I am so happy to welcome back Valerie Bolling to #TheBackstory. Valerie is one of the most generous and hardworking members of the kidlit community and she is on a publication roll, with several titles published and more in the works. Today Valerie joins us to share the story behind her latest title, RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! (Abrams Appleseed, 2022) with illustrations by Sebrina Khadija.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN!
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
Andrew, RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! is a rhyming, joyful book about the games
children play outside, right in their neighborhood. It’s a celebration of community and
Valerie, I have loved every book you have put out. You have a knack for finding the simple, yet powerful moments in children's lives and through them crafing stories filled with rhythm and joy. RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! follows in those footsteps and does not dissappoint.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
I like writing joy books that encourage kids to move, like LET’S DANCE! and TOGETHER WE RIDE, so I was inspired to write a book in that vein. 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. There’s also 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.
"Pure joy" is exactly right! With your playful rhymes and rhythm there is no way anyone could read or listen to this book without a smile on their face. This story begs to be read aloud and will be inspiring families to get outside together for loads of fun.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now A RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN!? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
Once I had the seed of an idea, I knew right away what I would write. Some of the activities I describe in the book came to me immediately while others took me a bit more time to think about. The same was true with the rhyme. Some lines came immediately; others took a bit more time. Overall, it was a fun story to write.
I bet you had a blast brainstorming activities for this book. I can just imagine the childhood memories that may have popped up during this as well. I know for me, I was immediately drawn back into my memories and had several connections as I read through your story.
Were there any mentor texts that you used for RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! ?
I know it may sound odd, but I actually used my own book, LET’S DANCE!, as a mentor text. Since children like to play outside as well as dance, I figured that could work and that I could use a similar format. Taking it back farther, the mentor text I used for LET’S DANCE! was WATERSONG by Tim McCanna.
Last time you were here you gave us some wonderful words of advice. This time I am hoping to take the question in a slightly different direction. Your career seems to have taken off since LET’S DANCE!. What do you think helped you find your current success?
That’s a great question. I think the main thing that helped me find my success is connecting with my agent, James McGowan, who has sold nine books for me since signing with him in June 2020. Thus, I recommend that writers find the agent who’s right for them. An agent has access to editors and publishers that unagented authors don’t have and can really move your career along. My other piece of advice is to keep writing. I realize that may seem obvious, but it’s true. Part of the reason I’ve been able to sell a number of books is that they were already written, polished, and ready to submit.
Super advice! While I always encourage authors to be open to all opportunities that come their way, you make an important point about connecting with an agent. In addition to the access they have to submit wider than an unagented author can, they also come with knowledge and connections with editors that are impossible to have otherwise. And I love your addition to keep writing. We all know how long the publication process can be and it doesn't get any quicker once you land a book deal. Having those other manuscripts in order helps keep the momentum going and ensures you are ready for your next opportunity.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
Thank you for asking, Andrew. I’d love to share the titles of my upcoming books. The companion book to TOGETHER WE RIDE is TOGETHER WE SWIM; the companion book to RIDE, ROLL, RUN is BING, BOP, BAM: TIME TO JAM!; and RAINBOW DAYS is my Scholastic Acorn early reader series. All of these books will be released in 2023. I also have I SEE COLOR coming in 2024 and an unannounced title for 2025.
You are on fire!!!! I love that the companion books in your multibook deals are now announced and we can see how the follow-ups will connect to the originals. And I love the concept for your early reader series. I will be sure to add it to my classroom for all of my young readers to enjoy.
Where can people connect more with you?
People can find me on Twitter more frequently than Facebook and Instagram, but I’ll
include all of my handles here. To find out more about my books and events, feel free to check out my website.
Readers make sure to connect with Valerie on social media to stay aware of her many, many books and presentations. She is a gem and if you get a chance to learn from her you should absolutely take it.
Additionally, be sure to pick up a copy of RIDE, ROLL, RUN: READY FOR FUN! (Abrams Appleseed, 2022) with illustrations by Sebrina Khadija. Your kids will be begging you to read it again and again.
Valerie, thanks again for coming back to the blog and sharing another of your wonderful books with me. I am a fan and I can't wait for all of those upcoming books to be released for us to enjoy.
Valerie is generously offering a copy of RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! to one lucky winner. (US only)
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT VALERIE BOLLING
Valerie Bolling is the author of the 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite award-winning and CT Book Award finalist LET’S DANCE! (March 2020). In 2022 Valerie is happy to welcome TOGETHER WE RIDE (April) and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! (October). Sequels to these books (TOGETHER WE SWIM and BING, BOP, BAM: TIME TO JAM!) as well as a Scholastic early reader series, RAINBOW DAYS, are slated for 2023. I SEE COLOR will be published in 2024.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
ANDREW HACKET always dreamed of writing picture books, but never believed it was possible. Then one day he thought, “I could. I should.” So he did (with a lot of hard work). And while he hopes no one swallows acorns as a result of his story, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024), he does hope kids will be inspired to grow kindness in their communities and stand up for themselves — without eating anyone, of course.
Andrew lives in Holden, Massachusetts with his wife and three children, all of whom are very mighty.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.