It’s a great feeling to FINALLY be able to announce what my next picture book is about. My Instagram post sums it up nicely.
“I have always been drawn to the hauntingly beautiful Spanish moss that drapes our oak and cypress trees in Louisiana on both land and bayou. In 2011, I stumbled upon a few sentences in an article about moss pickers that sent me researching and writing my next picture book! I’m also thrilled to partner with the talented James Ransome as illustrator. My heart is truly happy.
Special thanks to my agent, Essie White and Kaylan Adair, my editor at Candlewick, for loving this story as much as I do.
Background photo is a moss draped tree at City Park where I often visit just to admire the ancient trees.”
When I was a little girl my Mom and Grandma went garage sale-ing all the time. They’d wake up early Saturday morning with their circled newspaper ads going from house to house in search of something special. I didn’t accompany them on many of these trips. Garage sales weren’t exactly my thing. But fast forward to adulthood and suddenly another type of garage sale – much fancier- has piqued my interest – Estate Sales – has become my thing.
Last week my daughter accompanied my Mom and me, and like me when I was her age, wasn’t too thrilled about going but found a cute sweater. Mostly, I’m on the hunt for vintage perfumes and books. I opened an Etsy store in December and those items are my biggest sellers. I’ve had lots of fun lately perusing through other people’s lives and getting a glimpse of how they lived. Estate sales have taught me that only we truly cherish our own things. As I glimpse laced doilies, thick tablecloths, dainty gloves from the 1950s and so on, it’s clear that our children will keep a few items and sell the rest – an important reminder to always value people over possessions. Meanwhile, I get to keep some of their “junk” that is certainly a “treasure” to me.
I had a delightful time reading PRALINE LADY at the children’s museum today. My teen was the photographer, hubs videographer (see insta), mom guest services, and my daughter an invaluable assistant. Only person missing was my eldest.
Special thanks to my friends that showed up!!
I ended with reading a brief section of the Author’s Note about the Black women that popularized pralines. An audience member asked what was cala? It was a fitting question which allowed me to honor Ms. Loretta Harrison of Loretta’s Authentic Pralines, one of the FEW that still made this old fashioned treat. This Praline Queen’s legacy of being the first Black woman to open a candy shop in the French Quarter will live on forevermore.
My first time celebrating Chinese New Year was in Taiwan in 1994, and it was really special. The team owner (aka Big Boss) invited us to the Lai Lai Sheraton hotel in Taipei. The hotel was beautiful, with a dragon painted on its walls.
We ate at the Executive Club restaurant on the 17th floor. Dinner included ten different dishes including shark fin soup, which cost $100 a bowl and takes a week to make!! There was spicy shrimp in a tomato sauce, fried rice, noodles with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and thin pieces of chicken. There was a fruit tray, red wine, orange juice, and other delicious dishes I wish I could remember (why didn’t I take pictures?? If only iPhones existed then!)
Everyone was so kind and generous to us.
In my second year, I met these amazing ex-pats aka “The Rainbow Coalition.” Our coalition represented many races and nationalities. We had monthly potlucks, conversations, birthdays, and lots of laughter! Oh and this isnt even everyone!
In a weird twist of fate, I met one of my closest friends in Taiwan. We attended the same university in New Orleans at the SAME time but never crossed paths until a basketball game in Taipei. We’ve lived in different countries, states, briefly in the same Cali beach town, and remain friends.
In conclusion, I didn’t know back then how blessed I was to experience living in different countries. These experiences and especially the people shaped me into who I am today. I’ll treasure these memories in my heart forever.
This week I had the pleasure of signing my second picture book contract! I am so grateful to be given this opportunity again. You see, I remember when being a published writer was just a DREAM that seemed so far out of my reach. I can’t even tell you how many rejections I’ve received over the years (and still get), BUT I can tell you they only made me more determined. Rejections with positive feedback and suggestions made me a better writer and gave me hope that one day I’d reach my goals!
This picture is special to me because it captures my 1st writing “win.” When I was in high school, my mom urged me to enter a local essay contest. I reluctantly did so at the last minute. (I did not like people to read my writings back then). But my mom knew writing was my passion from when I was twelve years old. That was when my Pawpaw purchased me a typewriter. No, I could NOT type, but I could peck, and because he adored me, I always got whatever I wanted. I pecked for years until the 10th grade when I quickly signed up for typing class. I soon became a fast typist, which has aided me greatly in my writing career.
