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Interview With a Writer: Diana Holquist

Our Writer of the Month shows that ordinary stories can shine

Critically Acclaimed Writer

Diana Holquist is an award-winning writer who has written and published six books. Her work has been translated into five languages and received starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly. Diana won the New York Book Festival award for Best Novel and has been a Golden Heart, RITA, and Reader’s Choice Award finalist.

A graduate of Columbia University and a former advertising copywriter, today Diana lives in Philadelphia with her husband, the left-behind belongings of two children, and one elderly cat. 

DianaHolquistWriterBlogPhotoCaption_DianaAndHerBrotherPeterin1973ShowingAnEarlyandAbidingLoveforCatsDiana and her brother Peter in 1973, showing an early and abiding love for cats. 


I’ve had the privilege to tell amazing stories involving famous people and heroic deeds, but the most memorable stories are often those of people living what might be considered prosaic lives


ST: Whose biography would you most like to write?

Yours! Really. I mean it. People get scared away from writing their stories for so many trivial reasons. If I can convince even one person to stop listening to those negative voices and listen to their own voice, then my work here is done.


ST: Why do you enjoy writing for StoryTerrace?

With StoryTerrace, there is tremendous variety. No project is anything like the last. It’s constantly fascinating and challenging.


ST: If you were writing a StoryTerrace book of your life, what would be the title and why?

And Then What Happened?

Preserving the Extraordinary Tales of “Ordinary” People


ST: What is the most memorable story you've told as a writer?

I’ve had the privilege to tell amazing stories involving famous people and heroic deeds, but the most memorable stories are often those of people living what might be considered prosaic lives. One of my favorites was about a woman growing up in Brooklyn: catching the A-train every morning for school, Friday-night Shabbat dinners with her extended family, and dating boys at the JFK airport lounge. It was a hilarious, touching, and unforgettable snapshot of a “regular” family in a place and time that no longer exists.


ST: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A purring cat. A roaring fire. A bag of M&Ms: regular, not peanut. And a novel that a friend has slipped into my purse while whispering, this will change your life. 


ST: What is your biggest fear?

Computer crashes.


ST: Consider your life story. What's the name of the chapter you're in right now?

“Waiting for Grandchildren”


ST: What's something that people would be surprised to learn about you?

When I’m not writing on a computer, I write with a pointed copperplate pen dipped in ink. My mother is a professional calligrapher, and so I’ve studied calligraphy all my life. When other kids were babysitting or slinging burgers, I was addressing wedding invitations and writing place cards. Also, I can juggle.


ST: What is your most treasured possession?

I don’t have treasured possessions. Last year, my husband and I got rid of most of our belongings, rented out our house, and traveled around Europe for a year. I had one suitcase and it was mostly full of books that I left behind wherever I was when I finished them. It was glorious.


DianaHolquistWriterBlogPhotoCaption_Dianain1972EngrossedInHerFavoritePastimeDiana in 1972, engrossed in her favorite pastime


ST: Who are your favorite writers?

Today: Charles Dickens for his character portraits; Kazuo Ishiguro for his narrative elegance; and Jesmyn Ward for everything.

Tomorrow: Ask me again. The list will be completely different.


ST: What fictional character do you most identify with?

Max, the little boy in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. 


ST: Who is your hero?

My kids. Man, it’s hard out there.


Lightning Round!

ST: Salty or sweet?

Chocolate with sea salt. Yum!

ST: Introvert or extrovert?


ST: Paperback or e-reader?

I don’t go anywhere without my Kindle.

ST: Summer or winter?

I just lived for a few months in Helsinki, Finland and it was heaven on earth.

ST: X-ray vision or time travel?

I’m a writer. Watching is what I do.


If Diana's passion for telling people’s unique stories has inspired you to get to work on your own biography,  get in touch to schedule a free consultation, or sign up for our newsletter  to hear more from our growing pool of writers. 


Written by Elizabeth Trach
Image credits: by Diana Holquist

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