Daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and now me…
I was born in the bustling city of Zagreb, Croatia. It was my sister Sherry’s 8th birthday. My brother Tony was seven. My sister and I shared more than a birthday. We both shared a love of books and a dream to become writers.
When I was 18 months old, my parents left us behind in the former communist Yugoslavia and escaped to Germany. A year later, my aunt helped me and my siblings attempt to illegally cross the closed border to join our parents. We were caught and returned to our grandmother in Zagreb. Ten months later our family rejoined and we sailed away to Canada for a better life. My Tata had $10 in his pocket, spoke 25 English words and hardly knew anyone in here.
Living in the Greater Toronto Area, we moved repeatedly in search of the Canadian dream – a better life. As the family story teller, my Tata kept our spirits alive by feeding us a steady diet of tales from the old country.
During those early years, my lowest point was starting kindergarten, knowing not a word of English. My sister changed my name from Darka to Dianne—an English name. The height of my youth: I won the 6th grade speech contest. The saddest day of my life: March 27, 1995 – the day my sister died.
At 17 years old, I married my husband, Ante — a recent Croatian immigrant to Canada. This summer we will celebrate 42 years of marriage.
In 1975, my son Michael was born. I was 18 years old. In 1977 I reached for my dream of writing and was accepted into the Institute of Children’s Literature. My daughter, Angela was born in 1978 and my dream was put on hold for more than 30 years.
I raised my two children and my husband’s niece, Susan. In 1980, at 12 years old, she came from Croatia to live with us. Together, my husband and I built a successful business. We are blessed with five wonderful, energetic grandchildren.
I studied interior design and accounting at Sheridan College to aid the family construction business. As my children grew up, I wanted to work with special needs children. I studied at Mohawk College and graduated as an Educational Assistant with sign language. I worked full time with special needs children and teens for approximately 10 years and shared my love of stories.
As an adult student, I went on to study at McMaster University part-time. After giving care to my aging mother, I recognized how short life is and started to pursue my dream of writing. I applied for my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at Vermont College of Fine Arts and was accepted in the Writing for Children and Young Adults program. I recently graduated in July 2016 with my MFA, only a few months before I will be turning 60.
My journey to this point has been quite an adventure, and just like the turtle, I am still on the slow, steady path to become a published writer.