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Louisiana children’s authors meet up in Lake Charles for Just Imagine!

Travel Blog by Katy Hobgood Ray

Kirby Jambon, Katy Hobgood Ray, Tommie Townsley, and Trudy Mullendore. Front, Louis Ray.

Kirby Jambon, Katy Hobgood Ray, Tommie Townsley, and Trudy Mullendore. Front, Louis Ray.

I was recently invited to speak at a conference in Lake Charles hosted by the Southwest Louisiana Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Guild. What an honor!  It was an opportunity to meet new creative people working in children’s entertainment and education in Louisiana, and also an opportunity to share our own creations with more people. David Ray and I packed up some copies of The Little Mouse Santi books and We’re Going to Confetti Park! CDs and our little boy Louis, and headed off for adventure.  We are always up for visiting a new part of our home state!

We got in late on a Friday night, checked into our hotel, and set out to see Lake Charles. We enjoyed driving around McNeese University and were pleasantly surprised to see a proliferation of locally owned businesses in the university corridor.  Very nice, Lake Charles!  I was also impressed with all the drive through crawfish restaurants. (Another perk of the trip: we were able to meet up with my cousin Chad Hobgood, his wife Laura, my uncle Guy, and all the Hobgood children of Lake Charles. It was a real treat to visit family members we don’t see nearly enough.)


We had a bright and early start for the conference on Saturday. It was held at the Seed Center at McNeese University in a large conference room with a podium for the four presenters, and several large tables for registrants. The room was lined with vendor booths featuring Louisiana authors’ and illustrators’ children’s books.

I was one of four speakers for the day. The presentations:

  • Kirby Jambon, author/poet: “The Poetry of Louisiana Culture and Language”
  • Sharon Schmitz, author: “Plotting vs. Panting & Other Tips to Get Your Book Published”
  • Katy Hobgood Ray, host/producer of Confetti Park: “Documenting Louisiana Children’s Music & Storytelling Traditions”
  • Trudy Mullendore, Phoenix Color/Printing: “Children’s Books Inside & Out”

The conference lasted all Saturday. There were musical interludes, poetry readings, slideshows, vendor pitches, snack breaks and door prizes offered throughout the day.

I was absolutely enchanted by the poetry and presentation of Kirby Jambon, a teacher and poet who writes in Louisiana Creole French. Kirby is the recipient of the Henri de Régnier prize from the Académie Française, in support of literary creation in poetry. He is the first Louisianan to win this award.

There were also excellent presentations by Sharon and Trudy… it was fascinating to learn about the physical construction of books and the printing process.

Tommie Townsley, chairperson of the guild, organized the conference. She is a fantastic organizer and a top-class human being. I originally met Tommie, herself a children’s author and the head of Ally-Gator Book Bites, when she narrated for my radio show. She has done a lot for Confetti Park in the way of contributing stories and interviews, and now, she’s helped me meet even more  creative people from Louisiana.

Because, for sure, the best part of the conference was meeting all the wonderful writers and illustrators, and soon-to-be published authors, and teachers, and other curious, warm and friendly people in attendance. I am thinking of the adventurous Patsy Moore, author of Whistle, and the delightful and effervescent Jerica Guillory, author of A Pig’s Tale, talented illustrator Hannah Gumbo, and Rebecca Stelly, author of To the World Above. (Rebecca was the creator of the amazing door prize that was “won” by Louis—a hand painted castle!) Of course we loved meeting Lydia Crochet and her adorable therapy dog Jeanie, the star of Jeanie, the Three Legged Pooch. And to the passionate young poetess from Mamou, and the woman who is writing about her angelic daughter—I hope you continue to pursue your dreams.

Tommie, thank you for welcoming our family and Confetti Park to your guild! I look forward to meeting up again with all of the people we met, and a longer trip to Lake Charles very soon!




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