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The African-American ice skater who broke racial barriers

On the Why We Write podcast: Rose Viña's debut children's book traces the life of 1930s ice skater Mabel Fairbanks.

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Find the full transcript at the end of this page.

Episode notes

Illustrated book cover with an African-American girl wearing a purple dress and ice skating

A story about the legendary, but little-known, African-American ice skater Mabel Fairbanks is a natural debut for professional skater-turned-author Rose Viña.

Her new picture book, Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating, tells the story of the first African-American woman inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. Born in 1915, Fairbanks skated professionally despite racism that prevented her from entering competitions. She went on to champion diversity in ice skating, coaching the likes of Kristi Yamaguchi and Scott Hamilton.

In this interview conducted by Georgia Sparling, Rose, an ice skating coach in Europe, talks about life on the ice, publishing her first book with help from our MFA in Creative Writing faculty, and more. She also shared this video from her days as a professional skater.

Check out all our episodes on our podcast page or just go ahead and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

  • Transcript

    Georgia Sparling: This is Why We Write, a podcast of Lesley University. Each week, we bring you conversations with authors from the Lesley community to talk about books, writing, and the writing life. My name is Georgia Sparling, and today, I want to welcome Rose Viña to the show. Rose is a professional ice skater, full-time ice-skating coach, and now the author of a nonfiction children's book about the life of African-American ice skater, Mabel Fairbanks. Thanks so much for speaking with me today, Rose.

    Rose Viña: Oh, thank you for having me! I'm really thrilled.

    Georgia: Today, we're gonna talk about your book, which is titled Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating. But first, I'd like to hear about how you got into ice skating and your career. Since that's maybe not obvious [laughs] how ice skating became a writing career.

    Rose: [chuckles] Yeah! I've been skating now almost 30 years, and coaching for 22 years.

    Georgia: Oh wow.

    Rose: But, I originally got into figure skating around age eight or nine, same age as Mabel Fairbanks actually. I had a class field trip to the local ice rink, and I came home just bursting through the door like, "Oh I really wanna skate, please let me skate." But, I think my parents knew how expensive ice skating was, so they were like, "no way," and, it took a while before I got into skating. And I believe it was through my grandmother who, at the time, was taking one of my cousins to skating school lessons. And I tagged along one day, and ended up on the ice. So, I do think it's probably because of my grandmother my parents were convinced. [laughs]

    Georgia: Yeah. [chuckles]

    Rose: So, thanks to her, I got into it. But one of my true skaters that I really admired from the very, very beginning was Brian Boitano.

    I just loved his huge jumps and his athleticism with his grace on the ice. And that's not so typical maybe, for a little girl to look at the male skater and say, "I want to do that," you know? [chuckles] He's not wearing the sparkly dresses and the, you know, the fancy hair. I wanted to jump like Brian Boitano.


    That was really what pushed my love of the sport right from the beginning.

    Georgia: And where did you grow up?

    Rose: I grew up in Northern California.

    Georgia: Okay. So not necessarily like a cold place where you might associate [laughs] with ice skating.

    Rose: [laughs] No everyone thinks that. It is interesting, though, because California has a lot of ice rinks and a lot of Olympic coaches there. And I think it's because when your job is constantly in the cold, you want to come outside and feel the warmth. So I think that might be why.

    Georgia: Yeah, makes sense [chuckles]. So how did you–so you started young, but how did you, shape a career in ice skating? And could you tell us a little bit about your trajectory?

    Rose: Sure, sure. After, I got into the skating school, I was actually one of the terrible listeners. You know as a little kid, I was awful. I was always paying attention to the higher-level groups and wanting to do what they were doing. And a private coach saw that. And she was like, "You need private lessons because you're not really paying attention in the group setting" [laughs quietly]. So I ended up with a private instructor pretty quickly. And then, from there, we transferred over to a different rink, but it was an hour drive. But the Olympic coach was there so I really wanted to go to that rink and have a high-level coach. And from there, it took off! I just, I worked hard, I trained almost every day, a couple of hours a day. And I ended up making it to the highest level on figure skating.

    Georgia: And what is that level?

