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Picture book author Dori Chaconas writes what she knows

reprinted from 2002 Children''s Writer''s & Illustrator''s Market

Some writers enliven their innate creativity by candlelight during a rainstorm (Flannery O''Connor and Edgar Allen Poe produced their best works on drenched evenings). Others retreat in the woods or near the ocean to fuel inventiveness. Dori Chaconas conceives stories while hovering over an ironing board and a rumpled pile of laundry. Ever since she wrote her first book, On a Wintry Morning, she has continued to materialize other stories in the same fashion.

"I was ironing, so while my hands were busy, my mind played words about wintry mornings," reflects Chaconas, whose book was sold to Viking Children''s Books within the month it was completed. "A first draft was finished along with the last pillowcase."

Undoubtedly, the mother of four had no way of knowing On a Wintry Morning would line library shelves, sweep pre-school classroom reading lists and receive the 2000 Archer/Eckblad Award for best picture book published by a Wisconsin author. The book tenderly portrays a father-daughter relationship on a brisk, snow-filled day. Exploring the outdoors, they lovingly bond as a sleigh glides them through mountains of snow and the white ground becomes their decorative canvas. Children''s book discussion groups and teachers everywhere have praised On a Wintry Morning for its compassionate nature. Meanwhile, the book received a number of favorable reviews. Fans may have found it most appealing because of the father-daughter connection rarely seen in children''s picture books. Mothers or entire families are generally described in books such as this one, which makes the theme of On a Wintry Morning stand out.

Chaconas says she didn''t plan on writing a children''s book about a man and his baby daughter. Drawing from the relationship her husband had with their four daughters while making reference to her own cherished father, Chaconas simply wrote the story because that''s what she knew. Additionally, the temperature was rather low and the snow indeed draped the landscape around her as she bounced verses on the paper next to her iron.

A "self-trained" writer, Chaconas has always had a passion for picture books. For encouragement, she belongs to writer''s listservs, attends conferences and meets with other writers in her community. "For me, writing is a craft more than it is an inborn talent that guarantees automatic success," says Chaconas. "When you feel passionate about anything, the work involved in learning comes with much pleasure."

This article appeared in a previous edition of Children''s Writer''s & Illustrator''s Market. Check out the current edition.

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