Monday, October 8, 2012

It's Easier to Dance: On Tour with Anne Laurie Harris and a Kindle Fire Giveaway!

. . . “Annie, you have important things to say to the 
 world so you might as well start in my class.” 

Today we welcome author Annie Laurie Harris while she shares with us more about her inspiring memoir, It's Easier to Dance. Welcome Annie!

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?

I didn’t plan to be a writer, but always enjoyed the writing process.  I’ve kept a rather detailed journal since the age of 14.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime? 

College athletics, especially football.  I’ve rarely missed a Penn State football game since 1996.  I sold programs for years because it included free entry to all home games

When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?

I think it was in 2008 that a PSU student in marketing offered to help me raise money just after I actually started writing.  I told her that no one would give me money just because I was writing.  She said that I wasn’t just writing a book, I was actually providing a service (education) and that people would pay me for it!  We held an all-day bake sale that coincided with the annual arts festival and made just over $300.  My community was very supportive and a friend covered the expenses of the first printing.  I was VERY surprised!       

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it

My greatest challenges changes depending on the subject.  In my memior, it was important to me to work through any anger so it would not bias my reader.  In fact, I would not allow myself to write until I had dealt with anger related to my relationship with my mother.  I am told again and again that I accomplished this important endeavor.

Is writing a full-time career for you? If not, how else do you spend your work day?

I don’t think of writing as a career as it was not part of my professional training.

If you had to sum up It’s Easier to Dance in 30 or less words, what would you say

It’s easier to dance than to navigate through the many social service agencies that are legally required to provide services.

What inspired the idea behind your book? 

The fact that there was nothing written by anyone with cerebral palsy and, apparently, not much progress has been made in the treatment of this disability.  Misconceptions and stereotypes are still prevalent as is fear of the disability itself.  Unfortunately, this remains true even among many in the medical profession.

Do you have a favorite character in It’s Easier to Dance? Who and why? 

My mother, Louise Harris is my favorite character.  Despite her lack of formal education, she fought, as only a mother can, for my education.  She insisted that I learn to care for myself, manage money, pay bills, etc.  Also, her religious faith kept me from having the surgery and taking the medications that many say are counter-productive in the long run.

Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how the main character is going to get through their biggest challenge. 

I like to put it this way: My mother remains the only person I’ve ever known more stubborn than I can be at times.  I am the nest of who she was, AND I have a masters degree! 

What message do you hope readers take away from the book

That your life ultimately belongs to YOU ……… one else.  Know yourself well, set your standard and negotiate for what you learn you have a right to.  There are many people who will help you if you can articulate your needs, wants, hopes, and dreams.  Don’t cheat yourself or anyone else.

What three words would best describe the main character

She’s a “Can do woman!

What is your favorite scene in It’s Easier to Dance?

I like the seen in the chapter, “An International Perspective” where I’m a mission trip in Haiti and I visit a home for the severly disabled.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

ALL of it is real life experience.

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write? 


What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book? 

The many reactions people have expressed.  I had no idea it people would be so surprised that I have a real, not a fantasy life.

Do you have plans for a new book?  Is this book part of a series? 

My memoir is NOT part of a series.  I am starting to outline a book on advocacy.

What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?    

Doing this book tour and these interviews.  I’ve also enjoyed speaking at conferences and in a few classes at Penn State.

What type of hero do you like best?

A “real life hero….one that people can identidy with.

What type of heroine do you like best?

One who knows herself well.

Is there any place and time in the world and in history that you would like to visit? 

Not really.  I’ve traveled quite a bit.

How do you unwind after a long writing session? 

Go outdoors.

Who or what has most influenced your writing? 

The Disability Rights Movement and where those with developmental disabilities door don’t fit in.

Do you have a favorite author?

Maya Angelou

Why did you choose to be an Indie writer and would you choose to self-publish again? 

I chose to self-publish mostly to save time.

If you had a chance to rewrite, is there anything about your book you would change?

It’s hard to say.  I might make the language more “politically correct” though it’s not my style.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?  

Keep writing!

What are you reading now? Why did you choose that book?   

Riding the Bus with My Sister.  I’m going to hear Rachel Simon, the author speak on Thursday.

Which authors and books have most influenced your writing style? 

Since this is my first book, I don’t know that I have a style.  I want to continue to write close to how I speak so the reader feels involved in a conversation.

Does where you live or have places you’ve been influenced your work? 

Where I have worked and traveled, especially 3rd world countries have had a great influence on my style of writing.   

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with? 