    Rose: So that level is called senior. There's usually eight levels in Figure Skating in the US, and there's a whole series of tests just for that. But then, there's a free skating, and there's a whole series of tests for that, where you show your jumps and spins. And then I was also a pair skater.

    Georgia: Okay.

    Rose: So there's a series of tests for all that. So I ended up at the highest level for all three of those disciplines.

    Georgia: Oh wow. So–and what is it that you really loved about or do you still love about ice skating?

    Rose: Oh my gosh, so many things. One: jumping. As a kid, that was like, the ultimate thrill. I loved it. And skating fast across the ice, pushing yourself, the adrenaline–performance, of course.

    Georgia: So what is it about performing that you really enjoy in being on the ice?

    Rose: It's really thrilling, really exciting to perform what you've been working so hard on for so many months, day in and day out, hour after hour. And when it comes together on the ice, even if it's not a perfect performance, but if it comes together, and you finish strongly, it feels really great, it's such a great reward after all the hard work. But I really loved performing. But I also felt very connected to the music and presenting that to the audience as well.

    So it was really great actually when I went from competitive to the ice shows because in the ice shows, you get to travel around the world and perform for a mass number of people, much more than just your local competition. So that also brought a whole 'nother level [laughs] to that excitement there.

    Georgia: Yeah.

    Rose: And even–Actually, what most people probably don't realize unless they go to another country to do it, when you perform an ice show in another country where the foreign language is not English, then the show is in that language.

    Georgia: Okay.

     Rose: For that home country, yeah. So you end up performing to French and German and Spanish, and you know, even if you don't know the language, don't know the words, you know what you are performing. So it transcends a lot of things. And it's, oh, it's so cool. I love performing arts! The sports that, you know, include that kind of–characteristic to it, like gymnastics, like the floor routine, right? They get some music, or the artistic gymnastics where they have the ribbons and the ball, and the, you know, that kind of stuff. It's really cool because you get to perform your athleticism in a very unique way.

    Georgia: Right. There's a strong creative element to it.

    Rose: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. It's very subjective, though, in figure skating. Just as it can be with gymnastics and a few other sports, but that's what I think gave me my thick skin which rolled over into writing.

    Georgia: Yeah! [laughs]

    Rose: It did! It did.

     Georgia: Yeah, that's not easy.

    Rose: No! The rejections, you know trying to get an agent, then hoping for a book deal, it's a process. It really is!

    Georgia: And how did you get from ice skating which, obviously, you're still very much in that world, and you currently–

    Rose: Very much, yes. 

    Georgia: –are a coach in Sweden. So how did you–how did the writing come into play?

    Rose: The first thing I ever wrote was actually for one of my little sisters.

    Georgia: Okay. That's sweet. [chuckles]

    Rose: And I was like ten years old. And I wrote her a book called Jackie's Camp. And it was about her going away for the weekend to a camp and all the fun things she would do at camp. And I actually did illustrations, which is terrible, they're so awful.

    Georgia: [laughs]

    Rose: But–And I bound the book with like, massive amounts of tape. I mean, it's ridiculous, but she found this book like a year ago. She had kept it all this time!

    Georgia: Wow.

    Rose: I was like, "This is incredible!" So that's actually, you know, where things started for me. But–so, I think though, my passion for skating kind of overtook that. So writing fell into the background for a very long time. And then when I finished ice shows at age twenty-seven, my husband and I, we were ready to hang up our skates and kind of move on in life. And–I was like, "Hm, you know, I really wanna do something [laughs] that's not just skating." I wanna do something, and I've always loved to read. I'm an avid reader. Wide, I read widely every kind of genre you can think of. And–for whatever reason, it popped in my head like, "Yeah, you're gonna write a book." I don't know why. I don't know why I thought I could do that, but I'm [laughs] I'm gonna try. And that year, I spent the whole year writing four middle-grade novels. A series.

    Georgia: Wow in one year? That's a lot.

    Rose: In one year. It is a lot, but it'll never see the light of day.

    Georgia: Okay. [chuckles]

    Rose: It is a load of [unintelligible 00:09:00], it's terrible.

    Georgia: A load of what?

    Rose: And–[laughs] It's a load of crud.

    Georgia: Okay.


    Rose: It's awful. But I did submit, one of them, or pages of it, to Lesley University. Because I knew my writing was not up to par. I knew it. And that's another thing, when you've been an athlete for so long. You recognize when you need to put in the work, and you recognize that you need to be more educated. And, yes, I firmly believe there are some people out there that are super, super, naturally talented at things, like writing just rolls off their fingertips, I'm sure. That is not me. I have to work hard. [laughs] I do.

    And, every step of the way, I've had to work hard. And, so I knew it, and I had done a lot of, SCBWI. So for anyone who doesn't know what that is, that's the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators. And that's a great association to belong to and I highly recommend it. So going through that, I connected with critique groups, I connected and went to the seminars and conferences, you know, the local regional chapters.

    And it was really great, but I still, every time I pitched something or shared a first page, it was just never good enough. So I knew I needed to do more and get more. But, living in California, working full-time, being a skating coach, I was like, "How am I gonna have time for a master's degree?" [laughs]

    Georgia: Right.

    Rose: And Lesley University fell into my lap. I just googled it and I found Low Residency Program, Creative Writing. And at the time, my sister was in Boston at the Boston Conservatory of Music.

    Georgia: Okay. 

    Rose: She's an opera singer. So, I was like, "Okay, if I do this, can I come live with you for free?"


    Rose: She's like, "Absolutely." So for two years, she housed me twice a year, for two years. That was fantastic.

    But it really fit the bill. It really fit everything I needed. And then, on top of it, I looked at the faculty list. And I was like, "Wow. Okay these, these are great authors!" And I picked up some of their books and I read them, and I was like, "Yeah, this is where I need to be." So, it was really the right choice as the evidence is proving now, although I'm only just now feeling like a writer, years later [laughs]. I wonder if everyone has that impostor syndrome. I have no idea.

    Georgia: I think so.

    Rose: But–oh, okay, alright

    Georgia: Yeah, yeah I think you're in good company.


    Georgia: Even, I was speaking with, I think it was Michelle Knudsen, the other day, one of our faculty who I believe you know, and she was saying that, you know, you sit down to write and you're just like, "No. I mean, I know I've done this before, and [laughs] but yeah. Can I do it again? Like, were those just flukes?" Yeah. 

    Rose: Yes! Yes, exactly. Yeah no, totally. Well but, yeah. I knew I needed further education. So my first meeting was with David Elliot.

    Georgia: Okay. Love him. He's also, he was on the show, first season.

    Rose: Oh David? Fantastic. Has he yodeled for you?

    Georgia: No!

    Rose: He's a yodeler.

    Georgia: But I loved talking to him. He was just the most fun.

    Rose: I got a yodel. I'm gonna tell you, it was amazing.

    Georgia: [laughs]

    Rose: So, David's amazing. He did a Skype with one of my classes 'cause I taught a co-op for creative writing for a short time before I came to Sweden. And he and Susan both Skyped in and my students bought their books and we talked about it, it was great. And he yodeled. It was fantastic.

    Georgia: That's great [chuckles].

    Rose: So [laughs] I had David for two terms and Susan Goodman for the other two. And my first meeting with David, he was like, "So Rose. I read your submission." And I was like, "Oh my God."


    Rose: I was so embarrassed. And he was like, "I think we need to go a different route." I'm like, "Okay. Not middle-grade, not fantasy. All right." I'm like, "I'm open-minded. what are you thinking?" And he's like, "I'm thinking picture book."

    Georgia: What did you think?

    Rose: And I'm like, "What?!" [laughs] I was thinking, "I don't know what this guy is thinking." But he was like, "When was the last time you read a picture book?" And I'm like, "Four years old probably? [chuckles] I don't know." And he said, "Okay, you've got a lot of catching up to do."

    But I wanted to be open-minded about it and he thought my personality would really fit with picture books and working with shorter prose, and learning from that. Structure and tone and voice and pace and everything.

    So, I was like, "All right. What do I got to do? How do I catch up?" And he's like, "You need to go to the public library. You need to read as many books as possible." So that first day, I went to the Boston Public Library and I read over 100 picture books–in one sitting. I was like this weirdo adult in the corner of the kids' section [laughs] with piles and piles of kids' books around me. And I was just thinking, "Every parent here must think I'm the weirdest person without being here with my kid." [laughs]

    Georgia: Nah, they probably thought you were a teacher [laughs].

    Rose: True. With that many books, that would be true. But it was really great and really educational and I connected immediately to that. And it took a long time to really develop into it. Definitely, that full year. Poor David, having to read all my cruddy work. But he hung in there with me, and then I got Susan, and she hung in there too. And it still took a couple more years after graduation before I started to really feel like, "Okay, this is writing."

    Georgia: And why did you keep at it, even though you were having a hard time and it was kind of a complete genre shift for you?

    Rose: Yeah! Because you don't give up in life, when you want something bad enough. Right? And skating taught me that, definitely. The commitment, the drive, the determination. You know, you don't give up. You fall 50 times in a practice, you get up. You know, that's what it takes. So if you don't try, there's a 100% chance nothing works, right, nothing is going to happen. But if you do try, there's a small chance it'll work out. So I didn't want to give up. And thank God that David and Susan didn't want to give up on me either.

    And I learned so much from the two of them. It was fantastic. And of course, all the other seminars that you get to attend when you're there as well during residency. So we had a fantastic time just all of us learning. It was phenomenal to be in that environment. You know, that's your community. So I learned so much from that. And, oh! Like, Jason Reynolds. Oh my gosh, I loved his seminar.

    Georgia: Yeah. [laughs]

    Rose: Fantastic!

    Georgia: He is super popular. [laughs]

    Rose: Right! Right, yeah like–yeah, totally. I think at the time though, All-American Boys had been out just recently.

    Georgia: Okay. Yep.

    Rose: And there was one particular seminar with–it wasn't many students. I don't remember, it might've been specific for only for writing for young people. And he got through his, what he wanted to say pretty quickly. And at the end, he said, "Okay, you know what? This is what we're going to do now. I'm done. Here's what we're going to do with the rest of the time. I want to talk about supporting each other. And the writing community. And helping each other." And he even, at one point, at the end of it all, gave us his email. And he said, "If you think you have a story ready, I'll read it. And if I think it's great, I'll pass it to my agent."

    Georgia: Wow.

    Rose: So–it's incredible! I mean, who does that? Come on. You know? 

    Georgia: No one. [laughs]

    Rose: Jason's amazing. He's amazing. I never did take him up on that offer. I never did send my work via email. Maybe I should've, I don't know. But, as I've told you, you kind of have that writer impostor syndrome kind of thing.

    Georgia: Yep.

    Rose: Maybe your whole career, I don't know. But very recently, I felt very writerly the other week. And I was like, "Oh good! Okay, I feel like a writer today."


    Georgia: Yeah take it when you can get it [laughs].

    Rose: Yeah, exactly. But it was just so cool what he said about you know, writers, we're not out there to compete against each other, we need to be here for each other.

    Georgia: Yeah.

    Rose: So, I loved that. And that–that is something I definitely felt at Lesley, that community team spirit. It was great. And I had that in skating as well. And I try and do that with my skaters. You know, we need to help each other through this life.

    Georgia: Yeah. So how did you get to Ice Breaker, this book about Mabel Fairbanks, who I had never heard of before. 

    Rose: Yeah!

    Georgia: Is she somebody that's still pretty famous and well-known in skating circles?

    Rose: Okay so here's the thing. In California and the skaters that she helped to develop, they know who she is.

    Georgia: 'Cause that includes like, Kristi Yamaguchi, and some big names.

    Rose: It does, right. Tai Babilonia and all that. Yes, absolutely. But throughout figure skating history, she's kind of unknown.

    But this kinda goes back again to David and Susan because one of the things they had taught me was you know, "write what you know." That's what everyone says, "Write what you know, write what you know." And I straight up refused it for those whole two years. I was like, "No, I want to approach other things and really challenge myself because I want to learn everything there is to know about writing in the hardest way possible."

    Why I did that to myself, I don't know. But I did! And then–seriously, literally, graduated January 2016, and then February 2016, Ice Breaker was done.

    Georgia: Wow.

    Rose: So I wrote it after graduation. And so actually, they have never read it. I'm going to send them a free copy. [whispers] Don't tell them, shh!

    Georgia: [whispers] I won't say a word. [chuckles]

    Rose: [whispers] Okay.

    Georgia: [laughs]

    Rose: And hopefully, they'll be proud of me.

    Georgia: Yeah, I'm sure.

    Rose: But yeah. I was like, "Okay I'm gonna take their advice and write what I know." So I started researching originally actually because I am also Cuban, my father was born in Cuba. So I am 50% Cuban, and I was like, "I'd really like to find a story about a Hispanic figure skater and see if I can find someone." And you know, as I was researching, there's a few, but I really wanted a story that stood out much more. So I started clicking around on different names, right? When you get into the internet, you go deep, right? You go deep into the internet.

    Georgia: Yep. [chuckles]

    Rose: And I'm clicking, clicking, clicking. So you know, I see Kristi Yamaguchi's name, there's Scott Hamilton you know, a bunch of great names. And I'm clicking, and every time I kept clicking on someone's name, Mabel's name was in the background. Every single time! Almost every time. And I just thought, "Who is this person?" because I didn't even know her. All these years of skating, and I was such a fanatic about figure skating when I was young that I knew all the famous skaters.

    It was such a big deal. It was like looking up to the famous baseball players, right? You know like you follow them, you follow their career. But Mabel, I clicked on her and when I read her story, I was so moved and I just thought, "What if someone had done that to me? What if someone, when I would go to the local ice rink, a Cuban-American, and they turned me away because I'm Cuban. What if that had happened? You know, how would that make me feel?"

    Georgia: Yes, and will you tell us a little bit about Mabel? Since most of the people listening probably won't know her just as I didn't.

    Rose: Yes. She is an unknown figure. This is the first book written about her.

    Georgia: Wow. Wow!

    Rose: Yeah, like ever. Her story is unbelievable though. She was born in 1915 in Florida, and right around the age of eight, her mother died. So she ended up in New York and was living with an aunt and uncle, or her brother? I can't remember. She had a very big span of ancestors that it's hard to keep track of, there's not much information on her. Like I said, she's kind of unknown.

    So at age eight, she ended up orphaned and living on the streets of New York. Sleeping in stoops, sleeping on benches in the park.

    You know, it's unbelievable. A child of that age experiencing that. Quite unbelievable. But a white woman sees her and says, "In exchange for some babysitting and some tours and picking up my groceries, I'll give you some room and board." So they agreed! And at the age of eight, she agreed to live with this stranger and help take care of her baby and do chores around the house. At the same time, this woman, she was very wealthy and she lived in one of the apartments that overlooked Central Park.

    And during the wintertime, when the pond froze over, she could see from the window the figure skaters, people just going to skate, and she fell in love with it just from watching it. And she was so determined to try skating that she saved up her nickels and dimes and she went to a secondhand store and there was some black ice skates, just you know public type skates, very cheap, very worn down, and they were two sizes too big. So she stuffed cotton balls in the toes and she was like, "I'm gonna go skate."

    And she went to the pond and she went every day and got better and better and better. But of course, wintertime has to come to an end and the ice melted away, so she needed to find a local rink to go skate at. So she figured out there was one on 52nd street and she gets in line, she's got her coins in her pocket to pay for entry, and she gets to the front and there's a sign that says "No Colored Allowed." But she tries anyway.

    She gets to the very front and she hands over her coins, and they tell her no. And she comes back every day. And keeps trying, until finally, a manager saw it and he said, "If you come back at night when all the white kids are done skating, I'll let you on the ice." So she took him up on his offer, she just wanted to skate, that was it.

    Incredibly enough, she ends up being a great influence at this ice rink, but still faced very, very much discrimination and racism.

    But she had two white coaches, Howard Nicholson and Maribel Vinson, and they gave her lessons for free and they taught her every night. And they even sacrificed some of their own lessons with other skaters because those white families saw them teaching an African-American child and they said, "Well, you're not gonna be coaching our child anymore."

    Georgia: And she eventually makes it to California, and it's on TV, even though she really wasn't able to compete.

    Rose: She ends up with an agent! She gets an agent.

    Georgia: Wow, yeah.

    Rose: They wouldn't let her do the local ice shows she had to create her own ice show in her apartment. She builds what's called pink ice. So it's a few inches high and a few feet wide and a few feet long surface that you add ice water to and freeze it over. But it's enough for her to practice and she creates her own shows, and then her agent gets her gigs at the nightclubs in Harlem.

    So that's how she started you know, getting to be more well-known. She ended up in the newspaper here and there, but she wanted those ice shows. She wanted to be traveling. She wanted to be the star. She was good enough to be the star. That's what everyone said. She was one of the best skaters in the rinks. But she was not allowed to take tests, she was not allowed to do competition. This is the part that didn't make it in the book. When she would take tests--okay so tests are when you go on the ice and you perform the skill, right?

    And they have papers, and the judges would stand on the ice back then. And they would write down all their notes and they would say if you pass or fail. She would pass every test, and they would take her papers and rip them up in front of her and say, "Because you are black, you don't need these papers anyway. You are not allowed to compete anyway, so the tests don't matter."

    Georgia: Wow.

    Rose: Can you imagine? And at the time, she was a teenager. Her whole story just broke my heart, and I was like "I have to write this story."

    Georgia: Yes. It is so inspiring though because I read your book and then I also was looking on the internet to see what other information there was about Mabel, and she really tried to encourage African-Americans and other minorities to be a part of–

    Rose: Yep. Asian-American, Native Americans, yes, she did. Absolutely.

    Georgia: Yes, which is remarkable, giving them the opportunity that she couldn't have.

    Rose: She had to stand up and fight for her skaters every step of the way, including for ice shows because I believe it was not until 1966 that African-American skaters were included in the ice shows and it was chorus, not starring roles. And I think Atoy Wilson was one of the first to have a starring role, I believe so, and he was her student.

    Georgia: That's such a rich legacy for her to have been forgotten, or mostly forgotten.

    Rose: Isn't it? Oh my gosh it's unbelievable. And here's the funny thing. It's crazy–I have met Mabel.

    Georgia: Oh wow!

    Rose: She died in 2001, but I met her around 1998, and I think I was at a competition in Southern California and I was with my coach. And she was there to watch the competition and my coach knew her and we just walked by her and they hugged and said hello, and then she said, "This is my student, Rose." And she looked at me and she said, "Good luck today," because she saw I was in my skating dress, and I said "Thank You!" and I continued on. I didn't know her name, I didn't know anything about her, but after researching her and when I saw her picture for the first time, that's, "Oh my gosh, I've met her."

    Georgia: Oh that's really cool. [chuckles] What was the process like of getting information about Mabel since she is–sort of had been under the radar?

    Rose: That was tough. I did find a lot of contradicting information, especially when she was orphaned and why, what happened to her parents, how many siblings she actually had, and it wasn't recorded because she wasn't viewed as famous at the time, but at one point, I found a transcript. She had done a phone interview with a writer, someone transcribed it, and it was 86 pages.

    Georgia: Wow.

    Rose: It really gives so much detail about her life and her experiences. So I've used many resources, but that was a big one. But I really wanted the story to be about perseverance, resilience, a strong female, a female athlete. You know, I really wanted to show that through the story that despite all the hardships, she overcame that. She never let it ruin her love of skating. Never. And then she continued to give back that love of the sport to her own students. And I hope when people read it, they can feel her strength.

    Georgia: Yeah. And I mean you're living in Sweden now, so how will you promote the book?

    Rose: I'm hoping to connect with some of the skating clubs on the East Coast including the Harlem figure skating club. I'm hoping that the marketing team and I can reach out to them because they invite coaches as well to come over there and give free lessons to the kids, and then some of these kids are sponsored by the club. So that's really fantastic. So I'd love to take the book and give a lesson.

    Georgia: Yes, that would be awesome.

