Leda Schubert and TRAILBLAZER: THE STORY OF BALLERINA RAVEN WILKINSON
Welcome Leda Schubert, an alum, emeritus faculty member… and fabulous writer. Leda is the author of ten picture books. She lives in Plainfield, Vermont, with her husband and two much-too-large dogs (one of whom is very annoying).
Leda has an important new picture book, TRAILBLAZER: THE STORY OF BALLERINA RAVEN WILKINSON and she’s here at the LaunchPad to tell us all about it.
“All Raven Wilkinson wanted to do was dance. On Raven’s ninth birthday, her uncle gifted her with ballet lessons, and she completely fell in love with the craft. While she was a student at Columbia University, Raven auditioned for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and was finally accepted on her third try, even after being told she couldn’t dance with the troupe because of her skin color. She encountered racism in her travels while on tour, but the applause, along with the opportunity to dance, made all the hardship worth it. She would later dance for royalty with the Dutch National Ballet, and she regularly performed with the New York City Opera until she was fifty.
This beautiful picture book tells the uplifting story of the first African American ballerina to ever dance with a major American touring troupe and how she became a huge inspiration for the pioneering ballet dancer Misty Copeland.”
The best part was getting to know Raven Wilkinson. She is extraordinary person: compassionate, graceful, gracious, funny, smart, thoughtful, and more. There’s an advantage to writing a picture book biography about a living person! Because of the book, she’s been interviewed here and there, and that makes me very happy. She deserves all the attention.
Tell us about your writing community. Are you in a critique group? Does your son or mom read your early drafts? Is Twitter your bastion of support?
For years I was a member of a very small critique group; then another one. Now I am not, and I really miss it. The VCFA workshop model–as both student and faculty–was a huge part of my life. I’m not as interested in the potential of an online critique group, because it’s the face-to-face give-and-take that worked best for me. So I have no first readers other than my very useful husband, who is incredibly patient. I don’t do twitter. Life is too short, and I’m already overdosing on political news these days.
How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?When I entered the program, I had published two early readers with Candlewick. When I left, I had a picture book contract for a manuscript I worked on during the program. Within a few months, I had the next contract for something I wrote after graduation. I’m convinced neither would have happened without the depth of learning the program offers. In my journal from when I was 17, I wrote that all I wanted was to live in Vermont and write children’s books. The first I achieved all by myself in my early 20s. The second I achieved through the help of faculty and students in the program. Too bad there was such a long gap in between, ha.
TRAILBLAZER is published by little bee books. You can buy a copy at any bookstore and learn more about all of Leda’s books–and the amazing class she’ll be teaching at the Highlights Foundation– at www.ledaschubert.com.