Siena and Mark Siegel, TO DANCE

Siena and Mark Siegel, TO DANCE

Zibby Owens: I’m here today with Mark and Siena Siegel. Mark Siegel is an author and illustrator of many award-winning books. He’s the founder and creative/editorial director of First Second Books, a Macmillan imprint that publishes graphic novels. He illustrated To Dance written by Siena Cherson Siegel, his wife. He illustrated Oskar and the Eight Blessings, which won the 2015 Jewish Book Award, and How to Read a Story. In 2017, he launched the 5 Worlds graphic novel series, a five-volume fiction series he cowrites with his brother, Alexis Siegel. The first in the series was a New York Public Library top-ten book for kids in 2017. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mark was raised in France. A graduate of Brown University, he currently lives in New York. Siena Cherson Siegel is an author and former dancer from Puerto Rico who trained at the School of American Ballet and later worked in the education department at American Ballet Theatre directing their training programs for young dancers. To Dance is her story which won a Sibert Honor and many other awards. Also a graduate of Brown University, she currently lives in New York and is married to Mark.

Welcome, Mark and Siena. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Siena Cherson Siegel: Thank you for having us.

Mark Siegel: Thank you, Zibby.

Zibby: Especially on this rainy, disgusting day.

Mark: It sure it is. It’s like London winter over here in New York today.

Zibby: Even more cozy, right? It’s nice to be inside.

Siena: It is. Hot tea.

Zibby: Hot tea. There’s so much to talk about with graphic novels and both of your incredible life experiences. Let’s start with To Dance, your illustrated graphic novel that you worked on together, A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel. How did you decide to collaborate on this? Why did you make it a graphic novel? What is it about? Go ahead. I’ll just sit back.

Siena: To Dance is a memoir. It’s about a ten-year period of my life growing up as a young ballet lover who started taking ballet and then fell in love with ballet and wanted to just continue doing it as much as possible, and coming to New York to train at the School of American Ballet, and doing that at a very interesting and unusual time in the history of ballet where George Balanchine was still alive. He was still running the company that the school is associated with, the New York City Ballet. People were coming to New York from Soviet Union and defecting. It was all these amazing dancers arriving there at that particular moment in time. I was this little girl just swept up into it all and getting to dance with some of them in the same performances as a child at New York City Ballet.

Zibby: You came from Puerto Rico?

Siena: Yes, I came from Puerto Rico.

Zibby: How old were you when you…?

Siena: I came here when I was eleven and started into seventh grade. I arrived right before seventh grade. It was a huge change, of course, coming from Puerto Rico. It’s not like it was the first time I had come to New York. I had been here before for a summer program at ABT the year before and just trips. It’s about that and about just being a girl who loves ballet and my experience with that. Then also, it goes into the fact that I did not end up becoming a professional dancer. It was a little bit of a different story than I thought was out there at the time.

Zibby: Tell me a little more about your injury that halted your career.

Siena: It was a torn ligament in my ankle. It wouldn’t have halted my career at another time, I think. It’s not the kind of thing that you can never recover from and dance again from. At the time it happened was not a good time because it was the time when I really needed to just strengthen up so much that they could see, “Okay, you’re going to get in the company. You’re not going to get in the company. You’re going to get a job. You’re not going to.” It was just a very bad time for it to happen. It never really strengthened up back to where it had been before.

Mark: And you kept dancing instead of really giving it a chance to heal until it was really damaged.

Siena: Yes, I didn’t take care of it at the beginning. The effect of that torn ligament lasted for months and months because I waited a long time before I finally got the cast and stopped dancing. It was really a year. It was a year-long process of realizing that it was going to have a really bad effect on my dancing life.

Zibby: When you were growing up, you turned to all these great books about dance. I was particularly interested and excited to see Jill Krementz’s book, A Very Young Dancer, because I loved that book, that whole series of books, A Very Young everything, A Very Young Skater, A Very Young Chef, or cook or whatever. My mom saved those books. Now my daughter reads those books all the time. Then I saw in the graphic novel, a picture of that book. That was fantastic because you never know who else is reading what you loved as a kid.

Siena: I know. I absolutely loved that book. I did read all the other books too. I went to the School of American Ballet with A Very Young Skater, the girl who was A Very Young Skater. She was in the school at the time. I read it and read it and read it and would study every detail. I loved all the details and the photos. I loved the fact that there was this girl who loved the same thing as I did. We had so much in common even though we had so little in common and me living in Puerto Rico at the time. I just really wanted to do what she was doing. That was so clear to me. I wanted to go to New York. I wanted to go to that school.

