Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Interview with Grier Cooper: Dancer, Writer, Photographer

I met Grier through SCBWI. She reached out using a service called critconnect here in the Bay area to start a writer's critique group. Critconnect links writers of SCBWI with one another. 
Grier is a multi-talented creative being. Once a professional ballet dancer, she uses what she learned in dance to enrich her writing and photography. 
The novel she is working on in our group has taught me a lot about ballet. Her work is refreshing and crisp. Look for her to be the one to read in the next year. 
Below are the questions I asked her.

1.     What age did you start dancing ballet?
I started taking ballet classes when I was five. However, it wasn't true love at first... I remember hiding and hoping my mom would forget to bring me to class.
2.     How has dance helped you with your writing?
It takes an incredible amount of dedication, discipline, persistence and confidence to make it in the highly competitive world of ballet, so there's a direct correlation there- those same things are necessary for writers. 
Dance often comes into play in most things I write, whether fiction or non-fiction. These days I blog about dance and write articles and monthly columns about all aspects of contemporary dance and the main character of my YA novel is a ballet dancer.
3.     Have you acted out a scene in order to make it more real for your characters?
I strongly believe in making things real, but I use other methods besides acting – I find pictures in magazines and create a visual world. I also write detailed character profiles and timelines/outlines.
4.     What is the title of the children's book you are working on now?
I am currently working on “HOPE”, the second novel of my Urban Ballerina trilogy.
5.     How do ideas come to you?
Some ideas percolate in my mind for a long time... Obviously, personal history influences a lot of what I write... as they say, “write what you know.” 
An idea often begins first with an initial vision, almost like watching a movie inside my mind (does this make me two steps away from being certifiably nuts? I'm in good company since many writers are...)
However, the creative muse is a flighty, capricious creature and there's no controlling her. You never know when she's going to come stomping out of the woods with her hair full of twigs and the next big idea. 
Good ideas come when they come (even sometimes in the middle of the night). In the meantime, I continue to do my part to keep the creative juices flowing by watching, listening and absorbing what I see out in the world and continuing to do things that feed my soul (like dancing, or exploring the world with my family).
6.     Have you ever experienced writer's block? If yes, how did you beat it?
Haven't we all? Yes, been there and done that. For me the biggest block to creativity is fear – fear that the work won't be good enough or something like that. But I'm a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, so when I catch myself going down that rabbit hole I switch gears and take a walk, dance, write some affirmations or go visit the chickens and make sure they haven't knocked over their food bowl again.
Anne Lamotte shares a great technique to move past writer's block in her book Bird By Bird – When she starts to write, she tells herself to write enough to fill a 1” X 1” picture frame... There's no mental pressure that way – no “I have to write at least 6 pages today and every day or else” and things usually just flow from there.  It's impossible to be creative when you're feeling stressed out.
7.     What time do you get up and what do you have for breakfast?
I am an early riser, since I'm a mom, so I'm usually up by about 6:30am. Breakfast often includes eggs since we have two chickens.
8.     What do you think about the state of publishing today?
It's a very interesting time to be a writer; there are many more opportunities available in our digital age. The advent of e-books and blogs makes it easier to put your name and your work out in the world, plus one book can have multiple lives, in both print and digital forms.
9.     Will you self-publish or try the original route first?
I plan to approach traditional publishers. Self-publishing requires lots of time for marketing and distribution – all of that becomes another job in itself! While all writers must set aside time for marketing and promotion I think the traditional route is a better fit for me at this time. In the future I may also look into self-publishing options.
10. Describe your book in 5 words. 
Will the ballerina's dreams manifest?
11. What genre calls you the most?
I like writing contemporary YA because I think that age group experiences a profound level of transformation that can be difficult to navigate. I choose to write stories that inspire people to trust their instincts, find power from within and live to their highest potential.
12. Have you ever used a professional editor? If yes, how did that work out? If no, would you consider it?
I haven't gone that route although I recently took a workshop that was offered by an editor and found it helpful. However, I do think it's important to have other people look at your work – so I belong to a critique group.
13. Do you have an agent? If no, will you be querying for one soon?
I do not yet have an agent. I am planning to query in the near future but will wait until I have outlined my 3rd book so I can present a complete package.
14. What books are you reading right now?
I have been staying up far too late recently and it's Jenna Black's fault! The cover for Glimmerglass really spoke to me, even though I don't usually read a whole lot of fantasy. I was hooked after I read that one. I just finished reading Sirensong last night. Her main character is awesome and the books have the perfect blend of strong voice, action, otherworldly elements and humor.
15. How has your critique group helped your writing?
My critique group has helped in so many ways – obviously there is the necessary constructive criticism about what I can do to improve my work and I always come away with a wealth of inspiration and ideas. Being a part of the group also helps me keep my sanity by balancing the open-ended periods of isolation that writing requires with time connecting and laughing with others.
16. Do you recommend writing classes to newbie writers? Why?
I recommend writing classes to all writers... because practice makes perfect. The more time you put in honing your skill set, the better your work will be. Writing classes are particularly beneficial for newbie writers because everyone needs to learn the tricks of the trade before getting started... like learning how to walk before you can run a marathon.
17. What one word best describes you?
18. Where was the last writing class or workshop you took? Did it help you? How?
The last writing class I took was Amy Novesky's On-the-Spot Children's Writing Workshop held at Book Passage. She is both a writer and editor and wears both hats well. Her input was very helpful as was the input from other members of the class. The variety of comments made for a very well-rounded critique.
19. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?
Visit my website: , follow me on Twitter or look me up on Facebook.
20. Who is the most famous person you've been able to capture in pictures?
I recently photographed Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen for HBO's production of Hemingway & Gellhorn.
21. What is the most fun or crazy subject to shoot?
I recently completed a dance picture book for 3-5-year-olds that is full of fun, colorful photographs of preschool kids. I absolutely adore that age group – they are completely uncensored, uninhibited and full of crazy wisdom. All of that totally comes through in the photographs. 
During one of my shoots, I turned on music and one little boy immediately started doing handstands and dancing with his head on the ground. All I could think was wow- that's the first move that comes to mind for you? Never would have thought of that myself... I had to laugh. 
22. How does photography help your writing?
When I photograph, I often work with people, so communication is key. If I'm a better communicator in person then it would follow that those skills will also improve on paper. 
The picture book project has also inspired me to find more ways to combine my skills of photography and writing in a meaningful way. For me, photography, just like writing, is all about finding the beauty of life in the moment.
23. What is the one most important thing you've learned through dance, writing, and photography that you would like to share with the readers?
My decisions to pursue dance, writing and photography have one thing in common: the love of doing whatever it is and the joy I experience in that doing. 

I think that has to be there for the rest of the work of success to happen. The love of what you are doing is the fire that urges the necessary dedication, discipline and persistence that helps anyone achieve whatever goal they have in mind.


  1. Hi there! I was just about to write my own article being a ballet dancer, blogger and a photography enthusiast myself and your interview with Grier Cooper inpired me to improve my knowledge and skills in those areas. Thank you!