Interesting Intersections: An Interview with Valerie Bolling + Giveaway (US Only, Please)
Updated: Apr 5
Today, I'm stoked to welcome Valerie to the blog! Valerie is represented by James McGowan. She is the author of the following released and soon-to-be-released books:
SCBWI Crystal Kite Award-winning LET'S DANCE! (Boyds Mills & Kane, March 2020)
TOGETHER WE RIDE (Chronicle, April 2022)
RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! (Abrams, Sept. 2022) TOGETHER WE SWIM (Chronicle, May 2023) NEIGHBORHOOD JAM (Abrams, Sept. 2023)
ZOYA GLITTERS! (Scholastic, May/July/Nov. 2023)
And here are her socials!
Thank you so very much for giving me the honor of interviewing you. You are one of my favorite people, and I cannot tell you how much this means to me.
Thank you, CK, for those kind words and for taking the time to interview me. I’m honored to be featured on your blog.
Yay! People are always curious about authors' writing spaces. Can you share a picture of your writing space with us?
This is my “official” writing space -- my office -- but I write in many places around my home. Some of my best writing ideas come to me when I’m out for a walk; at times, I dictate notes into my phone. I’ve even written or revised drafts during long car rides. I can write anywhere.
Your office is so very pretty! I love the purple and that awesome chair! I am so jealous that you can write anywhere. I wish I had that skill. Why is this place great for your creativity?
For me, any space is great for creativity. I just need time ... and quiet.
Very cool! Tell us a bit about yourself and why you became a writer.
The best place to find out information about me is my website. You can read as much or as little about me as you’d like here.
Here’s my elevator pitch about who I am:
Here’s why I write:
When I taught in the elementary classroom, it was difficult to find diverse literature for my students, which inspired me to write. Though many of the characters in the books I write are children of color, they are engaged in situations common to many children. I want Black and Brown children to see themselves in my stories and for other readers to realize they can relate to the characters, too. It is my small attempt to promote a world where Black and Brown children are seen and heard and valued and validated by themselves and others.
Diverse children’s literature is personal to me because I have two nieces, ages 7 and 9; two godsons, ages 10 and 13; and a cousin (my cousin’s grandson), age 7 – I write with these children in mind. In fact, they have provided inspiration for some of my stories. As I write, I think about the stories I read to them and those that I wish were available to them. I feel I have a responsibility to write stories that I want them – and all children – to read.
These are such beautiful reasons. I agree that it can be difficult to find books that mirror all children. And how cool that your nieces, godsons, and your cousin's grandson provide inspiration for your stories!
Now, we’re dying to know about you and, if you are willing to share, your intersections.
I see myself as having two major sets of intersections. The first is that for my entire life, I have been a student and a teacher. I’ve been an educator for almost 30 years, but I’m also a lifelong learner. When I teach, I learn from students. I recently wrote an article about my student/teacher intersection.
As a member of the kidlit writing community, I’ve learned a lot that I’m happy to share with others. That’s one of the reasons why I’ll be a WNDB mentor next year. Though I’m willing to share information with other writers, I’m still continuing to learn myself -- taking classes, reading books, viewing webinars, attending professional conferences, and asking a lot of questions. My other intersection is, of course, being Black and female.
I love that you have that growth mindset even as a mentor in the teaching and writing arenas. I like learning from mentors who share that they, too, continue learning the craft. So many times, a newbie like me sees someone like you and wonders what else you could possibly have to learn since you seem to have conquered it all. I adore that you are mentoring for WNDB. You are always giving back to the community.
May I ask if the plot of your current book or your main character mirrors you in any way?
My current book, LET’S DANCE! (Boyds Mills & Kane, March 2020), celebrates dances from around the world and the diverse children who enjoy them. I enjoy dancing, so there’s definitely a personal connection. One of the dances featured in the book is kuku, which I learned during an African dance class in college.
I can’t resist the opportunity to share my two upcoming books as well. TOGETHER WE RIDE (Chronicle, May 2022) is definitely a mirror of myself as a kid because I loved to ride my bike with my cousins. CITY FUN (Abrams, September 2022) mirrors a lot of the games I used to play with neighborhood friends, like catch, jump rope, and hopscotch.
Let's Dance is such an awesome book, and I loved attending your dance parties with Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez! Also, very cool about kuku. It is such a joyous dance and what a workout! I loved riding my bike and jumping rope, too. I still ride my bike with the peeps in my house, but it seemed like much more of an adventure when I was growing up.
Speaking of mirroring, who is one intersectional author you find inspirational and why?
I have to give a shout-out to my amazing WNDB mentor, Kelly Starling Lyons. As a writer, I love Kelly’s beautiful, heartfelt language and admire that she’s prolific across a variety of children’s genres (picture books, early readers, and early chapter books). Most of all, Kelly is inspirational because she constantly encourages and amplifies other authors. Her mentorship has meant so much to me, which is another reason I’ve decided to “pay it forward” and be a WNDB mentor next year.
Mentors really are the best! (*waves at Mindy Alyse Weiss*) I love that she amplifies other authors just as you do. Anyone who has you as a mentor is quite fortunate.
What is one hope you have for the future of publishing?
I hope that the publishing industry will become more inclusive, not only in the books that it acquires for publication but also in its commitment to promoting (with marketing dollars) books by BIPOC creators and other marginalized groups. Hiring a diverse staff (editors, art directors, marketing and publicity managers, etc.) would also be a positive action.
We're making strides with diverse books, but there is much more we can do. And I am 100% with you on diverse staffing!!! Thank you again, Valerie, for visiting my blog and sharing all your joy and excitement and intersections with us!!
One lucky winner will receive a copy of LET'S DANCE, a preorder copy of TOGETHER WE RIDE, and a copy of Kelly Starling Lyons's GOING DOWN HOME WITH DADDY! (US only, please).
In this Crystal Kite award-winning book, tap, twirl, twist, spin! With musical, rhyming text, author Valerie Bolling shines a spotlight on dances from across the globe, while energetic art from Maine Diaz shows off all the moves and the diverse people who do them. From the cha cha of Cuba to the stepping of Ireland, kids will want to leap, dip, and zip along with the dances on the page!
Learning to ride is no easy feat! But with a little courage, a guiding hand from her dad, and an enthusiastic bark from her pup, one brave girl quickly learns the freedom that comes from an afternoon spent outside on a bike. Experience the fear, the anticipation, and the delight of achieving the ultimate milestone in this energetic, warm story that celebrates the precious bond between parent and child.
Down home is Granny’s house. Down home is where Lil Alan and his parents and sister will gather with great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil Alan will hear stories of the ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to their family history. All the kids have to decide what they’ll share, but what will Lil Alan do?
A major shoutout to illustrators Maine Diaz, Kaylani Juanita, and Daniel Minter for their gorgeous illustrations!
Want to win this ah-mazing bundle? You can do any of the following:
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Thank you all for stopping by to support this wonderful author!! Contest ends 4/10/22!!!