Zibby: You made it happen. That’s incredible. That’s really incredible.

Siena: This one moment in the book that is so, so amazing was that when I arrived at the school, my first class at the school was the level that she was in when the book was made. I wore the same leotard color. That was like, ahh, this is A Very Young Dancer! Within a couple of months of arriving, I started getting to be in The Nutcracker and the performances that the children can be in at New York City Ballet, rehearsals. It was so exciting. It was a dream.

Mark: You should drop some names because you were in hundreds of performances at Lincoln Center.

Siena: Okay. That same year was the year when Mikhail Baryshnikov decided he wanted to leave American Ballet Theatre, work with Balanchine, and come over to New York City Ballet. He was there. They revived Harlequinade for him to play Harlequin. I got to be in that. I was backstage with Suzanne Farrell and Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride and all these amazing dancers and getting to be in the same show with them, not at the same time.

Zibby: I still think it was such a weird — I don’t know if you used to watch Sex and the City. They cast Baryshnikov.

Mark: Yeah, much later in his career.

Zibby: Carrie Bradshaw’s love interest.

Siena: Yes, I did see a few of those.

Zibby: That’s so random.

Siena: He acted a lot. He ended up going into quite a bit of acting. He actually was acting at the time too in a few ballet movies.

Zibby: Didn’t he do White Nights or something?

Siena: He did White Nights. He did The Turning Point around that time. They were making movies about ballet at the time. Ballet was a bigger part of mainstream culture than it is now, I think.

Zibby: The stars you mentioned like Suzanne Farrell, all those people, I still remember their names, but I could only maybe tell you one name of a dancer today.

Mark: Misty Copeland.

Zibby: Misty Copeland, yeah I know, thanks to my daughter.

Siena: They were showing ballet on PBS live all the time, performances of the Met, the ABT, and New York City Ballet, and were making movies about it.

Zibby: It was the place to be. This whole period of your life, you condensed, essentially, and turned into a graphic novel. Mark, you have this whole graphic novel background. You started First Second which produces like a bazillion graphic novels of all different types, all different ages, with all these different collaborators. You’ve written and illustrated so many books yourself. You could’ve done anything with Siena’s story. You’re married, so you had an extra pressure to make it good. Why in this form?

Mark: What was interesting to me is it’s a bit like we both had — we have these two languages. Siena had the language of ballet. I had the language of comics. What was interesting was that she wasn’t especially warm to comics to begin with, and I wasn’t especially warm to ballet. We had to learn each other’s language. Before we started into the project, it came about because I was very interested in the fact that she would look at life as a dancer. I feel like the way she would talk about a football game, she was actually talking about dance. I think the way Siena writes is a kind of dance. That, to me, was very interesting. Then a graphic novel is more verbal, but it’s also visual. There’s a different use of time. I find it very hard looking at ballet books generally, especially picture books. They tend to be very wooden. They’re drawn after photos, and it shows. It doesn’t have any of the sense of time, the sense of movement. I had to learn. Siena took me to some shows and to see some ballets. I had to learn how to read a ballet. She had to learn how to read a comic. For her, it was more instant. It was Persepolis. There was a couple of graphic novels that you read that were like your entry points. For me, it took a little while. I think what it was was that at first, I would go to a ballet and I was looking for plot. I’m looking like it’s a movie or a play. If you do that, it’s horrible. Mostly, they’re really bad plots, except maybe Giselle and a couple others.

Siena: Balanchine doesn’t do — his ballets aren’t story ballets.

Mark: He doesn’t do plots, no.

Siena: Mostly, except The Nutcracker, they’re not plots.

Mark: It took this shift to actually get into reading with my feeling life. That was a big shift for me. It was a deep moment. It happened with Symphony in C. It was a video of Suzanne Farrell in Symphony in C. I got it. I was like, ooh. It moved me. I was like, okay, that’s what gets a person hooked on this stuff. Then I could kind of enter into Siena’s language. Then we brought the two together. We’re doing things. What I found was a really interesting challenge for myself creatively was that we had some events. We had ten years of Siena’s life to work with. I interviewed her. We were on long walks up in Westchester in the Rockefeller Farms with a little recorder. Hours and hours of interviewing was how we started. She told her stories, told these moments. When we distilled it down — our core intention with the project was to try and capture — there was four distinct feelings. That, to me, was a really interesting challenge. It’s not a concept. It’s not an idea. It’s not like a sequence from a plot or a mystery or something. It’s how do you get a reader into feeling things, for things in a deep, meaningful way?

