Meet Donna Deines, author
- Mikel Kelly
- The Times - Features
This Tigard woman has started over several times, the last one resulting in a new career writing children's books
Donna Deines of Tigard is no stranger to starting over.
She did it three decades ago, when she found herself a divorced single mother of two with no career - so she joined the Army National Guard, and that eventually turned into a dual position with the U.S. Air Force, from which she retired 26 years later.
Then she began a new career, with the Arizona Department of Corrections, where she spent another seven years before her second retirement.
Her third big 'start-over' came after the death of her mother in 2009. Wanting to be nearer her five grandchildren - they all lived in the Portland area - she sold her house in Arizona and moved here.
And - oh, yeah - between that second and third one, she decided to try being a writer of children's books.
'I have written since I was 15 years old,' explains the 65-year-old, adding that she always got encouragement from her mom about her writing. When she read a story called 'The Remarkable Red Rock,' says Deines, 'She said to me, 'You've got to promise me that someday you'll publish this book.'
Following the end of her second career, and the death of her mother, she realized she not only had that promise hanging over her head, but she also had the time to write.
'So, I decided I was going to do this in my retirement.'
She sent off her story, about a boy named Timothy with a dog named Blackey to Tate Publishing and Enterprises in Oklahoma and hunkered down to wait for bad news. It didn't take long before she heard back.
'So, I got my first letter from them, and I thought, 'Oh great, here's my first rejection.' But it said, 'Congratulations, we'll publish this book.''
As easy as that, she became a published writer.
'I like the name'
She followed up 'Red Rock' with a second 'Timothy Adventure,' this one called 'Spirits From the Past.'
The first book was 64 pages. The second one is a bit longer, at 76 pages. Both are technically short stories, but small, paperback format, beefed up by black and white drawings of the stories' characters, makes for nifty kid-size books.
The publisher has given Deines (pronounced dine-us) plenty of opportunity to have her say about the books' graphics, the look of the characters, etc., and has shown a willingness to help promote them, too, so she has been thrilled with the relationship.
'And,' she adds with pride, 'I'm working on my third one.'
So, where did her main character, Timothy, come from?
'In my head,' says Deines, admitting she kind of based him on her oldest son. 'For some reason, I like the name Timothy.'
She set the stories in the late 1920s, after the end of World War I, she explains, because it was 'a time when everybody was getting back on their feet.'
That's kind of important, for the old-fashioned values espoused in the books.
'This is like teaching children responsibility, trust, and that you've got to have faith.'
The Timothy stories, she says, 'come from what my kids did when they were growing up,' but she also lets her imagination come up with things - some of which she gets 'in my dreams.' The mystical characters of Zigzag and Thunderbolt, for instance, came 'from a dream.'
The third Timothy book may be the last of that series, says Deines. 'I'm just starting it,' she says, but she thinks it will end with this one. 'Then I think I want to try something different, but I don't know what yet.'
'What's keeping you?'
Originally from Pennsylvania, Deines was born in Pittsburgh, and her parents lived in Clarion, Pa. She attended the University of Arizona, then earned a bachelor of science from Southern Illinois University.
Her two sons gave her five grandchildren: Meghan, Colten and Henry by son Mark, and Brandon and Nick by son Brian - all of whom live in Sherwood.
The books are dedicated to the grandchildren.
The simple decision to move here from Arizona was not an easy one, she confesses. As much as she wished to be closer to her grandkids, it took some encouragement from her brother Bill to get her off the dime.
'What's keeping you,' he asked her, and she didn't have much of an answer. He's the one who convinced her, she admits, that the worst that could happen is you regret the move and decide to just move back.
We do often build obstacles for ourselves, she agrees, even staying in jobs or marriages that aren't good for us, thanks to fear, or simple inertia.
'The worst thing you can do is have a job that makes you miserable,' she says, adding, 'If you don't try it, you'll never know. That's my father's quote.'
She now knows she made the right choice. She has a promising new career - and all of her family members (with the exception of Bill, who she stays in touch with by email) area just down the road.
Deines only spends a couple of hours at a time actually writing. 'I get tired of it,' she admits, but she adds that she's having a good time.
'I'm not making that much money, and I don't really care to make a lot. I'm not looking to be a millionaire. I just want to make people happy.'
'I told the Lord that I have a lot of things to do,' she says with a laugh. 'So you can take me when I'm 100.'