Carol Diggory Shields
I was born and raised in Glen Head, Long Island. Back then the housing developments were still being carved out of potato fields, and we were lucky enough to be still surrounded by fields, woods, horses and barns, and to have a neighborhood pond. My childhood memories are mostly of being left alone by adults (in a good way)--free to explore, play, frog-hunt, bike and imagine.
And to read, read, read. Once I learned how, I read everything--books, milk cartons, Good Housekeeping, my uncle's Popular Mechanics magazines. Sometimes I wonder--if you read enough, do the words eventually spill out of your head, and you just have to become a writer?
One of my first literary efforts was “The Daily Blab,” an “underground” newspaper a friend and I published in high school, which lasted for one issue and one visit to the principal’s office.
I attended Juniata, a small college in Pennsylvania, and majored in English (for the reading, of course). When I moved to New York after graduation and discovered that English majors were more common than pigeons, I lucked into a job as a “play lady” on the pediatrics ward at a NY hospital. I continued to work as a recreation therapist, as the job is formally known, in hospitals and group homes, both in New York and after moving to California in the 70’s. I received a master’s in recreation therapy from San Francisco State in 1980.
I continued to write and also took art classes wherever and whenever possible, with an eye towards “someday” writing a children’s book, but it wasn’t until I hit 39 and was working as a children’s librarian that I realized that “someday” wasn’t going to arrive without some real effort. I began writing, researching children’s publishers and sending out manuscripts, and eventually had a huge collection of rejection letters. I wrote a piece for The Writer’s Magazine entitled “Surviving Rejection,” which was accepted, and which was published as a chapter in THE WRITER’S HANDBOOK for many years.
I joined the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators, helped start a critique group (still going after 20 years), got an agent, and finally had a I AM REALLY A PRINCESS accepted by Dutton Children’s Books in 1990. It was illustrated by Paul Meisel, who has since worked with me on four other books. After LUNCH MONEY (AND OTHER POEMS ABOUT SCHOOL) and I WISH MY BROTHER WAS A DOG were published I had the great thrill of having a publisher call me—asking me if I would send them a manuscript. SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE DINOSAUR STOMP was published by Candlewick Press, followed by MARTIAN ROCK and THE BUGLIEST BUG. I have also had 10 books published by Handprint Books.
I am a totally disorganized writer—I usually write only when I’m seized by an idea (except when revising, which I love), and then I mostly ignore the rest of my life while writing. I currently work as a children’s and reference librarian at the Seaside Library. The library is a great source of inspiration, both from the kids I see everyday and the children’s books I get to read. I am also taking art classes at Monterey Peninsula College, and “someday” I will illustrate books too.