It’s funny because this book first published about twelve years ago from Simon & Schuster. At the time, it was right before the explosion of the graphic novel. It was just two years before it really went bananas in America specifically and turned into the fastest-growing category in publishing now. At the time, it was just ahead of that, and so we had a limited amount of pages to work with. We were told sixty-four is already crazy for a picture book. We wanted 120. They were like, “What are you thinking?” We put it out. Then I had other projects over the years. We got this chance to do an updated special edition, which is what’s coming out right now. That’s a pretty rare thing for any authors to have, twelve years later you get to rework some of the artwork, add some of the interstitial things that we had to cut.

Siena: The text didn’t change at all. It’s only the art.

Mark: The text didn’t change. Siena added a whole scrapbook of memorabilia.

Zibby: Which I loved. That was so great to see.

Siena: That was so fun to do. I just thought, I happen to have kept scrapbooks. My mother was a big, “Don’t get rid of anything. One day you’re going to need some of this.” She always thought I might write a book about the experience. She’s the one that saved everything and kept it all.

Mark: The tickets and the playbill.

Siena: Yes, and I thought, wouldn’t it be so fun for people reading it to see a real photo of a moment that’s in the book and be able to connect the two together and be like, oh, that was that time. There’s Siena in Harlequinade costume. That was really fun to put together.

Mark: Basically, what’s coming out now is the book that we really wanted to put out in the beginning.

Zibby: That’s good. It only took twelve years.

Mark: Getting to the meshing of these two things, the graphic novel allows you to play with time in a different way and to get into — you can switch out of the verbal into the nonverbal. They are two different kinds of literacy. Then there’s the mix of the two. One of my favorite moments from the story is the football scene. We used to joke with our editor at the time that it would be the only ballet book with a football scene. This is how, to me, Siena’s mind works. We’re sitting there looking at the Miami Dolphins. When you read the running captions, she’s talking about dance through football. I love that.

Zibby: I think few people would consider this year’s Miami Dolphins to be skilled at anything, dance or otherwise.

Mark: This was a long time ago.

Siena: This was when they were actually good.

Mark: This is like Dan Marino, even before.

Zibby: The golden age of the Miami Dolphins. That’s funny. Mark, graphic novels to you, you kind of were ahead of the eight ball of this whole trend. When did you start your company around it? How did you originally get interested? I know you said you’ve always been interested in comics. You grew up in France part of the time. You have this interesting background. How did this all happen for you?

Mark: My dad’s American. My mom’s French. I grew up in France pretty much my entire childhood. What’s interesting with comics is that they followed a very different path specifically in France, but also in Japan. In both places in the sixties and seventies, they basically became part of the mainstream reading diet. If you’re a reader and you wanted to have a well-rounded knowledge, that would include some graphic novels. There were some book TV shows that were very, very popular in France. They’d have some American authors. There’s be the Norman Mailers and these people, but then there’d be, regularly, a cartoonist in the mix, in the literary conversation. That, I missed when I came here for college. That wasn’t really readily available. There were some indie comics publishers that were very much under the radar of big publishing in America. Then what happened was 2004, ’05 — let’s see. We moved to New York in 2000?

Siena: 2000, yeah.

Mark: 2004 was the peak of the Japanese invasion, so the manga. At the time, there was Borders Books. Pretty much every week, you would go to Borders. There’d be a new bay added to just have this flood of manga. A lot of people were kind of freaking out about it. They were like, “It reads right to left. I don’t get it.” A lot of young readers couldn’t get enough of these. What happened was two very, very good things came of that moment in American publishing. First of all, this flood was noticed by the big publishers because millions of dollars were changing hands, and they were not getting a piece of that pie at all. They were like, what do we do? Around 2004, every week in Publishers Weekly, there was some new statistic of insane numbers for manga specifically. The other thing manga did is that, almost overnight in America, it flipped the readership from about eighty-five percent — of comics readers, we’re talking — eighty-five percent male, like aging male readers, to, within a space of a year or two, about sixty-five percent female and young. A lot of those young readers would later become some of the star authors that I publish now. When you look at people like Faith Erin Hicks or Jenna Wang or Vera Brosgol, they didn’t grow up reading Wolverine. They were reading manga. They were reading Sailor Moon. They came a different way. The fact of that change was huge.

