Natasha Wing is a friend from waaaay back. I can’t recall the first time we met but I know it was when she was a member of my writing partner Mary Nethery’s critique group. Tash: did we meet at the Humboldt County Author Festival? Perhaps. At any rate, we have covered a lot of ground together, she and I — mostly me trying to catch up with this prolific writer. Take it away, Natasha!
When I was a young girl, I took ballet, baton, and tap classes. But I was one of those kids who if everyone turned left, I turned right. Still do whenever I try cowboy line dancing! (I’ve gotten “Your other left” grumbled in my ear many times.) So of course I had to have a slightly off-beat yet enthusiastic girl in my book The Night Before My Dance Recital. And yes, moms, there’s a boy in the dance class, too!
One of the things l love best about writing my Night Before books is to interview parents, kids and teachers for ideas of what to include in my new stories. For this book, I interviewed two neighborhood girls who were taking dance classes, their mom, and their teacher. I tapped into some worries kids have about rehearsal, and some ways teachers prepare for the big recital night. Plus it’s easier to imagine the main character in the story when I have a real child in mind when I write.
When writing the Night Before series I like to incorporate phrases – or modifications thereof – from the original The Night Before Christmas so that readers and their parents can relate my story to the Christmas one. I’ve had teachers tell me about how their students love comparing my Night Befores, and have even tried writing and illustrating their own versions!
And speaking of illustrations, Amy Wummer once again brings warmth and humor to my text, and I think we make a fabulous pair!
During the Christmas while I was writing this book I attended The Nutcracker for inspiration as well. I don’t have children, but still, as I sat in the audience, I could feel the excitement and nervousness of the parents watching their kids perform, hoping that their child leaps and turns when they are supposed to. As an audience member, those are my most favorite and charming moments – when a child misses a beat then happily joins back in!
Come to think of it, that’s a lot like writing. Sometimes you miss a beat and get a rejection letter from an editor, other times your manuscript is accepted and there you are, happily joining in with a published book!
Either way, you’ve got to remember to enjoy the dance.
Natasha Wing is the bestselling author of The Night Before series that has 20 titles and more on the way! The series has sold more than 5.3 million copies and some titles are now available in hardback, gift sets, ebooks and sticker books. Natasha is also the author of ALA Notable book, An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers. She had taken up watercolors and paints dogs, and children reading, and hopes to illustrate one of her own books someday.