1. What is your next Big Thing?
Nine years ago I was sitting at Symphony Hall, waiting for the Minnesota Orchestra to begin. Leafing through the program I was struck by a photo of the composer, Igor Stravinsky standing next to the sad painted face of dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky as Petrushka. The photo was taken in 1911. I showed it to my composer husband, Matthew Smith, and said: “I wonder what it was like when Stravinsky met Nijinsky?” then I smiled and said: “Hey, wouldn’t that be a great title for a picture book? When I got home that night I cut out the photo from the program, pasted it in a notebook, wrote down the title and began to write a lot of stuff that is no longer a part of the story at all. But it got me started!
Non-fiction picture book, though I wrote it to be read as a raucous and fun read-aloud for the very young up to the very old.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Adrien Brody would be the perfect young Stravinsky and Channing Tatum, who is an actor-dancer might be a good Nijinsky?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When composer, Igor Stravinsky met dancer-choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, their collaboration on the the ballet, "The Rite of Spring" was so different and so new that it caused a riot to break out in the theatre during its premiere in Paris on May 29th, 1913 and revolutionized music and dance in the 20th century.
6. Who is publishing your book?
Harcourt Children’s Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Approximately 6 years.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
~ Ballet for Martha, Making Appalachian Spring, written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2010)
~ Jazz Age Josephine, Jonah Winter, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, (Simon & Schuster, 2012)
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
From the first I LOVED the rhyming and rhythm of “Stravinsky” and “Nijinsky”. Their names seemed to dance and make music on the page even before the story began. I also loved their faces and wanted to paint them. And the more research I did the more I wanted to make the story work for a young audience and the more I wanted to paint every scene. And finally, as an art history major and as someone who made a living in NYC for many years working in museums, my favorite period of painting is the turn of the twentieth century when cubism, fauvism, expressionism, futurism all exploded our notion of how the world should be seen. Stravinsky and Nijinsky changed our notion of what music and dance should sound and look like. What a powerful and rich time for the arts. When I began the illustrations, it became clear that I would pay homage to many of my favorite paintings from that explosive time in the arts.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
This year, 2013, marks the centennial since the premiere performance of The Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913. I think there will be endless opportunities to listen to the music on classical radio as spring arrives in the next several months, the perfect soundtrack to go with the book!
Now it's time to play tag! Stephanie Bodeen, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Wendy Orr, Anne Ylvisaker... You're it!