The Language of Flowers: An Open Letter from the Author
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The Language of Flowers: An Open Letter from the Author

Dear Readers,

When I was in the second grade, my teacher let me skip spelling every day to work on my first novel. Nestled in beanbags in the classroom loft, my lined paper fastened to a clipboard, I filled page after page with my neat printing and wild, adventurous stories. Below me, my classmates copied rows of words from the blackboard, my teacher spelling each one aloud. I listened as I wrote, filled with equal parts glee and guilt. Shouldn't I be learning to spell? Why didn't my teacher think so?

Twenty years later, as I snuck into my office to write The Language of Flowers -- my two babies asleep in their cribs, my teenagers in school and my husband at work -- I felt a similar combination of emotions. Outside my office door, laundry accumulated in piles. Dinner waited to be cooked. Yet the pure joy of opening my manuscript drew me in every time, and I wrote until the very minute my babies awoke.

Why did I feel so compelled to write? My husband was the principal of an urban high school at the time, and his work was so concrete and so inarguably important. I, on the other hand, spent my time writing stories about people that do not exist, living in a world that was real only to me.

But my husband encouraged me in moments of doubt, and I was able to finish my novel. And then a very unexpected thing happened -- I found a literary agent and sold the rights in 40 countries! Since then I have been blessed to travel around the country and around the world, interacting with readers who have been touched in some way by the story of Victoria Jones, a young woman emancipating from the foster care system who has learned to communicate through the forgotten language of flowers.

And this is what I have learned?what you, indeed, have taught me. Stories are powerful. A good story doesn't just entertain, it remains with you in a way that little else does. It lingers. The content and emotions beg to be examined and discussed. In my travels I've been invited into readers' living rooms to talk about flowers and foster care, falling in love and being afraid, and falling in love even though you're afraid. These have been some of the deepest, most heartfelt conversations I've ever had, and I have the utmost respect for my readers who have taken this journey with Victoria and learned something about themselves along the way.

It was my second grade teacher that planted the seed that writing stories is important -- very important. And it has been my readers everywhere that have helped me understand that it is true. Thank you for that. It's what keeps me going every day.

I hope you enjoy my book.

Sincerely,

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

P.S. My readers have also inspired me to co-found a national nonprofit that invites concerned citizens around the country to join together to solve the "aging out" issue in foster care. We will launch soon! Sign up to join the movement at

 
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