. That’s so neat about how it worked backward for you…inspiration to consider the self-pubbing route!

  7. Chris Fries says:

    Wonderful post, Dianne!

    And a big “Way-to-go!” to the hubby who helped bring your talent to the published page!

  8. It’s wonderful that you got your dream after so many years of waiting.

    I hate that some schools know the sport teams’ members’ names but not the people who actually do well at school. ESPECIALLY since that’s what we were actually there for. :-/

  9. However you did it, you really hit success big time!
    Thanks for participating in the blogfest.

  10. When I was a teenager, I thought 30 was old. Now I’m heading straight towards that magic number. I think your teenage self would be giving your 40 yo self the thumbs up. You’ve done such great things these last few years and I have a feeling there will be lots more to come. Loved learning about your ‘origins’ Dianne:)

  11. Cut and paste picture books! Ah, good times! All of mine are deep in a Toronto landfill now. Perhaps an archaeologist will find them some day.

  12. It sounds like you had the luxury of knowing exactly where you where headed (in a roundabout way). Great story.

  13. farawayeyes says:

    Funny I didn’t follow you off that comment,just sent you an email. I was feeling pretty quashed at that time.

    Anyway…there are no coincidences and I found you through Origins.

    Amazing story, but then I’m not surprised.

    I’ll be back.

  14. Steven says:

    Rejection–or the fear thereof–has held quite a few of us back. I think the courage to press on despite such obstacles is what forges us into true writers. I have also had some brushes with censorship in my writing career, as well as people angered by my writing, and to me it just shows the power of the written word.

  15. I love to hear about people’s writing journies. This is fantastic. Glad you kept at it all these years. And that’s a fascinating story about censorship.

  16. Give your husband a big hug. (Today! Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day!) He deserves a lot of credit for your success. Yeah, you’ve got the talent, but he’s the one who believed enough in you to pursue self-publishing on your behalf. How many other spouses do you think would do that? And did you honestly believe enough in yourself to go for it without his little “push?” All I can say is good for you … oh, and forty is NOT old! (Still have my fingers crossed on that movie.)

  17. Very cool story. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was a kid or a teen. Whatever it may be, I was pretty sure it had nothing to do with writing. Yet here I am.

  18. What a cool story. I can’t believe your principal didn’t know your names. Mine didn’t know my name either, but that’s because I didn’t stand out. 😀

  19. Lydia Kang says:

    I loved hearing about your whole path to publication!

  20. mshatch says:

    I’m afraid my principal knew my name.

    You’ll have to send a copy of CG to yours 🙂

  21. DL Hammons says:

    Now that’s what I call an ORIGIN story! A perfect example of the type of stories I hoped to read today. My hats off to your hubby…he’s one of us good ones!

    Thank you for sharing your story today! 🙂

  22. Caitlin says:

    That’s awesome that you were submitting stories in high school!

  23. Just added “We Hear the Dead” to my Goodreads list. (Fell in love with the cover and then knew I wanted to read it after reading the summary)

  24. Dianne, what a story from your Catholic high school.

    Sounds like you’ve hit some success. May it get even bigger and better!

  25. Tara Tyler says:

    rejections hurt. way to keep going anyway!
    great beginning!

  26. Monti says:

    What a fabulous story! I love the ways things worked backwards and you got to do a screenplay. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your story.

    Mary Montague Sikes

  27. Ashley Nixon says:

    That’s an awesome story! Things seem to work out the best when they happen backwards. lol.

  28. What a great origin story. It’s great that you have someone supporting you so completely. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Michael G-G says:

    What a great story, Dianne. Seems like you have always been a writer! How great that your husband is such an advocate.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today and commenting. I appreciate it.

  30. nutschell says:

    Hi Dianne!
    Great to meet you on this blogfest.I love how your first book was a picture book about a dragon.:) And great to see how far you’ve come since then.

    your newest follower,

  31. Mina Burrows says:

    Great unique story. Necromancer sounds delicious! Nice to meet ya. Following you too.:)

  32. What an amazing journey. Sounds like you were quite a determined and dedicated writer throughout your life. Impressive!

  33. LTM says:

    LOL! Ahh, teenage me would’ve felt the same way. But what a fantastic tale of how you got to where you are! I only started even considering trying to write a *book* when I was almost 40, and like you, hubs has been my biggest champion/most pissed off when things didn’t work out. 😀

    Here’s to getting there whenever~ <3

  34. Stuart Nager says:

    Congratulations on all your successes. Thanks for sharing.

    Bornstoryteller #125 (sorry for coming late: been trying to read the blogs and have a life)

  35. Wow, what a great writing origins story. Thanks for sharing it.

  36. Scarlett says:

    That’s funny, Dianne! It never occurred to me what my younger self would have thought about it taking so long to finally get something out there! 40 did seem far, far away back then.

    Glad to see you no longer live under the rule of censorship! Freedom! Yay!

    I’m looking forward to reading more of you! Great to *meet* you here in the Fest!

  37. Jeremy Bates says:

    Wow! in your early age you can write story that’s cool, what a great talent.