Well, imagine my surprise when I was one of the contest winners!!! Actually, I did not know I’d won until I arrived at school and my friends crowded around me saying they’d announced my name on the radio that morning. I have to admit to being embarrassed. The silliest things embarrass us in high school. Besides, I had no idea they would PUBLICLY broadcast the winners for the entire NEW ORLEANS metropolis. Anyway, the prize was really cool. A limo picked up me and mom and took us to a fancy French Quarter restaurant. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I’m sure we started with gumbo. We always start with gumbo in Nola. After dinner, they drove us to the Saenger Theatre to see “Mama I Want to Sing.” It was a really special night and a rare opportunity for my mom and me to do something so fancy, just the two of us.
Little did I know I wouldn’t get another writing “WIN” for a very, long time! I credit my husband and kids for ALWAYS supporting my dream and believing in me. They inspired me to keep going despite the rejections.
The moral of this story is NEVER give up on yourself or your dreams! Keep pushing and may 2022 grant you your heart’s desire.
P.S. Stay tuned for more information on my new picture book that’ll hit shelves…I’m not sure when but I’ll keep you posted. 😉
It’s a great feeling to see your book on display at the local bookstore. Last week, I visited Barnes & Noble with my teen and moseyed over to the children’s section where Praline Lady was on display, as well as other great local titles.
It’s officially been a year since Praline Lady’s release! During this time, I’ve learned so much about children’s books, marketing, writing, and this business. I’m thankful to everyone that has supported me and purchased Praline Lady. If you requested a copy for your local library – thank you! I am honored to represent the ancestors and New Orleans through my work and can’t wait to share my next project.
I recently went to an estate sale where I came upon this picture and immediately loved it. Of course, the Praline Lady with her basket on top of her head had everything to do with me buying it. I plan to get it framed as soon as possible.
I can’t find out anything about this photo except the location is Pirates Alley. If anyone has any information please share.
June 24, 2021 was National Pralines Day and I was thrilled to share Titine’s story on social media.
“He who has not tasted Titine’s pralines has something yet to learn of the joys of the palate. As everybody knows, the praline is essentially a New Orleans product, and there is not an Inhabitant of that city who does not understand that grated cocoanut mixed with sugar and cooked in a certain way, will turn out pralines. Ah yes! But there are pralines and pralines!
And Titine’s secret of its absolute perfection has never been revealed. For thirty years, weather permitting, this old mulatress has been sitting in one place on the sidewalk, in the busiest section of the Town. Her little low table is the same; the tray, now despoiled of its paint, has never been replaced by a newer one, neither has she altered the pattern of her stiffly starched guiné blue dress, nor indeed have her pralines undergone any evolution. They are precisely of the same shape and size as they were years ago, when a buxom young matron, she first took her seat on the banquette and received the title of the Praline Woman.” Metropolitan magazine Company, Volume 23, 1905
Recently I was thinking about how my publisher really dropped the ball and didn’t get any reputable reviews for my book, Praline Lady. At another time I’ll write about the unprofessionalism I encountered with this publisher but for now I want to talk about reviews.
Reviews are so important for authors, especially for debut books. Most publishers get their books in the hands of reputable reviewers like the School Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, etc. I didn’t get a review from any of those agencies and in fact, my publisher didn’t get any reviews for the book pre or post-publication. So in addition to writing, some of us are expected to do marketing, publicity and get our own reviews!
Thankfully I was able to get reviews from book blogger and fellow authors in my writing group. At first, this was very distressing to me, even now it’s a bitter topic, but I’ve learned to turn lemons into lemonade. The reviews from my fellow authors meant so much to me because they took time out of their busy schedules to read my book and give meaningful feedback. The best review I’ve received is a single sentence from an elder in my community that I deeply admire.
“Thank you for honoring our Ancestors,” Nana Anoa Nantambu.
That one line means the world to me because it sums up my intentions perfectly.
World Read Aloud Day was on February 3, 2021. I was honored to participate and read Praline Lady at two schools virtually. The first school was Lake Forest Charter School in New Orleans. I can’t tell you how special it was that my FIRST time reading Praline Lady live was with a local school. The second school was Stride Avenue Community School in Canada! The kids were so engaged and intelligent. They asked great questions also!
I was moved by the email sent to me by Ms. Pang at Stride Avenue Community School after my presentation: “There is so much rich history in your story. It was written, illustrated, and told beautifully. Thanks again for sharing with Stride Avenue Community! I am glad they had a chance to experience that, especially during Black History Month.”