Houma, Sweet Houma

The tricky part about being an author at a book festival is remembering that you’re there to sell books, not buy them.

At Books on the Bayou in Houma, Louisiana, Saturday, there were some really interesting looking books, some that sounded like good reads. It was all I could do to keep from picking up several of them, took a lot of self-control, discipline. Not qualities that come naturally to pirates.

John and Tori – or Ol' Chumbucket and Mad Sally – at the Books on the Bayou event at the Terrebonne Parish Public Library in Houma.
John and Tori – or Ol’ Chumbucket and Mad Sally – at the Books on the Bayou event at the Terrebonne Parish Public Library in Houma.

When we did the event two weeks ago we had a small setup at the back of the room. The other two authors at that event had much fancier spreads, and we knew we’d have to step up our game. Tori took it on with her usual passion, and Saturday we had far and away the most eye catching, fanciest display. The small chest we had picked up a year ago at a yard sale specifically for displaying books. Tori added a burlap table cover and netting. She painted our easel and we had a poster made of the cover photo. And she added all the little stuff, the beads and the old-looking doubloons. Even the sign-up sheet got the treatment. Instead of a yellow legal pad, she found a leather-bound journal that fit the theme and seemed to make people eager to give us their names and email addresses.

So we sold some books and went home with fewer books than we came with. That’s the ideal.

But we didn’t sell as may as the priest.

Sitting right next to us was an older gentleman, Father Todd, selling a book of daily devotionals, stories for each day of the year with a message. And everyone walking through the lobby of the (very, very nice) Terrebonne Parish Public Library knew him, stopped by to chat with him and – usually – forked over the $25 for his book. How do you not buy your parish priest’s book, especially when he’s sitting right there looking at you and telling you how to use it?

One book we did end up getting was “Before the Saltwater Came” by Wendy Wilson Billiot. It’s an illustrated children’s book on saltwater intrusion – yeah, sounds like something the kids are clamoring for, right? But it’s a terrific way of introducing an important subect – care of the environment – to young learners. It tells the story of an otter whose life is changed by the effects of human development in the freshwater marshes and asks its young readers “What will YOU do?” Good book.

Houma is about an hour southwest of New Orleans, in the heart of the bayou – Cajun country. They are colorful people, those Cajuns. During a lull in the proceedings Darryl DiMaggio, one of the local authors, whose book “Swamp Eagles” was a compilation of stories from his years as a seaplane pilot in the bayous, turned to us and said, “I haven’t had this much fun since the hogs ate my little brother.”

Colorful.

We had a good time and sold some books in Houma, met a lot of interesting people – a former sniper selling his adventure novels, a retired teacher who now has a slew of funny kids books out, and the irrepressible DiMaggio. We learned a few things from everyone. And I saw a book title that tickled an idea in my mind. I emailed my pirate partner, Cap’n Slappy, about it, and he’s gun ho, and already at work on the concept. More information on this, I hope, to come.

We finished the day with a late lunch at Big Mike’s BBQ Smokehouse, where they have great ribs! So all in all, a terrific outing. And we sold some books!

(And a big thank you to Captain John Swallow, for alerting me to this event, and the Terrebonne Public Library for making it happen!)

6 thoughts on “Houma, Sweet Houma

    1. And you were absolutely right about Big Mike’s. Fabulous ribs, and you’ve gotta love a barbecue joint that has blues and soul music playing nonstop, both inside and in the parking lot. My only complaint about the place was that there was so much on the menu and it all looked so good that ordering took forever. But on your first visit to a barbecue restaurant, you order the ribs, right? Thanks for the tip.

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  1. It was great meeting both of you and finding out that you are also mates of Captain John Swallow! I started the book this afternoon and I am deep into it enjoying every word! Thank you both so much for making the drive to Houma and I hope to see you again one day soon!

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    1. Also a pleasure meeting you, and I’m sure paths will cross again soon. Really enjoyed “Before the Saltwater Came.” What a great way to get kids thinking about their role in protecting the environment. And you can’t go wrong using an otter as a character. My favorite animal. Otters just look like they’re *always* having fun.

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