Today we celebrate the book birthday of On the Line: My Story of Becoming the First African American Rockette. We sat down with Musa Lissette Norman to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about the book:
ON THE LINE: My Story of Becoming the First African American Rockette written by Jennifer Jones and Lissette Norman and illustrated by Robert Paul, Jr.
Dancing has always made her feel free, like she can do anything. But when Jennifer was a child, some people didn’t think that she had a future as a dancer because of the color of her skin. With the support of her family, especially her mother, she proved that anything is possible when you believe you belong.
On the Line is a captivating true story about manifesting your dreams.
What 3 words would you use to describe your book?
Inspirational, perseverance and trailblazer.
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a writer until now?
When you’re working on a book project and you’re stuck for an extended period of time, it’s okay to shelve the book and work on something else. I spent (and sometimes feel I lost) too much time on a project (a novel). For years, I’d set it aside, then returned to it with new eyes. Pero nada. I couldn’t find my way through it; couldn’t figure out how to fix the problems. Abandoning it completely, however, made me feel like a quitter. I had already written the book and invested so much time. I believed it was the book that would land me an agent and book deal. I had queries sitting in slush piles for what seemed like forever. I cycled through faith and doubt for years. Finally, I decided to hire an editor. During that editing process, I was actually signed by my current agent, (she believed the novel had promise and would wait for me to rework the book with the editor). Soon after getting an agent and still waiting for the book edits, I was inspired to write another book: Plátanos Go with Everything, which landed me a book deal. Things moved quickly after that. And I was like, coño, why hadn’t I pivoted years ago?? Anyway, we live and we learn, right? Bottom line, don’t do what I did. It’s okay to work on more than one book at a time. If the ideas aren’t flowing for a book, perhaps you’re not ready to write it or it’s not that book’s time. Move on. Go back to it later, when you’re ready. Happy writing!
What message are you hoping readers will take away from this story?When you discover what you love to do, what you’re passionate about, it’s possible to succeed in making it your life’s work, if you believe it’s where you belong!
What comes next for you as an author?
I’m so proud of my next (solo) picture book, Abuela’s Library, which comes out on June 11, 2024. It’s about turning an unexpected setback into a happy ending and about community. It’s a beautiful tribute to all librarians.
What 3 recommendations would you give writers who are starting out?
1. Figure out what you want to say and who your audience is.
2. Read widely, but also make sure to read a bunch of books in whatever genre you want to write.
3. Learn the craft, take workshops, experiment, pay attention to others’ writing styles; in time you’ll develop your own writing style.
Bonus: Before querying agents, it’s super important you learn how to format your manuscript and write a query letter. Be professional when presenting your work.
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