Woo hoo! Time for Tuesday Debut!
I am thrilled to introduce today’s debutess to you all! She took my class way back in 2013 when it had only been running for 6 months, so she was an early graduate! I think it’s fair to say, judging by the photo below, that I was incredibly helpful in teaching her the importance of chocolate for good writing 😊
Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Kathleen Cornell Berman and her fabulous book about Miles Davis!
BIRTH OF THE COOL: HOW JAZZ GREAT MILES DAVIS FOUND HIS SOUND
By Kathleen Cornell Berman
Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown
Page Street Kids, April 16, 2019
Non-fiction Age 8-11
BIRTH OF THE COOL: HOW JAZZ GREAT MILES DAVIS FOUND HIS SOUND is a picture book biography about Miles’ journey to creating his unique sound. Readers will discover what inspired his sound and how his perseverance pushed him to new heights.
SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?
KATHY: I was brainstorming ideas for a Tara Lazar’s picture book month. I was anxious to write a picture book bio and my husband suggested Miles Davis. I loved the idea. I had fallen in love with Miles Davis’ music as a kid, and was eager to discover how he developed his sound on the trumpet.
I didn’t start research until almost year later. I read several books about Miles, including his autobiography and magazine articles. I listened to countless YouTube interviews, and played his music while I wrote.
SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?
KATHY: The seed for idea started in 2012, but I didn’t start the research until much later. Research plus writing and revisions took about two and half years. As I wrote the book, I continually went back and forth to check for accuracy, since some interviews contradicted others.
SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?
KATHY: It went through many revisions. My first draft was filled with facts, but also very boring. I had recently finished Renee LaTulippe class that had given me the audacity to write in free verse. Once I started writing in free verse, the words flowed.
SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?
KATHY: It’s so hard to know when a manuscript is ready. That’s why it’s really important to share your work with other writers who also write in verse. I asked Tameka Brown as well as another writer in Renee’s group to read the story. Getting good feedback is essential in making the big decision.
SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?
KATHY: I don’t have an agent. I submitted to about 25 agents and 6 publishers over 2 years, which isn’t a lot according to some. I had 4 agents who were interested, but alas, not interested in my other fiction picture books. I like to check out the #MSWL website to see what editors and agents are looking for. I was elated to read Charlotte Wenger’s tweet, looking for PB biographies related to the arts, music. Charlotte is the editor at Page Street Kids. So yes I submitted directly to the publisher.
SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”? (Best moment ever!😊)
KATHY: I submitted to Charlotte in May 2017 and heard back quickly. After going through a few rounds of revisions, I signed the contract at the end of August 2017. The heart of the book is essentially the same, but with a few specifics to help clarify Miles’ journey, and more revisions process concerning word choice.
When my editor wanted to change the title to Birth of the Cool, I added more text about some details about the Birth of the Cool band.
SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
KATHY: I think I sang at the top of my lungs (I’m tone-deaf and have no musical ability), then toasted a glass of Proseco with my husband.
SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
KATHY: I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately I have critique partners who do have experience with contracts, so they advised me. I also contacted a lawyer for the final decisions.
My advance was standard, less than 5k and 5% royalty, with 15 author copies.
SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?
KATHY: The revision process was smooth and straightforward. The editor and I basically had the same vision. I basically made changes where the text was confusing to some. And I added more text because of the change of the title. Each time I revised I kept the audience in mind. I wanted kids to be able to relate to Miles in some way and also to be inspired by his journey.
SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?
KATHY: I was consulted every step of the way in choosing the illustrator as well as the ongoing sketches for the book. I loved Keith’s illustrations and how they’re free flowing, rhythmic, and moody. Since the book is non-fiction, I notified them of any inaccuracies in the illustrations.
I think art notes are important for a non-fiction text, they help the illustrator to keep the art in line with the time period or with specific facts noted in story.
Some of my notes were used to describe the high school band or places where he played music as a young man.
SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?
KATHY: Yes we got to see the reviews and we were thrilled to get a starred review from Kirkus. Being a debut author and illustrator, we didn’t fully realize the significance. We were both beyond thrilled.
SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?
KATHY: I signed the contract August 31, 2017. We had the book in our hands in less than two years. Very cool feeling.
SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?
KATHY: They use social media to promote the book. We’re also in contact with the publicist who has contacted booksellers as well event venues for book signings. They also made gorgeous bookmarks and provided us with a curriculum guide that is downloadable on my website.
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.
KATHY: Keith made a booktrailer and is also creating a coloring book. I’ve created the swag bag along with a wordsearch and goodies. There will be activities added to my website as time goes on.
I have done a number of blog tours and a podcast. Both Keith and I appeared on Jazz 88 WBGO radio show. We were asked interesting questions and it was amazing to hear ourselves on the radio.
SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?
KATHY: It took seven years of reading, writing, reading, classes, conferences, and of course being in a critique group is essential to getting published
SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?
KATHY: I totally enjoyed the research and the revisions. I never felt overly frustrated. It always brought me joy in hopes that my book would inspire kids to find their own voice and be inspired by Miles’ tenacity to reach his goal. Obviously many kids will not become musicians, but I hope they find their own voice in what ever they attempt.
SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Kathy, and for taking the time to participate in this series and pay it forward to other writers! We all so appreciate the knowledge and experience you shared with us today, and who knows how many writers you may have helped toward publication?! 😊
Readers, if you have questions for Kathy, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!
You may purchase Kathy’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)
We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:
– purchasing their books
– recommending their books to friends and family
– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians
– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores
– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries
– sharing their books on social media
Thank you all for stopping by to read today! Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday! Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂
Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts? Check them out!