Friday, April 25, 2014

Iva Valentino, Black Cats and Ballet Slippers

AUTHOR: Iva Valentino

BOOK TITLE: Black Cats and Ballet Slippers
GENRE: Middle Grade Humor

Please tell us about yourself.
Hello! My name is Iva and I write books for tweens. I have a background in biology and have previously worked for many years as a teacher. I live in Arizona with my husband and our dog, Lupo.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’m a part-time writer. I also work as a science editor for an educational publishing company. This is the best of both worlds for me, because I love writing fiction and non-fiction! I work a full day editing books for kids at the publishing office, and then I come home and work for a few hours on my current fiction project. Even if I have a long day, I always carve out time for myself to write at home.

When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing short stories when I was in elementary school, maybe around 7 or 8 years old. I loved creating characters and coming up with fun adventures for them! My stories were always meant to be funny and to make people laugh.

What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote my first book about ten years ago. The book was about a young ballet dancer, and I wrote it for a writing contest. I was so determined to win the contest! In actuality, I did not win, but it felt great to have written a book. It was a great learning experience.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
Come visit my website at!  I would also love to connect with you on Facebook.

What are your current projects?
I’m currently working on a sequel to “Black Cats and Ballet Slippers.” The main characters from “Black Cats” will all play a part in it. I’m also excited to introduce some new characters!

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
My favorite things to do in my free time are taking a dance class of some sort, doing yoga, and taking pictures. I’ve recently gotten into the hobby of photography. I love it! I’ve got a lot to learn but I’m definitely getting better!

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
“Black Cats and Ballet Slippers” is a humorous book for tweens. It’s based in diary format, straight from the head of Gemma Mayfield, who is not only an amazing ballerina but also awesome at solving mysteries. She thinks her teacher is a witch and she’s determined to prove it!

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?
I taught middle school science for many years. I also taught after school dance classes. I really had a lot of fun working with this age group. I love visiting schools as a guest author and interacting with the students.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
This book is meant to be lighthearted and funny. I want my readers to laugh and enjoy! I’ve always loved uplifting and hilarious books, the kinds that put you in a great mood. I’m hoping that my book will bring happiness to my readers.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?
Yes! I always outline. I really like being organized and having things planned out. I don’t think I would be able to just sit down and write the book without knowing where it was going. After I outline, then I’m able to let the characters and story develop a little bit more.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
“Black Cats” was written in just one month! I wrote it in November, during NaNoWriMo. I wrote my little heart out every night. I gave myself daily goals for word counts, and did my best to reach them. It was quite challenging at times, especially since I was teaching school at the time and had very long work days. It was totally worth it! After the initial book was completed, I didn’t look at it for a couple of months. Then I sat down with it again and began editing with a fresh eye. Soon after that, I submitted it to MuseItUp Publishing and the book was accepted! I worked with many wonderful editors at MuseItUp to get the book to the final finished product.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
I love a variety of genres of books. I really love books that are funny. I tend to choose books that are part of a series. I get hooked on the characters, and then I want to keep reading more about them! I read a lot of YA novels, and recently I have been getting into more science fiction/fantasy.

Describe your writing space.
I have a home office that is just for me and my writing. My husband and I recently purchased a new home, and I feel really lucky that there was an extra room to make my writing sanctuary. I just finished painting the walls and putting up my favorite photos of all of my travels. I have quotes of inspiration all over the place. I even have a plant! (Although I frequently forget to water it.) I love the space!

Okay, so something REALLY strange is going on. Boys are from a different planet, but right now a few of them at Middleton are acting like they’re from a different universe. (Wait. Does this make sense? Is there more than one universe? Ugh. Maybe I should have paid more attention last year in Astronomy.)
So, by the time I got to Ms. Pruett’s class, I had already worked myself into a super version of “I Don’t Wanna Go To Class Because I’m Creeped Out!” mode. I walked into the Science Laboratory, and I swear I felt the cold of Building 400 smack me right in the face. I’m not kidding.
Of course Ms. Pruett was at the door, acting like her sweet old lady self (ha ha, I know better), and was welcoming all the kids into the classroom. I just kept my head down and muttered a hello as I passed. Staying below the radar was the goal. Then I sat down at my lab table and shivered a bit.
Joey sat down at the table just a second later. Normally he is really loud and obnoxious, cracking jokes, and calling to the other Soccer Jocks across the room. Today he was quiet.
“Hey,” I said, trying to be friendly. I thought maybe we could commiserate on us both having spells cast on us. Joey responded with a “hey” but didn’t say much else. Hello? Was this the Joey I knew?
“So, Joey, are you feeling okay?” I asked. “You know, after yesterday…”
Joey didn’t say anything, but began writing on a piece of paper. He folded up the piece of paper and passed it to me. I gave him a questioning look. He gave me a weird look back that I couldn’t decipher. The note was as follows:
     Hey Gemma,
     Sorry I gave you a hard time yesterday about the “Cute Boy” list. It was kind of rude of me.
That’s when it hit me that Joey hadn’t recovered from Ms. Pruett’s spell. For me it was just temporary, like a few minutes. But Joey was acting weird. It had to be the spell.
“Um, thanks,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.” I then started taking out all my school stuff so that I could look busy and not have any more awkward moments with Joey until he felt better. He was taking longer to recuperate.
After class I headed straight down toward the lunchroom. On the way there, I saw Trevor going in the opposite direction past me. Our conversation went like this:
            Me: “Hi Trevor!” (with a big smile and enthusiasm)
            Trevor: “Oh, hi Gemma.” (with zombie-like attitude)
            Me: “Okay, have a good lunch!”
            Trevor: “Okay, thanks. Bye.”
            I wondered where he was going, in the opposite direction from the lunch room when it was lunchtime. It took me another couple of moments to realize that the ONLY classroom in that part of campus was Ms. Pruett’s room. He was headed back toward Building 400!
            Yikes! I turned myself around in mid-stride and turned back the way I came. I knew there was no way possible that Trevor would be going to Ms. Pruett’s. Why would anyone in their right mind be going there by themselves?
            I didn’t want Trevor to think I was stalking him, because of course I would never do that. But just in case that’s what it appeared to be, I used as much stealth as possible. I walked in the shadows and stopped to peek out behind bushes and building walls. I saw him up ahead…just before he ENTERED MS. PRUETT’S CLASSROOM.
            My mouth fell open, and I just sort of stared at the door for a while.
            Weird things are going on here at Middleton. And I think Ms. Pruett’s behind it all!



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