Author Q&A: Laurel Snyder

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.


Excerpt: Swan, The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Excerpt: Swan, The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Written by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad


“A tender, delicate recounting.” — Publishers Weekly

“Young ballet lovers will be smitten with the story.”– Kirkus Reviews

“Exquisite.” — The Horn Book Magazine  


The following is a short excerpt and peek inside Swan, The Life and Times of Anna Pavlova


Swan Cover 3D

The world is big

Anna is small.

The snow is


and all around

But one night…

One night her mother takes her to the ballet, and everything is changed – Anna finds beauty inside herself that she cannot contain.

So begins the journey of a girl who will one day grow up to be the most famous prima ballerina of all time, and who will inspire legions of dancers after her: The brave, the generous, the transcendently gifted Anna Pavlova.


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Swan Cover 3DBuy the Book

Read Brain, Child’s Q&A with author Laurel Snyder.