Today, we are privileged to have an interview with author Valerie Bolling. Valerie is a children’s author who released her debut picture book, Let’s Dance!, as recently as last week!
Where do you come from and has this place influenced your writings?
I live in Connecticut. My city is about a 40 – 45-minute drive to New York City, if there’s no traffic… which there usually is (*chuckles*).
Honestly, I don’t think where I’m from has necessarily influenced my writing. Maybe because I live in a city that’s near the world’s most famous city – and am surrounded by diverse people – I bring that celebration of diversity to my writing.
This blogger: That’s all right. It sounds like you appreciate where you come from and you have used the good parts of your city in your book.
On your website, it says that you were inspired to write children stories because of a visit from your young nieces back in 2016. What was it about them that made you write children’s stories? Was it something they said or did?
My nieces are wonderful girls. They have great energy. They like to have fun, laugh, and dance.
There was something that each of them did during that visit that inspired a story. Anyah was two at the time and so independent. She wanted to do everything by herself. Zorah, who was four, told me about the gifts she’d received for Christmas. Also, she said about one of her grandmothers: “She gives me love.” That line was so precious that I had to include that concept in a story!
You have a very interesting story as to how Twitter helped you find a publisher. Please can you tell us a bit about it?
Sure, Paul. I participate in Twitter pitches (#PBPitch, #PitMad, #DVPit, and #FaithPitch) whenever they’re offered. I pitched Let’s Dance! in a #PBPitch in June 2018, and it received a “like” from Jes Negrón at Boyds Mills & Kane. I sent her my manuscript on 18th June 2018. Then, two weeks later on 2nd July, she emailed me, requesting to have a conversation. During that phone call, Jes expressed her interest in acquiring the story!
This blogger: That is amazing, Valerie! Well done for putting yourself out there and trying out the Twitter pitches!
You are a teacher by profession. Has that helped you write your children’s picture book?
I’m not sure that being an educator helped explicitly with the writing of my book. But it definitely helps with author visits. (*Smiles broadly*.)
I feel comfortable around children of all ages. I’ve worked in elementary, middle, and high schools.
On a meta level, what does Let’s Dance! mean to you?
To get “meta,” I’d say Let’s Dance! is about the true dance of life – what really matters. We are connected through the things we enjoy. We enjoy similar experiences, even though we may be different from one another or engage in those experiences differently. As I said in my Twitter pitch for Let’s Dance!: “Dancing is a universal language, even though we all have different ‘accents’.”
This blogger: That’s a wonderful message. I really hope that everyone who reads Let’s Dance will realise that message and act on it in a positive way.
Which of the characters in your book are most and least like you? And how?
The characters most like me are the kuku dancers because I performed that dance in college when I took dance classes. I also took African dance classes a few years after I graduated. The breakdancers are the least like me because I cannot spin on my head or do a one-armed handstand – or even one with both hands!
This blogger: (*Laughs*.) You tempt me to ask you to breakdance now! Seriously, though, it’s great that you can do these different kinds of dancing, and that they are a focal point of the book. I can feel the energy, for sure!
Have any of your pupils made an appearance in your book (*winks*)?
No; although, I hope they’ll be able to picture themselves dancing at least one of the dances in the book.
If you could meet your younger self, what advice would you give her about the writing process?
I think I would give my younger self the same advice I actually gave a student today – Plan first. It doesn’t have to be a big plan, but scribble or type some notes before beginning to draft.
Then, write, and revise, revise, revise. Reading your writing aloud is a great way to check for fluency, language, and errors. So, that’s important, too. Writing isn’t quick. It shouldn’t be rushed. You must be willing to take your time to produce your best work.
What do you find harder – writing a book or marketing it?
That’s a great question, Paul, and a tough one to answer. I think it depends upon my current focus. Right now, with the release of my book, I’m spending a vast amount of time promoting it. I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but it’s extremely time-consuming.
When I’m in the heart of drafting and/or revising, that seems most challenging – and it’s definitely hard work. The bottom line is that writing – and getting published – requires time, effort, and persistence. But it’s also immensely rewarding.
Have any of your friends and family read Let’s Dance? If so, how do you feel when they talk to you about it?
Yes! A number of people have read the book, at this point, and I’ve also read it to groups of students. Fortunately, the reaction has been very positive. I know that a significant factor in that reaction is the fabulous illustrations that Maine Diaz created.
The enthusiastic reaction to the book makes me grateful that my editor, Jes Negrón, had enough faith in the book, and in me, to acquire it and see it through to publication. It feels wonderful to have a published book; especially, one of this quality (thanks to Jes and Maine!) out in the world.
This blogger: That makes me smile a lot, Valerie! I am really happy for you and I really like how appreciative you are of Jes and Maine. When they read this interview, I hope they see for themselves how much you value them.
Are you writing another book currently? If so, please could you tell us a bit about it?
I’m always writing and revising, Paul. My newest project is a narrative non-fiction biography about an amazing young woman. I’m still in the early stages of drafting.
Lastly, outside of writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like spending time with my husband, family, and friends. My husband and I like to travel, and, yes, we like to dance! I also like to read, go for walks, exercise, and learn new things. I’ve certainly been learning a lot about the writing industry… and I know I have so much more to learn.
This blogger: Valerie, you come across as a terrific person, who is positive and fun to be around, and humble at the same time. Whatever obstacles you may face going forwards, just keep going what you are doing and stay the way you are.
The hugely talented, positive and over-all wonderful human being herself – Valerie Bolling.
End of Interview
That brings an end to our interview with author Valerie Bolling. I would like to thank Valerie for her time and that it has been delightful getting to know her. I wish her only the best going forwards with Let’s Dance!, her next book, family time, dancing, teaching and travelling.
You can now purchase Valerie’s book at your local book store, Indiebound or on Amazon. If you have kids, nephews, nieces or grandchildren, check it out for them. I absolutely believe that with Valerie’s energy, children will love Let’s Dance!.
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