Q: Why did you choose a young figure skater as your main character this time?
A: I’m in the very fortunate position that this is my 10th Little Golden Book for Random House. My book I’m a Ballerina! is selling really well, so my editor approached me to do a figure skating book, sort of as a companion title.
So, while I didn’t suggest doing a book about figure skating, I did create our main character and the story/adventure for her.
Q: What do you think Nina Mata's illustrations add to the story?
A: Her illustrations could not be cuter! Nina truly captures the expressions of a girl trying something new, feeling unsure, gaining confidence, then finally shining with pride. I hope that kids see themselves in this book, no matter who they are.
Q: Did you need to do any research on figure skaters to write the book?
A: Oh yes. I do research for all my books, even the ones (or maybe especially the ones!) that may not seem like I had to. My figure skating experience is pretty much nonexistent. And I have limited general ice-skating experience overall.
That was one of the first things I discussed with my editor. She had asked me to do I’m an Ice-Skater, but really, the sport is figure skating, so we changed that right away. Then I watched a lot of figure skating—which was so fun and relaxing!
I also have a good friend (who happens to also be a scientist and a librarian – what a good friend to have, right? Thanks, Nina!) whose daughter had recently really taken to figure skating.
She helped me arrange a meeting with her daughter’s figure skating coach, and I was able to share the manuscript with her. I wanted to make sure the girl in the book wasn’t taking on more complicated jumps/spins/moves than a beginner would in real life.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: I tried to make the new figure skater’s journey as realistic as I could so kids could see that setting this type of goal was attainable.
I wanted to focus on a few things in a short amount of time (words): trying something new and how that can be scary, making mistakes and how that is okay and how we learn, and finally, succeeding. Overcoming a fear and mastering a skill.
I hope our little figure skater shows kids that you can do something when you put your mind to it, and that it doesn’t necessarily happen flawlessly.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just finished a nonfiction poetry book that I hope to find a home for, and I feel like I’m in the rare position right now where I’ve just met several publishing deadlines and can work on the projects I’ve been meaning to get back to.
I have a few ideas bouncing around, and a few projects I started that I had to put on hold. I’ll be sorting it out in the next few weeks!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have another Little Golden Book coming out next year called I’m a Gymnast!, illustrated by Daniela Sosa. I’ve just seen Daniela’s adorable art and I think everyone is going to love it! I mean, who hasn’t taken at least one gymnastics class in their lives?
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Sue Fliess.