Tag Archives: folklife

2018 Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival

2018 Natchitoches – NSU Folk Festival

I’ll be back at the Natchitoches NSU (Northwestern State University) Folk Festival on July 21, 2018. As I’ve told my readers before this is my absolute favorite appearance I make as an author. Not only is it in my hometown of Natchitoches, La., but it is held at my alma mater and Dr. Shane Rasmussen and his crew at the Folk Center do a tremendous job of putting together a great festival (click here for information on what types of crafts will be covered) with phenomenal Louisiana food from Natchitoches Meat Pies to a big bowl of cooked greens served with cornbread or hush puppies, or even the “Indian Fry Bread” which I believe is prepared by the Alabama Coushatta Tribe. I recommend stopping by one of the booths which sell handcrafted Jellies and buying a jar so you can smear some of that on top of the fry bread.

I have been invited and will be doing a presentation from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m. on Family & Folk History: The Best Sources for Stories, in one of the meeting rooms. Of course, there will be bands playing on different stages all day long as well as participants in the Louisiana State Fiddle Championship.

Interestingly, I got my start doing historical research at the Cammie G. Henry Collection in what was then called the Louisiana Room at the Eugene P. Watson Library on the NSU campus. That collection will have a booth at the festival hosted by Dr. Mary Linn Wernet and her staff from the library and she always has interesting things to talk about and photos of Natchitoches that even I’ve never seen before.

I’ll have copies of all of my books available for signing and a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Folk Festival and the Folk Center to help keep Louisiana culture and history alive. I should have my first children / middle-grade book available and launched at the festival. The title of this one? “The Magic Toilet”. Yes, it’s not like my normal books but it is a title and topic I’ve had on my mind since my now 25-year-old twins were just little kids.

Seriously, this festival is the best value of anywhere you can possibly go to since the price of your ticket covers all of the music and crafters and, in addition, it is being held inside the Prather Coliseum which is air conditioned!!!  What more could you ask for during what I am sure is going to be an extra hot July?

Be sure and bring a few extra dollars for food and crafts and stop by my booth and say hello!

New Books Coming Soon!

I’ve gotten a few communications on my annual appearance at the Natchitoches/NSU Folklife Festival and whether I will have any new books there and I thought I’d do a short post.

We have an anthology we have put together of some older (pre-1920s) pieces concerning Louisiana as well as the poems from the collection I’m still working on. Also included in the anthology will be the full version of The Bottle Tree, which will also be available as a standalone book. 

In addition, we are working to get a couple of other books together using pre-1920s works which we thought were interesting. Karren is coming across these while helping me do research for my novel, Louisiana, which is still a ways off.

Hopefully, I’ll also have the second book in the Junebug series completed. The title is Junebug and the Monkey. I’m about 25,000+ words into it (100 pages or so) but that’s only about a third finished. For some reason this books is fighting me as hard as I’m fighting it. As many of you know, I’ve always felt that the characters in my book come to visit and sit with me to tell their story but in this case they just won’t come to visit. Still, with any luck it’ll be ready for the festival which is July 15-16, 2016.

I hope to see all of you there!

The Birth of Characters

Most people who don't write tend to believe that the hardest thing about writing a book is coming up with the story, but that's really not true. I, like most writers, have tons of notes about book plots, stories, or just smidgens of ideas. Actually the hardest part is naming the characters after you come up with them. 

In most books, the names are just randomly chosen to reflect average, everyday people. One notable exception to this rule are the Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling does a masterful job of naming things, places, and people in a way that fits them perfectly.

However, what I wanted to talk about here is the characters in books and where writers get their ideas.

I can't speak for everyone but most of my characters are based on bits and pieces of people I have known throughout my life.

In The Bottle Tree, one of the characters is named Johnny Robinson, which was the name of a black friend of mine from elementary school in Louisiana. The character himself is not a lot like Johnny, but I remember one occasion when we were kids and my great grandmother either hired Johnny's mother to help her pick peas or agreed to let her take a share if she helped pick.

Johnny and I hung out that morning and there was a little awkwardness as we engaged socially, which was rare in Central Louisiana in those days. Some of that awkwardness is shown in the book although the real Johnny was nowhere near as shy as the Johnny from the book.

I took a little different approach with No' Chance. I needed a female character who was likable yet tough, so Jennifer Johnson is an amalgamation of a few different girls/women I've known. Her name was taken from a Robert Earl Keen song, Jennifer Johnson and Me, about a man who finds a strip of those photo booth pictures that you used to be able to take for a quarter. When he finds them in his jacket pocket it immediately brings back memories of one of his loves from his teenage years.

Although I realize that the reference will be lost on many/most people, to me Jennifer's name and character brings back those reasonably carefree days when I was a teenage boy chasing girls, being grown up still a distant prospect.

Writers take characters from people they meet. If you ever have a chance to interact with a writer there's a reasonable chance that one day you or some part of you will make it into a character in a book. Several people I met recently at the Natchitoches NSU Folk Festival are in line to make their appearance once day when the right story presents itself.