The Bayou Bogeyman Presents Hoodoo and Voodoo

The Bayou Bogeyman Presents Hoodoo and Voodoo, timely for Halloween, began in a challenge to members of the Louisiana/Mississippi Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to write a scary story. I passed since I don’t write scary, but nine of my writer friends loved the challenge and went to work. Seven of them are pictured here as they looked before they delved into the story writing. Pelican published this group of short stories with an overarching story line of campers out to top each other with scary stories to be judged by their leader, Mr. Braud, or is he the Bayou Bogeyman? 

Questions the stories raise will give you an idea of why the timing is perfect for reading on Halloween.

  • Can Alphatheda outwit Vistoire, the Voodoo Queen, in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1?
  • What possible harm can come from a game loaded into an Xbox, unless of course, the game is Traveling Pierre’s Backwater Carnival?
  • Do spirits from the Girod Street Cemetery really haunt the Superdome after the lights go out or is the BONG BONG BONG of the crazy bell lady imaginary?
  • Should the smell of sauerkraut and stale cigar smoke hovering over a magic index card arouse suspicion?
  • Can a zombie girl find a place with the “in” crowd in junior high?
  • Exactly how much trouble can caged animals freed from midnight to one on All Hallows Eve cause for daredevil kids?
  • Really? Can there be a miracle cure for the loup-garou and the ‘amster-garou?
  • As Flint, Mikey, and D’Wayne set out through the marsh to pull their own prank, is something following them?
  • Can Bryce rid himself of the face that keeps calling “back” in the window of his painting before he enters it in the art contest?
  • What sorcery is needed to outwit a doll in the wall who trades places with Grace’s little brother?
  • What terror lies in the blind spot of a trucker?
  • Will the song “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” last long enough to prevent spell-inducing sleep from the evil ones?
  • Is there hope for those conned into following the devil, who prefers to be called Satan, into his lair?

Of course, there’s also the question of who will win the contest, but that turns out to be a different issue entirely. Just to be sure you know what you are getting into, the writers’ promotional card warns, “Sleep with one eye open.” Looking at a couple of them after their writing, it seems like good advice.


Definition of a Successful Week

I’ve been seriously submitting manuscripts to magazine and book publishers for close to twenty years. I think I’ve hit upon what I should count as a successful week as a writer, and it’s not the number of acceptance letters. Many reasons pop up to explain why these haven’t been in the mailbox so that’s a poor criteria.

Rejection often falls into routine editorial reasons:

  • We received almost 500 submissions.
  • The issue is full.
  • One editor receives 3000 stories per year, accepting 12 which means 1 in 250 odds even with a good piece of writing. (So do I really think I can win this lottery?)

Other things are beyond the writer’s control:

  • Timing – The editor of Family Circle wrote an encouraging rejection letter saying how much she enjoyed my submission about my mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease, but she had just bought a similar one. (The encouragement led me to send it out again, and it was published later in Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer’s.)
  • Tastes of editors – not that different from food. Think of all the fruitcake jokes. One rejection said, “We just didn’t love it enough.” Finding the right editor is a little like finding that person (like me) who can’t wait for fruitcake.
  • Trends – They come. They go. Think of the norm of taking two years from the time a book is bought until it hits the shelves. By the time you spot a fad and write to it, the fad fades before your book can get to market.

One rejection that I got before I began to be really earnest about sending out my work, added a note that they would be glad to see something else I wrote. All I saw was the rejection. With a little more experience behind me, I’m kicking myself for not heeding that invitation. Invitations like that aren’t given out lightly. 

I’m encouraged not to feel like a failure by hearing stories of multiple rejections before acceptance and the ones they continue to receive for so many authors who are now well-known! My current model is Kate DiCamillo, who has multiple award-winning books and will be the recipient of USM’s medallion for her body of work at next year’s book festival. She claims more than four hundred!

So, what do I use to measure a successful week? I do like those acceptances, but I have limited control over them. Instead, I look at my wastebasket. I can control how hard I work. A successful week is one that ends with a wastebasket filled with rewrites and do-overs.  


