Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
|Children's author writes from the heart|
Local children's author Cindy Foust doesn't recall exactly what made her write her first book more than a decade ago. "I donšt know what made me want to write a children's book," she said. "I just sat down and wrote a story."
Nine books later, Foust's AlphaKidz series - featuring such characters as Austin Alligator, Benny Bear and Iguana Ike - has taken off. The West Monroe native will welcome children of all ages to Alpha Fest Saturday, a free event featuring face painting, story times, putt-putt- golf and visits with Austin Alligator.
"We had a great turnout last year and expect one Saturday," said Foust. "This year we're honoring teachers. One of my elementary school teachers, Mrs. McGrew, will even be on hand to help with story times."
The success of Foust's series is the result of hard work - AlphaKidz as been picked up regionally by a super-retailer - but it's also the result of perseverance.
After penning "Ruthy Rabbit" in 1992, when she was fresh out of Louisiana Tech's business school and had no children, Foust continued to sketch out ideas and had a handful of books by the time she and college pal Joyce Revoir took a road trip to Destin, Fla. Revoir, who then worked as a graphic designer at a Christian publishing house.
"Joyce and I were talking on the beach when we came up with the idea for her to illustrate the series," said Foust. "She thought they had potential and showed them to an editor where she worked, who thought we needed to develop the idea."
Just when it seemed to get going, the budding collaboration was put on hold as Revoir moved to Colorado to start a family, while Foust and her husband, Scott, began one of their own, having Robert Scott and Samuel.
The friends did manage to stay in touch, and the book project grew legs after Revoir's positive visit with an industry executive spurred the pair to get to work. Foust refined her rhyming kids tales targeted to four to eight year old, finishing "Benny Bear" and "Austin Alligator."
She polished the Alphaville concept, and when Revoir submitted some early illustrations, Foust knew they were headed in the right direction. "I knew when I saw the pictures that this was going to work," she said. "It just gave a face to the series."
But only weeks after viewing those sketches, tragedy struck. The Fousts lost two-year-old Samuel to strep pneumonia. Children's writing was put on the shelf while Foust and her family grieved the loss of her youngest son.
In that process, Foust's oldest son had questions about Samuel's passing. She searched for, but couldn't find, and children's book's dealing with that subject, and soon she started journalling, which led to working again on AlphaKidz, this time with the goal of ministering to her son.
"I believe God laid in on my heart to do this," she said. "It became the way I was comforting my son."
She reworked some titles to deal with more serious issues, like a death in the family and physical disabilities, but the work could not distract Foust from her grief.
"It was gut-wrenching, thinking back and seeing those raw moments in a very grievous time," said Foust. "But it was very healing too."
While Foust honed her prose, Revoir worked at getting the presentation right. "We had a collection of stories, but the question was 'How do we package this?'" said Revior, who is now based in Atlanta. "It was important for us to establish our own brand."
The duo arrived at a colorful, eye-catching design for a small, square-shaped book format. They also agreed that somewhere inside every book, a balloon marked with a curlicue "S" - for Samuel - would be pictured floating up to the sky.
With nine titles published, several more in production and interest booming, Foust said she's overwhelmed and grateful.
"But I've learned to keep chasing my dreams, even through the toughest circumstances," she said.