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.”
Attached is a printable word puzzle with words from my book Praline Lady. The publisher also sent me a coloring sheet with illustrations by Kameko Madere. You can download both and share it with your children or classroom free of charge!
My article “The Praline Ladies” was recently featured in the December issue of Country Roads Magazine. I really enjoyed writing it and sharing more of my research on these remarkable ladies.
Below is an excerpt. Please follow the link to read the article in its entirety.
As a child growing up in New Orleans, one of the memories I most return to is me, sitting in the kitchen, watching my grandmother make pralines. I can still picture her ladling the creamy mixture onto wax paper. I’d wait patiently as each dollop spread and magically cooled into an edible treat. As an adult, their magic never wavered.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, many African American women sold goods on the streets of the French Quarter (and throughout the United States) to support themselves. Some were even able to self-purchase their freedom or that of their loved ones. The Praline Lady was a common figure in the Vieux Carre in her gingham dress, tignon and woven basket of goodies. So were the calas cake lady, the blackberry lady, the coffee lady and many more. These women of color were some of the first entrepreneurs in the city. They used their gifts and talents to make a way under difficult circumstances.
Even though the Praline Lady no longer strolls about the French Quarters her legacy lives on as individuals, shops and restaurants continue to make and sell the creamy candy.