Dorian Cirrone worked as a door-to-door survey taker, a dance teacher, a choreographer, a feature writer and assistant city editor for a daily newspaper, and a college English instructor before finding her true passion as a writer for children and teens. She is the author of The First Last Day, a middle-grade novel which will be published in June 2016. She has also written the young adult novels, Prom Kings and Drama Queens and Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You, which was named an ALA Popular Paperback and made the following lists: Amelia Bloomer List for Feminist Fiction, New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age, and BUST magazine’s “100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader.” She has also written two Lindy Blues chapter books: The Missing Silver Dollar and The Big Scoop. Her poems, shorts stories, and essays for children and adults have been published in literary journals and anthologies. Dorian holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and has taught writing at the university level and at many workshops and conferences. She lives in South Florida and is the Assistant Regional Advisor for Florida’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
Here I am in Mrs. Greenspan’s third grade class where I got to be the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker – mainly because I was the only one in the class who already owned a tutu. It was pretty much the peak of my elementary school career. Around this time I not only decided I wanted to be a ballerina, but I also realized how much I liked writing, especially in rhyme. Not long ago, I found my old third grade class newspaper and learned that not only had I plagiarized a poem my uncle had recited to me, but it wasn’t even a very good poem. Thankfully, my uncle did not sue me.
Back then, I thought I had a shot at being a ballerina – ankle socks and all. Even though I loved poetry, I never thought of being a writer. I find this interesting now because being a ballerina is probably a hundred times harder than being a writer – and being a writer is really really hard. Especially if you keep repeating the same words over and over. I continued writing in junior high for the school newspaper. One of my regular assignments was to interview the Boy and Girl of the Month. I distinctly remember writing a lot of: “Her favorite food is pizza.” Or, “His favorite sport is baseball.” Amazingly, I later became a journalist.
Here I am in my senior year in high school. Similar to Emily in Prom Kings and Drama Queens, I did not go to the prom. My reason, however, was not as altruistic as Emily’s. Back in those days you had to have a date to go to the prom, which meant you had to be asked by a boy. Can you believe that? No groups of friends going together. No girl power. It was like the prom was Noah’s Ark!
During my senior year of high school, I began teaching ballet, tap, and jazz. I continued to do that for several years while in college. When I stopped teaching dance, I got a job as a proofreader/typist at a local newspaper. My mother had forced me to take typing in high school. Not because she thought I’d be a writer, but because she thought it was a skill I could “fall back on.” I have to admit, it turned out to be one of the best things I did in high school. Since then I have never dissected another frog or proven another theorem, but I’ve still got mad typing skills.
At the newspaper, I worked my way up to feature writer, editorial page editor, and assistant city editor. One of the highlights of my journalism career was shaking hands with President Jimmy Carter at a small press conference for editorial page editors. He later lost re-election, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my fault.
Despite the excitement of working at a newspaper, my desire to write fiction grew. I went back to college and got an M.A. in English and then taught freshman composition as a Ph.D. student. Along the way, I had two children and struggled to write a dissertation and fiction at the same time. Fiction finally won and I abandoned my dissertation after about three chapters. By then I was pretty sure I wanted to be a writer and not a professor of English. A lot of what I learned in graduate school I use in my novels, so the time was not wasted.
I’m still writing fiction and I still like to rhyme, but I try to restrain myself. I live in South Florida with my husband, and I have two grown children, one of whom works in children’s publishing.
Links to interviews with Dorian: