Once Upon a Dance is a mother-daughter duo. The creation sprang from the coronavirus and a desire to keep kids stuck at home connected to movement. Visit www.OnceUponADance.com for information about Dancing Shapes, More Dancing Shapes, Konora’s Shapes, More Konora’s Shapes, Nutcracker Dancing Shapes, and additional books in the pipeline.
Konora,* our ballerina heroine, climbed the pre-professional ballet ladder up to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Professional Division. Along the way, she danced iconic roles such as Sugar Plum Fairy and Cinderella. While she’s professionally performed for a myriad of companies and festivals, she covets the ultimate ballerina dream of a corps contract. She recently joined Ballet Idaho’s trainee program on full scholarship.
Her mother is a photographer and award-winning dance teacher. She’s worked in early childhood education, for non-profits supporting kids, and as a university English teacher during a Peace Corps stint in Africa. She was on the Board of PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) and recently joined Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Board of Trustees.
Mom lives in Seattle with her husband, teenage dancing son, and a handful of hard-luck cats. Her goal is a dance-book empire.
*Konora was named from a desire to make something beautiful during coronavirus.
We have donated books to Seattle-area non-profit dance schools. As publishers, we get discounted products. The schools sell them at full price, we get cheap advertising - win-win! (Yes, fully donated at no cost; they just need to ask. )
We have done this for the love of dance rather than income. Each sale will be tallied up, and the full price of all sales will be donated to multiple companies until they are back in the theater.
There are corresponding word searches for each book, a favorite-shapes gallery, and bonus photos of Konora for dance inspiration.
We're working on audio companions for the three Dancing Shapes books; these should be up by February 2021.
I needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
We self-published after reading multiple books and watching many videos on the subject. Plus an ENORMOUS number of mistakes and missteps. It's amazing what you can learn on the internet (also interesting how some basics aren't mentioned!). Cover and book design are by Once Upon a Dance. We used multiple editors, mostly on Reedsy. We've hired illustrators for upcoming books.
After months of imposter syndrome, I realized one night like a slap to the head, "I was totally meant to do this!" Teaching dance, doing graduate work in education, teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer, completing a certification course working with children in the arts, reading countless books with my daughter, working at a child care center, etc.—everything pointed toward writing my own books. It was like an epiphany.
But for many months before that, I joked the book was cursed and meant it. First, I lost the Word doc; then I lost the InDesign draft. Just as I finished the first draft, the main font became weirdly unavailable. Amazon pulled all my books, telling me not to use keywords for the author. (Republished weeks later after much correspondence and a “here's my business license.”) My website disappeared. A capital “A” in some metadata caused our second book to be refused. One book had technical issues uploading that escalated three layers up Amazon customer service. Amazon revision stalled because of tax issues. Et cetera.
I hope I look back with fondness, that the books get out there in the hands of kids, and that they bring joy.
There are so many amazing books out there. A few standouts for us: Berenstain Bears, Elephant & Piggie, Frog and Toad, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Artemis Fowl, James Herriot's books, and anything by Brandon Mull.
In general, I was disappointed with many of the popular dance series; maybe that was part of the motivation to create a new series that was accessible to younger kids—we wrote this for the little Konoras out there.
Konora always loved and excelled at language, and she attended a school for gifted children. It was hard to find books at her reading level that were theme-appropriate. We know our books are longer than typical books in the genre—I think we're trying to fill a void that we felt back then.
After twelve years of consistently hearing at parent conferences, “She's a kind, diligent, intelligent worker; we'd just like her to speak up more,” her family was pretty shocked she wanted to move out and pursue performance.
Look, any kiddo willing to partner up with their mother and, let's face it, basically humiliate themselves, is a pretty amazing and confident person. I wouldn't have done it at her age.
I've noticed that every place she's stayed for years (her quiet presence takes a while to be noticed) has had a reputation for being a remarkable group. I used to think she was lucky, but after all this time, I think she's a quiet power for good wherever she goes: her kindness and calm trickle along slowly, infecting only a few at a time but widely percolating with time.
Konora's beautiful and closer to kids' ages. No one needs to see an old woman (slightly overweight post-COVID), but if you must, here are mom-daughter pics (preferred for publications) and a selfie if you'd like a face to go with your article.
Our fourth Dancing Shapes book is in progress. We're working with two illustrators for the new series of Dance-It-Out books for a younger audience (ages 4–6). We're hoping all three will be out by early March 2021.
On the job front: not yet.
Once Upon a Dance Websites
Once Upon A Dance - YouTube
The books introduce readers to stories meant to get kids up and moving. Using acting, breath, imagination, movement, and dance elements, children tell the story with their bodies. We also like to facilitate feel-good reader interactions. For example, in our Princess story, there's a good chance the reader gets a hug. Konora the Ballerina is there with each page turn to help readers connect with movement, focus the breath, and learn dance fundamentals.
A review of our first book read Charming and Accessible. That's our goal goal for the Dance-It-Out series.
Yes, every Once Upon a Dance sale triggers an equivalent donation until companies are back in the theater.
Another artist informed me the I-thought-previously-agreed 6-weeks would actually be 4 months. Frustrated, I thought about the artists we knew. It was 2:00 a.m. and I was looking up every artist to see if they had an online portfolio. When I got to Catherine's, I was so excited I wanted to wake up the house and be like, "look, look, we just found our illustrator!" I was ecstatic she said yes and got to work the same week!
I thought it would be good to simultaneously work with an experienced illustrator to show me the ropes as far as the process. I found Ohla on Reedsy. I later found out it was her first collaboration on that platform. But I love her drawings - the first time I saw Joey, I started happy crying. She totally nailed his warm and friendly expression with an air of sadness.
We have a pile of books in various production stages, and we plan to just keep going, at least until this pandemic is over.
I wrote most of Princess Petunia in the car one night. (I still think of it as Princess Petunia, but an Amazon search showed similar titles, so I tried Princess Penelope, which was a VeggieTales character. Princess Polly and Poppy also existed.) We hadn't been out driving much and I was a terrified passenger in the dark rain. My sweet cat had recently died, and I never realized how much stress relief our morning snuggles provided until she was gone. I guess it was a minor anxiety attack. I sat there for 30 minutes just brainstorming and imagining things to calm myself, then I started connecting them and realized it was the start of a new story.
Joey is based on a story I used in my dance classes. Many of the stories back then were dependent on my expressions. I thought this one would be the most straightforward and a good starting place. It was meant to be the debut, but Catherine worked so quickly we were able to the Princess one out first.
Definitely dealing with print distributors and thinking it's your fault. I'm finally learning, it's usually not something I did. When I got copies of the 3rd book from Amazon, it was printed offset by 1/2 inch. I was convinced I had done something wrong, but after hours of reviewing every detail and all of amazon's instructions, I ordered a second copy which was perfect. I've since received misprints of every book - one of the More Dancing Shapes had extra pages and was in the wrong order. It's really frustrating for mistakes outside of your control to reflect poorly on the books.
I submitted a tiny revision of our first hardcover almost a month ago, and the hardcover version still isn't available. An automated response to my email informed me there was a 19-20 day wait on both email and phone calls. There's definitely a market and need for print-on-demand services.