Today, I have Valerie Bolling on my blog. Her super fun debut picture book, Let’s Dance! released in March. She is another fellow 12×12 picture book author. (Super secret* author hint: if you want to meet other writers and learn more about writing, joining writing groups is a great way to do it!)
*It’s not actually secret at all.
I’m excited to learn more about Valerie and her book, and hope you are, too. So let’s get to it! As always, I’m in green.
Hi Valerie, welcome to my blog!
Thank you for inviting me, Janet! I’m happy to be here.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children’s books?
Sure, Janet. In addition to being an author, I’m an educator. I’m also an aunt. I have always loved children. Even as a child, I connected with younger children – my cousins and those in the neighborhood – reading to them, helping with homework, and planning the games that we’d play together. Writing, too, has always been something I’ve enjoyed. As a child, teen, and adult, I’ve always written poems, stories, and articles. I even kept a diary during my teen years.
I decided to write picture books because I want children to see themselves in books and to see others who may be different from them. I want them to celebrate and appreciate our diverse world and to experience connection and empathy. I know that’s a tall order, Janet, but it’s what keeps me writing.
Beautifully said! It IS a tall order, but a tall order worth working for. 😊 And speaking of your writing, I loved your book! Please tell us about it.
Let’s Dance! is a book that celebrates dances from around the world and the diverse children who enjoy them. It’s a book that’s sure to get young readers and dancers moving, and it provides the perfect distance learning movement break.
I definitely wanted to try out all the dances when I read it! What inspired you to write it?
I wanted to write a book that showcases the joy connected to dancing. I was not only motivated to celebrate the universality of dance but also its diversity and inclusiveness. Anyone – no matter who you are – can dance. It is an activity we can enjoy together … even virtually these days.
Dancing is such a fun way to connect. And I love that you use dances from all over the world. The brief descriptions of each of the dances at the end was especially fun. Was that always part of your manuscript? Or at what point was that added?
That’s a great question, Janet. The original manuscript didn’t include the two-sentence descriptions for each dance. My editor, Jes Negrón, at Boyds Mills & Kane, requested that I add the back matter. Shortly after acquiring the manuscript, she told me that she’d probably ask me to write the descriptions, so I wasn’t surprised when she did.
So fascinating to see the behind-the-scenes process. No two books are the same! But I have to ask . . . since you did the research, have you danced all of these dances? And which one is your favorite?
I haven’t danced all of the dances but would be willing to try most of them, except for breakdancing. No way can I spin on my head or do a one-armed handstand!
Haha! Yeah, I think I would struggle with that one, too!
I don’t necessarily have a favorite dance, but I have a personal connection with kuku because I learned that dance in college.
That must have been such a fun class. I confess, while so many sound fun, I’ve always wanted to learn Irish Stepdancing.
Okay, let’s talk art. The art is so fun! The illustrator, Maine Diaz, really makes the dancing come alive. Did you have input, or what was your reaction to seeing it for the first time?
Jes was kind enough to allow my input into the selection of an illustrator, and it’s obvious that Maine was the right choice! I saw early sketches for the book and was able to offer input, which I appreciated. I was not prepared, however, for the finished project. I was THRILLED! Maine’s illustrations are captivating and energetic; they certainly make my words DANCE!
They really do. Such a perfect pairing between words and pictures.
Okay, one last question. Here on my blog, I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think the dancers in your story might choose for a personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!
What a fun, creative question, Janet! I wrote the first thing that came to mind.
Love it! The perfect license plate. Thanks so much again for stopping by here on the blog.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me about Let’s Dance!, Janet. I appreciate the opportunity to share my book with your readers.
You’re welcome! And for the rest of you, see below to find out where to get your own copy of Let’s Dance! and where you can connect with Valerie on social media.
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. She is passionate about creating stories in which all children can see themselves and feel valued and heard. Besides writing picture books, Valerie 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 and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing.