Allison's Book Bag

Author and Dancer, Alyssa Capucilli

Posted on: December 2, 2014

Alyssa Capucilli, author and professional dancer, appeared in 201o as a guest presenter at the annual Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival. Tomorrow I’ll review her book: Biscuit Storybook Collection. Save the date: December 3!

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

AylssaCapucillaBorn in New York in 1957, Capucilli’s home was always filled with books and book lovers. According to her Hello page, Capucilli’s weekly trip to the library with her mother and sisters was also much-anticipated. Capucilli loved the books on the shelves and in her hands. She quickly became an avid reader, vowing to read every book from A-Z. Much of her time was spent imagining herself as different characters and in creating stories, songs, poems, and even puppet shows. Ironically, Capucilli never imagined that the authors who created them were real people.

As she got older, Capucilli began to focus on storytelling in a different way: through movement and dance. After graduating from college, Capucilli pursued her interest in this field. She spent several years as a professional dancer and instructor.

Once becoming a mother, however, Capucilli started to consider a career instead as a writer. Dancing pulled her away from home too long for her comfort level. Capucilli also founded herself immersed in the literature that she read to her two young children. Capucilli began to write, submit, and most fortunately, to publish her own stories.

To this day, however, Capucilli sees herself as both a dancer and a writer. At Stories are Good Medicine, Capucilli describes several parallels between the two art forms:

  • Whether a picture book or a novel, there is a connective line that runs through page to page or scene to scene to form a story, which moves forward much the way a dance or ballet unfolds. In both writing and dancing, you have to find the flow between moments, make seamless transitions, and have the balance of timing and tension.
  • As both a dancer and a writer you slip into a character’s skin and into their world. You have to really engage your imagination to flesh out characters and give them emotional depth. In other words you have to access a creative zone, whether writing or dancing.
  • As a dancer you are aware of all of the dancers on stage around you and how one action may set off another action. The presence of a dancer on stage that subsequently makes an exit is much like the way characters interact in a story. They may come or go, but their presence in whatever space or time they appear is integral to the overall story.
  • You can also compare the musicality and rhythm that is integral to dance to the cadence and meter of a poem or a picture book text.

Nowadays, her home is a small cozy cottage in New York. Just as with her childhood home, it is still filled with books and with book lovers. Her husband and children love books. Scholastic notes that even their chocolate Labrador seems to enjoy watching Capucilli at work. He also inspires Capucilli with many ideas on their morning walks together through the woods.

WRITING BACKGROUND

Capucilli’s first published book was Peekaboo Bunny, a lift-the-flap story in poetic form. She read, she researched, she went to conferences, she joined a writer’s group, she submitted…. Capucilli describes herself at Stories are Good Medicine as “very lucky”.

AylssaCapucilla_BiscuitSince that first publishing success, Capucilli has created many stories featuring animals, including the beloved Biscuit. When asked about what different considerations an anthropomorphic animal might demand of the picture book writer, Capucilli explained to Stories are Good Medicine that when a character presents him or herself, they usually bring their voice or their persona along, even if she doesn’t initially realize where the inspiration came from. As she develops the character and their world, she must make decisions to stay true to that character. “Biscuit behaves like a pet, yet he also behaves much like a child. It allows children relate to Biscuit…. Still he is a “bone-a-fide” pup, which means he is not piloting a spaceship or deep sea diving anytime soon. Even on a trip to the big city, his responses and actions must be true to his canine self.”

Capucilli has to date written about fifty Biscuit stories. When writing a series, Capucilli finds following a schedule is more important than with an individual title. It’s also often determined by the editor or the publisher. Still, she tells Stories are Good Medicine that she tries not to think of her writing in terms of how many or how much in a time span. Some books will flow easily and take a shorter amount of time to write, but others will take months or years to get just right. The process of writing itself also often spurs an idea for another story and then it becomes a matter of managing the time to devote to each project.

When asked by Stories are Good Medicine about other projects, Capucilli  affirmed that she has plans to write other fiction. Actually, Capucilli has written several books for older readers that she’d love to see published one day. “There are so many variables that impact publication depending on the trends and the market.  Still, I think it is important to write what you believe in. My paws are always optimistically crossed!”

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