I Can Dance, Too!
by Victoria C. Ames and Lynette Toma
“Victoria and Lynette,
Thank you for the book. I can do lots of things too! The book the two of you wrote couldn’t have come at a better time. Our daughter had experienced exclusion during an activity and her self-esteem was greatly affected. Although all of us close to her were trying our best to make her feel good about herself, nothing was really working. The book really made a difference; it prompted her to think about all of the things that she can do.
Hi, Victoria. Welcome to 4writersandreaders—It’s great to have you with us today.Tell us about how you came to co-author your wonderful children’s book.
Lynette and I lived at the same apartment complex in San Diego, CA. One day, Lynette walked over to me and asked if anyone was sitting on the pool lounge chair next to me. I invited her to sit down and I noticed that we each had a book in our hands, one describing the strengths and needs of an individual with a speech and language impairment and one guiding us through a woman’s journey to create a better life for herself. An instant connection. We were both speech therapists, we both grew up far from California, we both loved books and we both said, “Why not?” Within an hour we had decided to write a book together to combine our dreams and passions.
That is so exciting, beginning a book project as a team. Give us a brief synopsis of “I Can Dance, Too!”
Mia would love to dance, but she cannot hear the music unless she wears her hearing aids. After questions by the other children, Mia proves that she can dance and that she is not different from the others.
What do you enjoy most about being an author?
Every time I read the book to my students, or to any child, I get a rush of adrenaline. Whether it’s in front of a filled auditorium during a performance or the small setting of my office at school. It is incredible. The children have such a good time reading the words, commenting on the beautiful illustrations, and trying to find the dragonflies on every page. Many of the kindergartener through second graders can read the words or confidently attempt to read them with support as needed. Almost all of them did not know what a hearing aid was and most of them did not think Mia could dance with them in her ears. Both boys and girls get to share Mia’s enjoyment when she explains that she can hear the music and move her body to the song. Even the boys get up and stretch their legs, turn, leap and say, “Look at me—I’m dancing!”
Walking down the hallway at my schools I can hear, “Miss Ames, I can dance, too!” I was recently working with a student, who struggles with literacy and is getting to the point that when asked to read, she tears up. She noticed I Can Dance, Too! sitting on my desk. First, she flipped through the pages, discovered all the dragonflies and volunteered to read the book with me. Then, she asked if she could take it home and share it with her mom. I could not ask for a more thrilling and rewarding experience.
That is incredible, Victoria. Rewards don’t get better than that. What was the most challenging part of writing your book?
The most challenging part of writing the book was that very first step, overcoming the fear of rejection from potential publishers. Our thoughts and questions: The idea becoming words written in a notebook, sharing our Mia with someone else, making our vision vulnerable to the world, subjecting our selves to critics, will people love this as much as we do? Could this really happen? Deep breath in… Exhale. Send the manuscript and wait. The most challenging part of anything is waiting, isn’t it?
During this time I read my laminated, personal bound, photo-stock-imaged manuscript to my students. After all, they were the target audience. Their opinion was the most important one. What age group was best? Was it too difficult? Were they interested? Did the boys like it? I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback. Not only did they enjoy it, most young children could pronounce the name Mia, as we intended. (Try saying Mia without smiling, go ahead, try…) It was also very challenging to keep it so simple. It was a priority for us that the words were age-appropriate and the sentences were not too long. We wanted the concept to be direct and not overwhelming to little ones. The simplicity was with purpose.
What was your favorite part of writing your book?
Watching Mia come to life. Our illustrator is amazing and she created exactly what we envisioned. I still find it entertaining to flip through the pages of my writing journal (given to me by my co-author, Lynette) and read through the funny comments describing our journey to becoming published. The different ideas we had, how Mia had physically changed, every thought, different places we met to write. Organizing our ideas at the park, coffee shops, restaurants and even at the beach. What was going on in our personal lives at that time. I wanted to make sure that I captured every step along the way because I knew how important this was to Lynette and to me.
What is your favorite line in the book?
“My ears may be different but I can still dance, let me show you!”
It is the moment that she wipes away the doubt of the other students and proves that she belongs in that group—her Mia Moment!
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Absolutely. Both reading and writing have been a significant part of my life from before I was born to the moment I was strong enough to sit up independently and hold a book in my hand, as reported to me by my mother. Literacy was always encouraged by all of my family. You could always find my mother, my sister and my grandmothers reading. I had very good role models growing up. Actually, let’s rewind to first grade. My teacher, with whom I still keep in touch very closely, has recently reminded me of how I loved reading so much and always loved to ‘perform’ and read out loud to my classmates.
