Origin of Dancing on the Inside

When my daughter was just four years old, she told her mother and I that she would like to learn to dance. So we signed her up for a weekly class at a local ballet school. Although we had never thought of her as shy before, we soon discovered that she was spending each class watching the other girls from the sidelines more often than she was participating.

We might have decided then and there that she should give up dance. Not participating seemed to show a clear lack of enthusiasm and aptitude for the art. But each time we talked to her about the classes, she always expressed a strong desire to keep going. Apparently, she had to “see” what the other girls were doing each week. And when the end of term performance came, she insisted we go and watch it.

Call us indulgent. Call us stupid. But we signed her up for more lessons the next term. She made friends there. We made friends with some of the other parents. And the teachers didn't seem to mind. I tried everything to persuade her to participate, but I also knew that I couldn't force her to be brave. You can't make someone love something by intimidating or threatening them, tempting though it may seem in the moment. Besides, I had been a shy kid myself, and I thought I understood where her shyness was coming from. I also loved the arts, and that made me willing to encourage her interest.

Slowly, our daughter began to participate more and more in dance class. She danced in the recital the following year, and every year after that. Eventually, the only thing she wouldn't do was improvisation.One day during the early years, while I was sitting in the waiting room at the ballet school, it struck me this might be a good idea for a story. I began to imagine a girl with an amazing talent who was held back by anxiety and self-consciousness. Of course, this wouldn't be a story about my daughter. I had to create a different character – a girl who was old enough to do the amazing things I wanted her to do - yet still a child.I have a theory that sometimes the greatest passions in our lives are born in the tween years, before adolescence distracts us. So I made my protagonist 12 years old.

After three years of thinking about the story, I finally made myself write an entire first draft in one month. Many more months of revision and feedback from editors and other writers led to what is now the published novel, Dancing on the Inside.

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