THE DIORAMA CHALLENGE

To celebrate the release of my new novel, My Life in Dioramas, I asked a bunch of amazing authors to make dioramas inspired by their books. Scroll down to catch up on their incredible work! Because NOW, without further ado, I present the final diorama, from the incredible Rita Williams-Garcia. THANKS TO ALL THE AMAZING AUTHORS WHO PARTICIPATED!!!

RITA’S WILLIAMS-GARCIA’S LIFE IN DIORAMAS

It’s not every day I ask a Newbery Honor winner, National Book Award Finalist, and New York Times bestselling author to make a diorama for me just for fun!! I was beyond thrilled when Rita Williams-Garcia accepted the #dioramachallenge. Her new book GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA—is a companion to the amazing ONE CRAZY SUMMER (and also P.S. BE ELEVEN) and I had a hunch the book’s richly depicted rural Southern setting would inspire its creator to diorama greatness. I was right! I asked Rita some questions about her gorgeous diorama.

Tell us about your life in dioramas. Do you have any vivid diorama traumas or fond memories from your youth?

If I did my life in dioramas, it would have to be about moving from house to house. Sound familiar? Packing up and moving out was everyday reality for army brat life. I wish I had a diorama for every home we lived in. I remember them all!  When our family finally settled in Jamaica, NY, it was a shock to the mind to learn most of my junior high classmates lived their entire lives in one house or apartment.

Tell us about the scene you created and why you chose it. How did you make the figures? How did you build the chicken coop and how sturdy is it? What was the hardest part of this process? How many hours did you spend in Michael’s?

It was a toss-up between recreating the three sisters walking through the pines, over the wooden walkway above the creek or the scene from “Chicken Run,” when Fern is inspired by Charlotte’s Web to save her chickens from becoming dinner.  “Chicken Run” won out, even at the expense of excluding Vonetta.  (Poor Vonetta!)  Once I made the fixtures (tree, chicken run) I knew Delphine and Fern had to be small and fairly lightweight.  I twisted their frames from pipe cleaner wire, wrapped brown yarn around the wire for their coloring, and cut out their clothing from tissue paper.  The tissue paper for the pants had to be glued around the figures and set to dry overnight.  Then I cut out the pants in the morning.  The hair?  Remnants from a stash of braiding hair.  I tried to make Afro-puffs for Fern by knotting the ends.  The chicken run was made from pop-sickle sticks.  The thing about the sticks is you can get them to split down the middle—mostly, so the look like lumber.  I broke a lot of sticks!  Anyway, I made an inner frame, and beams to glue the inner frame to the outer. I used the smaller broken pieces to make the corner joints. I used wood glue to hold together.  I did have a screen on standby to make the wire but I was able to stop myself! The fame was so delicate, I knew the more I handled it, the greater chance I’d break it. I had to be careful handling it. The chicken run by far was the hardest part.  Getting the sticks the same length took time and retries. (I’m heavy-handed.) Michael’s is one of those places you go in and never come out. You have to go in with a plan! I think I was in there for about 2 hours.

 Yours is the most detailed diorama we’ve seen in the #dioramachallenge. Were you surprised by how into the project you got? I mean, your tree is a work of art and you put a Timex watch on Delphine!

Can you say, “Obsession?”  I designated two hours for each of the three days thought I’d spend on it. It took two hours—trial and error included—to make the “Free Hens” sign. The tree was the first thing I had to make. The tree would determine the scale of the figures and everything else.  The clay wouldn’t cooperate for a tall tree, so I knew the figures would be small. The branches came from the 2014 National Book Award centerpiece (wood branches and orange fruit long dried out!) and the leaves are cast-on stitches that curl around when you remove them from the needle.  I have to thank my husband for the watch.  I thought I was done when he said, “Where’s Delphine’s watch?”   I tried to glue that on her wrist.  BTW, she’s reading The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou.  Unfortunately, you can’t see the cover, which is the actual shrunken cover of Kristin Hunter’s novel.  I like the cow jumping over Ma Charles’s tambourine inspired moon.  And the baby chicks!

