Wednesday, 07 February 2024 14:37

Sitting Down with Fran Dingeman

By Chad Beatty | Business
Fran Dingeman. Photo by Oloughlin Photography Fran Dingeman. Photo by Oloughlin Photography

Fran, Congratulations on your book. What is it like to be a published author?

Fran: It’s an extremely amazing feeling to be a “published author”! Looking back upon the thousands of hours it took to finally have the privilege of showcasing a finished project is something I still find incredible to reflect upon. I took tremendous care to make sure my book will forever be something I can be very proud of, and I truly am. 

Tell us about the process of writing your book.

Fran: Concept: First I came up with the concept: The Animal Menagerie is an A to Z picture book for children ages 4-7. There is an animal character for every letter of the alphabet, and the name of that animal is coupled with a rhyming descriptive vocabulary word such as “The Chuckling Duckling,” and “The Contrary Canary,” etc. 

Choosing Animals and Vocabulary Words: After I came up with the concept for the book, I started choosing each animal based on whether there was a colorful vocabulary word that I could rhyme with it. The word would need to describe the animal in a way that lent itself to a contextual story that would accompany it. 

Writing Stories: Next the stories for each animal were written in a way that brought the meaning of each descriptive vocabulary word to light. This had to be accomplished in a limited number of paragraphs, due to the 4-7 age group I was writing for.

Deciding upon Illustrations: Once the A to Z characters and stories were established, I sketched or described my vision to my illustrator. She then presented me with an image, which I typically worked with her to tweak 3-5 times, until it perfectly represented my visual interpretation of the story. This was an extremely interesting process, mainly because my illustrator lives in Poland, and so all of this was accomplished online. This overseas exchange took place over the pandemic years. When we were all feeling so isolated and disconnected, I was sharing explosions of creativity with a person over 4 thousand miles away who I have never met or even spoken to.

Layout and design: Finally, I worked with a dear friend collaborating for hours of time syncing the illustrations with the stories, and laying it all out to look perfectly pleasing to the eyes of parents of my target audience. Then the text needed to be proofread and edited before going to print.

Publishing/Printing: This process included vetting several printers to find out who would offer the best quality for the least cost. In general, quality self-publishing is a costly endeavor. It’s a true commitment to passion for what you’re doing.

Where did you do most writing?

Fran: Most of my inspiration came while working at my home office on evenings and weekends, when I could focus full attention on the project.

What, if any, were the unexpected challenges you encountered.

Fran: I was surprised by the incredible amount of time it took to bring the text and the illustrations together into an artistic layout style that reflected my vision. This is definitely the step in the process that took the most time. I was intent on having the book look as good as traditionally published books typically do so it would garner just as much attention when sitting beside a traditionally published book on a retailer’s shelf. There are so many aspects of a book’s design to consider and make decisions on from choices on hardback vs paperback, the size of the book, the number of pages, paper weight and color, printed endsheets, font, font size, colors, just to name a few. .

From start to finish, what was the timeframe? 

Fran: I started the project in November of 2021 and the book was sent to the printer in October of 2023. I received 500 printed copies in mid-November of 2023, just in time for the holiday season. Although there were unexpected delays, and this wasn’t the timing I was hoping for, it worked out perfectly!

Was this a one-time project or are there more books on your horizon? 

Fran: Yes, after spending so much time learning about the process of authorship and the tenets of book-writing, I feel that I know so much more now that would allow me to work more expediently on a second book. I have the concept already. I hope to get started on it over the next year.

Any advice for aspiring authors? 

Fran: Follow your dream. Anything is possible! Ask questions to many individuals and the answers you receive in common are what you should move forward with as true. A concept can be inspired in so many ways - leave yourself open to hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, and touching so you can recognize the thought concept when it comes to you, and then run with it. If you, like me, are one who has been saying or thinking that they will write a book for years, don’t just talk about it - do it! Live in the moment and make it happen, now! For me, in the words of Victor Hugo, It was ‘an idea whose time had come’! Now is your time!

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