Debut Author Snapshot: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Posted by Goodreads on August 1, 2011
Vanessa Diffenbaugh Experienced foster mother Vanessa Diffenbaugh has two passions: writing and children in need of a home. Her debut novel, The Language of Flowers, introduces the character Victoria Jones on her 18th birthday. Orphaned as an infant, Victoria spends her childhood bouncing from place to place, never adopted fully by a family. Now she must strike out on her own as a legal adult, bolstered only by an affinity for plants and the Victorian "language of flowers," in which every bloom has a unique meaning.

Diffenbaugh opened her home to foster children in 2005, and over the years she has witnessed firsthand how children "age out" of the system at 18. With little access to support or services, 25 percent become homeless and 25 percent become incarcerated within the first two years. Diffenbaugh's novel shares her in-depth knowledge of a flawed system and her hopes for young people who have never known love or a stable living situation. The author shares with Goodreads a snapshot of her with her husband, PK, and their family.


The Diffenbaugh family: (from left to right) PK Diffenbaugh, Donavan Ford, Chela Diffenbaugh, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Tre'von Lyle, Sharon Higgins, and Miles Diffenbaugh (photo credit: Tre'von Johnson).
Goodreads: Who or what inspired the character of Victoria?

Vanessa Diffenbaugh: Though Victoria is entirely fictional, I did draw inspiration in bits and pieces from foster children I have known. One young woman in particular, whom my husband and I mentored many years ago, was fiery and focused and distrusting and unpredictable in a manner similar to Victoria. Her history was intense: a number on her birth certificate where a name should have been, more foster homes than she could count. Still, she was resilient, beautiful, smart, and funny. We loved her completely, and she did her best to sabotage it over and over again. To this day my husband and I regret that we couldn't find a way to connect with her and become the stable parents she deserved.

GR: Why is the "language of flowers" an important communication tool in Victoria's life?

VD: Like many young people transitioning out of foster care, Victoria exists mainly on the periphery of society. So much is out of the scope of her understanding—how to get a job, how to make a friend, even how to have a conversation. But in the world of flowers, with their predictable growing habits and "nonnegotiable" meanings, Victoria feels safe, comfortable, even at home. All of this changes when she learns that there is more than one definition for the yellow rose—and then, through research, realizes there is more than one definition for almost every flower. She feels her grasp on the one aspect of life she believed to be solid dissolving away beneath her. In an effort to "reorder" the universe, Victoria begins to photograph and create her own dictionary, determined to never have a flower-inspired miscommunication. She decides to share that information with others—a decision that brings with it the possibility of love, connection, career, and community.

GR: Have you always wanted to write a novel?

VD: I've wanted to be a writer since I learned how to write. My second grade teacher excused me from spelling so that I would have half an hour every day to write a novel. I curled up in the classroom's loft with a binder full of lined paper and wrote a 22-page epic about twin one-and-a-half-year-old boys who build a boat with bubble gum and scraps from the dump and sail away to an island full of monkeys. I still kind of love my first "novel"!

GR: Please tell us about the recently launched Camellia Network, a nonprofit for young people leaving foster care.

VD: When I sold The Language of Flowers last year, I realized that the book could help rally awareness and support for youth transitioning out of foster care. I cofounded Camellia Network with my dear friend and brilliant strategist Isis Keigwin. Our idea is to try to impact the heart-wrenching outcomes of youth aging out of foster care by activating networks of citizens in every community to provide support for these young people as they go out into the world on their own. There are 20,000 youth facing this transition every year.


Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Language of Flowers -I read the book yesterday and I really enjoyed the book. Great writing for a first book. It was interesting reading about the foster child system. I love plants and flowers so I enjoyed her knowledge of everything. A great read!!


message 2: by Nasrin (new)

Nasrin Thank you Vanessa and thank you Goodreads for this interview :) I live in Ethiopia and it will take time until I can get the book to read. But I will read it ... The subject of this book is somehow also my subject as I am writing about and working with orphans and street children in Africa. It is so good to share thoughts and experiences ...


message 3: by Vanessa (last edited Aug 05, 2011 08:26AM) (new)

Vanessa Mary wrote: "Language of Flowers -I read the book yesterday and I really enjoyed the book. Great writing for a first book. It was interesting reading about the foster child system. I love plants and flowers so..." Thank you Mary! I appreciate it!


message 4: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Nasrin wrote: "Thank you Vanessa and thank you Goodreads for this interview :) I live in Ethiopia and it will take time until I can get the book to read. But I will read it ... The subject of this book is somehow..." Nasrin, Thank you! My parents in law helped start an orphanage in India. It is is tremendously hard and valuable work. Thank you for all the work you do.
Love, V


message 5: by Carol (new)

Carol Peace I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book and sent in a review. I found this a great read and can't wait to see if you write more.


