LaPlace native learns to follow her dream

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By David Vitrano

VACHERIE – LaPlace native Wendy Woods recently did what so many never do throughout their lives — she followed her dreams to become a published author.
“I’ve always loved to write, even as a kid,” she said. “I just felt like if I was going to make my dream come true I had to take the bull by the horns.”
Woods, who now lives in Springfield with her husband and two children, Caleb and Abby, and is the assistant principal at French Settlement High School, returned to the River Parishes this week to not only visit family members but to also introduce her new children’s book, “Welcome Home, Indigeaux,” to the local area. The book follows the book’s namesake, who is Woods’ actual miniature Australian shepherd, as she is taken on a tour of some of South Louisiana’s most iconic sites, including Oak Alley Plantation, Tiger Stadium and the State Capitol, and then dreams of making her home in one of these locations.
Woods said her 18 years spent as an educator helped to indirectly prepare her for this second career.
“Just seeing different kid’s books through the years, I decided to make my dream a reality,” she said.
And for inspiration she needed look no further than the mischievous 2-year-old puppy that arrived on a plane from Texas. She then tapped her husband’s aunt, who is a gifted art teacher in Livingston Parish, to do the illustrations.
“The book has gotten a pretty good reception so far,” said Woods.
Finding the business of children’s books extremely competitive — Woods said there is little chance of being published without the help of an agent — Woods chose to use self-publishing house Mascot Books to print the piece. The arrangement also allows her to keep 100 percent of the rights to the material.
Still, Mascot guided Woods through the process to create a product that is both appealing and true to the original vision. Woods said her original manuscript for the book was 48 pages, and she had to cut it to about 12 for the final version.
“A lot of what you want to say, you can say in an illustration,” she said.
Woods also chose to enter a somewhat crowded field as children’s books set in the local region have been filling bookshelves lately, but that fact proved a help rather than a hindrance.
“I think it’s just the culture,” she said. “The southern hospitality, it just lends itself to such great stories.”
In fact, Woods is already working on the second volume of Indigeaux’s adventures. While she did not want to divulge too much, she did say the next book would likely involve a particularly interesting part of her ancestry. Woods, whose maiden name is Duhe, grew up in LaPlace and attended St. Joan of Arc and St. Charles Catholic.
Luckily, the second time around may hold fewer surprises for the budding author, though she will still have to face the opinions of her children.
“They were my hardest critics,” she said.
Still she is willing to suffer the slings and arrows of any critic to follow her passion.
“I love teaching, but to do writing full time would be a definite dream come true,” she said. “You have to follow your dreams and see where it takes you.”
“Welcome Home, Indigeaux” is currently on sale at Roussel’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts on Belle Terre Boulevard in LaPlace and at the gift store at Oak Alley Plantation. And online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million. She will be returning to Oak Alley Plantation Dec. 15, 9:30 a.m.-noon, for a book signing.