Then right around that time, I had just gotten into publishing. I was trying to get a break in picture books. Everything happened all at once. I got my first picture book, was Seadogs. I did that in this comic style, and it was noticed. It won the Texas Bluebonnet. It did well. At the time, it popped. I started editing. I translated some French graphic novels that made it onto The New York Times best-seller list. Then I was meeting some people way above my paygrade in publishing because of that. At the time, the manga explosion was causing those publishers to go, okay, what do we do? How do we do this? Do we do fake manga? Do we just repurpose manga? Do we do superheroes? They were wondering. John Sargent, who’s the head of Macmillan, I met with him with this crazy vision for a literary graphic novel imprint. It would be a house that would be author driven rather than merch and movie driven. It would really be about cultivating authors and upping the bar on the whole thing. Sargent, we had an amazing conversation. He was like, “Go for it.”

Zibby: That’s so cool. It’s amazing.

Mark: Macmillan backed me. Then what happened was things changed. Some of the stuff I thought would take us ten years to accomplish happened in the first year, like getting the literary —

Siena: — Which was 2005, right? It started in…?

Mark: We were in stores in 2006. We started. We were winding up for about a year. Then we hit the stores in 2006. Then that fall, Gene Yang, American Born Chinese happens. It’s the first graphic novel ever nominated for a National Book Award. Then come January at ALA, it was the first comic ever to win the Printz. That’s the big teen librarians award. That was history making for American publishing, for American comics. His trajectory goes stellar after that. He’s now writing the Chinese Superman for DC. His own books, he got another National Book Award nomination. He was made the Ambassador to Children’s Literature for two years. He just finished. Then we had other things, several other titles. This One Summer is the only book by the Tamaki cousins. It’s the only book to ever have made the Caldecott and the Newbery list. No book has ever. That’s an interesting property of the graphic novel. It blurs all the categories, age categories, genre categories. First Second became that house. Overnight, we were the darling of librarians. We still are, I think, because we’re cultivating authors. We’re speaking the same language. It’s a literary approach to the whole thing. Then I have my own projects. When I started First Second, I knew that it would be a terrible mistake I would regret all my days if I put my own projects on hold. Typically, it just goes to sleep and it never wakes up. I negotiated that I would continue with my own projects and I would make sure and have the time to do that. It was basically a year before that —

Siena: — The same year when Gene Yang won American Born Chinese and won the Printz was the same year that To Dance got the Sibert at that same ALA. It came out of the same .

Mark: It was all happening, and we were starting a family. It was a busy time. There was not a lot of sleep during that time, but it was amazing. With To Dance, it was a little bit ahead because there was just this whole thing taking off, but it was embraced. We still, for the last ten, twelve years, we’ve had to turn down invitations to go all over the place. I think those feelings that we were trying to convey, they’re in there somehow. For all its imperfections, it works at some level. That’s really exciting.

Zibby: As a parent with kids who love to read graphic novels, is there any truth to when people are like, “Don’t just read graphic novels. You should read books. You’re cheating, in a way”? It’s somehow a cop-out, a hack to actually sitting there with words, only text. How do you feel about that?

Mark: I have feelings.

Siena: I have feelings too.

Zibby: Let me hear. Tell me your feelings.

Mark: Just from our own family, both our kids are incredible, voracious readers of everything. They love graphic novels.

Zibby: How old are your kids?

Mark: Fourteen and twelve. Here’s the thing. I’ve had a chance to meet now with thousands of librarians and booksellers and educators. I do that around the year. All educators, including librarians and schoolteachers, they are on board. The course adoptions are huge for graphic novels. They’ll tell you that oftentimes the vocabulary for the same equivalent in prose, it’s much more advanced in graphic novels and that in general, kids who are growing up enjoying their reading are going to be lifelong readers. Now we have a decade of data to show they do. They read everything. What’s interesting is when you talk to the librarians they will sometimes tell you, especially teen and children’s librarians, they’ll say, “We’re not the problem. The teachers are not the problem. The last holdouts are parents.” When you think about, if graphic novels are getting National Book Awards and getting Printz Awards and Newbery Awards, that’s not for nothing. It’s an indicator. Now, is everything good? No, but point to any medium —

Zibby: — But neither are all the prose books.

Mark: Novels or movies or music is ninety percent crap. Generally, it’s fair to say it’s ninety percent crap. There’s a lot of stuff. Then that ten percent of the gems that are going to stand the test of time, now there’s a lot of that ten percent in graphic novels. There’s some stuff where if you have a prejudice against that form, then you may not be exposing yourself or your kids to some really remarkable new voices that are doing some work that will, I think, stand the test of time.

