Emily Mott of Charlottesville Ballet helps bring the Vamperina Ballerina books to life as author Anne Marie Pace reads aloud to kids at Foundations Child Care Center.
Local children's book author Anne Marie Pace.
Clad in pink pajamas and perched on the edge of her seat, children’s book author Anne Marie Pace looked every bit as eager to read her new book aloud as the children seated before her were to hear it. Her voice laced with exaggerated anticipation, Pace read Vampirina Ballerina and its new sequel, Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover, to young audiences July 25 at the Foundations Child Care Center in Charlottesville.
“Do you know what it means to have cold feet?” Pace asks, pausing during her reading to make sure the classroom full of four- and five-year-olds is following along with the story.
“It means when you’re cold,” explains a little girl in the front row, dressed in a ballet leotard and skirt. The kids were invited to wear ballet apparel or pajamas, like Pace, to get into the spirit of the books.
“That would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Pace says. “But in this case, it means you’re nervous. Have any of you ever been nervous?”
Pace has the kids' full attention, but the two professional ballet dancers from Charlottesville Ballet that Pace brought along to demonstrate ballet movements are a big hit as well. When she’s finished reading, Pace invites the kids to stand up, and the professional dancers conduct a miniature ballet class.
The books, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, are a charming mixture of scary and cute that appeal to children of all ages.
“It’s funny because even though there is the ballet aspect to the book, third and fourth grade boys really get it,” Pace says. “[They] like the different threads going through the story and through the art.”
Industry giants Amazon and Barnes and Noble are selling the Vampirina books, which are published by Hyperion.
“It’s a big deal to have books picked up by Barnes and Noble so I’ve been pleased,” Pace says, noting that one of the best parts of being traditionally published is that the writers don’t have to worry about distribution.
However, getting published the old-fashioned way is no easy task, and Pace is the first to admit it was a long, hard process.
“I just wrote and wrote and wrote and then started submitting to agents and publishers,” Pace says. “I had a lot of rejections over the years but some were very encouraging."
In the meantime, Pace wrote for children’s magazines, which helped her understand the publication process and working with editors. Then in 2007, she signed with her agent and focused solely on book writing and raising her four kids.
Pace’s love for reading and writing helped her succeed as a children’s author, but she says would-be writers need more than just passion.
“Aspiring authors need to remember that there is going to be an apprenticeship period and that’s ok. It’s not just about writing a cute story or an anecdote; there is a real craft to it,” Pace says.
Though the writing process is sometimes frustrating, Pace has found her calling.
“Children’s books speak to people of all ages," she says, "and when I had the chance to create them it was a dream come true.”