What are you working on now? Do you think there are more dioramas in your future?

Right now I’m working on CLAYTON BYRD GOES UNDERGROUND, a blues story about a boy, his harmonica and trouble.  I’ve done a collage of objects for this story in preparation for a workshop on objects and images, but CLAYTON BYRD is definitely dioramable!

Dioramable! Love it! Thanks, Rita, and thanks again to all the authors who rose to the #dioramachallenge!

LESLIE MARGOLIS’S LIFE IN DIORAMAS

Leslie Margolis and I used to talk shop and kids in person a handful of times a year at gatherings of YA authors in NYC. But then she got all fancy and moved to L.A.! (Speaking of which, one of her books (“Boys Are Dogs”) was made into a Disney movie “Zapped.” Awesome, right?) So now we’re mostly online pals. Which is how I knew that IF I WERE YOU, Leslie’s latest middle-grade novel, was coming out this month! Leslie agreed to make a diorama inspired by her book. Behold!

Give us a brief history of your life in dioramas. Are you a diorama friend or foe? Any diorama trauma in your past?

I love dioramas as long as they are made by other people. I have crazy anxiety about creating my own dioramas and not just that:  my fear extends to all crafts projects. I respect and admire crafty people and aspire to become one, but alas, that has not yet happened.

Tell us about the scene you created. Why did you choose this moment to capture? I can’t quite see what’s going on in the background. Are those painted rocks? Also, what’s that taped to the upper corner on the right? ARE THOSE GLOW IN THE DARK STARS? Because if your diorama glows in the dark, I think my head will explode.

Yes, it glows in the dark!!!

IF I WERE YOU is a beach-y fantasy about ex-best friends and boy trouble. At the beginning of the book, Katie and Melody are about to enter seventh grade and they are not on speaking terms. It’s the last day of summer and they are both on the beach bus, which runs from their suburban town to Malibu, every hour on the hour. When the bus goes through a giant tunnel in the canyon, both girls hold their breath and close their eyes and wish to be each other. When they get out of the tunnel–their wishes have been granted. Melody is Katie and Katie is Melody and it’s day one of summer.

The diorama is essentially a beach in a box, because much of the book takes place at the beach. The glow in the dark stars represent the magic. In the corner is a giant bird made out of pompoms and google-y eyes and triangle-shaped beads. I made it and then realized that the bird is three times the size of the Lego people so I repurposed the bird as the sun. Except I was so happy with how it turned out I didn’t remove the eyes or beak or wings or feet. I just taped the whole bird up there.

What was the hardest thing about making your diorama? Did you have help?  It looks like you cut up a painting? Did you try to make people or went straight to the Legos?

The hardest part of making the diorama was starting because I knew I wouldn’t be able to achieve the magic of the vision in my head. Luckily, my five-year-old daughter, Lucy, helped me. Okay, fine, she pretty much did it all. She used watercolors to make the sand and sky and ocean and beach towels. The painted rocks, she made a while ago so I decided to add them for color. I wanted to make Katie, Melody and Kevin out of Sculpey but I could not find the Sculpey. Besides being not-crafty, I am also not organized. So I used my kids’ Lego people. Luckily, they were already on the living room floor. Imperfect but you get the idea, right?

What are you up to next?

I am in the middle of writing a new novel for FSG.  It’s called WE ARE PARTY PEOPLE, and it will be out in the fall of 2017.  I am very excited about the new book. Maybe I will make a diorama for it. Or maybe instead of the full manuscript, I will send my editor a series of dioramas.

Yes, please, to more dioramas! Thanks, Leslie.

 

SARAH ALBEE’S LIFE IN DIORAMAS

I met the wonderful Sarah Albee at a writing event this past winter and when she told me about her latest book, Why’d They Wear That: Fashion as the Mirror of History, I knew it was a book I had to have. My 7-year-old and I have since been dipping in to the gorgeous book together on a regular basis to learn about armor and corsettes and smoking jackets and frilly collars and more. I thought Sarah might be up for the diorama challenge…but I was wrong! Sort of! You see, instead of making me a shoebox diorama, Sarah was inspired to make something else entirely. Read on for the full scoop that explains this fab photo. And yes, that is a corset carved out of butternut squash:

When I first asked you if you’d make a diorama for me your response was…shall I say…LESS THAN ENTHUSED. Explain.

