A Texas State alumna is inspiring readers of all ages with engaging stories and colorful characters in both her adult novellas and middle-grade books.
Diana López, an award-winning novelist who earned her master’s from Southwest Texas State in 1999, began her writing career while teaching at a San Antonio middle school. It was while she was teaching when she became interested in pursuing a master’s degree in writing, after a conversation with the school’s principal.
She eventually applied to and was accepted into Southwest Texas State’s creative writing program. Shortly after, she published her first book, “Sofia’s Saints”, a novel following the life of the fictional character Sofia Loren Sauceda and her journey to finding life’s answers while selling her art of wooden imprints of saints and working as a waitress.
“My interest in writing for young people kind of was born from my experience as a teacher,” López said. “In a school that was 96% Hispanic, students were always like, ‘Where are the books about us?'”
Upon receiving her Masters of Fine Arts, she returned to middle school teaching. López says returning inspired her to write books geared toward younger audiences.
She wanted to write stories and characters her students could relate to — stories and characters that would motivate them to read. At that time, there were not many books that showcased the Mexican-American and Hispanic culture her students grew up with; she wanted to be the person to change that for them.
When it comes to writing novels young readers can relate to, López says she pays attention to what young people are interested in and keeps up with them, especially her nieces and nephews and the students from the schools she visits.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from my years of teaching middle school and the things that made [my students] laugh [or] their preoccupations,” she said. “I love it when I get to have lunch with the kids, and I just listen to them talk.”
López has won many awards and received a great deal of praise for her middle-grade novels such as “Confetti Girl”, “Lucky Luna” and “Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel”. In 2017, López also wrote the novel adaptation of the Pixar Animation Studio hit film “Coco.” The book, “Coco: A Story about Music, Shoes, and Family,” is a retelling of the film’s story including scenes not featured in the movie.
For López, books have served as something she can’t imagine life without. She says the primary goal of her writing is for young readers to read her stories and develop a love for reading they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
As a writer and journalist, López’s friend and fellow Texas State alumna, Christine Granados, also believes that diversity is important in fiction writing, making what López is able to do so special.
“When you go into fiction, it’s all [about] emotion [and] your experiences,” Granados said. “It’s really important to have a diversity of writers in writing fiction, writing nonfiction [and in] writing, period.”
She and López became friends when Dagoberto Gilb, an American writer, edited and published “Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature”, a book exploring the history of Mexican literature in Texas. Granados and López joined a traveling band of writers who read for the anthology. While on tour, Granados says she gravitated toward López’s calming presence when things got hectic.
While she loves López’s adult novels, Granados says she is happy to see López writing young adult and middle-grade novels.
Literary curator of Texas State’s Wittliff Collection Steve Davis is also a published writer, alumnus and a fan of López and her writing. Davis has been working at the Wittliff Collection for 25 years and initially heard about López when she was in graduate school and had just published “Sofia’s Saints”—a book he loves.
Davis says he is no literary critic but recognizes López as extremely gifted.
“Diana is an exquisitely talented writer,” Davis said. “She has such deep empathy for her characters, and they just feel like living, breathing people when you read their stories. Her prose just kind of shimmers with light. It’s not ostentatious, but it’s direct, and it’s very eloquent [and] well written.”
Currently, López lives in her hometown of Corpus Christi and teaches creative writing at the University of Houston-Victoria.
To learn more about López and keep up with her upcoming events and new books, visit her website.