Get To Know...Valerie Bolling
We had a conversation with Valerie and Brynne about both their latest books, Together We Ride and Black Girl Rising. Wonderful stories that capture Black girl joy and family love. A full conversation with Valerie below, discussing her publishing journey and much more.
Congratulations on your new book Together We Ride. What was the inspiration behind the story?
Thank you for the congratulations, Sadé and Davina. I’d also like to congratulate the illustrator of Together We Ride, Kaylani Juanita, and the entire Chronicle team, especially my editor, Elizabeth Lazowski. This book was inspired by all the children I saw riding bikes when taking my daily “mental health walks” with my husband during the COVID shutdown of spring 2020. In particular, there was a five-year-old girl who had just learned how to ride a bike. When I commented about how much her bike riding skills had progressed over the weeks, her mother told me that all the time they were spending at home provided the opportunity for her to learn. Learning to ride a bike without training wheels is such an exciting milestone for children that I wrote a story about that experience.
What is the key message in the book?
I believe the prominent message in Together We Ride is: With perseverance and resilience, we can achieve goals. In addition, having a supportive parent (or adult or friend) by your side, offering encouragement and cheering you on, can fuel your success.
What inspired you to write?
I’ve always loved writing. What inspired me to write books for children are my years in the classroom of not being able to find enough diverse literature for my students. In recent years, my quest for diverse children’s literature has become even more personal. I have two nieces, a cousin and godsons aged between 7 to 13. I write with these children in mind. In fact, they have provided inspiration for some of my stories. As I write, I think about the stories I read to these children and those that I wish were in the world. I feel I have a responsibility to write stories I want all children to read.
What is your favourite part of the publishing journey?
Sharing my books with children and inspiring other writers is my favourite part of the publishing journey. The friendships and connections I’ve cultivated within the writing community which include writers, agents, editors, publishers, libraries, bookstores, and schools make it all worth it. It’s encouraging to know we’re all on this ride together.
What is the last book you read? What are you reading next?
The last book I read is an adult book, All Her Little Secrets, by Wanda M. Morris. I’m currently reading an ARC of a middle grade book, A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow, which releases in February. Both books are by debut authors, and I highly recommend them.
Quick Fire Round
Describe yourself in one word.
Summer or Winter?
Together We Ride | Chronicle Books | Available here
About the author
Valerie Bolling has been an educator for twenty-seven years. Valerie serves as the co-chair of the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Team and is a member of SCBWI, the Authors Guild, and NCTE. She lives in Stamford, CT.