We're so excited to share this interview with Valerie Bolling, author of Let's Dance! Be sure to get your copy at retailers online.
What inspired you to write Let's Dance! ?
This book was inspired by children who love to dance, especially my nieces, Zorah and Anyah. I decided to write a fun, rhyming story that celebrates the universality of dance. After all, dance is a language we all speak even though we have different "accents."
To illustrate the variety of "accents," I wanted to ensure that the book portrayed an inclusive representation of children: gender, race, ability. My editor, Jes Negrón of Boyds Mills & Kane, expanded upon my vision for diversity by recognizing that some of my words describe 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!
You seem committed to diversity. Can you tell us more about that?
I would love to. As an educator, I want to use my books as a vehicle to teach- especially about topics and themes that others may not feel comfortable writing about or talking about with children.
When I write, I think of the children who don’t typically see themselves in books, and one of my goals is for them to feel valued and validated when they read my books.
For Let’s Dance! I had a clear vision of showcasing underrepresented and marginalized children, engaging in the joy of dance. Turn on music, and most children will start to move – or as I say in my book:
“Groovity-groove/Bust a move.”
We may groove or move differently on the dance floor – or in life- but we are connected through the common experiences we share....and dance is one of them.
Are you able to do all of the dance moves in your book?
Funny question, Kirstie. Absolutely not. Some I'd have fun trying; others not so much.
No breakdancing headspins or handstands for me!
Tell us about your book launch party?
I had a PHENOMENAL launch party on March 7 at a local library. There were more than 200 people in attendance, the largest number the library reported ever having for an event!
It was standing room only; people were even standing outside of the large auditorium.
There was dancing, reading, a raffle, and book signing. The book sold out and most important was that the audience and I had a fabulous time!
What was your route to publication like?
Admittedly, I had a fairly easy road to publication with Let’s Dance! I started querying in January 2018, and I got an offer at the beginning of July 2018. However, I have other stories I’ve been querying for one or two years that remain unpublished.
Did you have critique partners? If so, how instrumental were they in writing your story?
Yes, I have critique partners, and they are unquestionably instrumental in my writing process. With Let’s Dance!, Marianne McShane, a friend who is a writer, storyteller, and retired librarian, suggested I read Watersong by Tim McCanna as a mentor text and that I start the story with a line that appeared later in my text:
Her recommendations helped significantly in revising the book.
Currently, I am a member of a picture book critique group, and I also have a fabulous writing partner, Lindsey Aduskevich.
Tell us about your illustrator and illustrations?
The illustrations are AMAZING. Maine Diaz is extremely talented. She brought my words, my vision, and Jes' vision to life. Her gorgeous, energetic illustrations truly make my book dance!
How do you juggle writing and working full-time?
It’s not easy, but life is a balancing act, isn’t it? I write late at night until midnight or 1 a.m.,
and I reserve large chunks of time for writing on weekends, usually on Sundays.
What's the one piece of advice that has helped you as a writer?
Two things immediately come to my mind, so I hope it’s OK to speak about them both because they are intertwined. One is “Don’t take rejection personally.” The other is “Keep trying.”
There’s much rejection in this business, but it’s not necessarily about you, the writer. It's likely that particular agent, editor, or publisher is not connecting strongly enough with the story.
It could also be that another story similar to yours is on the person's list; thus that book and yours would compete. It may be that the story is good but isn’t the genre or theme the person is currently looking for.
Perhaps you need more time with your story – to revise more and get critique from others.
The bottom line is that if your story isn’t right for an agent or editor, then that person is not someone who should represent your writing - your career as an author.
Since we rarely know the true reason why a manuscript is rejected, we have to keep trying, hoping that we will find someone as passionate about our writing as we are. Isn't that what all writers want? We deserve nothing less.
What are you working on next?
I’m always working on revising stories, but my newest project is a narrative picture book biography. I’m still in the early stages.
Valerie Bolling has been an educator for over 25 years and a writer since age 4. She and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater...and dancing.
If you’d like to learn more about Valerie please visit her social media links below!