CAROL GORDON EKSTER: Having connected with Valerie through New England SCBWI, I have been amazed to watch Valerie’s career blossom in a short time. She’s an impressive lady and with her third book having just come out, I wanted to share her wisdom and inspiration here at Writers Rumpus. Welcome Valerie!
I know you came to writing books for children during a career in education. Can you tell us what led you to become a writer for children?
VALERIE BOLLING: Thank you for that lovely introduction, Carol. It’s been amazing to witness your career bloom as well. As for my foray into writing for children, I’ve always loved writing and reading, and, as an educator, I’m surrounded by children and books. What really gave me the spark though was my nieces. After they visited my husband and me for a week in December 2016, I wrote two stories in which each of them was the protagonist. That was when I decided to delve more deeply into the world of writing for young readers by reaching out to contacts who could provide advice, reading stacks of picture books, and taking a class for children’s book writers.
CGE: I read on your website that you write “…because you want all children to feel at home in a book.” I love that! Could you please expand on that.
VB: Home is a place where we (should) feel comfortable, safe, and loved. I want children to feel that way when they read my books. Most of all, which I also say on my website, I want them to feel seen and heard, valued and validated. This is especially true for children who may not often see themselves and their experiences reflected in books.
CGE: The three books that have come out are in rhyme. Why, when it’s considered so difficult to get rhyming texts published, did you decide to write in rhyme? And do you write in prose as well?
VB: I wrote LET’S DANCE! (illustrated by Maine Diaz), TOGETHER WE RIDE (illustrated by Kaylani Juanita), and RIDE ROLL RUN: TIME FOR FUN! (illustrated by Sabrena Khadija), in rhyme because that’s the style that spoke to me when I decided to write these books. Rhyme comes naturally to me – at least, short rhyming text – and I think it’s fitting for these books, since they all involve movement. The words convey this cadence and energy.
CGE: Your newest book that just came out this month is RIDE ROLL RUN: TIME FOR FUN! Can you tell us the story behind the story?
The first version of the story took place on a playground. A friend suggested I center it around the games children play in their neighborhoods – using whatever they have handy – like a jump rope, ball, sidewalk chalk, or even the curb “balance beam.” The original title of the story was CITY FUN, but, as you can see, it was changed. Also, there’s a sequel to the book, BING, BOP, BAM: TIME TO JAM!, that features the same characters at a musical block party in their neighborhood.
Like my other books, RIDE, ROLL, RUN weaves throughout it the threads of community, diversity, and joy. Kirkus Reviews described the book as “pure joy,” and that’s what I hope children and adults will experience as they read it.
CGE: I have been on panels with you and you are an amazing speaker and so knowledgeable about all things #kidlit. You are also very visible on social media. How do you balance the writing and the promotion?
Thank you for those kind words, Carol. You’re a great speaker, too, and more active on social media than I am. Balance is the key, isn’t it? With social media, I try to maintain a presence, but I don’t tweet multiple times throughout the day. Though I have Instagram and Facebook Author accounts, I don’t post often. I schedule time for my writing on my calendar to make sure I’ve set time aside because that time can be filled with other things. I do a lot that’s writing-related, like speaking at conferences and events, and I have to spend time preparing those presentations and meeting with other writers if I’m co-presenting or part of a panel. It’s a lot to manage, but, fortunately, I enjoy doing all of it.
CGE: And your passion comes across in all your presentations! Can you tell us about some of the lows and highs of your career?
VB: My first high was having LET’S DANCE! acquired for publication. You know the saying, “There’s nothing like your first,” and that’s true for publishing, too. My biggest high though was becoming agented and having my agent, James McGowan, immediately submit one of my manuscripts to editors, which resulted in two two-book deals! As for lows, I think it’s the rejection that continues and the waiting. Even when you’re agented and published, there’s still rejection and waiting. I’m currently out on submission with a picture book biography, which is a tough sell right now, but I’m still waiting for a yes.
CGE: Yes, Valerie! That waiting and rejection are what’s tough in this otherwise wonderful business we’re in! But I do know you have some positive publishing news. Please tell us, what does the future hold for Valerie Bolling?
VB: As you know, Carol, none of us can predict what the future holds, though I pray for good health, happiness, and success. What I can tell you, however, is the titles of my upcoming books. In 2023 readers can look forward to sequels to my 2022 books: TOGETHER WE SWIM and – as mentioned earlier – BING, BOP, BAM: TIME TO JAM! as well my Scholastic Acorn early reader series, RAINBOW DAYS (illustrated by Kai Robinson) about a girl and her dog who love to create art. So far, I have one title to share for 2024, which is co-authored with Kailei Pew (illustrated by Laylie Frazier): I SEE COLOR.
CGE: Thanks, Valerie, for your inspiration and beautiful books. We can’t wait to see more!
You can connect with Valerie here:
Thanks for the kind comments, Kelly, Laura, and Hilary! : )
Great interview ladies!
What a wonderful interview! Thank you, Carol and Valerie!
Great discussion, Carol and Valerie!
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