Was it? Let me think. Oh, right. I believe my initial response was “No way, never! That ship has SAILED!” You see, I have three kids. And over the years, I helped all three of them with multiple science fair projects, school play costumes, and, of course, dioramas. About seventeen billion of them. I took A-minuses very personally. I finally gave away my huge plastic bin of props and fabric scraps and googley eyes and wallpaper samples to a friend with younger children. I think the fanatical glint in my eye might have frightened her. Poor soul. She has no idea what she’s in for.

What drew you to the butternut squash as your material of choice? What particular challenges did you face as you carved? How many butternut squash were harmed in the making of this corset?

Well, the second I hit “send” on my curt email to you saying I would never, ever do another diorama as long as I lived, a thought suddenly popped in my mind, and it was this: “The nerve of Tara. Never, ever again. How dare she–hmmm. Butternut squash could make an excellent corset.” I think all those years of having kids announce they have a diorama due the next day trained me to snap into action, like a sleep deprived soldier who can be on his feet and dressed and ready to march with just a few seconds’ notice.

The challenges? I almost cut off my head trying to carve the bustline curves. After wrecking the first squash, I called my friend Mark Mennin (http://www.markmennin.com/website/early/early.html ) who is a famous sculptor. I asked if he would carve it for me. He said no, he does not work in the butternut medium, but he’d carve a corset out of marble for me if I wanted. I thought about it, but then I said no thanks. I was afraid if I showed you a professionally-carved, polished-marble corset, you might think that someone had helped me with my project. Like the kid in my daughter’s third grade class whose father was a carpenter and who, during the Egypt unit, rolled in with a practically life-sized three-D wooden pyramid with mitred edges.

Two squash were harmed. But I composted them.

Have you ever worn a corset or anything else bizarre? Like, for research?

Why yes, in fact. As part of my research, I purchased a corset, a real one, on a corset website and I have to say, it makes me look unbelievably fabulous. There’s a reason they were in style as long as they were. Breathing is challenging, though. Also, I had a craft person on Etsy make me a ruff collar, like the kinds they wore in Shakespeare’s day. When I do author visits, I’ve been known to tie the collar onto a kid-volunteer and then kick a soccer ball to her. It always gets a big laugh, because you can’t see your own feet.

You write in your book that “To be flirtatious, you could drop your handkerchief in the presence of a gentleman. He’d have to be the one to pick it up—because you couldn’t.” Do you think that would work for me if I was wearing Spanx?

I’m afraid the days of dropping handkerchiefs are past–few gentlemen would recognize one if they saw it. Now, if you were to drop your used kleenex and a gentleman picked it up for you, I’d advise marrying him immediately. As for Spanx, harumph. Those are so JV compared to my corset. You could totally pick up your own handkerchief.

What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

While researching Why’d They Wear That, I became somewhat obsessed with arsenic. There’s a section about the Victorian craze for the color green, which was made from copper arsenite. The Victorians were steeped in arsenic–they used it to tint fabric, wallpaper, candy, and millions of other products. And because it was so easily obtained, it was a common murder weapon. The white, powdered form–arsenic trioxide–was known as “inheritance powder,” because it was tasteless, odorless, and mimicked the symptoms of many diseases. That and many other poisons were readily available at the corner store, well into the twentieth century.

So my next project? It’s about the history of POISON, and is due out in 2017.

Wonderful! I can’t wait!

 

 

JEFFREY SALANE’S LIFE IN DIORAMAS

Jeffrey Salane is the author of LAWLESS and JUSTICE—two books in an awesome middle-grade series from Scholastic, about the children of criminal masterminds who attend a mysterious academy where they are training to be criminal masterminds. He is also married to one of my writer BFFs Adrienne Vrettos (Yo Adrienne!) and yet I have never met him. How weird is that? Anyway, he’s obviously a good egg because he agreed to make a diorama for me. Here it is! And below is our diorama chat!