I remember my fifth grade teacher giving us a writing assignment. Upon my initial review of her feedback, I noticed at the top of the paper it stated she wanted to see me. What is the first thought we have when the teacher requests to see us privately? Yikes! Standing outside her door, she handed me a brand new journal and asked that I not tell the other students because this was a special gift just for me. She told me that there was something very special about my writing and she hoped that I would continue throughout my life. I smile today, 20 years later, just thinking about how much that meant to me. The simple gesture of presenting me with that blank canvas was unforgettable and perhaps an incredible catalyst that ignited my passion for written expression.
How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
I am a Speech Language Pathologist. Throughout my career I have worked with both children and adults. I genuinely enjoy my profession. How do I spend my time when I am not working? Quite frankly, it depends on where I am. Living on the East Coast, I competed in and taught all types of dancing, including ballroom, jazz, tap and acrobatics. I always found myself outside somehow enjoying the beach and the fresh air or watching the sunset. On the West Coast, I was a Zumba instructor at a hip hop cultural center as well as a tap and ballet teacher at a performing arts academy. I have also been known to choreograph my friends’ wedding dances or give piano lessons to colleagues. Free moments in San Diego, California were spent at the beach lying on my towel, listening to the waves, reading or writing until the sun set over the Pacific. In my new state, I hike, run up and down trails, rock climb, snowboard, mountain bike, and basically look for any reason to be outside and up in the mountains. And yes, watching the sunset over the Rockies reminds me everyday that life is beautiful here in Colorado.
Who is your favorite character?
Of course I love Mia! However, after reading and presenting my book to numerous audiences, I am starting to become fond of the little boy who questions her. He changes his mind after a bit of social education and then welcomes her to the group. Simply put, that’s the point, educate and hopefully elicit a positive response.
What originally inspired you to write your book?
In my profession as a speech and language pathologist, I can provide services to children or adults in a one-on-one setting, a small group of two to four, or a whole classroom of approximately 20 children. After a few years of experience in the field, I wanted to figure out a way to help more people, as many as possible. What can I do to reach children and their families that I have never even had the pleasure of meeting? I will never forget the first email I received from a mother who had purchased I Can Dance, Too! from our website. This woman had written a message describing how the book had helped her little girl overcome feelings of rejection from classmates and encouraged her to think about all of the things that she can do! My reaction? Tears dropped, goose bumps appeared and my heart jumped! That one email, the first of many, was confirmation that my dream and vision had become a reality.
What is next for you, Victoria?
- I am in the process of converting the book to an eBook that will be available on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble, in addition to the paperback copies that are currently available online.
- I am working towards creating interactive technology that will assist the children and their reading partners. It will increase their communication and creativity and help them get practice answering comprehension questions to encourage their overall success.
- We will be publishing the remaining stories so we can introduce the rest of Mia’s friends.
- It was the original vision to have I Can Dance, Too! in the preschool or elementary curriculum to promote literacy and acceptance while meeting academic requirements.
- I hope to continue our involvement in dance productions or dance studios. Please stop by our I Can Dance, Too! Facebook Page for pictures. https://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Can-Dance-Too/211393855603764?fref=ts
- I will be speaking at the 2014 conference for Zonta Professional Women’s Service Club.
You sure do have a full schedule, Victoria. Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
Our book is more than just pages bound together, more than illustrations and words presented on a kindle and more than a tangible product to sell. It is a mission to encourage literacy, respect, acceptance, connections, passions, discoveries, self-esteem, self-worth, belonging, and trusting yourself when those around you are doubtful. Face challenges with confidence, overcome obstacles, and realize that you can… Always believe that anything is possible!
I highly recommend “I Can Dance, Too!” to all of our readers who have young children. Where can they find a copy of your book?
They can purchase it directly from our website or through Amazon and Barnes & Noble:
Thanks so much for joining us today, Victoria. It’s been a pleasure learning more about you and your most amazingly co-authored book for young children.
Mom’s Choice Gold Award Recipient-Inspirational and Motivational
Social and Emotional Encouragement Book Set: Kaplan Early Learning Companyhttp://www.kaplanco.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=6%7CCB1070%7C0&PID=51187&WT.mc_id=KAFB
American Speech and Hearing Association; Books About Communication: Hearing Disorders