Lauri J. Fitz-Pegado is the author of the new memoir Dancing in the Dash: My Story of Empowerment, Diplomacy, and Resilience. She has worked as a foreign service officer, a telecommunications executive, and an advocate for domestic and international clients. She is based in Washington, D.C.
Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir?
A: After retiring from my day job in 2018, and returning to my passions in the creative sector, I wanted to memorialize my rich professional and personal experiences for my children, grandchildren, and close friends.
I began looking at journals I kept throughout the years and things I had written about events in my life. Encouraged for years to write a book by a good friend, Karen Cox (she wrote the prolific Foreword to my book), I took the time to write my story.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: I wanted to approach my story creatively and knew that dance was a defining dimension throughout my life, no matter the many directions of my career. I decided to use dance as a leitmotif for my memoir and made each chapter title a dance reference that evoked a relevant story or period of my life.
Dancing in the Dash became the perfect expression of what I wanted to convey—moving through life with the urgency, and exhaustion of running a hundred-yard dash, and being present in the moment, in the dash between life and death, as reflected on a tombstone.
Q: The writer A'Lelia Bundles said of the book, "Dancing in the Dash will challenge us all to do more and will inspire young women to dream and dare to make a difference." What do you think of that comment, and what do you hope readers will take away from the book?
A: A’Lelia’s generous and insightful comments captured exactly what I hope the book will do, inspire and encourage younger people to pursue their dreams through professional pursuits while never losing sight of their passions.
My book explores and provides commentary on many relevant and universal themes, which should be of interest to readers from every walk of life — race, religion, the arts, politics, diplomacy, something that resonates with everyone.
Q: Did you need to do much research to write the book?
A: I had to research my family history and was able to engage relatives in fascinating discussions and recollections that they had not explored previously with me, perhaps not with anyone.
I engaged friends in sometimes uncomfortable conversations about current events and issues. It was an enriching journey for me and I think for many of them.
Everyone was generous with their time and information. It reminded me and gave me an enhanced appreciation for the importance of communication, of storytelling in ours and the world’s many cultures.
I was grateful for the uninterrupted periods of time and tranquility to reflect and write during the COVID pandemic, in contrast with tragic events — the loss of family and friends to COVID, the wakeup call inspired by the death of George Floyd, the protests, the end of Trump’s presidency, the federal and state campaigns, January 6th, and a new Biden-Harris administration.
There was a lot to absorb and process, to find ways to reflect, include, and give justice to those realities and emotions in my memoir.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Reactions to my book at speaking events, launch parties, and outreach to me by the readers and so many who have learned about it on social media, has impressed upon me the importance of stimulating conversations about the themes and experiences in Dancing in the Dash.
I have speaking engagements, book clubs, and readings scheduled and plans to continue engaging with groups and individuals who are finding my story informative, instructive, inspiring, and interesting.
I also continue teaching ballet at my alma mater, Jones-Haywood Dance School, coaching, advising, facilitating relationships, and creating projects with dance schools, instructors, management, and most importantly students.
I continue to mentor many and to remain engaged in activities with my faith community. I miss international travel which has been a consistent part of my life for work and pleasure. I look forward to resuming visits with family and friends throughout the world while returning to a new tranquil and soothing home environment.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have been moved deeply by the responses to my story. I am discovering how transferable, valuable, and relevant my decades of experience and my network are to creative and resonant approaches to urgent issues in our country and the world.
I am excited and inspired by the possibilities ahead of continuing my lifelong commitment to making a difference, particularly in the areas of social reform and inclusion.
I always have known that writing a book can be a pathway to opening doors. Now that the door is open, I want to ensure that I exercise my newfound freedom to employ my passions constructively.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb