Early in 2017. I published a beautiful diverse picture book called, Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess.
I was so proud of this book even though, by some standards, I was still very new to the author/publishing career path.
This book was almost like my child because it was inspired by my child. Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess is a book inspired by the life of my daughter Kayla Pecchioni- a well-known and successful Broadway actress. I am so proud of her and how she weathered storms. She has a strength and resilience that I am sure some of which came from me, but a lot of it was something born in her from her ancestral Queens.
Strength, beauty, and greatness are in her DNA.
Proudly, I submitted this book to Kirkus Reviews: an American book review magazine that provides authors with professional critiques of their books. Authors also have the possibility of winning a Kirkus Prize for fiction, nonfiction, or young readers’ literature.
I admit, when I received their review, it knocked me back a few steps. While the review was not bad, it was my first book review from a professional source, and I took the feedback hard. The one piece of the critique that frustrated me the most was where the reviewer stated that I “seemed to insinuate” that that being a mother is the highest calling a woman could achieve.
For me, in this story, I did not insinuate this. I flat out stated it.
Princesses Come all in Colors
Another criticism from Kirkus was that the role of the princess in the book needed to be explored a little more. How many princess books are there? A lot, but there are not that many about little Brown girls as princesses. Why must this be fleshed out for a Black child? It seems to me that books about white children just declare themselves princesses. They play dress up- just like in my book. They pretend to be in a tower- just like in my book- and they sometimes have chores and other family obligations just like in my book.
After reading this review from Kirkus, the criticism really threw me off my game. All I could think about was how this book was perceived (by ONE person who didn’t know me at all) and it made me second-guess myself.
I worried if I had truly conveyed the messages I really wanted it to within the pages of this heartfelt picture book, and if the book itself was too long.
I eventually thanked the people at Kirkus (my response was powerful and confident…but also professional), but their words hung with me for longer than I care to admit. So this year I decided to completely rework, Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess, and I could not be more excited! This “reboot” includes complete new illustrations and a hard edit from my team.
The original message in Kayla remains the same: being a mom is the ultimate gift and princesses come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
I also feel that we’ve shed even more light through text and illustration on the fact that we all need to empower little Brown girls to follow their dreams. Little girls of ALL colors need these stories of HOPE that show them what is possible. Dreams give us hope and that is especially true for BIPOC kids.
We must make room for stories about Black and Brown children. My family story is a unique perspective and Kayla’s is made all the more energizing because of her determination and her drive in a field that will pick you to pieces.
I raised my real-life Kayla to have the pride and the nobility of royalty. I raised her to know that she was special and that she needed to use her gifts, not only to achieve her dreams but to inspire others. The inspired version of her will be fun to watch because in addition to all I have mentioned, she specializes in musical theatre which is very popular among kids and families right now.
A princess is a queen in training. According to the dictionary, a queen is the reigning female of her family, regarded as the most outstanding in a particular sphere or group. How better does a young girl figure out her place in the world than by watching her mother proudly proclaim hers?
Girls become strong by witnessing the challenges of their mothers. It is life training in real-time and it was definitely the case for me and my daughter.
So, tired Queen mamas, if you feel like your crown is slipping, don’t give up. Stand with pride, operate from a place of dignity, and ask for help when you need it. Our daughters will carry on our torch of passion and fire when it is their time. We just need to keep embracing the majesty of our womanhood and keep it moving.
GO HERE to preorder your copy of Kayla: A Modern Day Princess (Spring of 2021) OR, support our unique and innovative Kickstarter 5-Book Rapid Release Project!
Written by veteran author, Deedee Cummings, the Kayla: Modern Day Princess series is inspired by her own real-life princess and Broadway actress, Kayla Pecchioni.
This #OwnVoices project is a five-part series set for Rapid Release in the spring and summer of 2021. Following the picture series will be a middle-grade series and a script to continue to tell the story of this dynamic and necessary character.
Because this project is innovative and unique!
This Kickstarter Project will be supporting author Deedee Cummings’ mission of Rapid Releasing a picture book series and sharing Black Girl Magic with the world! These five beautifully-illustrated books will be released back-to-back so readers can watch Kayla grow up and, through her eyes, see the power of following your dreams.
Kickstarter is wonderful because it gives creators the chance to offer fun rewards, and it fosters a spirit of community giving. There are many amazing themes and topics within the Kayla series, including following your dreams, the bond between mothers and their daughter(s), the importance of representation, and pursuing a career in the performing arts.
We have a lot of rewards to share with those who support this dream, and Kickstarter is the perfect way to make this vision come to life.
What is Rapid Releasing?
Rapid Releasing is the act of releasing 3+ books within a month of each other for maximum buzz, marketing, and visibility. Every time a new book is released, it will stay on Amazon’s Hot New Release list for 30 days. By releasing a Kayla book every 30 days, there will always be one of our beautiful series on the Hot New Release list. It’s an epic way to build buzz and build momentum for the next book in the series!
Rapid Releasing is an expensive and ambitious project, but it is one that the Make A Way Team is committed to implementing and successfully completing. Releasing Kayla: A Modern Day Princess books 2-5 in rapid succession allows readers, parents, caregivers, educators, and librarians to seamlessly share the story of a little Brown girl who grows, evolves, and inspires as the story continues.
Watch social media and this blog to participate, donate, and enjoy some of the wonderful rewards and incentives this project has in store for everyone! And follow these hashtags on Instagram: #moderndayk #moderndayprincess #makeawaymedia #kaylapecchioni #deedeecummings #diversebooks