Welcome to the Spotlight: Anne Marie Pace and Vampirina Ballerina!

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I am so very thrilled to welcome Anne Marie Pace and her brand new picture book Vampirina Ballerina to the spotlight! Stayed tuned (below) to see how you can win a copy of this fabulous picture book!

Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, illus. by LeUyen Pham (Disney Hyperion Books/2012)

Vampirina wants to be a dancer, but vampires must take certain precautions before enrolling in a class. Night class, for one. Vampirina is different from the other girls in her class – and not quite as skilled as they are. She tries hard to do the dance moves, but when flustered she turns into a bat. When the big night of the performance arrives, Vampirina finally becomes part of the group. Hooray! The illustrations lend a touch of humor to the sweet story of a girl chasing her dream. I especially love the end papers – the front cover shows Vampirina trying to dance (and turning into a bat)  while the back cover shows Vampirina with her classsmates, dancing, and everyone has a cape like Vampirina’s!

Spotlight on Anne Marie Pace:

What was the initial spark for your picture book, Vampirina Ballerina?

I was listing opposites and contrasts, and when I wrote down “vampire ballerina,” I started brainstorming things ballet dancers have to do that vampires might find difficult.  When I shared the idea with my agent, Linda Pratt, she chuckled politely, but not enthusiastically, and I forgot about it for a while.  Then five or six months later, I came back to it, wrote the first draft, and shared it with her.  This time, she saw what I wanted to do and was on board from that point on.

What was the journey to publication like?

I think my journey has been fairly typical, with all the ups and downs, the acceptances and rejections, that most writers experience.  I have always loved to write, but didn’t know much about writing for publication.  Once I decided that publication was a path I wanted to venture down, I started hanging out at the online children’s writer waterholes (starting with GEnie, then on to the Yellow Board, and finally Verla Kay’s Blueboards and Live Journal).  I joined SCBWI and attended conferences.  At one of these conferences, I met my agent, and we’ve been working together for about five and a half years now.   As far as Vampirina’s journey to publication goes, it was rather quick.  Linda sent the manuscript to Hyperion in late summer 2010, and Hyperion acquired it that fall.

I love the sweet story of a vampire girl wanting to become a ballerina. Vampirina is so different from the other girls in her dance class and yet she perseveres and sticks to it, because she loves it. How did Vampirina evolve as a character as your wrote the story?

My original manuscript was a how-to, instructing vampires in the steps they need to learn to dance.  I imagined it as a parody of those mass-market 8x8s you can buy at Wal-Mart, and in fact, the working title was simply, “How To Be a Ballerina.”  When we started working on revision, my editor Kevin Lewis and I had a long conversation about what is important to six-year-olds, and Vampirina herself emerged from that conversation.  It is still instructional, but it’s in Vampirina’s voice.  She is trying to teach others, in her slightly imperious vampire way, what they need to know in order to achieve success in the ballet studio and on the stage.

The illustrations partner perfectly with the words. Did you and the illustrator, LeUyen Pham, work together at all? What was your initial reaction to the illustrations? Did it mesh with you had in mind?

Kevin coordinated a terrific collaboration among the three of us.  Uyen saw the manuscript in early stages, so she was able to offer ideas that we incorporated into the text throughout revision.  It’s not the typical way a picture book is created, but I think we are all quite pleased with the result.  As for meshing with what I had in mind, I have been observing the world of picture books for a long time, seeing other writers’ experiences, and I know at some point you have to let your text go and let the illustrator do her thing, so I wanted to stay open-minded about whatever might happen in the art.  Of course, Uyen is an incredibly gifted illustrator and I never worried that I wouldn’t love what she did, even before I knew exactly what that was.  If anything, I love her work more than I possibly imagined I could.  The amount of telling detail in the art makes it worth going through again and again.  The Margot Fonteyn thread is probably my favorite, but I also love Vampirina as a bat.  I wrote only, “resist the temptation to turn into a bat,” and Uyen used that as a recurring event that both develops Vampirina’s character and encapsulates her journey.

When you were Vampirina’s age, what was your passion, if not dance?

Well, at age six, it definitely wasn’t dance.  My experience with ballet was similar to Vampirina’s first class (lots of stumbles and missteps), but she persevered and I didn’t.  Mostly, I loved books.  Trips to the school or public library were the highlight of the week, and I always checked out the maximum number allowed.

Despite the oft-quoted adage to write what you know, Anne Marie Pace has never been a bear, a vampire, or a ballerina.  She is the author of Vampirina Ballerina, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, and published by Disney-Hyperion, as well as two original paperbacks for Scholastic Book Clubs, Never Ever Talk to Strangers and A Teacher for Bear, both about bears.  With other children’s writers, she publishes The 4:00 Book Hook, a free email newsletter for adults who share books with kids. She lives with her husband, four teenagers, and two poorly-trained dogs in Charlottesville.

For more about Anne Marie, check out her website and Vampirina’s website.  For an interview with illustrator LeUyan Pham, click here.

Win a copy of Vampirina Ballerina!

Just follow the rules!

1. Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me what your passion is! Mine is writing and reading, but that’s probably obvious, so I’ll add collecting elephant figurines!

2. Leave your comment by midnight EST Friday, September 7th. Winner will be announced on this blog and will be contacted by email on Tuesday, September 11th. Late entries will not be included in the drawing (sorry).

3. Entrants must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

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23 responses »

  1. So excited about this book! Can’t wait to get one for Kayla. I am a writer and a travel agent, specializing in Disney Vacations, so I have to admit, besides reading and writing, my passion is anything and everything DISNEY <3 and that would include making Magical Memories with my children everyday, in everyway!

  2. Wonderful book! Love the illustrations. My passions right now are my kids and travel… They don’t necessarily go together right now as the kids are small so books provide the escape I need. :)

  3. This book looks adorable–my kids would love it! My passions are reading, writing, and photography. One day I’d love to combine those and publish a book of poems and photos! :)

  4. Love the cover: Tutu pink and Spider-web black! I have too many passions, but when I was Vampirina’s age I was enamored of the summer Olympics and Olga Korbut! It’s a wonder I made it back to school in September with all the cartwheeling, backflipping and split attempts I made!

  5. Thanks for introducing me to this new book! When I was Vampirina’s age, I was passionate about gymnastics and diving. Now I love skiing and rock climbing (and, of course, reading and writing).

  6. I bought a copy of this book for my preschool-age daughters, and we all love it. I found the interview interesting in that I didn’t realize it was written from Vamperina’s voice–I imagined it written in the voice of a ballet instructor providing commentary as Vamperina learns to dance.

  7. This book sounds so charming! Love the title and the illustration style. My main passion is reading but I’ve been known to dabble in cooking as well. Thanks for the great interview and giveaway!

  8. What a great interview, Vampirina sounds like a wonderful & fun book, especially for those who enjoy ballet. :) My passions are drawing, crafts, reading & writing. :)

  9. Yay! I love this book so much!!!! Can’t wait to see the real thing (I’ve only seen the F&Gs). My passion right now is gardening, though the days are getting colder and soon my passion will be something that involves staying indoors. :-)

  10. This is such a great concept for a story. I love it. Congrats to the author!
    My passions: reading and writing.
    I struggle with pinpointing my true voice, genre, etc. I wish I could committ full-time to writing.reading, and learning (there’s so much to learn and I’m overwhelmed on where to start :)

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