What’s your personal history with dioramas? Are you a diorama friend or foe? Any diorama trauma in your past?

I am not a big diorama creator, but I’ve always appreciated the challenge and skill of capturing a moment in a box. It’s the visual equivalent of writing a perfect line. As for my past diorama adventures, this may be my first.

Tell us about your diorama. It looks to be a mash-up of the covers of JUSTICE and LAWLESS, but what am I looking at exactly? The girl looks 3d? Is she? I’m tempted to ask for a photo of your diorama from the top down? Did you actually destroy book covers to make your diorama?

This is a mash-up of covers, but placed in a stark white, mysterious world that is where the main character, M Freeman, finds herself in JUSTICE. Literally, she’s in a secure location known as the Fulbright Academy where the walls are white, the corridors are a maze, and the school (students and teachers) are watching her every move. But the truth is that it’s hard to change M’s character. She was out of step at the Lawless School (in book one, LAWLESS) and now she’s equally out of step at the Fulbright Academy (the Lawless School’s rivals).

The art is set up to give a sense of 3D, like a View-Master slide. I used an X-Acto knife to cut out images from my two covers, then placed them behind each other to create a sense of depth. I wanted the scene to feel, first, that M was really sneaking through the hallways, but I also wanted to have the watchful eye of the Fulbright Academy behind her, spying on her every move, even when she’s not aware that she’s being followed.

And yes, full disclosure, two covers were harmed in the making of this diorama, but they gave their good looks so that more LAWLESS and JUSTICE covers can be seen by anyone reading this.

What was the most challenging part of making your diorama? Did you have help? Is it cool for dudes to be crafty?

It is cool for dudes to be crafty and I love being crafty, even if I’m not great at it. Trimming a scene with an X-Acto knife has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, even in type. So here was a chance to visually create the story of JUSTICE and I had these tremendous covers that were already telling part of the story, so I merged them. The most challenging part, as I’m sure is true with most crafty families, was that there was not a piece of tape left in the house. So the characters are either glued down, glued to their stands (which are holding them upright), or placed so precariously that I’m sure they fell apart several times before we could get the final shot. And yes, I did have help. My wife took the picture and a designer friend etched out the image of M. To be fair, I really wanted to do it, but she saw how much fun I was having and insisted on lending her knifeskills.

What are you working on now?

I am toward the end of writing the final book in the LAWLESS trilogy, which will come out next year, but is due to my editor next month. It’s going to be titled MAYHEM, because that’s what happens when the secret worlds of good and evil collide.

Awesome! Thanks, Jeff!

 

Corey Ann Haydu’s Life in Dioramas

Corey has a new YA book out this week! It’s called Making Pretty. Happy release week! Woohoo! BUT, more importantly, Corey’s upcoming middle-grade novel—due out this fall—has a dioramas element in it. So when I threw down my #dioramachallenge, it only made sense Corey would rise to the occasion. Talking about “making pretty”…check out this diorama inspired by Rules for Stealing Stars. 

You’re obviously a member of Team Diorama in life. Your upcoming middle-grade novel, Rules for Stealing Stars, has a diorama hook. So tell us a little bit about your history with dioramas. Any diorama trauma in your past?

I have always loved the idea of dioramas, and made a bunch of them, but I had trouble making them into what I saw in my head. This was my problem with art projects in general, and how I ended up writing, I think. I loved coming up with little scenes, but couldn’t make them as beautiful as I wanted to be when I was recreating them in dioramas or paintings or sketches.

I also think my diorama love is connected to my dollhouse love– a project I was more successful at. I had the most glorious dollhouse that my mother and I decorated together, with a commitment to reality. Tiles in the kitchen. Wallpaper in the bedrooms. And lots of tiny food. I LOVED tiny food, and had a huge collection of it for my dollhouse. We’d go to a lovely dollhouse store a few towns away every once in a while and it was the biggest treat for me. They had tiny EVERYTHING, and I remember walking through the multi-room store and peering into glass cases at all the objects that populate our lives, in miniature. Something about that filled me with wonder.