I’d like to write for and about the family dynamics of families that include members with disabilities.

What challenges did you face in getting your first book published? 

Deciding to make the financial investment to self-publish.

How long did it take to get this book from idea to being published? What was the most grueling process?

Years.  Waiting to be over any anger and knowing the time in history in my book would likely be received by the public, when my book would be most necessary.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing the book?

That “Annie Laurie Harris” is truly a remarkable woman.  I often forgot that I was the person I was writing about.

Do you have any interesting writing quirks?

I like the early morning hours best around 5:00 a.m.

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen for writing?


Do you believe in writer’s block? Has it ever happened to you?

Yes.  I wait.

You’re spending one year living on a desert island – which three authors do you want with you? 

Maya Angelou, Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindberg, and the Bible

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers today?

Thank you for this interview.  I’m having a Kindle Fire Giveaway contest. I hope your readers will enter.
The Book
It's Easier to Dance, a memoir, by Annie Laurie Harris, a woman of African American Heritage, born with cerebral palsy, depicts the highlights, turning points and crossroads of her life while living with a complex, disability. Cerebral palsy is a neurological birth defect that can impair the function of any part of the brain. In her case, her brilliant intellect exists concurrently with lack of muscle coordination and significant speech impairment as well as difficulty in swallowing and performing everyday tasks. Ms. Harris tells in detail of the struggle to learn to take care of herself, earn professional credentials, work in profit and non-profit organizations, and becoming a contributing member of her community.

Her vast experience and engaging personality jump off the pages as you read the compelling account of the highlights of her interesting life. Having studied dance while in
 graduate school and preformed with a group with varying abilities, the author uses the title to suggest...  

An Excerpt
Ticket to Freedom 
My mother always stressed great importance in having an education. From early in my childhood, she insisted that I go to school like any other child. She became my first teacher. But never was college considered a possibility. After getting my high school diploma, I went to a rehabilitation center where I entered a typing program. No one bothered to tell me that in order to be a clerk typist, you needed to be able to type at least 40 wpm with a maximum of 5 errors. When I learned this, I felt betrayed, and I quit the program, returned home depressed. There was another reason I wouldn’t see my vocational rehabilitation counselor.   He wanted me to go to a sheltered workshop which was for those whose diagnosis was primarily “mental retardation”.  I didn’t get dressed; I don’t even remember eating regularly. I wondered what would happen to me. Finally, my brother, who was a graduate student at PSU, asked one of his professors if there was some way that his younger sister could go to college. The professor had influence, and recommended to the appropriate people (I assume was Admissions) that I would be able to attend the branch campus for 2 terms and then my acceptance would be based on my GPA. 

In Sept. 1972, the year congress passed the Right to Education Law which allowed children with significant disabilities to attend public schools; I became an adjunct student at Penn State University’s Shenango Valley campus. I excelled academically, making the Dean’s List and that next fall, I began my undergraduate degree at Shenango Valley. Being older than the typical undergraduate, I made friends among the young instructors, who loved having me in their classes.  My academic advisor recommended that I be exempt from taking a language (something I later regretted), and she also thought I should not take the undergraduate speech requirement, which included giving public speeches. I went to talk to the instructor, James Elder, who said “Annie, you have important things to say to the world so you might as well start in my class.”  Except for statistics, college, was easy for me… not particularly intellectually challenging.

The Author
Annie Laurie Harris, the oldest one of her ethnicity who lives independently, was born with cerebral palsy. She has defied the odds and challenged the medical prognosis since early childhood. She continues to live a full and active life in her 6th decade. After achieving her Master's Degree at Penn State University in 1985 she worked as a counselor and advocate for those with a history of chemical dependency. In 1990, she was recruited by the prestigious World Institute of Disability to be the Assistant Director of the first HIV/Disability Project. Her grant writing expertise is second to none as private foundations funded her innovative research projects again and again. Since returning to her home state of PA where she lives near her beloved alma mater, Ms. Harris continues to be involved in her community and avidly supports the Penn State athletic program. Once again, her love of writing helps to supplement her income. Her groundbreaking memoirs, It's Easier to Dance, is provocative and thought provoking.

Join the Tour!


  1. Great post, thank you.

  2. Your story sounds like a beautiful and inspiring one Annie. Congratulations on your book and successes. Thank you for being with us here today!

  3. It was my pleasure and an honor to be interviewed here. I hope my story inspires you in your life.

  4. This is a terrific interview. The questions are thought provoking and the answers fascinating.

    Janis Friesler

  5. What a great interview of a really interesting person

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com