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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - VALERIE BOLLING

I'm happy to feature my friend and fellow #2020VisionPB member Valerie Bolling on the blog today. We could all use some dancing in our lives - Valerie's debut picture book, Let's Dance, just released and it's a wonderful celebration of dancing around the world. And I love Valerie's vision board, pictured below. Here are Valerie's thoughts about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.

1) STORIES – Discuss the inspiration for your ideas and stories, and share the process about your latest projects.

My stories originate with feelings. What feeling is evoked from the character or concept? For my debut picture book, Let’s Dance!, the feeling is energy-joy-connection! Dancing is a universal language, even though we all have different “accents.” I wanted my book to showcase dance in a way that celebrates diversity – and that leaves no doubt that dancing is indeed for everyone! Thus, children from all walks – or dances – of life are featured: a boy in a wheelchair, a girl in hijab, a child in a tutu whose gender is indiscernible.

I am committed to diversity in my books. I want all children to feel valued and heard – to know that they matter – especially those from underrepresented or marginalized groups. I am transparent about wanting children of color in my books, but two of my stories highlight diversity of a different kind: a child with autism and a child whose parent is incarcerated.  

Currently, I’m working earnestly on four projects. Two are "offspring" from a manuscript I realized would be stronger and more marketable divided into two separate stories. I’m also revising a story with input from my We Need Diverse Books mentor, and I recently completed a draft for a new story.

Revision is a constant part of this process. It’s tough work, but as long as the stories keep getting better, I’m happy. I’ve been working intensely with an outstanding editor, Sam Cabbage, and my faithful writing partner, Lindsey Aduskevich; I also share my manuscripts with my critique group.

2) CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

I think my way of being creative is with language. I like to have fun with language, using rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition, and word play.

I’m not artistic, but I appreciate art. When we moved to our new home almost three years ago, I enjoyed searching for art for our home. I also wanted to arrange the furniture in a way that optimized and beautified the spaces.

A couple of months ago, I had fun with art when my friend invited a group of women to her home to create vision boards for the new year. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d create a board; I considered writing instead. However, I dove into looking through magazines, clipping words and pictures to assemble on my board, and enjoyed the experience. I did include my own handwritten words on my vision board, too!

I express my creativity in other ways as well. When I took dance classes years ago, I liked to add my own flair and zip to the moves. I’m not a fashionista, but I do have fun with scarves, earrings, and rings.

3) CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

Keeping young children in mind -- like my former students, my nieces, and my friends’ children -- keeps me connected to my readers. I try to think about what children would do, say, and think. I know that my books have to appeal to them, so I must keep them at the forefront of my mind. I want to use language that they will understand and connect to.

Fortunately, I was able to do a few author visits before schools and libraries closed due to COVID-19. When I was asked about how I’d like the spaces set up, I said that I wanted to be able to sit in a chair with children in chairs or on the floor in front of me. I wanted my young audience to be comfortable; I wanted to be close to them; I wanted to have a conversation with them. I didn’t only want to answer their questions, I wanted to be able to ask them questions, too -- to get to know them as best I could in the time we had together.

Reading a lot of picture books also keeps me connected to children. I reserve anywhere from 3 – 10 books a week at the library ... of course, that’s on hold for now, though I do have some books at home.

I have numerous adult connections in the KidLit community, too. I’m a member of two writers groups (one specifically for debut writers), and I’m also a member of eight other Facebook writing groups. I’m a member of SCBWI, the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Committee, the Authors Guild, and a picture book critique group. Earlier this year, I won the honor of being named a WNDB mentee; my fabulous mentor is Kelly Starling Lyons.

I enjoy attending conferences. This past Saturday I attend Kweli: The Color of Children’s Literature Conference, which was held virtually. Kudos to them – especially, founder and organizer, Laura Pegram – for not cancelling! Unfortunately, my local SCBWI cancelled its annual conference for this year. I’m saddened by this but understand that orchestrating a three-day virtual conference must require an amount of work that wasn’t feasible.

Thank you so much for interviewing me!


Valerie Bolling has been an educator for over 25 years and a writer since age 4. She is a graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College and currently works as an Instructional Coach with middle and high school teachers.

In addition to 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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