    Rose: So yeah! It'd be really fun. Here in Sweden, I will do a book launch party with my ice skaters just because they're so excited. They're very excited.

    Georgia: And do you coach kids mostly?

    Rose: Yeah! So I have some ages, let's see my youngest skater right now is seven, and the oldest is eighteen.

    Georgia: Oh, great!

    Rose: And there's some adults actually. We just opened up an adult group, and we ended up with seventeen adults. It's fantastic, we're so excited, yes! But I have around forty-five skaters?

    Georgia: Oh wow! That's great.

    Rose: Yeah! It keeps me busy, that's for sure.

    Georgia: I'm sure! [laughs]

    Rose: They're excited, they're excited. So I will do some sort of little party celebration. And we'll do it at the ice rink, of course.

    Georgia: Oh yeah obviously. So what's next for you as a writer? Do you have other stories you're working on?

    Rose: Yes–and two of them I can't talk about yet.

    Georgia: [whispers] Okay. [laughs]

    Rose: It's good news.

    Georgia: Great!

    Rose: Yes. I set out for a goal. I was like, "Okay, before Ice Breaker comes out, I want another book deal. So I just have to leave it at that. I can't say any more.

    Georgia: Okay! Alright, that's mysterious.

    Rose: Yes.


    Rose: I always–I learned this again from David. He had said, "Rose, you need to work on something while you're waiting for me to give back notes." And I was like, "Oh really? So I don't just sit around and do nothing? Okay." So I learned I got to stay busy. So I usually juggle three projects at a time, but I do different things. I usually do a fiction picture book, a non-fiction picture book, and then I'll work on something else. Like right now, I'm working on a YA.

    Georgia: Okay.

    Rose: Yep, so I do want to–

    Rose: Is everything skating themed or?

    Rose: No! No, no. That's the only, Ice Breaker is the only one.

    Georgia: Okay.

    Rose: Yes. I do have a few other ice skating ones, and we're trying to find a home for them. But at this point, there's other stories to focus on and submit and hope that they get book deals. It's such a process! Oh my gosh, we could have a whole podcast about getting agents and the editing process, and it is a very long process. The writing world is very slow.

    Georgia: Slow, yes [chuckles]. I've started to pick that up doing these interviews that you know, you hear in 2018, somebody's book is coming out in 2020, which feels like a very long time.

    Rose: It is. After graduation, I wrote Ice Breaker, and then it took-- let's see, it was 2018 when I got my agent, and then she sold Ice Breaker six weeks after I signed with her. So that was very fast, thank goodness.

    Georgia: Yeah.

    Rose: But–so let's see, I wrote Ice Breaker in 2016 and it's coming out 2019.

    Georgia: Yes. It takes a lot of patience to be a writer I think.

    Rose: Yes, yes. I like to free flow it. I really do. When I feel it, I write. When I don't, I don't write. I've always done it that way, and I still manage to write a picture book every month. But, yeah I think everyone has their own process.

    Georgia: Yeah, definitely. I think that's probably a good place for us to stop. It's been really great to hear about your journey and your story, and to have our first figure skater on the podcast.

    Rose: Oh I'm so glad. Thank you so much.

    Georgia: And everybody should run out and go buy Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating. It should be on the shelves today.

    Rose: It should be. Great. Thank you so much. Please, please support Mabel's story.

    Georgia: Yes, it's a great one.

    Rose: Thank you so much.

    Georgia: All right. Thank you.

    Georgia: Thank you for listening to our interview with Rose Viña. Her debut children’s book Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating is out now. If you’re an aspiring author, you can find out more about our low-residency MFA in creative writing program in our show notes and on our episode page. We’ve also got videos of Rose performing on the ice. Next week, we’re talking to Tracey Baptiste who just published the final novel in her Jumbies series. We’ll talk evil Trinidadian spirits, diversity in publishing, and her New York Times opinion piece on mermaids. Here’s a clip:

    Tracey Baptiste: There is a cultural disconnect there. And you have to think, well, they call the world the big blue marble because we're mostly ocean. Oceans exist pretty much everywhere on earth. Why would mermaids only be European? Like, that does not seem right to me.