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Catherine Asaro

Catherine Asaro is a bestselling science-fiction and fantasy author best known for her "Saga of the Skolian Empire" series. A former ballerina, Asaro has performed with ballets and in musicals[…]

Sometimes it’s difficult to find enough time to develop all of your skills.

Question: If you had to choose between teaching math and rndancing, which would you pick? 
Catherine Asaro:rn If I had to decide and I could only teach either physics or math, or rnballet, it would be a really tough decision. I think probably I would rnteach the math because you can keep teaching a subject like math or rnphysics forever, essentially. Whereas with dance, you have to stay in rnshape and if you don't stay in shape it gets harder and harder to teach rnthe class. That's not saying that every teacher has to be at the top of rnher peak or his peak, but for me I don't feel like I'm demonstrating rnwell if I can't do the steps myself. 

So if I were teaching rndance, of course I would be doing more dance, but I think if I had to rnmake a choice, as tough as it would be I would probably go with math as rnwhat I'd teach. 

Question: Is there a specific benefit rnof excelling both science and the arts? 

Catherine Asaro:rn For one thing, it's very satisfying. For another, you get paid a lot rnbetter as a scientist than as an artist. I actually make a living as a rnwriter, but it goes up and down and enough of a living to pay a mortgagern on a house, and buy a car, and send a child to college oversees, no rnit's not enough of a living for that. 

In other arts, for examplern music, I also sing and play concerts. And for people who are doing rnacting, and playing instruments, it's really hard to make a living rnunless you happen to be one of the people that hits really big. Whereas rnin science, once you get the degree, if you're reasonably good at what rnyou do, you can pretty much get a well-paying job. So I would say the rnbenefit of doing both is that when the arts side goes down as far as rnwhether the economy goes bad or I don't happen to get a contract this rnterm or whatever, you still have income from your work as a scientist. 

Butrn I think from a more creative point of view, the two complement each rnother. A lot of my writing has mathematics in it just because for me it rnfits so well. When I think about math it gives me an idea for the rnwriting and when I think about the writing I go “Wait a minute, that rngave me an idea how to solve a problem that I was working on in the rnphysics or the math.” As to how that happens or why I couldn't tell rnyou. 

Question: What’s the biggest challenge in workingrn in both arts and sciences? 

Catherine Asaro: I would rnsay that both ask of you a lot of time. If you want to excel in either, rnit's not enough just to be profoundly talented because no matter how rntalented someone is and I sometimes see that with my math students. I'llrn get someone who I know has the potential to do brilliant work, but you rnalso have to want to put in the time to do it. It has to be the thing rnthat excites your passion, because it takes hours or work. You know, we rntalked about prodigies in music, well yes, they're prodigies because notrn only are they good but they play the piano for hours a day. 

Samern with my daughter who was sometimes called a prodigy as a ballet dancer,rn yes she was very good but the reason she was dancing professional at rnsuch a young age was because she put in six, seven hours a day sometimesrn dancing. And science is the same; if you want to get a degree, getting arn physics major is not an easy curriculum. Getting a degree in math, rngoing to graduate school and getting a doctorate in a scientific or rnmathematical subject, it's a big time commitment. And then when you go rnout into the world to work, you have to keep up on all the research. Yourn have to do your own work. 

If you're at a university you could rnbe spending 70, 80, 90 or more hours a week on your job. So I would say rnthe biggest challenge is finding the time to do both and do them well. 

Question:rn What advice do you give your daughter about her own artistic and rnscientific pursuits? 

Catherine Asaro: I remember veryrn much telling her when she would say, "Maybe I'll just quit ballet. rnMaybe I'll just quit math." I'd say, "Well you could do that." And she rnalso was playing the piano excessively too. I said, "You're doing a lot,rn and it might help you to balance things better." I said, "But you know Irn quit dancing when I was in college and I've always regretted it. I was rnable to go back and pick up the, some of the techniques so I can still rndance." I said, "But I wished I hadn't." And she said, "Okay, I'll thinkrn about it." And she thought about it, and she decided when she would rnperiodically think about eliminating one of those things. She usually rndecided not to. What we told her was, we would support whatever she rnwanted to do. If she wanted to keep doing all three we would find ways rnto help her balance. If she wanted to drop something we would be rnsupportive of that too.

And in fact, she did, when she was 6 rnyears old. This is when it started coming up. It was pretty young. She rnwas doing the both the ballet and gymnastics. She is very talented rnphysically for coordinated-type exercises. And the coach said, "I think rnshe can be a really good competitive gymnast." 

And so they were rntraining her to do that when she was 6-years-old and she was going many rnhours. And she said, "Mom I don't think I want to do this." She said, "Irn like the performance part of dancing more than the competitive part of rngymnastics." And I said the same thing to her then. I said, "If you rndecide it's really what you don't want to do then we'll drop it because rnyou shouldn't put that much pressure on yourself if you don't feel it's rnwhat you want to do." And the thing I usually always told her was think rnabout it for a few days and so she thought about it. 

And in thatrn case she came back and she said, "I'm pretty sure it's not what I want rnto do." So she stopped doing gymnastics and I don't think she ever went rnback to it after that. Another thing that she always wanted to do was rnsinging. She didn't have much time so she hasn't done a lot of it.  But rnit's the same I told her with that. Never feel that you're not able to rndo something if you want to. I said, "Don't put pressure on yourself to rndo it if you don't feel you have time or you don't feel you're ready, orrn you're not sure whether you want to do it or not." I said, "Just the rnthing to remember is don't do anything that you want to do because you rnthink you won't be able to do it." 

I said, "Always try. It rndoesn't matter if you're not the best in it, that's okay. As long as yourn enjoy it." So I think that was probably the best advice I gave her was,rn don't limit yourself. 
Recorded on June 7, rn2010