Tell us about the scene you depicted. Why did you choose this scene? What’s up with the neato split-screen effect?

I don’t want to tell too, too much because it’s a scene close to the end of RULES FOR STEALING STARS. But I knew when I heard about this project that I was going to want to do a scene that showed a bit of magic. And actually, stolen stars are one of the first images I came up with when I was first writing the book. The scene has the four sisters from my book– Silly, Marla, Astrid and Eleanor– and they’re in a magical moment with all of these stolen stars. I wanted to create the split screen effect because the book has a lot to do with closets, so I knew I wanted to have some of the sisters in the bedroom and a sister in one of the closets. I got wrapping paper for the wallpaper and used a piece of cardboard to create a wall. I like the way it came out– even though it doesn’t have that hyper-realism that I loved with my dollhouses, I think I captured a little bit of magic and mystery of the book. I also like how teeny-tiny the dolls are and how large the room and closet look. Again, it’s not exactly realistic, but it captures something tonally that I like. The sisters are pretty overwhelmed by the world they live in, and they feel very small– especially the main character Silly. I feels right to have it all out of proportion. The world feels that way sometimes.

In a note to me, you said you’re not crafty. I’m looking at your diorama and I am thinking you are lying. Why do you think you aren’t crafty? How did making your diorama make you feel?

I’ll be totally honest– I felt real, actual fear at doing a craft project! Growing up, my friends were really great at art. And I had a totally artistic spirit, but zero talent. I can barely draw a stick figure. So I was always caught with these big, imaginative ideas, and a disappointing result. I used to feel so much envy of my friends and how polished and special their projects looked. Mine would droop and stick and be lines up poorly and executed hastily. Even as I got older, in college, I would try to decorate my room in some artsy, fancy way and it would all fall apart. I’d hang fabrics and beads and it would look nothing like what I imagined.

In RULES FOR STEALING STARS, one of the sisters, Astrid, is a diorama expert, and I loved writing a character who could make her imagination come to life in little shoeboxes with some glitter and construction paper. Astrid is the girl I wish I could have been. So I suppose I have a bit of an inferiority complex with all things craft related! I wanted this diorama to look magical and special. I wanted it to look like Astrid made it. But I was intimidated by even buying craft glue. Getting started was hard– what if it looked ugly and off like everything else? But I let go a little and tried to think less about an exact image and more about a feeling. That took the pressure off of it being a perfect representation of a scene and let me think more about what the book and that scene mean to me! It ended up being a really fun and sort of cathartic process. I can craft! It doesn’t have to be perfect! It can even be fun!

What are you working on now?

I have both another middle grade and another young adult novel I’m playing with. Interestingly, they’re both a little bit about the pressure we put on ourselves to be special and perfect, about expectations.

Thanks, Corey!

Megan Frazer Blakemore’s Life in Dioramas

Megan Frazer Blakemore and I met because we were assigned to share a room at the Kindling Words East writing retreat earlier this year. She is, for the record, an awesome roomie. Thank goodness. And last week she celebrated a book birthday! Welcome to the world, The Friendship Riddle. Feast your eyes upon this diorama of a scene from the book then read our fun chat!


TA: You were one of my most enthusiastic first responders when I put out a call for dioramas. How did you end up on Team Diorama in life?

MFB: I’m a librarian, and as a librarian there are certain kinds of projects we kind of roll our eyes at. Bird projects — the student has to find specific details and then regurgitate them back to the teacher without doing any critical thinking. I was at a literacy event and was shocked to find out that this is how English Langugage Arts teachers look at dioramas. But I love them. They do require the student to think about the whole book and then find one scene to represent, and then further distill that moment and translate it into 3-D. I think they are great.

