Hi Valerie and welcome back to The Book Tree.
Kerry: Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun! is your latest picture book release. Where did the idea for this new book come from?
Valerie: The idea for this book came from watching the games children play outside and thinking about the activities I loved as a child. Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun! is a book that, I hope, encourages readers to go outdoors and have fun – as all children should.
Kerry: I love the diversity and inclusion in this story. Is this something reflected in your own neighbourhood?
Valerie: My current neighborhood is somewhat diverse but not as diverse as my childhood one. I believe it’s important for children to have friends in their own neighborhood, regardless of its diversity, but it’s equally necessary to travel outside of that community to expand their circle and, hopefully, meet more people from diverse backgrounds.
Kerry: Do you still hand write your ideas in notebooks like you did when you were younger?
Valerie: All of my writing is done on the computer. That’s the method that works
best for me these days. I do keep paper and pen by my bedside, so if an idea occurs to me just before I fall asleep, I can jot it down.
Kerry: How important do you think it is for young writers to understand and use rhyme in their writing?
Valerie: Children should be introduced to a variety of writing styles and have the opportunity to try them out. Rhyme is one of those styles, and I would want young writers to give it a try because it will allow them to explore language in a fun way. It also presents a challenge – thinking critically about what words fit best together, like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. I wouldn’t force young writers to rhyme if it’s not working for them, however. Even when writing poetry, children don’t have to use rhyme.
Kerry: Are there any particular authors who have inspired you on your journey as a writer?
Valerie: My mentor, Kelly Starling Lyons, has been a great source of inspiration. Her books have served as mentor texts for me, and our conversations have provided so much helpful information about writing, publishing, and book promotion.
Another author who inspires me is my agent, James McGowan. He champions my work, helps me get my writing submission-ready, and answers my plethora of questions about the publishing industry.
Kerry: What are you reading at the moment?
Valerie: Currently, I’m reading an adult book, Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez. However, some fall picture books that I’m looking forward to reading are: Hold Them Close by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow & Patrick Dougher, Not Done Yet: Shirley Chisholm’s Fight for Change by Tameka Fryer Brown & Nina Crews, and Paati’s Saris by Jyoti Rajan Gopal & Art Twink.
Kerry: Thanks so much for dropping by for an interview Valerie!
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