message 6: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Thank you so much Carol! I will be writing more but am busy busy busy with the upcoming release. I am so happy you liked it.


message 7: by Linda (new)

Linda This is an excellent book. I was fortunate to receive "Language of Flowers" as an advanced copy and couldn't put it down. I gave it 5 stars and reviewed it right away. It has quickly become a favorite of mine, and have been giving it rave reviews at the library as I encourage our patrons to read this excellent book. Vanessa, I look forward to your next book and wish you much success on ...Flowers.


message 8: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Thank you so much Linda. I appreciate your wishes! Thank you so much for spreading the word. Hopefully, if my tour comes close, you will come to an event. Love, V


message 9: by Judy (new)

Judy Piette I read an Advance copy, at one sitting...I loved it, we have had two Foster children in our home ,along with our 5..a great experience. Your story brought back the memory ten fold. I have recommended this book to many friends. Thank you so much, I do hope to see you on tour. How can I find your schedule.
Thank you again, waiting for the next book.
Judy


message 10: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa Thank you so much Judy. I am so glad you enjoyed the book. Also, thank you for being a foster family; I am happy to hear we share in having a great experience. Am I right that you had 7 kids! Wow.


message 11: by Godwin (new)

Godwin Nev I would like grab the copy of "language of flowers", I'm resident in nigeria. Pls, team Goodread should help.


message 12: by Va (new)

Va Vanessa, I work in a public library and just put your book on hold. Can't wait to read it. I wonder if you've ever heard of PAL Mission? It's an organization in NW Ohio that helps young women & men who have aged out of the foster care system to learn how to manage finances, a home, plan for college, do job searches, dress properly for work...in short they help prepare these young people to succeed in life by teaching them living skills. If you're not familiar w/them, this is their website: www.palmission.org. P.S. You have a beautiful family! :)


message 13: by Ramona (new)

Ramona selvage This is an excellent book. I was fortunate to receive "Language of Flowers" as an advanced copy and couldn't put it down. I gave it 5 stars and reviewed it right away. It has quickly become a favorite of mine, and have been giving it rave reviews at the library as I encourage our patrons to read this excellent book. Vanessa, I look forward to your next book and wish you much success on ...Flowers.


message 14: by Wes (new)

Wes zemel I regret that we couldn't find a way to connect with her and become the stable parents she deserved


message 15: by Darling (new)

Darling policeman Language of Flowers -I read the book yesterday and I really enjoyed the book. Great writing for a first book. It was interesting reading about the foster child system. I love plants and flowers so I enjoyed her knowledge of everything. A great read!!


message 16: by Denita (new)

Denita mcdaniel good one


message 17: by Marble (new)

Marble smelly Thank you Vanessa and thank you Goodreads for this interview :) I live in Ethiopia and it will take time until I can get the book to read. But I will read it ... The subject of this book is somehow also my subject as I am writing about and working with orphans and street children in Africa. It is so good to share thoughts and experiences ...


Animedubbedonline interesting


message 19: by Dreams (new)

Dreams nucleus I regret that we couldn't find a way to connect with her and become the stable parents she deserved.


message 20: by Spade (new)

Spade Spade I regret that we couldn't find a way to connect with her and become the stable parents she deserved.


message 21: by Paul (new)

Paul Blanchard superb..!!


message 22: by Nativemedia (new)

Nativemedia Language of Flowers -I read the book yesterday and I really enjoyed the book. Great writing for a first book. It was interesting reading about the foster child system. I love plants and flowers so I enjoyed her knowledge of everything. A great read!!


Numerologyanswers wonderful


message 24: by Feline (new)

Feline herb Its grand :)


message 25: by Poorbo (new)

Poorbo bcat great


message 26: by Robin (new)

Robin What a beautifully written book. I couldn't put it down. The flowers spoke to me as I love flowers and gardens. Lovely prose. Wonderful story woven with many layers. I was a foster child for a very short time when I was very young and I thank you for opening up your home to these children in need. I remember everything about my foster parents, Hank and Mary, and that was 53 years ago when I was 4 years old. We lived in a clean, lovely house. Hank worked for the parks department in a city in the bay area. Mary took care of my twin brother and I and her own two children. I remember her good cooking, her patience, her kindness, our Murphy bed that pulled down from the wall in the guest room. I remember going to the circus. I remember my mother visiting us frequently and being so distraught when her visiting time was up. I remember the lovely backyard filled with flowers. There was a happy ending for me unlike so many other foster children. I was nurtured and loved by grandparents and my mother. Thank you once again Vanessa for your generosity and large heart and for bringing a much needed message to the world.


message 27: by Iz (new)

Iz It just so happens that I am doing a service project right now for a foundation that helps young adults transitioning out of the foster care system here in Orange County, CA. Totally by accident that I picked up this book to read and its main character is in the same situation.

I will think of Victoria as I try my best to make an impact with this organization.


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