Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky’s debut picture book just released! When she told me the premise, I knew she had to be on the blog…you’ll soon find out why…

Dianna, since I regularly discuss ideas on my blog, can you reveal where your concept for this book originated?

JAMES’ READING RESCUE is inspired by a  true story that I read on the internet a number of years ago. The mom of a young son (who struggled with reading) suggested he read to the cats at the rescue shelter where she volunteered. He improved his reading while helping to socialize the cats for adoption. It was a win-win story that captured my heart!

My own son struggled with reading when he was younger and I’ve been involved in animal rescue for 40 years. This story jumped off the page at me and I just knew that one day it would be a wonderful picture book—no matter how long it took! The rescue began a program called Book Buddies, involving dozens of children reading to the cats and was so successful that other rescues contacted them to find out more about their program. How can you go wrong with a story about reading and cats?  They just seem to naturally go together.

Wow! This story was meant for you!

My own kids have read to therapy dogs at the public library. In fact, I had only ever heard of dogs being the “read to” animal. What’s special about reading to cats instead?

Indeed, this story was meant for me! Cats often like the sound of a human voice and it is one of the best ways to help socialize them. So, reading to them is perfect. Some may seem to ignore you, but human presence, a gentle voice and stroking their fur, if they permit it, is a great way to help them become comfortable and “adoptable”. Some animals who have come from a home environment may have missed this human comfort and even seek it out with little readers!

I was not familiar with Clavis Publishing because they are based in Europe, although I understand they have a branch in New York. How did you connect with them?

You’re right, Clavis is based in Belgium but they also have a New York office. I researched all publishers who were accepting unsolicited work for children’s stories. Then I reviewed the types of stories they were publishing. I then submitted!

Clavis prints their books in both Dutch and English and market in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Good for you!

What do you hope readers will take away after reading your book?

A few things, actually!  Everyone struggles with something. Kindness matters even if no one witnesses it. Hard work really does pay off. Reading opens the world and love of (and from) animals opens our hearts. Rescue animals make wonderful family members and black cats (and dogs) are the least adopted because of their color. Please think of these facts next time you’re looking for a new friend!

You know, my new pet Phoebe is a black cat! I should read to her!

So, what else is on the horizon for you?

I have a couple of stories on submission at the moment, so I’m anxiously waiting to hear about them! I’ve also been busy with revisions on a few other stories and I’m hoping to submit them within the next couple of months. I also have some stories patiently waiting their turn to be written, so I’m excited to get to those and see where they lead!

Did anything about the publishing process surprise you?

Almost everything! As a new writer I was completely untutored in all the “must knows”—story arc, the rule of three and the terrible SHOW not tell!! And then the dreaded query letter…! It has been such a learning experience and the help of more experienced writers along the way has been invaluable.

Dianna, thanks for sharing your debut here!

Blog readers, you can win a copy of the book by leaving a comment below. A random winner will be chosen soon.

Good luck…and happy reading! (I hope you have a cat!)

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky has always been a passionate reader and animal lover. As a result, her children grew up in a house full of books and cats! She rediscovered her love of picture books reading to her children and it is the realization of a dream to now write for other children. She spent her childhood years on the Canadian prairies but she has lived in Montreal for many years, raising her family and working at McGill University.  Writing for children is both a pleasure and privilege that she hopes to enjoy for as long as possible! Find out more about her debut picture book at Clavis Publishing.