Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Featured Author: Diane Daniels Manning

About the book:

Two unlikely friends, an old woman and a boy with special needs, take an aging champion to Westminster Dog Show, and heal their troubled families.

Seventy year-old Bess Rutledge has fantasized about winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life, but now she has decided she is too old to follow her dream. She meets Benny, an angry fourteen year-old with mild autism and ADHD, who has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. He becomes convinced that winning Westminster with McCreery, Bess’ aging champion standard poodle, will finally make his mother proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy.

Interview with Diane Daniels Manning

Diane, what’s the story behind the title of your book?
Almost Perfect is not in keeping with the book’s characters and outcome, but comes from an expression we often use with the children at our therapeutic school: “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.” Sadly, some children (and adults) get so caught up in needing everything to be perfect, they miss the happiness available to them when life is “good enough” — emphasis on the “good.”  The title of my next book, a version for middle schoolers/teens is Good Enough.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Redding, Connecticut, the setting for Almost Perfect. Mark Twain spent his last years there, and the library there was founded by him. I spent many hours there as a child dreaming of becoming an author like him.

That is so cool. What would I do if someone gave me $5,000?
If someone gave me $5,000,I would donate it to the New School in the Heights, in Houston, Texas for scholarships.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
I am the co-founder and executive director of a therapeutic school for bright children who haven’t succeeded in other schools because of their social or emotional differences. A similar school is featured in Almost Perfect.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
My book has two main characters. Bess, a seventy-year-old woman, is based on the top breeder of standard poodles in America in her day. I did an oral history of her, and that is how I got my knowledge of dog shows and professional dog breeders. The other main character, the twelve-year-old Benny, is a composite of a number of children I have known both in my school and otherwise.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing.
“I liked it.”

What makes me bored?
Trying to figure out forgotten/misplaced passwords.

What dumb things did you do during your college years?
Not doing dumb things.

Have you been in any natural disasters?
I lived in New Orleans for twenty years but decided to move to Houston when someone offered me the chance to start a therapeutic school there. I moved just a few days before Hurricane Katrina. Even though I wasn’t there during the storm, it was a terrible time.  Houston was amazing in welcoming people fleeing the storm. Buses arrived at the Superdome on Friday. A hospital was set up inside and an operating post office. Every child was in school Monday morning. Children enrolled in private schools in New Orleans were admitted to private schools in Houston at no additional tuition. It made me appreciate my new city while feeling heartsick for my former home.

What do you love about where you live now?
The generosity of the people in Houston.

About the author:

Diane Daniels Manning is the co-founder and director of The New School in the Heights, a therapeutic school in Houston, Texas which helps children dealing with social-emotional challenges find success in school and life. She has a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H from Harvard and is a practicing child psychoanalyst certified by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Formerly, she was the Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities Clinic at Tufts University, Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard, and Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane University. She learned the inner workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a lifetime President of the Poodle of Club of America. Her writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition.

When not at The New School, Diane and her writing partners, a Standard Poodle named Misty and a rescue cat named Elvira, convene at the keyboard to share great thoughts and plan the dinner menu.

Connect with Diane: 

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter 

Buy the book