Friday, July 2, 2010

INTERVIEW: Diane Falanga - Interior Designer / Author of "P.S. I Hate It Here! Kids' Letters From Camp"

Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing their views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Diane Falanga. She's is the Interior designer founder of Heart Homes Initiative Designs for Dignity (a non-profit organization providing furniture for those in need). She’s a mother of two and the author of number one book this summer “P.S. I Hate It Here! Kids' Letter’s From Camp.”

Her new book is a collection of one hundred fifty real-life, laugh-out-loud letters from kids. Ms. Falanga was inspired to write the book after receiving a very entertaining letter from her then eight-year-old daughter, Bianca complaining about her chores. It went into hysterical detail about how her camp counselors made her “the maid, sweeper and scraper.”

This book is amazingly funny and perfect for the whole family. File it in the category of truth is stranger than fiction. You could not make this up!!! If you've had kids at camp, it will bring a smile to your face. That's how good Ms. Falanga’s book is... packed full of real, laugh-out-loud letters, from real kids who will now appreciate the sage old camp song… “Camp Granada” in a whole new light!

Ooh ahhh, sunburn pain, yes, its summertime – Summer of angst: While you send your kids to camp thinking they’re living it up, making friends and getting active, the experience may also be a test of their ability to survive outside the cocoon of parental supervision. This is also the time of year marked by mosquitoes, lightning bugs or also called fireflies - those small blinking creatures that lights up nights or illuminating earth’s summer nights at home or at a camp.

Ms. Falanga’s collection of real letters written by children ages eight to sixteen to their parents about their adventures at summer camp is laugh-out-loud funny and will have readers reminiscing about their own camp days. Every letter in the book will make you smile:) “P.S. I Hate It Here: Kids’ Letters From Camp” really captures a childhood experience shared by millions of kids dealing with growing pains at camp.

After sharing her story with her friends, sending e-mails across the country, and working with camps nationwide, and the American Camp Association®, Ms. Falanga was able to gather hundreds for this collection for her book.

For every parent who’s ever received a letter from a homesick child or anybody who’s ever written their parents with crazy requests from the upper bunk, P.S. I Hate It Here: Kids’Letters From Camp will delight with hilarious and heartwarming real-life letters.

If you’re the parent of a camper, you will recognize the unedited quality of what kids write to home speaking directly from the heart. Campers have no appreciation for how their raw thoughts will be received, analyzed, critiqued, digested, read, re-read, and re-re-read as much for what they don’t say, as for what they do. While some kids may bitterly complain about hardships and homesickness, all the imaginable scenarios, cabin lice inspection, bunkmates grinding teeth at night while sleeping, to breaking the bad news about a retainer lost while canoeing on the lake.

These letters reveal that kids are wittier and more sophisticated than their parents might ever have known. And that the experience of being away from home for the first time creates hilarious and lasting memories touching a common cord in all of us.

E.I. Please tell your young readers about your book “P.S. I Hate It: Kids’ Letters From Camp.” What was it that sparked your imagination? What were your favorite aspects about this famous latest release summer book for kids and parents as well?

Diane Falanga: When my 8 year old daughter, Bianca, went to overnight camp for the first time - she really thought she was ready, emotionally. In her case, 8 was just a bit too young. She felt the effects of homesickness pretty quickly. However, she really was able to vent beautifully on paper. (A budding writer!) Knowing she was okay and on her way back from the week-long camp by the time I rec'd the letters ... I was definitely able to find some humor in her homesickness. She has developed a wonderful gift at a young age (now she's 12) of being able to laugh at herself and move on!

E.I. You've compiled a hundred-fifty captivating letters from different kids that it’s so remarkably hilarious. How did you decide what level of details your readers will accept? How does your creative process work that your make your readers definitely clamor for more page after page after page......

Diane Falanga: I was definitely looking for a certain voice in each of the letters. Without knowing most of the letter writers personally - I needed to feel a real connection to the kids, their humor, sense of self, sense of family. It was important to me that I related to their voices. I found each of the kids very affable - like people I'd want to sit down with and really get to know.

E.I. How do you imagine audience specially the parents as you are writing this book? Do you try to do outlines and brainstorming? Do you have sheets of newsprint covered in a story boards all over your walls thinking which letters comes first or last?

Diane Falanga: When the letters started to come in - I separated them in giant piles. ( My daughter was a wonderful help to me, too. She and I share such a similar sense of humor and comedic timing - that she was able to know which letters would spark my interest and make me laugh.) Those that made it into the giant piles had the "voice" qualities that I mentioned in question 4. It became very clear to me quickly how they also be categorized ... those categories became chapters from the book: Just To Let You Know, Camp Ailments, What I Really Need, Guess What, Get Me Outta Here, I Lke Camp A Lot, This Is My Supper Letter.

E.I. How many years of research did you do to gather those letters from different kids, to create this wonderful summer book? How did you overcome these challenges?

Diane Falanga: Once I had the deal from Abrams Books NY I had about 7 months in which to collect 150 letters. I read through more than 3500 to find those gems. Camps around the country posted my query for letters on their websites and in their newsletters. Friends emailed friends across the globe ... the letters just started to pour in.

E.I. What is your advice to parents whose children’s at camp for the summer? Should they write their children every day and should they tell them in their letters any funny news from home so they don’t feel they’re left out?

Diane Falanga: While I'm absolutely no expert on this topic, I will say that I learned a lot about kids away at overnight camp after collecting and reading thousands of their letters. I would advise parents to prepare their kids in advance so they know they might get a bit homesick at first. Assure them that this feeling dissipates quickly and that most kids only feel this at the very beginning of a camp session. Advise kids to take pen to paper and write home often - get those feelings out and then move on! Suggest to the kids that they Read P.S. I Hate It Here Kids' Letters From Camp before they go so they know they are not alone in their feelings and experiences. Camp is a wonderful rite of passage and many emotions are so universal.

E.I. What should parents do when letters of their kids from camp starts to come in? Should they try to simply enjoy in their minds that their kids spending the summer away at camp will all be perfectly fine and that kids will get over their summer angst away from home and their electronics?

Diane Falanga: Save and cherish those letters! Most camps don't allow any kind of electronic gadgetry - so this is your time to relish a hand-written note (not a text, IM, tweet, email, etc.)! Pack up the kids with plenty of stationery, pens and self-addressed stamped envelopes!

E.I. And finally what’s next with Diane Falanga? Can you give your fans a sneak peek about your schedule promoting this book or do you have any upcoming new book in back burner?

Diane Falanga: Would love if there's an opportunity for a P.S. I Hate It Here Kids' Letters From Camp volume TWO! This project was such a joy that I'd love the chance to start over again!

Ms. Falanga, Thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure to have you.

Photo of Diane Falanga by Brian McConkey
VIDEO w/ Diane Falanga "P.S. I Hate It Here: Kids Letters From Camp"
To learn more about Diane Falanga, please visit her website
To purchase her book, please visit AMAZON and Barnes & Noble

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