Muriel's first two books are When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat, a jazzy picture book, and the newly released chapter book bio, Play, Louis, Play. Muriel is currently working on her third book for children.
Muriel, how did your picture book -- a little girl's bubble-gum romp with a scatting Louis Armstrong -- lead to Play, Louis, Play?
When I wrote the picture book about bubble gum and Louis came to the little girl in a dream, my editor said they'd like a one page article on Louis' life. No problem. So I set about reading more about Louis.
As I started to read, I wanted to read more and more. He interested me so much that by the time I finished I FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM. There were a million books on the market about Louis Armstrong, but I didn't care. I read them and felt I had something else to say for young kids that kids needed to hear. "Lookit this kid!"
Armstrong had to work at many things, think them up because no one hired a seven year old kid. (Play, Louis, Play shows the young Armstrong helping to support his mother and sister).What impressed me most about Louis as a boy and man was his honesty and his generosity. He was a loving, lovable guy.
I love this section of the biography:
"Mayann's [Armstrong's mother] neighborhood was as rough at the Battlefield. But Little Louis never noticed that. Music was all he heard: horns wah-wah-wahing, slow 'n' sad drag-me-out blues, riffs on razzmatazz cornets, and jazzy beats of thumping piano keys. Their sounds, like waves in an ocean, rolled into him, flooded his ears, and flowed through his body."
What kind of research did you do for the chapter book?
There is a Louis Armstong archive at Queen College in Queens, NY. They give you a large pad and a pen or pencil, and you enter a room with a large table in which you alone are present and you have access to any book or article or photo or music concerning Louis or that Louis ever wrote.
I LOVED reading Louis' autobiographies. It was is if you were hearing him speak. No corrections were made. All his scribbling was left and I had the feeling of reading over his shoulder -- as if he were alive and watching me read, as if he heard my laughter, my incredulous sighs, and was loving it.
Armstrong wrote two autobiographies: MY LIFE IN NEW ORLEANS and LOUIS ARMSTRONG IN HIS OWN WORDS. They were of inestimable value. They made me FEEL what he felt.
What's your advice to would-be authors about finding your voice and about longevity.
My advice? I don't give a damn what are you are, whether extremely young or old. If you feel like writing then, by golly, DO IT!!! Dont' think of anything but doing it. Don't think of future gains. Don't think of publishing. Don't think of money. If you want to write, then write. The rest will come into play.
Muriel -- thanks for the visit. It's been a joy to get to know you. I wish you luck in your continued success, lady!