Allye M. Ritt, author of the new Figure Skating novel “Taking the ice” talks to us about her writting style, what inspires her and what advice she has for figure skater.
“My primary aim in this book was to express what dedication, hard work and passion often look like in the skating world, as well as in general”
“Taking the Ice” (c) Allye M. Ritt
These past months, if we are lucky, our lives have merely been paused and suspended, congealed into an endless state of not being able to plan for next week, let alone next month or next year. If we are unlucky, our lives have been turned upside down and shaken until something or someone we care for deeply has fallen away. And if, there’s one thing that’s essential for a rainy day, it’s a truly great book. Of course, while all dance and figure skating story generally follow the same formula (a.k.a. plenty of great romantic story, competition drama, injuries that are carreer defining moment), there’s actually an incredible variety to the genre – which means there’s truly something for everybody. But of course, the true appeal of ‘’Taking the ice’’ is that it’s not only a figure skating book, it’s a real life figure skating book wrote by an ex show figure skater, and now ice skating coach. Allye M. Ritt gonna tell us all about her book, the story, and her experience.
Could you introduce yourself, your experiences and present to us your book ?
I started skating when I was about 10 years old as a hobby and immediately fell in love! It took my parents a few years to realize I wasn’t kidding about wanting to skate more and more, and finally, at age 14, I got my first private lesson. From this point on, I couldn’t be pulled away from the ice! I pretty much lived and breathed skating all through high school and college. When I started teaching middle and high school, I still structured my free time around getting ice time and continuing my passion. My husband was Always supportive because he saw how happy it made me and how much I yearned for the ice when I needed to be away from skating. As a skater, I am a U.S. Figure Skating seven-time Gold Medalist and International Dance Medalist, have earned Gold Dance through Skate Canada, and went on to Skate Professionally with Disney on Ice; I was even so lucky as to skate on the same show as the incredible Sarah Barreiros – author of this article!
“Taking the Ice – Khalli’s Big Test” follows 10-year old Khalli Davies through her start in the figure skating world. Like many, she has fallen completely in love with the sport and cannot get enough! Through Khalli, readers learn the value of hard work, but also get a glimpse at the sacrifices that the she needs to make as she struggles to balance skating with school and friends. Her biggest goal is to pass her very first skating test, but to accomplish this, she needs plenty of lessons and ice time, requiring her often to skate before or after school, thus requiring her to reschedule her daily routine and give up time with her friends and family.
Why did you choose to write a fictional book about figure skating ?
The idea for this book actually started because of my skating students. Many of my skaters would bring books to the rink to read between sessions or while waiting for rides home, and I couldn’t help but notice that the books were never skating-related. I did a quick search, and realized that there were very few authentic skating novels for kids available. I remember as a teen, reading any skating book I could find, often biographies, and learning so much about the value of hard work and level of dedication involved to achieve a skating dream. I wanted my young skaters to have the same opportunity to be inspired by the work ethic of others. I believe it’s a very important lesson to learn, that no matter how hard you work, some one else is always working harder and putting in more time – and Khalli is beginning to set the example of what hard work looks like in this book. The goal for future books, is to show how far hard work can take someone, whether it be in skating or a different aspect of life. My primary aim in this book was to express what dedication, hard work and passion often look like in the skating world, as well as in general.
Can you tell us about your writing journey ?
How did you proceed to start this book and to push yourself thru the end in the point of being published ? I actually wrote this book rather quickly. I was sitting down with my husband one evening when the plot idea came to me completely out of the blue. I literally got up, went to the computer, and wrote for several hours into the night. I dedicated entire days and evenings daily for the next month until the final product was what I wanted, submitted it, and landed a contract with Covenant Books. At that time, I was still teaching middle and high school, but was making a transition the next year to coaching full-time and building a skating program, of which I had just became the director. Really wanting to dedicate myself fully to my skaters and my program, I decided to sit on my book contract for one year. I spent some occasional time returning back to the book and making edits, as sometimes stepping away and coming back provides new insights. And then, one year later, I decided it was time to move forward. From this point, it was another year of adjusting drafts, layouts, and cover designs before “Taking the Ice” went to print. The entire process was a ton of work, but such a beautiful learning experience.
You were yourself a figure skater, a show skater even before working on your book. What advice would you give to all the figure skaters considering their career in general, and the after career and how hard it could be sometimes, as with any sport ? The best advice I can give is: you have to love it! And that’s with any job – it consumes the majority of your life; it needs to bring you joy. If as a skater, you decide you want to do shows, you have to want to be a the rink 10 hours a day, you have to want to travel and be away from home – sometimes for nine months at a time. It’s a beautiful life, but it is also very different than a typical 9-5 job. For skaters entering other jobs but who still love to skate, you don’t have to give up the sport; life doesn’t have to be one or the other. If something makes you happy, find a way to keep doing it.
In regards to life after a show career is over, leaving the show world was different for me than for others. I was returning back to my life from before shows. After two years on the road, I returned to teach German and History at the same school district where I had taught for six years before joining tour. My husband supported my decision to perform in shows and took care of things at home while I was in contract, so I essentially had my life waiting for me. A lot of skaters join immediately after high school or college and as a result have many more challenges getting off the road – they are literally starting over. I’m very blessed that things played out the way they did, and that I’ve had the opportunity to make so many of my career dreams a reality.