Siena: I do feel that they shouldn’t replace reading prose and novels without pictures because I think that there’s a lot of value in picturing things in your own mind and having the imaginative space while you’re reading to see what you think it looks like. Also, there’s kind of a stamina about just reading words with no pictures that I think is built by doing it more and more, where sometimes I feel like that stamina would get a bit diminished by only reading graphic novels. Of course, they’re never going to just read graphic novels. They have to read for school. They’re different.

Mark: They’re different. They operate on different parts, different circuitry in our minds. They’re different reading experiences. They’re good for different things. They have different strengths. As an editor, I get a lot of submissions of people saying, “Let’s adapt this book from prose to graphic novel,” or something. I tend to resist that because I feel like if it works, why mess with it? You’re going to end up with a kind of diminished echo of the original thing. It’s like Orson Welles used to say, he only wanted to adapt mediocre novels to make great movies out of. Like you’re saying, nothing is a substitute. It’s a different reading experience. It’s a different form of literacy. It really is. There is now a visual literacy that our kids are growing up with. It’s a vital medium for them, just like you look at the sixties and you can’t think of the sixties without pop music. That is the vital medium of the sixties. Right now, you look at things like podcasting. You look at things like graphic novels. There’s a reason why these connect right now. They do. There’s a freshness.

Zibby: I’m interviewing, tomorrow, somebody who wrote an Amazon Original, like an audiobook only. I was talking about that to some people in an older generation who were like, “Well, that’s not reading if you listen to these books.” I was like, “I mean, you’re not using your eyes, but you’re consuming the story. Your brain is consuming the story.”

Mark: It is interesting that audio does also work through a different circuitry. It affects you in a different way. Then there’s the voice. There’s the acting that now comes into it. It’s different. When you’re reading prose, the voice is forming up in your own mind. The imagery is forming up in your own mind. What’s interesting with graphic novels is that it’s certainly not a lazier experience because it’s actually a very active reading. You are actually filling in a lot more than you are seeing in some ways.

Zibby: Nobody would accuse anyone who’s interested in art of being lazy. It’s essentially the mix of art and reading. So why would it be lazy? If anything, you’re doing double time. You’re working overtime on these graphic novels.

Mark: That’s right.

Siena: It’s something that sometimes people have to learn to do which is to take the time to look at every picture.

Mark: To read the pictures, to actually read them.

Siena: Yeah, sometimes children will just read the text and forget that there’s a picture to look at and go real fast and then miss out on all the artwork and all the pictures. You have to get into the right speed in order to appreciate it.

Zibby: I feel like you were such an early adopter of this medium. Do you see any other burgeoning trends coming either in the graphic novel space or just even in the literary world given how much exposure you have to so many readers and gatekeepers?

Mark: The graphic novel has not peaked. Right now, the hot category, all the houses are buying a lot of middle grade, contemporary, or memoir. Raina Telgemeier paved the way for that. We have books like Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. They’re great because yes, they’re middle-grade fiction, but they’re emotionally very true. It comes through in the art and in the writing. There’s a reason why these connect. I think we’re on the cusp of now, because many of these readers are growing up, we’re looking at teen. We have, this year, three incredible teen hits. One of them is Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. The teen space, that’s about to explode for graphic novels. Then you can see that trend going all the way into adults in time. Adult is still, it’s a hard nut to crack. We’re doing well with adult nonfiction. Adult fiction is a harder one. You can get five, six-star reviews and get media attention. Still, the sales are nothing like middle grade, but that’s changing.

Zibby: Would you two ever work on a project together again? How was the collaboration as spouses and collaborators? Or are you already working?

Mark: We are.

Siena: We actually are.

Zibby: Oh, amazing.

Siena: There’s going to be another take on my story called Tiny Dancer. It’s actually going to be focusing more on the time you asked me about, which is what is was like during and after the injury and that whole shift in perception about what I was going to do with my life. Am I going to be a dancer? That time is going to be more the focus. It’s in the works.

Mark: It’s a little darker. It’s for older readers.

Siena: It’s going to be a little bit more teen.

Mark: That’s a full-blown graphic novel. That’s in the works.

Zibby: I think there’s not enough about what happens to athletes past their prime. It’s a time of real emotional darkness for a lot of people who have a single-minded focus for so long, and then they come off it. That’s going to be a great resource.

Siena: That’s going to be a large part of the book.

Mark: There was a beautiful moment. It’s on Instagram. It’s on your Instagram, right? I think somebody’s mom wrote to you about To Dance.

