By Jason Klaiber
Though the years of high school saw her dabble with poetry and earn nods for her book reports, it wasn’t until Diane Bostick reached her 30s in the 1980s that her creative streak truly set in, never to let up.
By that point, the Jamesville-DeWitt grad had won an amateur comedy contest at Wise Guys, taken part in theatrical performances at Salt City Playhouse, written a libretto to an opera with an Austrian composer, and tagged along with the traveling show band Galaxy of Stars as an imitator of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.
“It was like another force was coming up in me,” Bostick said. “I was just learning and discovering that I had a big creative side that I needed to satisfy, so I didn’t limit myself.”
In the early part of the 1990s, she was able to fuse her mixture of skills by starting Zeda Productions, an entertainment production company that put on shows for schools, senior centers, luncheons and nursing homes.
With a name derived from that of Bostick’s paternal grandmother, Zetta, who purportedly deserted her family and an “unloving marriage” in Texas without so much as a trace, the company was meant to draw a voice from a “mysterious, erased” figure from its founder’s lineage.
During that time period, Bostick relied on friends who were singers, dancers and even magicians, but she also created a one-woman show for herself called “The Cookdom of Sara Irene McGee,” which pulled its protagonist’s middle name and the thread of Irish heritage explored throughout from her maternal grandmother.
Following Bostick’s research into the minimal and sometimes unflattering role of women on the Erie Canal early on, it was her mission to portray a positive, “multi-faceted” fictional character who works as a cook aboard her father’s boat and marries a doctor from Brockport, one of the vessel’s main stops along the historic waterway.
Stretching to 40 minutes at its longest, Bostick would often perform the show in excerpts a quarter of that length. What shone through every time, however, was a dose of humor and a tale touching on the importance of hard work and persistence.
“That was pleasurable for me, because it wed my first love of writing with my desire to perform,” Bostick said. “Another person might be nervous or terrified to stage a show by themselves, but I really think I have a fearless performer in me that’s always wanted to be onstage or possibly was in a past life.”
Around the same time, she learned through a songwriting partnership with Donald Laird, the brother of one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creators, that she had a knack for thinking up song lyrics. On weekends spent seeing another friend in Oswego, where Laird lived and worked as a Fort Ontario director, Bostick would leave him the words and only hours later he would have a fully composed melody to go along with them.
About a decade later, she was ready to commit some of the baker’s dozen or so songs written with Laird to CD and cassette, but she was surprised to find out in the process of trying to reconnect with him that he had passed away. Still, with his brother’s permission and the memory of her friend living on, she released a few of those compositions, including one she especially loved called “When Mexico Was Mine.”
“He was a very kind person, and he had a beautiful tenor singing voice,” Bostick said. “We had a deep connection musically.”
In May 2019, Bostick’s older brother, Christopher, died a year to the month after her middle brother David lost his life to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), both in the same home where their parents had passed on years prior.
After processing her grief, Bostick summoned the strength to reenter the family’s DeWitt household, a step that led her to uncover her mother’s old poems as well as “funny and beautiful” letters her parents exchanged while they were going steady, her brother Chris’ artwork, and a collection of her father’s creative writing pieces, some of which were autobiographical in nature.
Newly inspired, she sorted out her dad’s passel of short stories for children and extracted the ones she liked the most for reworking and eventual publishing.
So far, Bostick has released three of those, all of them Christmas-related and faith-based despite her father’s disassociation from religion.
The first in line was “Santa’s Choice,” a book about Santa Claus’ auditions to see which reindeer were best equipped to pull his sleigh. Illustrated by Justin Addison and released in 2021, that one came with a companion piece called “Reindeer Training” about seven female reindeer that Kris Kringle prepared for flight.
The next was “The Gift of Sun Lee,” a release from earlier in the summer about a young Chinese girl who goes to a Bible school in the United States and returns to post-World War II Shanghai with American customs to share.
Her most recently released children’s book, “The Blessed,” follows suit as the story of the donkey returning to the manger. Like its immediate predecessor, also illustrated by St. Louis artist Cher Jiang, “The Blessed” features pages to color and addresses in its text the lessons of compassion and humility.
Links to the purchase pages for those books can be found on mysmallonebooks.com, which takes its name from the sobriquet Bostick’s father had used in correspondence with his petite soon-to-be wife of 52 years.
In addition to her performance outlets and her writing of children’s books, Bostick has operated an interior home repair company called His & Hers Fix-Its alongside her husband, Magic.
With her late brother Chris’ art, she put together two posthumous coloring books containing his adult-oriented, comic-style drawings that are available on www.cbsticks.com.
Bostick will have a stand with her books up for sale at the Westcott Street Cultural Fair in Syracuse on Sunday, Sept. 25, the same day that she’s participating in the “Clash of the Comics” competition at Destiny USA’s Funny Bone Comedy Club under the stage name Rennah Rilies.
A believer that laughter can break through to people, Bostick is hoping to organize an event sometime in the future called “Laughing in the Dark” as a way to raise awareness for mental health and support suicide prevention.