Kerry: Hi Valerie and thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions on your new book Together We Ride for The Book Tree Blog Bites.
Valerie: Thanks for having me!
Kerry: What was the inspiration for this newest book?
Valerie: The inspiration for this story came from seeing children ride bikes while taking my daily “mental health walks” with my husband during the COVID shutdown. In particular, there was a five-year-old girl who had just learned how to ride a bike. Learning to ride a bike – without training wheels – is such an exciting milestone for children that I decided to write a story about that experience.
Kerry: Together We Ride is written in rhyme, as was your first book Let’s Dance!. Is it difficult to write in rhyme keeping the text minimal, but at the same time essential, to the story?
Valerie: For me, writing in sparse rhyme comes pretty naturally, so it’s not difficult. I do have to make sure that the rhyme works and, of course, that the story does, too. I enjoy the fun challenge of getting both right. Writing a 50,000 word novel, on the other hand, would be difficult for me.
Kerry: How critical do you think it is for children to see themselves reflected in stories?
Valerie: It’s absolutely critical for children to see themselves reflected in stories, Kerry. All children need to know that they are seen and heard, valued and validated. In particular, I want children from underrepresented backgrounds to see themselves in stories. Here’s an article I wrote about this topic: “Why Children Need to See Themselves in Books”.
Kerry: How do you see the role of school libraries in supporting authors, reading and literacy?
Valerie: School libraries play an essential role in supporting authors by purchasing their books and inviting them for author visits. These books and visits also support literacy. Meeting authors can inspire even the most reluctant readers. Having diverse libraries increases the chances that there will be books to capture everyone’s interests. How books are displayed in school libraries make a difference, too. What books are highlighted? What special ways are books exhibited? Are students encouraged to vote for their favorite books or to write reviews that can be posted next to books? School librarians can also sponsor writing and drawing contests.
Kerry: Do you share or ‘test drive’ your stories with anyone – students, family - before you submit them for publication?
Valerie: Certainly, Kerry. I would never submit a manuscript to my agent that hadn’t been revised numerous times with the input of my fabulous critique partners. I’ve also shared some stories with friends because they want to see what I’m working on. However, it’s important to have people provide critique who are studying and writing in the same genre as you. Recently, I’ve been writing an early chapter book, and I wanted to know how children would react to it. I read it with my nieces, and several of my CPs read it with their children. I received such valuable feedback.
Kerry: What has been the most helpful advice given to you on your journey to becoming an author?
Valerie: Keep going even when faced with rejection. Each “no” gets you that much closer to a “yes.” If you really want to write, you’ll keep doing it. If you really want to get published, you’ll keep querying. Self-publishing is also an option, though I don’t have personal experience with it. If it is your dream to become an author, you can make it happen ... even if it takes a while.
Kerry: Some great advice Valerie and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us.
Valerie Bolling is the author of LET’S DANCE! (SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner and CT Book Award finalist) and has been an educator for almost 30 years. She is a member of SCBWI, the Authors Guild, NCTE, and ILA. She is also a 2020 WNDB Mentee and 2022 WNDB Mentor and a member of Black Creators HeadQuarters, The Brown Bookshelf and Highlights Foundation’s Amplify Black Stories, and 12X12 Picture Book Challenge. In addition, Valerie is a member of three co-marketing groups: Kid Lit in Color, Soaring 20s PBs, and PB Crew 22 as well as three picture book critique groups. She has two books scheduled for release in 2022 (TOGETHER WE RIDE and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN!), five more slated for 2023 (TOGETHER WE SWIM, NEIGHBORHOOD JAM, and RAINBOW DAYS, a Scholastic early reader series), and one for 2024. linktr.ee/ValerieBolling
Release date April 26, 2022. Published by Chronicle Books
Full review available here