Kristi Yamaguchi is probably known to most as the 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist in figure skating (ladies’ singles). Others, like my daughter, know her as the champ of Season 6 of Dancing With the Stars. But Yamaguchi is also a children’s book author — she recently published her second children’s book, It’s a Big World, Little Pig, a follow-up to Dream Big, Little Pig, which was a New York Times best seller. And she was featured on the Downtown Author Stage at last week’s Book Expo America in an interview called, “Always Dream: A Conversation with Kristi Yamaguchi,” hosted by Jennifer Brown, children’s editor for Shelf Awareness.
Yamaguchi was born with club feet, so her legs were put in casts when she was very young, and she credits her parents with having the foresight to correct her disability at an early age. “I remember learning to walk with a brace between my feet,” she said.
It was her sister who had taken ice skating lessons first, but it would be Yamaguchi who would excel and totally love the sport. The half-hour interview was quite lovely, and Yamaguchi was both lively and gracious. Here are some of her thoughts and words of wisdom that I was able to scribble onto my program:
- How is skating like writing.? “You need to have a plan, have a goal,” Yamaguchi said. “Find ways to reach your goal, even if you know you won’t have immediate results. Be flexible.”
- “To work through your fears, always think positive. It’s easy to let the negatives come into your mind. Try to push them out.”
- Remember to breathe.
- Overcoming your fears is knowing you’re prepared.
- “It’s OK to dream,” Yamaguchi said. “It’s OK to expect something from yourself and go for it.”
- Working with an editor on the children’s book came easy for Yamaguchi. “Athletes are used to being told how to improve,” she said. “I was used to it.”
- What made her want to write a children’s book? “Becoming a mom,” she said. She realized how important reading time was for her children (Yamaguchi told a cute story of how when it’s story time, Yamaguchi always enthusiastically asks her children if they’d like to read her book, but her children groan because they’ve read it so many times).
- Yamaguchi says her literary influences are all-time favorites such as Dr. Seuss and E.B. White, and she told of how her children loved the books of Jamie Lee Curtis.
- The most surprising aspect of the publishing process for Yamaguchi? “I had no idea about publishing,” she said. “It was an incredible learning process. Working with an editor, going to Sourcebooks. You don’t realize how many people have their hands on a book. You develop an appreciate for what goes into a children’s book. It was eye-opening.”
Yamaguchi probably embodies everything I believe in — rooting for the underdog, never giving up, having a crazy-positive attitude. I know celebrities get a lot of heat for getting the opportunity to write books, simply because they are celebrities, when so many other writers out there have books that have trouble getting noticed. But as far as I’m concerned, having seen what she’s made of, I think Yamaguchi is just the right person to write a children’s book. We all need that little reminder to follow our dreams. And who better to get it from than somebody who has.