Love Is

Love Is

Love Is

Tina Turner famously sang the question, “What’s love got to do with it?”

She even called love a “second-hand emotion,” based on the rather cynical principle that “a heart can be broken.”

I enjoyed the song when it came out over three decades ago and I will admit there have been a few moments in my life where I may have pondered the jaded sentiments of those lyrics. But that’s just not how I’m wired. Never have been. Which is why my inherent response to that question has always been a simple one:

What’s love got to do with it? Why, everything, of course!

Love . . . is the essence of all our joy, an invisible force that connects us to each other more fully, more deeply than any other. For love is more than the metaphorical giving of one’s heart. Love is the sharing of souls.

When we love someone or some thing, we share part of our own essence, we share that energy, that prodigious force, and in that moment we are one through the sharing.

Love Is . . . more than an idea, more than an act of kindness. It is a simultaneous surrendering and acceptance, two things that perhaps make us most vulnerable. Yet, as a result, also make us most complete. Love Is a gift, it should be remembered, that should also be shared with the self.

As Rumi put it, “Love is the bridge between you and everything.”

Take a few moments to read the tender and touching picture book, Love Is, by Diane Adams and you’ll realize Love Is a bridge between you and everything.

Despite spending much of my youth precariously close to death, my life was always that much sweeter because I was blessed with a remarkable family.

One filled with an abundance of LOVE!

Love has always been an essential part of everything I know, an essential part of everything I am. I realize this will sound a bit, well, peculiar . . . but I have always felt as if my entire being is swollen with so much love, as if I am so full of love that it is always, every second, pushing its way out . . . trying to get out. As if the love inside me cannot be contained. As a result, I have spent a lifetime compelled to show love to others.

Diane Adams with Love Is

On the Shelves – Diane Adams with Love Is

It’s no wonder, then, that I was immediately taken with Diane’s book the moment I saw it. The moment I read those first sweet words.

“Love is holding something fragile . . . It’s getting to the edge and hoping . . .”

There’s a vulnerability, sure, and a deep sense of trust. Perhaps that’s why we often, over time, have such a difficult time loving ourselves. Chances are we’ve let ourselves down once or twice along the way. Chances are we’ve given ourselves reasons to doubt.

The poet Aberjhani wrote:

“Dare to love yourself
as if you were a rainbow
with gold at both ends.”

That’s not easy to do, hence the word dare. But the daring really goes back to that doubt. To a sense of disappointment, perhaps even resentment over past actions or past experiences. Which has to do with that trust. It has to do with the faith component of love that comes when we share our love and expect love back. But, I wonder, if that is the real obstacle sometimes. Expecting something back. For the truth is, Love Is . . . that swelling of the soul, of the heart . . . that deep down sensation we feel for something or for someone. It is not really about reciprocity. It’s about expressing ourselves, vulnerable and wide open and unbridled.

“Love yourself,” writes Mary Oliver. “Then forget it. Then, love the world.”

If the love you share is reciprocated, that is a wonderful gift. But aren’t the truly special gifts the ones you get when you don’t expect them? A thing given to you just because of who you are. Because by being your true self you open something up in others, allow them to experience their own sense love, not out of obligation, but quite simply because.

That’s why we need to remember to love ourselves and to allow ourselves to feel and to share our love with the world. Especially with those who are closest to us.

Diane Adams reminds us of this (and of more), so quietly, so softly, with her sweet and tender story, Love Is, which recently won a Parent’s Choice award.

I not only have the pleasure of knowing Diane and of calling her friend, but I’m also a fan of her as a writer, and even more of her as a person. She is the embodiment of love. Stronger than she realizes, and braver, too, she is a gentle, compassionate, very generous person . . . always willing to share her soul. Read her book. You’ll sense it. And more importantly, you’ll feel it deep inside yourself. As if she has figured out a way to magically transfer the love in the story into each reader’s heart.

Of course, that magic is really just the expression of one thing. Love!

Below is an interview I had not too long ago with Diane. I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I do.

Lafayette Wattles: Young Adult author, Jacqueline Woodson says that writers tend to focus on the time in our lives we’re still working through. Is there an element of truth to Woodson’s claim as it relates to you/your work? If so, how?

