Well, technically I didn’t write the whole book. But I did pen two short stories in the newly released “The Bayou Bogeyman Presents Hoodoo and Voodoo” – published by Pelican Publishing Company.
For Middle Graders ages 8-12, the Bayou Bogeyman includes 13 spooky stories told from a different author, and each short story is part of one larger tale where the kid who tells the worst story might just get eaten – C O O L ! ! !
So how’d this all happen?
Well, while attending a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) monthly meeting in New Orleans, and reading a few pages of a funny story I was working on, Laura Roach Dragon (a.k.a., the Dragon Lady) asked if I could write “CREEPY.”
I was a reluctant, practically non-existent reader as a kid (except for forced school work assignments and comics like Garfield, Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes), and I figured I’d try my hand at writing something that I would have liked to read back then.
Four months after that ask – and TA-DAH! – I had penned two spooky tales. One was about a zombie tween who must survive middle school but keep in mind, don’t eat your friends (Deja’s View: A Zombie Tale). The second story took a little longer about a girl who needs to save her little brother from a doll living in their wall. So I let (The Doll in the Wall) breathe for a month or two while editing here, adding new stuff there – and totally starting the ending of the story over and over and over.
But me being published didn’t happen overnight – unlike those lucky millionaire lottery winners after buying only ONE ticket.
Truth is, I had been writing stories since I was that non-existent kid reader – mostly awful stories that were only good for shooting trashcan baskets. A few comics about a Super Egg Hero, a few recurring tales about Ghastly Ghosts living in the suburbs, and a series of disturbing, yet funny, poems and real stories from Edgar Fruggenburger. Like I said, mostly trash fodder.
In my mid-twenties, I took writing serious – bought some How To Write Children’s Books for Dummies and even took a number of online writing, screenwriting and Institute of Children’s Literature classes. I even sharpened my craft as an ad agency writer for 19 years.
Like most writers, I began writing about life experiences – because all the books say “WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.”
I wrote about life on the bayou, life about a bat in my yard, life about how I passed sixth grade without ever cracking open a book (fictional, of course). I submitted story after story after story – surprisingly many stories were requested by seasoned editors at recognizable publishing house.
Then came the rejections. Not quite right for us. Not ideal for our list. I didn’t connect enough with the hero to read on. One agent (who someday I will kneel before and thank with a drink of choice) said in harsh, bold words, “Throw away your entire first chapter and start there.”
That’s when it hit me, why would anyone want to read about ME.
I paused. I reflected. I wanted to take this serious. So I joined SCBWI. I attended monthly meetings. I went to writer conferences and workshops. I read author blogs. I joined conversations on twitter #kidlitchat. I shared my tales and ideas with critique groups (one where I was the only unpublished author too – talk about intimidating).
Then, I sat back and breathed!
After trying, and trying, and trying, I stopped trying to write to get published. And I started writing what I would want to read when I was a kid.
Fast forward hundreds of stories or idea starters later, and the first story ever published in print by author (that sounds so cool) Gary Alipio is about that Zombie Tween surviving middle school without eating her friends.
SO … by all means, definitely feel free not to “WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.”
Back to the release of “The Bayou Bogeyman Presents Hoodoo and Voodoo” by Pelican Publishing Company (nice plug, right)? It’s now online, and if it’s not in a bookstore near you, please ask them to stock it – or we’ll put some gris-gris on them.
Then, pick up a copy or two or even three. Snap a selfie of you with your Bayou Bogeyman book and Tweet or Instagram it with #BayouBogeyman, and every now and then I’ll reach out to send someone a signed (by a number of Bayou Bogeyman authors) copy.
BE WARNED: You may need to sleep with one eye open.
It’s never too early to start thinking about stocking stuffers either.