Small Great Things

If you’re looking for a light fluffy read that will not engage your mind, skip Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – or anything else she has written for that matter. I’ve read Picoult books often and knew that both my mind and emotions would be engaged when I received this book in an ARC. I just didn’t know what the issue would be. 

I quickly found myself in the heads of her three principal narrators – Turk, the skinhead father who has a demand placed in his new baby’s folder that no African American attend him; Ruth, the experienced African American nurse who disregards the order when she is the only one present when the child goes into distress; and Kennedy, the public defender who takes Ruth’s case when the baby dies and she is charged with murder.

She sets up her premise in the first sentence, “The miracle happened on West Seventy-Fourth Street, in the home where Mama worked.” She continues that theme and foreshadows the story line at the end of the first chapter, “. . . where all the differences in schooling and money and skin color evaporated like mirages in the desert. Where everyone was equal, and it was one woman, helping another. That miracle, I’ve spent thirty-nine years waiting to see again.” 

I’d finished about three-fourths of the book when Jodi Picoult appeared on CBS This Morning. She said the idea had come from a real situation, and she had expanded it into a novel. The title came from a phrase attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” She answered my speculation about how she had so much empathy and understanding for each of her characters in an explanation of how much research time she’d spent with people who were her narrator’s equivalents.

She said each of these narrators has to examine their beliefs about power, privilege, and race. Readers may find themselves doing the same thing in this novel that keeps them on edge and turning pages. This newest of Picoult’s books, released on October 11, lives up to the expectations and best-selling status of her previous novels. I highly recommend it unless you’re looking for something fluffy. 


Titled Children

Unless you’ve been hiding out in a cave or been in solitary confinement somewhere, you’ve seen the cute pictures of Prince George in his short pants and knee socks. Even his sister Princess Charlotte has not upstaged him, and he remains my favorite.

I’ll confess that I’ve been as bad as the next one about following British royalty beginning when The Little Princesses was serialized in The Ladies’ Home Journal. That account, by their nanny Crawfie, was cut short when one of the princesses changed her title to “Queen Elizabeth.” Her story, now available in book form, caused a never to be healed rift with the royal family though it was far from scandalous.

These two views of gentle exemplary standards for royalty sandwich a lot of years of shame, unhappy marriages, and intrigue. There’s been more soap opera than role model in the intervening generation. I’ve read those stories, too, still fascinated by people with a title, but I have not enjoyed them as much as reading about two sisters growing up in a castle where one would someday be the queen.

I’m back to liking the stories of an apparently happy family and the photographs of beautiful titled children. So why am I especially fond of the pictures of Prince George? He brings memories of another cute little boy who spent his early years in France and Belgium wearing short pants and knee socks. His only title was “Army Brat,” but he wore it proudly and well.


A Child of Books

After a recent birthday, with a head of white hair and a longstanding membership in AARP, there are those who might assume that I am aging. I have proof to the contrary. Among the gifts for my recent birthday, I got a small pumpkin, a balloon, and a picture book. I’m contending that the pumpkin and balloon, selected and given by two preschool grandsons, indicate they think I’m one of them.

The picture book was presaged with a hint from my daughter that my present would “have my name all over it.” I could tell she was right when I opened the package to find a picture book with the title A Child of Books.

The card that came with it said:

For: A child of books to enjoy and then share with little ones who are also becoming child(ren) of books

From: A child of books.

Further proof that the book was meant for me came when I read the first lines, “I am a child of books. I come from a world of stories.” The storyline by Oliver Jeffers took me back to the time when my now-librarian daughter learned to love books that took her to other worlds when she was a preschooler. Clever illustrations by Sam Winston have a background of forty different children’s stories and lullabies. Even the endpapers are multitudes of titles and authors of classics in literature.

The book did indeed have my name on it. I was a child of books thanks to a mother who read to me. I raised that daughter as a child of books and am glad to have the opportunity to encourage those two grandsons (the “little ones” on her card who are her nephews) to become children of books. A Child of Books is a wonderful book for any adult child of books to share with kids in their lives with the hope that they will also become children of books.

As for my age, you can believe the gray hair and the AARP membership or you can believe the birthday gifts. I’m going with the pumpkin and the picture book.