Diane Adams: Jacqueline Woodson nails it on the head for me. My youngest years, up until age 8, were golden.  Then my sister left for college (she is ten years older), and our family dynamic changed.  In my books, I try to recapture that time before she left.  Oops, now my brother, Bob, is going to be upset.  We love each other —— now!

LW: I am sooooo not alone is saying the I LOVE Love Is. What a truly delightful book (the story, the illustrations, the whole shebang)!

I mean, the Washington Post singled it out as one of six “books to read to your little ones this Valentine’s Day.”

Diane: Thank you!!!!!

LW: It seems as though “love” is a theme in at least two of your books. Knowing you, it’s easy to understand why. Your big heart comes through in everything you do.  If there was one theme you’ve never explored in your writing that you’d like to, what might it be and why? 

Diane: That’s a dangerous question! I think that the books that I write right now come from a place of helping a child make sense of the world around him or her. I don’t want to give that up, because it was so important to me as a child.

Books answered my questions, allowed me to dream, and opened up worlds that I never knew existed.

With that said, my son and I were talking about alternate universes the other day, and I’d love to explore the idea of a world beyond our language or definition. Is language limiting us on what we can see or learn? What ties us together that is below the surface, yet above our level of understanding? Oh my, what box have I opened now?!

LW: How long have you been interested in writing or in art (as I see you have also illustrated a book)?  

Diane: Everyone needs a Grandmother Farnsworth in their lives. My Grandma complimented me on my poetry and artwork from a very young age. She also bought me books about artists and writers. Then I had a teacher (in fifth grade) who complimented my poetry to my parents. I think it worried them that I might try to become a “starving artist” when I grew up, so nothing was said after that conference. By the time high school arrived, I was a typical anxious teenager who wanted to fly under the radar. My writing and art went into deep freeze for years.

Two Hands to Love You

Two Hands to Love You

LW: What sort of background do you have (formal training, apprenticeship, workshops, self-taught, etc)?

Diane: After college, I married and had a son, and spent most of my time trying to keep up with life. It wasn’t until I was nearing 40 that my brain started sending warning signals to me. “Create now!!!,” it kept telling me. For once in my life I listened.

I joined the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, attended their conferences and meet and greets. I took courses at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, at UC Riverside, at Crafton Hills College, at our local art store. I studied children’s books for days, weeks, and years, and tried to figure out how they worked. And then finally, one day, a story of mine was accepted by PeachTree Publishers. One of the best days of my life!!

LW: What are you writing for (this is not so much an it’s my job sort of question as it is a what is the deep-down driving force behind your choice to write/be a writer in the first place)?  Is there something about the act of writing/being creative that speaks to you/resonates with you most?

Diane: Writing and painting give me an outlet for my creative spirit. They give me a voice. They allow me to be who I am.

As a child I was shy, anxious, fearful of strangers. That didn’t happen naturally. Something was crushed inside me for me to feel that way. I guess writing is a way to reclaim my spirit and to give others the message of hope if they’ve been told that they’re not good enough or that their dreams are not worthy of pursuit. Isn’t it amazing how deep the voices of our childhood go? Do we ever stop hearing them?

Diane Adams and Emily Arrow

Diane Adams and Emily Arrow

LW: Although I enjoy exploring a writer’s overall intention for being a writer – that deep down spark mentioned above – I know that each project often has its own intention.  What was the intention behind Love is?  And do you think or feel like you’ve achieved what you set out to do?

Diane: Love Is is a simple book about a girl who raised a lost duckling and chose to let it be who it was meant to be, yet it accomplished so much more than I could have intended for it.

Claire Keane’s illustrations gave a voice to so many who do not see themselves  portrayed enough in children’s books.

The mail I receive about Love Is is amazing! One woman wrote, “I love the fact that…your protagonist is a person of color. My one year old grandniece will treasure this book even more as she grows older, and as she begins to understand and appreciate there are characters in this world that look just like her.” What a beautiful letter!!!

LW: What is your process (i.e. do you start with a character, a theme, a feeling…or does it vary)?

