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(Rick Hickman / American Press)

(Rick Hickman / American Press)

Children’s book authors gather at Central School

Last Modified: Saturday, February 16, 2013 8:24 PM

By Jordan Gribble / Special to the American Press

Many of us have fond memories of having stories read to us as a child, or perhaps can remember the first time we were able to read a book to ourselves. Though the world of children’s literature is filled with familiar classics such as “Peter Rabbit” and “Green Eggs in Ham”, there are a number of more recently released books for kids that were written and illustrated in the Lake Area.

The second annual Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference was held at Central School on Saturday. The conference serves as a way to both educate the authors and illustrators of children’s books in the area on the business of children’s literature as well as to showcase the group’s work to the public.

Chairman of the Southwest Louisiana Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Guild, and author of six award-winning books for children including “Amos the Artistic Alligator,” “Clyde the Cajun Calf,” and her latest “Kyser the Singing Schnauzer,” Tommie Townsley said that there is a surprising amount of talent when it comes to children’s literature in the area, which the conference is geared towards.

“There are a lot of talented children’s writers here, I didn’t know that until we started our guild two years ago, but membership has grown steadily,” she said.

“The authors and illustrators who come here learn about children’s books and the business behind it, but the emphasis is to promote authors and illustrators who create children’s books throughout Southwest Louisiana and East Texas.”

After the success of her own books and the realization that others in the area shared her passion, Townsley created her own independent publishing firm, Ally-Gator Book Bites, which just published its first book, “Into the World Above,” written and illustrated by Lake Charles native Rebecca Stelly.

Stelly refers to her book as a retelling of “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”, only in reverse in which an alien-like fish who lives in the deep recesses of the ocean plans a voyage to the surface.

“I went to an exhibit on the Titanic and started thinking that someone should write a story set in the bottom of the ocean, in the dark zone. They have all of these glow in the dark fish with lights hanging from their heads down there and I thought kids would find that very interesting. There aren’t many books set at the bottom of the ocean, because not much is known about it. It is actually said that there is less known about the bottom of the ocean than there is about the surface of the moon, so I thought there’s an environment that needs an alien, so I created a fish that looks like one,” Stelly said.

Ultimately, Townsley said the conference is about fostering a community of local children’s writers to create books that will encourage kids to read.

“We write for children because they are our future. We write to inspire them to read, we want them to enjoy reading so if we can get some good books out there and get them off the video games and TV and get the books into their hands that is our goal,” she said.

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