Siena: Yeah, because she actually bought To Dance for her teenage daughter for a Christmas gift a few years ago who was a girl who loved ballet and then had to stop ballet. She didn’t say why, but something happened physically that caused her not to be able to dance anymore.

Mark: It sounded like an injury.

Siena: Apparently, the girl needed something about To Dance just to be able to go on in herself.

Mark: And read it a hundred times. Now she’s grown up. She’s older.

Siena: I think she’s a senior. This happened earlier.

Mark: They posted this photo of her with the book, with the new edition. She’s in tears looking at it. It’s a beautiful photo on Instagram. The reason I brought it up is what you wrote — we sent her a copy of the new edition. What did you write in the inscription to her?

Siena: I wrote that there’s plenty of time in a life for more than one dream. Even if she feels like that was her dream and that’s not going to happen, it will affect other dreams and cause other dreams to be able to happen.

Mark: I feel like that’s such a good vitamin for so many people. Part of Siena’s own journey was being so zeroing in on the one pursuit and then having to find —

Siena: — And landing up at seventeen like, oh, what am I going to do now? It was really, really hard. The next book is going to focus on that.

Zibby: I can’t wait for that.

Mark: It does different things. New York has more of a presence. It’s a different creature. It’s very exciting to see that take shape. So yeah, we’re working.

Siena: It’s great working together. I love it. It’s difficult because we have to carve out that time and space to do that together which is different from all other aspects of life and our family life and everything else going on. It’s one of the joys of my life, is just being able to do this together.

Mark: I feel like we generate together. We’ll sit down for a session and almost invariably walk away with more than was there. It carries us to some degree, which is pretty special.

Zibby: Aw. Do you have any parting advice to aspiring authors out there, maybe even aspiring collaborators or aspiring graphic novelists? Take your pick.

Mark: I do. I get asked that. I meet a lot of young and aspiring authors. Sometimes I’m tempted to say don’t overload on a device. You get a lot of it. When someone comes to you asking for advice, it tickles up your ego. It feels nice to be in that seat, but then ultimately you get some people who are spending thousands of dollars on seminars. They’re reading books and methods. Yes, there is a craft which you do need to learn, whatever kind of storytelling you’re doing. There’s a need to actually train and get some skill, but the biggest thing is doing it. Sometimes all that noise can take you away from actually doing it. I think it’s the same for everything. If you do a podcast, how much can you learn before you just get on that mic and do it? That’s where you’re really going to learn. Then if you need to find, like, how does someone handle an interview that really goes south or something, then you go searching for that skillset.

Zibby: Maybe I should have, but I haven’t.

Mark: No, no, no, you just put people at ease.

Zibby: Just kind of wing it all the time. I wing it every day.

Mark: No, it’s great. You definitely have an art of putting people at ease. You really do.

Zibby: Thanks.

Siena: I don’t actually feel like I have any advice.

Zibby: Oh, that’s ridiculous.

Siena: I don’t.

Zibby: You must. What about advice for switching gears? I loved your dream advice, finding a new dream.

Mark: I love that.

Zibby: Let’s keep that as yours. That was so special and really inspiring too because life is long.

Siena: It is.

Zibby: Knock wood, but life takes people in so many different directions. I think it’s so unique to have a dream so early that it’s over by the time most people even have their first dream. People are like, what should I study in college? You’re like, I’ve had a career already.

Mark: It’s like you’re doing your dance. This is like your dance. Your dance is happening in teaching, in writing, in when you meet with these — one time we were in the projects in DC with this marvelous foundation called Open Book Foundation. They’re awesome. They gave ninety copies of the book to these, I think they were ten to thirteen-year-old girls.

Siena: Yeah, they were.

Mark: It was in the projects. We arrived. We were like, I don’t see a school here. It was in the basement. These kids, Siena had them dancing. It was just the most transporting couple of hours. Then they all got a signed copy. They were all reading. It was actually, for most of them, the first book they’d ever owned. That’s your dance also.

Zibby: You guys should do a little video for your website or YouTube or something of the two of you dancing together.

Siena: We have tried to dance together. We’ve tried.

Mark: We’ve tried to dance.

Zibby: Even that would be funny. How do two people —

Mark: — Funny is right, yes. I’ll handle the funny.

Zibby: Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” and sharing your wonderful stories.

Mark: Thank you, Zibby. It was a pleasure.

Siena: Thank you. It’s been great.

Siena and Mark Siegel, TO DANCE