Middle school can be remembered with both fondness and dread, and Erin Dionne '97 knows how to weave a narrative from that contradiction.
Over the past two years, Dionne has written a pair of popular books—Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies and The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet—that feature young girls whose amusing struggles have resonated with a growing audience of devoted readers.
Her eighth-grade heroines encounter a series of embarrassing, but enlightening, situations—one is entered into a beauty pageant without her knowledge, while the other finds herself in the same class as her precocious seven-year-old sister.
Though her stories feature what Dionne calls "emotional truths" drawn from her middle school days, her aim is not merely to recount her own experiences. "It's all about creating interesting characters," she says, "and following them so readers can learn from them, grow with them, and ultimately take away what's relevant to their own lives."
Her third novel, Elsie Wyatt
Hates Loves Marching Band, will hit bookstores in fall 2011.
Below, Dionne tries her hand at nonfiction:
What is the most satisfying moment in your professional life?
Seeing my first book on bookstore shelves.
In your personal life?
The birth of my daughter, Charlotte Poe, in 2008.
What is your best BC memory?
There are so many good ones—from traveling with the band to bowl games and the NCAA tournament to hanging out with my roommates in Edmonds Hall.
What is your next goal?
To write two more books this summer.
What is one thing everyone should do while at BC?
Take a class outside of your comfort zone as a junior or senior.
How have you changed since graduation?
I hope I haven't changed too much! I think I'm less anxious about what the future holds. I've found that if you work hard and are a good person, everything typically turns out okay.
Why did you decide to attend BC?
My family lived in California when I applied to colleges, and I wanted to go to a Division I school on the East Coast. When I stepped onto campus, I thought, "This is what college is supposed to look like."
What is the secret to success?
Perseverance and taking risks. Without taking risks (and being willing to fail), you'll never realize your dreams.
Where is your favorite spot on the Heights?
Bapst Library. It's everything a university library should be—beautiful, quiet, inspirational, and Gothic.
What would you do if you were BC president for a day?
Spend time on the Dustbowl talking to students and boost the budget of the bands program!
What was your first job?
I was a marketing assistant in the college division of Houghton Mifflin.
Where did you live freshman year?
Hardey 119. Yay, Newton Campus!
How do you relax?
Reading to—and snuggling with—my daughter.
What was your favorite BC class?
It's a tie: "The History of Horror" with Professor Raymond McNally and "Children's Literature" with Professor Bonnie Rudner.
What do you look forward to each day?
Spending time with my family and reading a good book.
What was your favorite BC activity?
Marching band and pep band. I played in both groups for all four years and met my best friends in the world through the bands program.
What is something your friends don't know about you?
I'm pretty open . . . but most people don't know I can recite the lyrics to just about any 1980s hair band song!
How much can you sing of the BC fight song?
Every word . . . I even know the "here men are men" version! (Thanks to the marching band.)
Who would play you in the film version of your life?
Hmmm . . . Tina Fey, maybe? My husband suggested Maggie Gyllenhaal. Take your pick.
What was the best meal at the BC dining hall?
Corcoran Commons was brand new when I was at BC—it was the "Lower Campus Dining Facility." They made a mean stir fry.