A few years after Mercer Island’s Miriam Wenger-Landis’ career as a professional ballerina came to an end she looked back on what had been an intense, complex experience and decided that it would make for an interesting story, one that could enlighten and inspire young readers and aspiring dancers.
That story became Girl in Motion, a fictional tale about a young girl’s experiences at a New York dance school. Published in 2010, Girl in Motion was the realization of a dream for Wenger-Landis and an early entry in the .
Now Wenger-Landis has published a second book, Breaking Pointe, a continuation of young dancer Anna Linado’s adventures in the highly competitive and complicated world of ballet. But just getting published in the first place was almost as trying an experience for Wenger-Landis as the ordeals Anna faces in the novels.
Working as a professional ballerina was something of a long shot for Wenger-Landis. At 5 feet 3 inches tall, she describes herself as shorter than the prototypical dancer. She earned a spot with the Miami City Ballet nonetheless, and danced there for four years before ending her career at 22. After things had come to an end she wanted to process the experience, and as someone who had always journaled and enjoyed writing she set about creating a novel. Not just for herself, though, but also to fill a niche that she felt needed filling.
“I really wanted to write the kind of book that I wish I had read,” Wenger-Landis said.
Not so much autobiographical as inspired by, the book tackles issues that young dancers face as they train and try to win a position with a dance company. There's intense competition, heartbreaking injuries, struggles with depression and eating disorders and more.
“It’s definitely rooted in my own experience,” Wenger-Landis said.
Wenger-Landis says that ballet dancers live in a world where if they haven’t made it by the time they’re 18, they’re not going to make it at all. Her novel seemed to be facing the same odds.
She was told time after time that the book wasn’t saleable, that there was no market for it. But having yearned for something similar herself she knew there was an audience out there just waiting for it.
“I knew there was a market for it,” Wenger-Landis said.
Frustrated by a lack of progress, though, and worn out with the process, Wenger-Landis put the book away and moved on with her life. She went back to school, started a new career, moved across the country and met a man.
That man, who is now her husband, suggested that she self-publish the book, something that is much more viable now than it was just 10 years ago. And with her knowledge of the publishing world and experience with Amazon, Wenger-Landis was able to finally bring Girl in Motion to life. And then it received the kind of response she knew it would.
“It was amazing,” Wenger-Landis said. “It really did strike a chord.”
Wenger-Landis said that former dancers enjoy the nostalgia of it, young dancers are excited by it, and people looking for something grounded in reality are drawn to it. One enthusiastic young reader even produced a video review on Youtube.
“That was really meaningful.” Wenger-Landis said.
And now, thanks to a suggestion by her agent to split the original manuscript in two, a second book has just been published, Breaking Pointe, giving Wenger-Landis something of a series.
Breaking Pointe picks up where Girl in Motion left off, transitioning young Anna from student to professional, from girl to woman and everything that entails.
Wenger-Landis isn’t sure if Anna's story will continue beyond this point. "Most ballet dancer stories end at a younger age," she said.
Still, she admits that there may be more in the future, though she has no real idea what. Perhaps Anna's adventure will continue, or maybe she'll create a new character altogether. Only time will tell.
“I don’t really rush to write or publish, I just do it organically,” Wenger-Landis said.
About the author:
Originally from Salt Lake City, Wenger-Landis studied at the School of American Ballet in New York in the mid-1990s, then danced with the Miami City Ballet for four years. After her ballet career came to a close Wenger-Landis returned to school and studied pre-med and English at Stanford University, eventually earning degrees in English and human biology. She later found herself back in New York working in publishing, then took a position with Amazon, which brought her to Seattle five years ago.
No longer with Amazon and now living on Mercer Island, Wenger-Landis teaches ballet at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School in Seattle and at Issaquah Dance Theatre, and works behind the scenes for on their website and social media efforts.
Wenger-Landis is married to Daniel Landis, a radiation oncologist with Swedish. The couple are expecting twins in September.