Diane: I wish I knew more about my process! Sometimes an idea wakes me up at night.  Other times I overhear a word or two of conversation that sparks a thought; such as, “I can do it myself.” I may be moved to write a feeling down and then it blossoms into an idea. Honestly, most of my ideas end up filed away for later. They just don’t take flight.  But, there are a few that blossom into stories, and I’m so grateful when they do.

LW: As a fan of your work, I am grateful too. What was the process for Love Is?

Diane: That process happened about four years ago when I was thinking about Egbert and Edie, the ducks I’d grown up with. Why was I thinking about them? No idea!! Words started flowing onto the page from deep inside. Soon after, I was at an SCBWI conference talking with Melissa Manlove, an editor at Chronicle who’d published my book Two Hands to Love You. I told her I had an idea about a girl and her duck. She loved it. (This is a writer’s dream. No, it has not happened again since then.) Then she told me that I had to wait three years for it to come out. The waiting . . .

Two Hands to Love You

Spread from Two Hands to Love You (story by Diane Adams, art by Paige Keiser)

LW: What is it about the process that you like most?  Least?

Diane: Easy!!!! When the idea first strikes. It’s so beautiful when it’s in my head. Sparkly, and full of hope and energy, and then I try to capture it on the page. Why does it turn so ugly when it’s on the page? If it sounds like I’m complaining, I am. Tell me, why does it turn so ugly? Ah well. That’s my least favorite part, obviously.

LW: What was it like being on the other side, so to speak, and doing illustrations for Stephanie Stuve Bodeen (aka S. A. Bodeen)?

Diane: I am so proud of myself for taking that on. I love my illustrations for A Home for Salty, but have never been brave enough to try again. It was two steps forward, three steps back for awhile as page turns and the personalities and habitats of the animals revealed themselves. It took over a year to put all the pieces together and it was a beautiful, difficult, all consuming effort.

LW: What is one thing about writing picture books you think people might not understand?

Diane: Revision. My stories are only a page or two long before they’re turned into books, but they have been revised literally hundreds of times before they become that book. Many hands have touched it, and many voices have had input before the illustrator does her or his magic. It’s a team effort.

LW: If you could work on any project (writing a book, developing a personal idea, doing some time-travel and working on an historical piece with a writer/artist you admire or a contemporary collaboration) what might it be and why?

Diane: Emily Arrow is a singer/songwriter friend of mine and we’re planning to get together in Nashville this summer to work on some story ideas. The idea of working together with another writer makes my heart sing, and in Nashville to boot!!  (Pun intended.)

Here’s a video of Emily singing about Love Is and another about Two Hands to Love You.

LW: How does your writing/art reflect your personality?

Diane: Holding and reading a book is so personal. Books speak to us. We interpret them and weave them into our own lives. Hopefully my books encourage children, make them laugh, give them hope. I teach at a local university and the goals for my children’s books are the same for my college classroom. When folks know you’re on their side, they thrive.

LW: Since you write books for young readers, did you have a favorite writer/illustrator (or favorite book) when you were young (or now)?  If so, why?

Diane: It has to be Dr. Seuss! His book, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, is well worn in my library. It’s about a kid who faces all sorts of obstacles as he tries to find a place where everything is perfect.  He never finds that place, but he learns a lot about himself on the journey.  Maybe I’ll go read that again right now!!  Beatrix Potter was also a favorite.  Today, my favorites are I Want My Hat Back, Extra Yarn, and Greyhound Groundhog. 

LW: Any exciting projects coming up for which we should keep on the lookout?

Diane: I’m in the idea process right now for a few books. Fingers crossed! I’m looking forward to my time in New Harmony, Indiana with my West of the Moon tribe!!

LW: Aside from your main website, are there any specific websites with your work you’d like me to link back to?  

Diane: Yes!! Thank you!! Chronicle Books, Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Amazon.

I hope you will spend some time exploring Diane’s website and social media accounts, like Twitter. But I especially hope you’ll give yourselves the treat of exploring her books. And of taking her words to heart.

After all, as Rumi put it, “Love will find its way through all languages on its own.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the beautiful book, Love Is, was illustrated by the very accomplished and talented illustrator Claire Keane. You may have seen her work in the movie Frozen. Claire is currently involved in the TV series Tangled among other things. More about Claire and her art will be coming soon to Other Cool Birds.