TA: Why are those dudes loitering in the diorama library? Or, er, tell us about this scene. Why did you choose it?

MFB: Well, first of all, those are girls. (More on that later). In the opening of the book we find out that Ruth and Charlotte have grown apart since starting middle school, though Ruth would really still like to be friends. They are in the library because it is yet another snow day. Charlotte’s father is the lirbarian and they actually live above the library. Ruth would like to live in the library — since losing Charlotte all of her friends are in books. On this particular day, Ruth is doing some shelf reading for Charlotte’s dad and finds a clue hidden inside a library book. It says, “For the answers you seek, look up.” She looks up and doesn’t see anything, but it sets her on a scavenger hunt through out her town.

TA: Seriously, though. WHAT ARE THOSE GUYS? This is not a kind of figure I am familiar with.


MFB: Those are KidCraft dolls. Unfortunately my daughter or my dog removed the hair from the girl from the brown-skinned family (neither one of them will ‘fess up), so I used the boy to be Charlotte, because at least he has some hair. Imagine it longer. And she’s wearing Uggs. Ruth is far less concerned about her clothing and prefers to be in sweats, so this outfit worked well for her. I actually couldn’t tell if this boy was supposed to be a girl or a boy, but most of the other kids in the set were wearing super girly dresses that Ruth would never, ever wear.

TA: OF COURSE! KIDCRAFT! What was the most challenging part of making this diorama? Did you have help? How did making the diorama make you feel?

MFB: The most challenging part was knowing that it was going to be shared, so I wanted it to look at least somewhat decent. Visual arts are not exactly a strength of mine. I wouldn’t say I had help, but my kids were simultaneously making their own projects, which was fun. It was really delightful to take the time to do this project. It’s not a way I usually think, and I got really into it.

TA: What’s are you working on now?
I have a YA, Very in Pieces, that comes out Septermber 29th. I’m currently revising with my editor a sci-fi/utopia middle grade that I am really excited about. Right now it’s called The Firefly Five.

Thanks, Megan! Stay tuned for more #dioramachallenge results this week–coming from Corey Ann Haydu and Jeffrey Salane!

Lisa Pliscou’s Life in Dioramas

Lisa Pliscou and I first met at Books of Wonder at a reading where she read from Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty, a hilarious picture book that is a send-up of the Dick and Jane books and of surfer lingo. We realized we both went to Harvard so then we did the secret handshake (no, not really) and the rest is history. Speaking of history, Lisa has just penned a gorgeous nonfiction book called Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer. How cool is that, dude? Rad, right? She made a diorama inspired by her book for me and it’s so purity. I think you’ll agree. I asked her some questions about it.

Do you consider yourself in general to be a diorama friend or foe? Any diorama trauma in your past?

Friend! I love the phrase “diorama trauma” so much, it took me a while to actually focus on your next question, but there are no colorful diorama skeletons to exhume. Although there was that ghastly 3-D volcano I had to make in 8th grade . . .

Tell us about the scene you chose. Who is the dude on the wall and why is he giving young Jane the stink eye?

This scene shows Jane Austen, at around 11 or 12, in the extra room she and her older sister were given for their exclusive use. It was a big deal having a ‘room of her own’ because Jane lived in a very large household, with many people crowded into it. She’s said to have begun, in a very real way, her literary career in here, writing very funny, astonishingly sophisticated little stories, plays, and more.

As I began making that rather large pile of teeny-tiny books, they were meant to be representations of all the books Jane — an early and voracious reader — had by that time read. Somewhere along the way, as I was cutting and taping and admiring my handiwork, I thought about Beth Kephart’s wonderful description of herself as a “child writer-dreamer,” and suddenly the pile of books instead became — in a neat metaphysical trick — a representation of the books that, perhaps, Jane dreamed of writing.

The dude on the wall? Why, that’s Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, looking proud and/or prejudiced. I couldn’t resist the conceit of a romantic teenage Jane putting stuff up on the wall.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when making your diorama? Did you do your own coloring? Did you have any help?

The biggest challenge was my immediate response to your invitation. As in “Uh oh . . . I’m not very crafty.”

