COLUMBIA — Will Ladoneya catch the fly her mother sent her off to find for supper? At first glance that appears the main question of first time children’s book author Constance Brown’s book How Ladoneya Caught a Fly.
Indeed Brown, who spent her late childhood and teens in Winnsboro, writes a delightful, entertaining children’s book. But look closer beneath the book’s lighthearted, playful vibe and one finds a powerful, allegorical message about self confidence, self actualization and self worth.
The book was a family affair with several of the animal characters drawing on characteristics of her own children. But the main character, Ladoneya, contains a lot of Constance Brown in her, according to the author.
Brown is the granddaughter of Robert Brown, a well-known painter in Rhode Island. She has always had a natural talent for art and keeps herself up to date with new techniques from current tutorials. Brown attended grades 5-10 in Fairfield County before moving to Albany, Ga. Then she returned to Winnsboro until age 23, when she moved to Columbia. Constance has an aunt that lives in Fairfield county.
A Sister who cares
A speaker for Sistercare Volunteer Services, Brown said she likely would not have written the book had it not been for that organization. Several years ago, with the help of Sistercare, she and her children were removed from an abusive marriage.
“Sistercare put me in an environment where I could focus on my talents and excel,” she said. Her counselor and mentor learned how passionate Brown was for writing since elementary school and suggested she take up the craft again.
For this 2007 Sistercare Woman of the Year, writing was therapeutic during those years of healing and that adjustment to a new normal.
This, her first published children’s book, will be the first in a three-part series. The book actually was co-authored by her 11-year-old daughter, Karmon, and her 15-year-old daughter Karlisha. Their inspiration and creativity helped with brainstorming sessions. Three nephews inspired the frog personalities in the book. Karlisha told her mother it was important that the child-lizard have rules to follow and that greatly shaped the plot.
One day as she sat on her back porch writing, she saw a lizard trying to catch a fly. That nugget of an idea grew into the Ladoneya series whose illustrations were co-illustrated by her son Karlos Gibson Jr., 17, a former student in Fairfield County.
Though this child-like lizard, Ladoneya is assigned to search for food. Along the way, she winds up searching for, and finding, friends instead. There is a exciting twist at the end, but you’ll have to get a copy of the book to find out what it is.
An underlying theme of acceptance of diversity, among the various animals and insects Ladoneya encounters also comes from art imitating life. Brown is bi-racial and growing up in the south as a bi-racial child taught her the importance of accepting others for who they are and not prejudging them.
“In the South, being part of both (white and black) cultures gave me a unique perspective,” she said. Having a white grandmother from England gave her the opportunity to see life from a different view point.
She loves to give speeches at elementary schools to give children a face to believe in and to show them she once was just like them. Though she grew up with limited means in Fairfield County, she dared to dream she could become more and do something else.
Through writing and speaking, she wants to nurture that spark, imagination and creativity in the next generation. As a mother and an author, she understands how the education system and the younger generation need role models. Her goal is to show children, especially those in Winnsboro, that they can achieve their dreams if they are willing to step up, work hard and rise above the hard knocks life might deal along the way.
She has written speeches directed at business leaders, the S.C. Bar Association, the S.C. Attorney General, the mayor and many others. During that process, the passion for writing she had since childhood was reignited. Now a self-employed businesswoman, she operates her own tax business, DMX Tax Preparation, does speaking engagements, and now sells books.
Making dreams reality
“It’s one thing to see more for ourselves but we also have to believe it to make the dream reality. That is where the inspiration for Ladoneya came from,” Brown said.
She has a sporadic writing routine, creating whenever inspiration strikes her, whether that means dictating ideas into a voice recorder while she drives or jotting ideas down.
“When I feel inspired, I start writing because then I am compelled to get the writing out,” she said. The approach has produced three children’s books and two unfinished novels.
Once her children’s book was written, Brown began publishing research. She read the non-illustrated copy at area schools to fine tune it for age appropriateness. Her then-boss at the DMV loved the book and pushed her to pursue it so she sketched out characters and drew one character per week.
With the help of the Wordswept editing company and Xlibris Publishing, her book became reality. Right now her marketing strategy includes Books A Million, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and sales through networking and building her author’s platform, but she continues to try and pitch the book to larger publishing companies.
The book has discussion questions at the end and is interactive to encourage communication and for people to continue to engage its themes. She is working on a website with games and interactive content such as a recipe swapping area where parents can exchange healthy recipes. She also is on Facebook.
Brown will hold a book signing on May 16 at the Fairfield County Public Library. Her book officially comes out April 11. She hopes to do a series of readings in local elementary schools leading up to the book signing event.
Visit www.ladoneya.com, www.amazon.com or visit a major book store to find a copy. Visit www.ladoneya.com or call 803-250-5918 to find out about booking a reading or signing event.