Goldfish Crackers and Four-Course Dinners: Talking Dreams and Motherhood with Diane Tarantini

Diane Face2Diane Tarantini—you can sing her name to the tune of “Gary, Indiana” from The Music Man. And she’s the kind of person who would have a name you could sing to. With her vivacious blue-green eyes, be-ringed fingers, and quirky wardrobe, Diane is excited about life in general, and especially about the two callings that she loves the most—being a mother and a writer.

All of her three children have their own flairs, which Diane readily describes.

“Josephine Joy (Josy), 24, graduated college and married in May 2015. She teaches third grade and plays the flute beautifully. She and her husband plan to go to Nepal this summer for a one-month mission’s trip serving in a house of prayer there.

“Then there’s Cody Brook who will be 21 in May. A junior psychology major at Wagner College on Staten Island, N.Y., Cody lives with her rat, Hazel Grace, in an apartment. She is currently working two waitressing jobs, tutoring other students, and has a radio gig at the college station.

“And then there’s Tre Antonio—he’s 16. He goes to Young Life (faith-based youth group) two times a week, karate three times a week, pole-vaulting practice four days a week, and is in the marching band. When asked recently what he wanted to do in life, Tre said, ‘I want to make things for NASA.’ Aerospace Engineering it is then.”

Motherhood was an unexpected adventure for Diane.

As much as she loves her children now, motherhood was an unexpected adventure for Diane.

“I never wanted to be a mother. I didn’t play with dolls. I didn’t babysit. My biological clock never ticked or tocked. But I consented to have one for my husband, Tony, who wanted many. And then daughter #2 arrived. And then our son was born. I was 29 when I became a mother, and I remember thinking a few months later, ‘Why did we wait so long to do this?’

“I remember the time when Josy was maybe three, and I looked at her in the car’s rear-view mirror and thought, ‘She’s my best friend. A three-year-old is my best friend. Who would ever have thought that?'”

But it’s not as if being a mother hasn’t required sacrifices of her.

“The first thing you give up is your body. You will probably have various levels of discomfort—morning sickness, migraines, incredible fatigue, indigestion, and swelling of hands and feet. Sleep was a huge loss for me. I remember thinking upon occasion, This is how they torture people—sleep deprivation.

“I never dreamed I would a) have children or b) choose to be a stay-at-home mom. But only two months after Josy was born, I decided there was no way I could allow someone else to . . . spend more time with her a day than I did. So I guess I sacrificed my dream of a high-powered career. [But] I have never regretted my decision.”

Writing came along a little later in Diane’s life. In college, she was a journalism/ advertising major and thought she would move to Manhattan to be an account executive in an ad agency. Instead, she worked in advertising in Washington, D.C., and then as an office manager for an interior design firm in Cincinnati, until her first child was born. Two years later she moved back to West Virginia where she currently lives.

There is SOMETHING I’m supposed to do with my life.

“All along I DID feel conflicted about being a stay-at-home mother. I have ALWAYS felt there is SOMETHING I’m supposed to do with my life.

“When the kids were young, Tony and I participated in a Bible study called The Journey of Desire by John Eldridge. Studying the workbook, I came to realize that the SOMETHING I was supposed to do was somehow related to writing. So, what to do about that?

“I saw in a magazine (Today’s Christian Woman) an ad for The Christian Writers Guild. I researched the two-year program and ended up signing up for it. It was a 2-year correspondence course with assignments due, via email, every two weeks.
Not long after that, I applied for a one-year spot as a ‘food writer’ at our local newspaper. I joined [a writing] group and attended [a writing] conference that summer. I came alive that weekend! These people were like me. They spoke my language.

“I knew the day would come when my children would ‘fly the nest’ and I’d need to be prepared. So after I graduated The Christian Writers Guild, I subscribed to Writers Digest magazine, read craft books, and attended writing conferences. In addition, I entered (even won prizes) in writing contests. And I also formed relationships with other writers.”

Once her children were older, Diane took a big step toward furthering her dream of writing. When a friend posted on Facebook about the fabulous experience she was having in her low-residency Master of Fine Arts program, Diane messaged her with questions. After fully researching her options, she applied and was accepted into the MFA program at Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C. In June of 2015, Diane graduated with her MFA in creative nonfiction writing. Like motherhood, the process of chasing her dream of being a writer had sacrifices and challenges as well.

“I wanted to show my kids that you’re never too old . . . to go after your dreams.”

“As much as I didn’t ever think I wanted to be a mother, once I had children I gave 120% to the task. The hardest part of my low-residency program was the four, 10-day residencies in South Carolina. I was pretty sure the home front would fall apart without me. I prepared and froze meals and printed out detailed 10-page documents for Tony, telling him how to take care of the kids and our many pets.

“It was scary to go back to school in my late 40s. I had to use my brain in a way it hadn’t been used in decades. My critical project during my third semester was the most difficult academic task I have ever done.

“But I had another reason, beyond my own education, for getting an MFA. I wanted to show my kids that you’re never too old . . . to go after your dreams.”

Diane Wedding2

Motherhood and writing intersect for Diane in many ways.

“I was at a reading one night, chatting with a group of local writers when an older man who works at the university commented, ‘Diane, she just writes “family stories.”’ He said it with such scorn, I was furious. Not even hurt, just mad. He said it like family stories don’t matter, but I know otherwise.

“I blogged faithfully for more than three years. I would say a good 50% of the posts were about our family. So for me, being a mother has provided a lot of material for stories.”

As Diane’s children grow up and move on, she increasingly has more time to pursue her writing—and to expand her vision.

“I used to think all I wanted was to be the author of a published book. I’ve tweaked that vision lately though. I want to be a ‘communicator.’ I believe that will involve writing, blogging, and speaking.”

Today Diane strives to build her platform and find a literary agent interested in representing her various works-in-progress. A new blog is also in the works. But for now, check out a few of her published pieces.

“The Woman in Red” took third place in the Writer’s Digest competition several years ago in the inspirational category.

“Killing Her Softly” won second place in a nonfiction competition (my state’s, but still).

“Black Lungs” is a very popular story of mine. A more edited version of it went on to place very well in two contests: The Appalachian category in the West Virginia Writer’s competition and also second place in the West Virginia Fiction Competition.

“Playing Favorites” is one of my “family stories,” published by Pithead Chapel, an online literary journal.

I’ve recently been asked to write for the website Grace and Such.

You have to feed that vision, even if it’s goldfish crackers, not four-course dinners,

For women currently juggling their dreams and motherhood, Diane has sound advice.

IMG_3600“To create life along with the Creator is a great privilege and a fantastic adventure. [But] you need to identify your gifts, talents, abilities, and even as you mother, begin to nurture your dreams. And if you can’t pursue them 100% right now, identify small ways to stay connected to your dream.

“The Bible says, ‘Without a vision, the people perish.’ I believe it. I think you have to feed that vision, even if it’s goldfish crackers, not four-course dinners, so that you stay ‘fed.'”

 

 

Author’s Note: This interview was first published on Do blog.

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