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Author Q&A: Laurel Snyder

Swan Author headshotLaurel Snyder is the author of Swan, the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

What inspired you to write Swan?

It’s a funny story.  On a visit home to my mom’s, I found an old book in the basement, about Anna Pavlova.  In it were notes I’d scribbled about how much I loved her, when I was about ten years old.  Staring at my own messy handwriting, I was sort of overwhelmed by memories of my childhood obsession, and the story followed from there.  In a sense, feel like I time traveled, and  collaborated with my ten-year-old self!

How close do you work with the illustrator?  How does the process work?

Not very  closely, to be honest.  She works from my text, and I respond to her artwork, make suggestions, but we never really interact in person. I think if we did it would take about a decade to finish a book.  That said, it’s an amazing experience to see my thoughts drawn on the page. It’s amazing how that can happen– how an illustrator can peer into an author’s brain. I cried when I saw the early sketches.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Trusting myself to write the real story.  Pavlova’s life was challenging, as well as inspiring.    I wanted this to be a beautiful ballerina book, but I wanted it to be more than that.  I wanted it to feel true.  I didn’t want to leave out the hard parts.

What do you want a young reader to take away after reading Swan?

Oh, good question!  I think the main thing  is that it’s okay for kids to take themselves seriously. Sometimes we adults treat childhood feelings and passions as thought they’re “cute” or “funny,” when what a kid is feeling is actually very intense.  Anna is a great example of a kid choosing a path, and making sacrifices for her choice.  Living a life with great meaning, from a young age.  The world is full of cute funny books for kids. With this book, I wanted to value their other experiences.

Were you a dancer or a writer first?

Aren’t we all dancers first? The power of movement comes long before the power of language.  Watching babies respond to music is amazing.  I can recall spinning in circles when I was about five, feeling my arms float.  I’m a better writer than dancer, but I danced first, for sure!

What do you love best about writing for children?

Writers are explorers, and in a sense,  we get to live infinite lives. Really, this book is a perfect example of that!   As a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a professional ballerina and unicorn trainer.  I failed miserably at both endeavors, but as a writer, I can explore ballet, participate in it. I will never  be Anna Pavlova, but in writing about her, I get to pretend for a little while.  It’s a wonderful thing!

I guess that means I should write a unicorn-training book next, huh?

wan Cover ArtRead more about Swan: The Life and Times of Anna Pavlova, available now.


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