As for coloring: to show Jane, I borrowed an illustration from my Young Jane Austen, but it being black and white, it did seem to need a boost. I was dismayed to learn that after years of having hundreds, if not thousands, of colored pencils in the house, my 15-year-old has finally moved on. So I borrowed some from my kind next-door neighbors, who have young kids. And had a ripping good time coloring. (Now I’m thinking about getting one of those coloring books for grownups.)

Did I have any help? No, I selfishly kept all the fun for myself.

What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

A new edition of my first novel is being published next spring, and a picture book is slated for 2017. And I’m working a couple of new projects — for children and for adults — which I’m stoked about. No plans for other dioramas. Unless you ask me.

ANNE URSU’S LIFE IN DIORAMAS


The Snow Queen was my favorite Han Christian Anderson tale by far when I was a kid. I had a creepy record (as in LP) of it that I listened to over and over again. So when Anne Ursu published her Snow Queen-inspired novel, Breadcrumbs, a few years back, I knew I had to read it. So I did. And I loved it. I loved the blend of a very normal/contemporary feeling middle-grade novel…and the magical quest Hazel embarks upon.

I had the pleasure of meeting Anne, whose most recent novel is The Real Boy, at a writing workshop/retreat this year (Kindling Words East! Booyah!) and was privileged to hear her mind-blowing craft lecture. I’m so thrilled that she agreed to make a diorama for me.

TA: Tell us about your life experience with dioramas. Are you generally a diorama fan or foe? Any diorama trauma in your past?

AU: I remember going to the hobby store with my dad and picking up little trees for a diorama when I was a kid. And I loved it. I have no idea what it was for, but I’m imagining I needed a lot of help from my dad. It turns out I’ve never been very good at things like “cutting straight lines” or “making things that look like things.”

I was the sort of kid who could never color inside the lines and always walked around with markers smudges and pen on her hands. When I was in eighth grade we were supposed to make posters advertising a fictional business for social studies, and there were prizes for the best ones, and I made these posters that I thought were really creative and would surely win. I was really crushed when they didn’t. The teacher (who didn’t seem to like me very much) told my business partner that they would have won but they had too many marker smudges on them.

Now that I look back on it, I think he was kind of a jerk.

TA: Tell us about the scene you depicted. Why did you choose it? Did you try to make a Hazel figure? Why Wonder Woman?

AU: I was either going to do that or the library scene from The Real Boy (with Oscar and the cats). I went to Michaels looking to be inspired and the first thing I saw was the pink glitter paper, which seemed like a good way to represent the snow in the magical forest.

I had every plan to make a Hazel, then I tried to make wolves out of clay, and they ended up looking like very unfortunate mice. I was not going to do that to Hazel. And I didn’t want to do some blob or draw a stick figure—she deserves better. Fortunately, I have an eight year old boy and lots of mini-figures. It seemed like Wonder Woman would be the best way to honor her of the available options, and I thought Hazel would like that. But we clearly need more South Asian female superheroes—and mini-figures.

Then my son decided he wanted a zombie snowman in there—a “Snombie” from the Notebook of Doom series. So it’s sort of a Breadcrumbs/Notebook of Doom crossover event.

I do, I think, make a pretty good Snombie.

TA: What was at the most challenging part of making this diorama? Did you have help?

AU: I have an artist friend named Megan Vossler, and I lured her over with the promise of free wine and dioramas. She did the snow and all the stuff in the background. In other words, anything that looks good.

I, meanwhile, spent most of the night on the trees, which kept collapsing. It took me a while to figure out to support them with popsicle sticks and toothpicks. My son kindly agreed to eat a couple of popsicles immediately to help the cause.

TA: Is your cat forever traumatized?

AU: He’s already eaten the trees and most of the snow.

TA: What are you working on now?

AU: Getting the glitter out of the cat.

Thanks, Anne! Everyone, please come back tomorrow to see how a diorama by Lisa Pliscou, author of Young Jane Austen, came to glorious fruition!