Interview of LET'S DANCE! debut author, Valerie Bolling

   "Tappity tap, fingers snap!"
       Let's Dance! by Valerie Bolling and Maine Diaz is a delightful exploration of dances around the world.  Expressive and lyrical text pairs with active illustrations, making this the kind of book kids will want to re-read--and follow the reading with a dance party!

       What inspired you to write LET'S DANCE? 

Valerie Bolling: Kirsti, I wanted to write a book about dance because dancing is fun, and most people enjoy it. Whenever music is played, children start to dance, including my nieces, Zorah and Anyah. Babies who can barely walk will sway and/or raise their hands. This book 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 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!

KC: I also love the diversity in your book. Did you take dance class as a child?  

VB: I didn’t take dance classes as a child, but did so in college. I started out with “Principles of Dance Techniques” and moved on to African and Modern dance classes. I enjoyed these classes because, unlike my academic classes where I sat at a desk and took notes, I got to move!

KC: What's your favorite memory of dancing?

VB: I definitely had fun dancing at my wedding, but I’ve had fun dancing at other people’s weddings, too. I’ve danced at parties, on cruise ships, on a Bermuda street, at Mardi Gras, with my students, in Zumba classes, and in my own home … with my husband as well as by myself. I love to dance, Kirsti!

KC: Yay!  I also love dancing despite my lack of  ability! What other projects are you working on?

VB: I’m always revising several manuscripts at a time, so that’s the majority of my work. I wrote a new manuscript a couple of weeks ago, and I’d like to write a picture biography about an inspirational female. I’m also writing responses to interviews, like this one, and re-imagining how to get the word out about Let’s Dance!, virtually, since my in-person events have obviously been cancelled due to the pandemic.

KC: You've done a great job of sharing your book in these strange times! What is your advice for aspiring authors?

VB: Of course, what’s most important for aspiring authors – as I’m sure you know, Kirsti – is to get started; make time for writing; and stick with it! You’ve got to enjoy it to be committed to the process. If you’re passionate about writing, I recommend the following 5-step plan.
1.     Write every day … or as close to that as possible.
2.     Revise often, but be willing to take a break from a story and come back to it later. You can draft a new story or revise another story during that “break.”
3.     Read books in the genre you’re writing and learn from them.
4.     Immerse yourself in the writing community by taking a course, joining SCBWI, going to conferences, joining a critique group, and participating in writing opportunities, such as contests, scholarships, and Twitter pitches.
5.     Continue writing …even when you face rejection.

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 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. 

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