I continue to be amazed by the next generation that’s been attending my alma mater, Mizzou, and, in particular, the women that have been active members at my sorority, Alpha Phi. It had been suggested a few months ago that I profile a recent alum that had published a children’s book, and I agreed that we should promote it. And then I looked her up. She’s 23. And self-published. And is working on 2 more books.
Clearly I haven’t accomplished enough. Must get to work.
Note: This website was taken down in 2017. The posts I wrote for the blog are no longer available to link to, so I have included the full text below, removing links where necessary.
Fabulous Alum of the Month: April Diaz de Leon
April Diaz de Leon ’06 may be young for a published author (she’s only 23), but she’s certainly accomplished. She finished dual degrees in Strategic Communications (through the J-School) and Graphic Design (through A&S) in December 2010 while remaining active at the house doing skits for Homecoming and Greek Week. In addition, she spent a lot of time at Mizzou’s Craft Studio, where she took and taught various classes. As she remembers it, “It was the perfect space to experiment with different techniques outside of the classroom. (And it kept my ‘art messes’ out of the Annex living room.)”
Her book, If You Live Here, came about as a project for her Senior Show at the art department at MU. After some positive feedback at the showcase, she submitted it to several large publishers… who told her that she needed to be a published author to be considered for publication. While most people might give up there, it drove April to publish it on her own through Author House, a self-publishing company based in Indiana.
The book explores animals’ habitats while teaching children to appreciate their surroundings and to love their family. April says that it combines all of her passions: children, storytelling, illustration, and poetry. She’s also making sure her first book won’t be her last, working on two other children’s books. One is a collaboration with her mother, Dana Diaz de Leon (a talented painter who lives and works in St. Louis), and the other is a mixed-media piece that uses more graphic design than illustrations.
For now, April is keeping her day job as a nanny of four kids who range from 1 to 6 years of age. April says that “they keep me in touch with my audience,” and the teachers and parents that she’s met through them have helped her to market the book. But she’s using her time away from storytelling and craft projects to do freelance design here and there and to look for advertising jobs in the Kansas City area.
When she’s not working on her books or coming up with a new project for the kids, April is often on the road to see her two best friends in St. Louis, Katie Vago and Sarah Flagg, or hosting them in KC. The Phis catch up over pizza and wine and love celebrating holidays together, dressing up for Halloween or going out in Soulard for Mardi Gras. They even got to see the World Series last year. Go Cards!
April loves living in the Midtown area in Kansas City, the perfect spot between Martini Corner (a cluster of bars and dance clubs) and the Plaza, where she often does dinner and a movie with her boyfriend, Tim. She says that her “favorite thing about KC is that there is a very full and diverse night life, as well as an incredible day scene. Power & Light District is full of fun new bars, and Martini Corner is so close and lively every weekend. Plus, they have a great art scene that comes to life every first Friday of the month.” Even better, she notes, it’s a great family town, with free kid exhibits at Crown Center, a great zoo, and lots more.
While she loves the lively nightlife in her area, April has been nesting of late. After recently buying a crock pot, her new idea of a perfect Sunday is “the smell of dinner drifting through the house while painting on my studio floor and watching a good movie like The Help or The Blind Side.”
To learn more about April’s work, you can follow her blog at aprilmay.blogspot.com.