Influential Female Authors

Recently while driving along the highway, an old memory surfaced, prompting me to perk up and pay attention.  The memory goes like this . . .  

It was 1979, and I had been living down in south Louisiana for about a year.  I was sitting on the back steps where I lived, looking at a a dark pink flower hanging from a banana plant, neither of which I’d ever before seen.  

I photographed the tropical banana flower with my Yashica 35 mm camera and don’t recall how the photo Influential Female Authorscame out; but what I do remember are the very vivid thoughts I had while sitting there gazing upon that banana flower:

One day, I would like to take picturesque photos of everything I see on the bayou and publish one of those fancy coffee table books.  I will call it, ‘Through the Eyes of the Bayou’.” 

I was 24 years old at the time, single, and working as a crew-boat deckhand, seven days on, seven days off.  Without a care in the world other than supporting myself, I now wonder what kept me from following through on that desire.

Now, 35 years later, I still really don’t know the answer, but by the time I married in 1981 and bore my first child in 1982, the stay-at-home-mom die had been cast, and I was happy and fulfilled in that role. However, through the years of rearing children, I lived vicariously through the lives of and was influenced by an array of female authors. 

Author Mary Alice Fontenot 

The first of those Louisiana authors was Mary Alice Fontenot, Influential Female Authorswhose Clovis Crawfish series captured all my children starting with my first-born, DoVi.  Back in the 1960s when Fontenot’s books were first released, they were simply typed with black and white line drawings. By the time I had discovered them for my children, the books had been republished in hard cover and enhanced with full-color illustrations. As I read these books over and over to my children, I thought. “I can write a book like this, and one day I will!”. (It was from Fontenot’s books that I borrowed the idea of using local French/Indian language for key words in my first children’s picture book, Before the Saltwater Came, about 30 years of wetlands loss in coastal Louisiana.)

Author Gladys Taber

My Grandmother Vi loved to read, and after Mother passed away in Influential Female Authors1991, I chose a couple of Grandmother’s books, adding them to my growing personal library. Among those books, I discovered Gladys Taber, who wrote for Lady’s Home Journal.  She authored Stillmeadow Sampler, which takes the reader through a year of her life at Stillmeadow with her sister, Jill.  The stories of their co-existence in a vintage (read: drafty) 1690s Connecticut farmhouse with their Cocker Spaniels entertained me to no end.  She wrote about how she and her sister entertained well-known authors of the time in their old farmhouse, which really intrigued me.  Later she wrote The Stillmeadow Cookbook, and both books are just about due for another dusting off.

Author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Some time around 1996, I discovered author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote during the same time period as Taber.  She Influential Female Authorswas a high-spirited woman who left Rochester, New York and moved to an orange grove in the hammock of Florida, where she took up residence and wrote about her adventures there.  You might know her for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Yearling.  I did not know she authored that book until after I had read several of her others, like South Moon Under and Cross Creek. All her writings were directly influenced by her life in the hammock. Like the Taber sisters, she also entertained other authors in her home, which is now part of an historic state park, which I would like to visit this year, if possible.

Author Julia Sims

Some time after that, around 2000, I discovered Manchac Swamp Influential Female Authorsby Julia Sims, a photographer living in Pontchatoula, La.  Her breath-taking photos lured me in and held me for hours.  Her photos of the dying cypress trees made a huge and lasting impression on me, especially since those images were very familiar to me in real life down the bayou. Her book also came to have a big influence on the writing of my first book.

Author Linda Greenlaw

After I met my friend Kim Muller (the jewelry maker) in 2004,

Influential Female Authors

she asked if I had ever heard of Linda Greenlaw.  You might know her as the lady captain featured in the film The Perfect Storm. She retired from the dangerous work of running a sword-fishing boat to work her father’s lobster boat in Maine. My favorite among her books are All Fishermen are Liars and The Lobster Chronicles.   

There are many others, but these were the most influential.  So, why am I thinking about all of this?

Just last week, a reporter from the Houma Courier interviewed me for a human-interest piece, and she asked me how I came to write the book, and eventually this blog.  My response did not include a reference to these women, but from now on when asked that question, I will reach all the way back and give credit to these women authors.

Many times since my move back to the bayou in 1996, I have often wondered if anyone would ever care to read about life on the bayou, with all its colorful characters–human, plant, and animal.  Since 2007 and the beginning of this blog, I think your responses to this blog have given me my answer.  One day, maybe I will follow in the footsteps of these successful authors and write a book about my life in these Louisiana wetlands.  

