WALKER — Two Livingston Parish educators put pen — and paint — to paper to create their first children’s book, and plan to release their second book next year.
French Settlement Assistant Principal Wendy Woods, and her friend and sister-in-law, Sherry Martin, a gifted and talented art teacher in Livingston Parish schools, pooled their talents to make Woods’ dream a reality. “Welcome Home Indigeaux,” a story born from her beloved Australian shepherd, was released last year. In January, readers can continue Indigeaux’s adventures in “Yoheaux Indigeaux.”
“I’ve been in education for 19 years, and I’ve seen and read my share of books,” Woods, of French Settlement, said. “I’ve always loved the idea of writing. This was something that came natural, knowing what kids like to read.”
Following several drafts and notes from her toughest critics — her children, Caleb, 10; and Abby, 9 — the book, “Welcome Home Indigeaux,” became a reality.
Martin, of Springfield, said she took on the illustrations while home recuperating from foot surgery.
“Welcome Home Indigeaux” tells of Indigeaux’s imaginary adventure to several Louisiana landmarks, including Oak Alley, the State Capitol, the Mississippi River bridge and LSU’s Tiger Stadium. “Yoheaux Indigeaux,” a tale set in New Orleans, tells of Indigeaux’s adventures with pirate Jean Lafitte and his attempt to save prized treasure from a band of English bulldogs, Woods said.
“The book appeals to all ages,” Woods said.
“It has a lot of Louisiana culture, and that’s what I hope children of Louisiana remember.”
“If kids are going to draw, they want to draw a picture of an animal,” Martin said.
While the series is Wood’s first published books, it isn’t her first attempt at writing. Woods said she started to pen a historical fiction book about 10 years ago but never finished. The manuscript sits in a drawer in her French Settlement home.
“I can’t get happy about it,” Woods said. “I’m stuck and can’t find a good ending.”
In addition to the children’s books, Woods is working on a Christian book titled, “As Time Goes By,” a story about a woman’s journey and struggles with her faith.
“Once you start writing, you can’t stop,” Woods said.
Woods expects her Christian book to be released early next year.
To promote “Welcome Home Indigeaux,” Woods and Martin attend book signings regularly. They plan to also attend the Denham Springs Elementary’s Fall Fair on Sept. 27, the Creole Festival on Oct. 19 in French Settlement, the Louisiana Book Festival on Nov. 1 in Baton Rouge and the Livingston Book Festival at the Main Library Branch in Livingston on Nov. 15.
They said their books sell at local businesses and have, to date, sold more than 1,000 copies.
“It’ not that many in the scheme of things but for this small area, it’s doing well,” Woods said.
More important than book sales are the relationships the two have made with people in the area and visitors to the state, Woods said.
“Indigeaux has gone worldwide,” Woods said, chuckling and noting that people from Switzerland, Canada and other countries have purchased the book.
The duo also hopes the book will encourage people to adopt pets. Woods’ cat, which she adopted from the Denham Springs Animal Shelter, makes her literary debut in one of the books, Woods said.
Wood and Martin challenge readers to adopt a pet from a shelter and have asked people to do so after liking their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/#!/WelcomeHomeIndigeaux.
“Welcome Home Indigeaux” is an Accelerated Reader book, which means children who read and answer questions about the book receive AR points at school, Woods said.