Welcome to my book blog, Blissfully Bookish. For this Q & A, please welcome author Valerie Bolling. Here she is , discussing her new picture book Let’s Dance!, illustrated by Maine Diaz and published by Boyds Mills & Kane. Iread the book myself and loved it, and I admit, it made me want to get up and DANCE! Check out Valerie’s journey below.
BUT FIRST- yay, a giveaway: Valerie is generously giving away a query critique OR a PB critique (500 words or less). Simply comment on this blog, contest ends July 13, 2020.
Please describe the journey to publication for this book.
Let’s Dance! was “liked” in #PBPitch in June 2018 by Jes Negrón, an editor at Boyds Mills & Kane. A couple of weeks after sending the manuscript to her, she expressed interest in publishing the book. When we had “The Call,” I shared with her my desire for the book’s illustrations to display an inclusive representation of children: gender, race, ability. Jes expanded upon my vision for diversity by recognizing that some of my words described cultural dances like Flamenco (Spain), Kathak (India), and Long Sleeve Dance (China). I am thrilled to have this added layer of cultural representation in my book!
Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I didn’t draw the book’s inspiration, Lydia. Maine Diaz, the amazing illustrator, did. Sorry; I couldn’t resist providing that response. 🙂
Since most children enjoy dancing (adults, too, including me!), I decided to write a fun, rhyming story celebrating the universality of dance. My goal was to showcase dance as a language we all speak, even though we have different “accents.”
I want everyone who reads Let’s Dance! to know that not only are people connected through dance, but we’re also connected simply because we’re human. Regardless of how we dance, how we look, or who we are, we are worthy, valuable members of society.
What is your writing process, and does it vary depending on the project?
I don’t think of myself as having a particular writing process. I write when a new idea enters my mind, and I CONSTANTLY revise. I’m typically working on at least three stories at a time, sometimes more.
A critical part of my writing process is critique. That’s what helps me make significant and (usually) effective revisions. I’m so fortunate to have an amazing critique circle: critique partner, critique group, debut group that offers critique, WNDB mentor, and, most recently, an agent!
Have any books inspired you and served as mentor texts?
In addition to critique being vital to the revision process, Lydia, mentor texts are invaluable. For Let’s Dance!, Watersong by Tim McCanna served as a mentor text. Visiting Day and Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson served as mentor texts for another manuscript. Those books helped me create an emotional arc in my story with a similar plot. Saturday by Oge Mora helped me work through changes to the ending of another manuscript. I read Woodson’s books, specifically because I believed they’d provide insight into my own story … and they did. On the other hand, I was reading Mora’s book just because I’d heard it was worth reading. It came as a pleasant surprise when it inspired a new idea for an ending to a story I’d been revising.
As an educator, I emphasize the importance of revision to students, touting the inseparable connection between reading and writing. When we read as writers, we notice certain qualities of books – intentionally and unintentionally. And those observations help us improve our writing. Conversely, writers engage in a heightened reading experience because we are able to appreciate a beautiful book in multi-faceted ways.
Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
Wiggle hips/Spin, dip, dip (Kuku, a West African dance)
Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope my career is headed to the sky because, though it’s a cliché, the sky’s the limit. I have two manuscripts out on sub right now, and a number of others waiting in the queue, so we’ll see. I’m constantly revising and also writing new stories. I’ve written three stories during the pandemic but have spent even more time revising other stories … not to mention promoting Let’s Dance! with blogger and podcast interviews and author visits to schools, bookstores, libraries, and dance studios. My author journey has been fun and exciting. Like a roller coaster, it may twist my head and twirl my tummy, but I’m not ready to get off the ride!
What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
If I can only say one thing, Lydia, it would be: Keep writing.
If I can say more, here are my five tips:
- Immerse yourself in writing opportunities and in the writing community by taking a course, joining SCBWI, going to conferences, joining a critique group, and participating in contests.
- Continue writing … even when you face rejection
And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
I’d probably pick anything with peanuts or peanut butter. I like ice cream but am allergic to peanuts (all other nuts are fine). Being an ice cream flavor that contains peanuts would ensure that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat myself!
Let’s Dance! (Boyds Mills & Kane) is Valerie Bolling’s debut picture book. In addition to being an author, Valerie has been an educator for over 25 years. When she taught elementary students, it was difficult to find diverse literature for them. Thus, she is passionate about creating stories in which all children can see themselves and feel valued and heard.
A graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College, Valerie currently works as an Instructional Coach with middle and high school teachers.
Besides writing picture books, Valerie writes a Monthly Memo for teachers that she publishes on Twitter, and she has been published in The National Writing Project’s Quarterly (“The Family Writing Project Builds a Learning Community in Connecticut”) and NESCBWI News (“Microaggressions Don’t Feel ‘Micro’”). Recently, she had a poem accepted for publication by Cricket Media.
Valerie is represented by James McGowan of BookEnds Literary Agency, and she is a member of NCTE, SCBWI, the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Committee, the Authors Guild, the WNDB Mentorship Program, #12X12PB, 2020 Diverse Debuts, 20/20 Vision Picture Books, and a picture book critique group.
Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing.
Books can be purchased at any of these stores.
Click on this page to see options for where to purchase Let’s Dance!
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