With that, I will close with these words from one of the most powerful women in our time, Margaret Thatcher,

“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
              Watch your words for they become actions.
              Watch your actions for they become habits.
              Watch your habits for they become your character.
              And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
              What we think, we become.”

Your Bayou Bookworm,


PS  I’m curious to know if any of you are familiar with any of these authors, read their books, or were influenced by them in any way in your own lives.

PS again.  I’m really excited because my first full-length piece for Country Roads Magazine came out in the February edition.  It’s about one of my favorite things–the bald cypress tree.  If you care to read it, here’s the link.  Enjoy!

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  1. Well, I’ll try again. I commented but it didn’t “take”. I’ve read Clovis, Manchac Swamp (the photos are BEAUTIFUL!), and yours, Before The Saltwater Came. I’m going to check the library for Linda Greenlaw’s books.
    Speaking of books…you’ve already got a good start on your life on the bayou. When can we expect another chapter?

    1. Glad you tried again, because LilSis and I are still working behind the scenes fixing lots of little technical issues with the site. Since the post went up last night and there have been no comments, I was beginning to think it either wasn’t visible or there might be some kind of glitch with the comments capabilities. I hope your comment coming through means all is well and folks just don’t feel like commenting! Well, it would be a long, drawn out book if I went chronologically, so I’ll have to think about what the next chapter might be. Gee whiz. We’re 12 chapters in and only to 1982!!!

  2. Well, here I am again wondering what has happened to my friends/readers? Maybe the Comments being at the top of the post is confusing? Maybe they can’t find it? Maybe it took me so long to get back up and running that I lost all my readers? Thanks, Steffi, for being the brave one to leave a comment yesterday. I appreciate you!


  3. Sort of looks like the original way I sent comment. Well it’s still really nice and I know you and Lil Sis are working hard on this.
    As for the books you showed I will have to read the book by Linda Greenlaw and the cookbook by Gladys Taber. Thanks for sharing the books that you enjoyed. Keep making us proud of our wonderful Wetlands and keeping us informed on things that we seem to overlook in our beautiful area—-

  4. What’s with the math problem before being able to comment? Maybe your readers don’t have a calculator handy. LOL
    BTW, The first time seeing the new look…I scrolled right by the “comments” at the top of the page.

    1. The math problems deter the Spam bots from slamming the site with ad comments and Spam emails to me. Sorry for the minor inconvenience. As I said before, this isn’t the final look. I’m hoping to have the comments back at the bottom like before. Hang with me!

  5. That’s a good article on bald cypresses. As you mentioned, some people have been planting them on properties that aren’t near creeks or ponds; seems like it would take a lot of irrigation to keep them from dying in such places.

    1. Steve, welcome to this bayou blog and thanks for the kind words. Cypress seem amazingly adaptable, even to the point of growing in landscaped settings and having their knees chopped off every time the lawn is mowed. However, one thing I can’t quite figure out is why folks plant them in their yards so close to the house, knowing that the aerial roots will eventually sprawl under the slab and under the sidewalk and driveway. Not a good idea! So, it takes some forethought when planting these in a landscaped setting. Just a word of caution!

  6. Hi, BW.

    No comment from me means I just haven’t been online. I don’t get on the computer much at home during the workweek. The last time I looked, your prior entry was still up.

    The reason I’m here now is that I have picked up The Dreaded Lurgy (head cold) and called in sick. Ah, ah, aaaaCHOO! Sorry about that. Sniff.

    I love books and I love to read. The only author you’ve listed that I’m familar with is Rawlings and only because I read ‘The Yearling’ years ago. I didn’t realize she had other titles.

    You better get cracking on that life story of yours! You’ve still got another 20 some odd years to get down on paper.

    I’ll have to check out your ladies.

    1. Gue` – ah, ah aaaaCHOO back! I’m down AGAIN with The Dreaded Lurgy. Our weather goes from short sleeves to long johns over a matter of a couple of days. It’s been the weirdest winter in recent memory. Glad you’re here, though! I know I need to get cracking, but something else in my lief will have to take a backseat or get kicked out of the car in order to make room for what seems like full time writing! They each have even more books–I just listed a couple. If you follow the links, you can see more of what they’ve written. Enjoy!