An author of 125 career-focused titles, Diane Reeves writes career books for students of all ages. She shows them what they can be when they grow up. It all started when she was helping her own children find books to explore future career options. She wants kids to be able to link to their own interests, skills, and career options. She lays out the successful path that brought her to this awesome career she now pursues.
1) Thank you so much for your time! I know you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what early experiences brought you to your specific career path?
As an author and book producer, I have made a career out of writing career books. With more than 125 career-focused titles to my credit (as either author and/or producer) my work is all about helping students of all ages figure out what they want to be when they grow up.
It all started when I was looking for “career” books to share with my own children. There were plenty of simple, community-helper/day-in-a-life books for younger kids and I found some about what to major in when you go to college. But I wanted something to help middle-grade kids link their own interests and skills to career options.
When I couldn’t find anything, I put together a proposal, shopped it around, and landed a contract to do a 12-book series called Career Ideas for Kids Who Like…Since then the book ideas keep coming. Now early career exploration has become a national education trend so I’m still at it and loving the challenge of finding new ways to engage students.
2) Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you in your career or education?
Years ago, a poster changed my career trajectory. It was advertising the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver and caught my eye as I walked into a public library and marked a turning point for my career. Something clicked when I saw the robust list of speakers and subjects that would be covered. It sounded amazing so I applied the very next day.
Truth be told, the very idea that I could meet big name publishers and editors in my own hometown broke through an unquestioned myth I had been telling myself since childhood. Always an avid reader, I had somehow concluded that only people who lived in New York City could be authors and publishers. As an adult, I’d never had reason to challenge the notion until I saw that poster.
The summer program proved to be more than I dared to hope for. I learned so much about every aspect of the publishing business – and I landed my first contract to author a book!
3) Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting out on your career? What lesson did you learn from that?
This will date me, but personal computers were new to the scene when I started my career. When my husband and I bought our first computer, I needed a project to motivate me to learn how to use it. I saw yet another poster at the computer dealer advertising a desktop publishing system called Ventura and decided to use it to create a directory of child care options in Colorado Springs. The plan was to create a product I could sell to recoup the cost of the computer and learn a new marketable skill at the same time.
Little did I know how complicated it was to use early desktop publishing programs! Frustrating as it was at times, the idea worked. A friend and I, both expecting second babies, waddled around town selling ads. I published Colorado Springs Guide to Child Care in 1987 – delivering the project to the printer a day before my friend and I delivered daughters just hours apart.
This project and this skill paid off in other ways as it led to new opportunities in child advocacy organizations and paved the way for me to start my own communications business.
4) What are some of the most interesting and exciting community projects are you working on now?
Given current conditions, one of the most hopeful community projects I have especially enjoyed is volunteering at a mass COVID vaccination site. The process was surprisingly efficient and effective! It felt good to do something – anything! –to help protect my community during the pandemic.
I was also invited to join the board of directors for the American Book Producers Association. Before COVID, the meetings were always held in New York City, so it wasn’t’ possible to participate. Now Zoom made it possible to join colleagues from anywhere and I enjoy exploring ways to make good books happen with my fellow book producers.
Of course, one of my favorite pastimes during the COVID shutdown has been to volunteer with the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work advisory board. Instead of taking kids to work this year, the event has evolved into a digital format where we will bring workplaces to the kids. It has been fascinating to be part of rethinking an international event that typically reaches millions of people.
5) What would tell your younger self?
Coming from a generation in which options were still limited for women, I would be thrilled to tell my younger self that “you can be anything you want to be!” That advice comes with the caveat that you must be willing to do what it takes to prepare yourself to do that career but when you make the right choice for yourself the preparation is all part of the fun.
6) You are a successful person. Can you share some tips on how young people today can get ahead?
One of the books I am currently working on is called Don’t Go to College…Until You Read this Book. Don’t worry I am not trying to keep students out of college! My point is to encourage well-informed students to attend college with purpose after careful consideration of all the exciting postsecondary education alternatives that are emerging nationwide. College isn’t the one-size-fits-all option that it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes it’s the right choice. Other times there are better options. It horrifies me to think about how often this golden educational opportunity is squandered by a clueless lack of intention. Don’t even get me started on all the wasted money…
7) Connecting one’s education with a future career path is the spirit of “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” and something to which I’m very committed. Can you tell us how businesses, community leaders, educators, and parents can help our society educate children best?
Anything we can do to help students link what they learn in school to what they need to know to succeed is valuable. Like adults, children don’t know what they don’t know. Sparking ideas and encouraging curiosity about careers can help inspire dreams for their futures.
8) Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Hands down, the Publishing Institute was it for me. It was by far the most meaningful educational experience of my life. It was where my career dreams first took root and my dreams started to unfold. Who knew a shy little girl from the suburbs of Detroit could grow up to be an author!
9) Because of the role you play in the community, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire “good news” what would be your headline and 3 talking points?
All Students Find Bright Futures!
- Productivity soars around the world as young people find success in well-chosen careers
- World problems like hunger, poverty, injustice, and illiteracy diminish as a new generation imagines creative solutions
- Opportunity breaks through all racial, economic, and demographic barriers
10) How can people connect with you?
Diane Lindsey Reeves