VIDOR – In 2020, during the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic, Carolyn Kondos pursued her dream of becoming a writer while staying at home with her children.
Two years later, her dream became a reality when she published Calix and the Three Wicked Lizards, a story inspired by her son Calix and his picky eating habits. She published the children’s book on the Amazon website through her company, Book Flourishing Publications.
“In 2020, when everyone was home for the first three weeks to ‘flatten the curve,’ my son Calix hit his ‘picky’ eating phase hardcore,” said Kondos, a local travel blogger. “All he wanted to eat was junk food and wrinkled his nose at all vegetables. I was already collecting ideas for my children’s books, with my children being the heroes of their own story, and his stubbornness about what was going down his throat gave me the inspiration I needed to write his story.”
Rather than try a fear tactic to get him to eat vegetables, Kondos had his character learn from other humans, and in this case the bugs of evil lizards, and come up with a creative solution to his problem by winning back his toy pup, Rex.
“This has given my son a chance to step out of his comfort zone and try new things,” she said. “He’s developed a love for flatbread, and while hummus isn’t his absolute favorite, he likes to dip his bread in it from time to time. He even prefers dry salads. It was none of my business, but at least he eats vegetables.”
Her goal is to show her children that they are the heroes of their life story.
Kondos said imagination is a preview of life’s coming attractions.
“As a parent, you have to lead by example, and by publishing these books and bringing them to my kids, I want them to realize that if mom can do it, so can they,” she said. “As an author and publisher, I want to convey the same message to students at readings and workshops to which I am gladly invited. Someone has to be the one who inspires them – I strive to be that person. But everything has to start at home.”
Kondos presented the book to her son Calix on April 16 at the book launch and book signing at the Belle Reeve Book Company on Boston Avenue in the Netherlands.
“I’m the worst at keeping things secret, and so is my eldest son Achates,” she said. “We wanted this first reading to be very special for Calix and we were able to pull this off for the reward of seeing his face filled with wonder and excitement. I put my heart and soul into this endeavor and it was worth the wait. My heart filled with so much love and pride when I presented my son with his book.”
Kondos said Calix wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement because he was too full of emotion.
The look in his eyes and a grin that widened into a smile said a lot. As they drove home, Mom looked in her rearview mirror and saw that he was reading his book.
As they pulled into the driveway, he said, “Mom, I’ve finished my book and I love it.”
Vidor High School teacher Kelli Boyett-LeBeouf illustrated the book.
It is her second time doing illustrations for a book.
She’s been making art for as long as she can remember, but it’s mostly been portraits.
“Carolyn introduced me to the project, let me read the story, and shared her vision of the characters,” said Boyett-LeBeouf. “She was very descriptive and had an idea of what each character should look like, right down to the choice of clothing.”
All three lizards look completely different from the first few sketches that were made.
Character design of this magnitude was something she’d never attempted before, so there was a lot of trial and error, Boyett-LeBeouf said.
“Every time a character was changed, I would send Carolyn a picture to make sure she was happy with it before proceeding,” she said. “Your enthusiasm has helped me through this process. I have studied many facial expressions, postures, gestures and facial reactions.”
The illustrations took seven months from start to finish.
“There were 21 illustrations in all, with quite a lot of characters to design, along with houses and landscapes,” she said. “After the design process, each character was drawn in pencil, outlined with a liner pen, and then painted with watercolor. Once they were all done, I scanned them, edited in any stray pencil marks, and took care of small details that I wanted to add or remove. I also converted them to another format and resized them, so it was a complicated process.”
Kondos is now a full-time children’s book author and publisher.
“Book Flourishing Publications came about when I learned that schools don’t buy directly from individuals,” she said. “I spent a week completing the paperwork and made every effort to make this dream a reality – to get my children’s books into the hands of students in the United States.”
When it comes to marketing her children’s book, she works full time to be successful.
Kondos is now a provider for three school districts: West Orange-Cove, Beaumont and Silsbee.
“I’ve been invited by four school districts to do literacy workshops with their students,” she said. “One school is up to 95 miles from my home and another event is reading at a summer camp this year. Every school I contacted was very helpful and willing to work with me. It’s a dream come true for me and I’m enjoying every moment of it.”
Kondos said the next two children’s books involve their children learning from harpies and dragons.
“My daughter’s story has already been written,” she said. “The title is: ‘Theron and the Hapless
Harpie,” and there’s a double standard to the story: standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves in the face of adversity, and just because someone looks different doesn’t mean they’re evil or bad – just different. I feel these messages are universal and should be taught to children of all ages.”
Kondos said her son Achates always thought of himself as a knight.
“I’m still in the brainstorming phase with Achate’s story,” she said. “It’s titled ‘Achates and the Two Wise Dragons’ and the moral of its story is to learn the importance of accountability and responsibility. Growing up, Achates always thought of himself as a knight in shining armor, but he never wanted to slay dragons as he loved them so much. In this story, I decided to make the dragons wise teachers, instructing the young knight to be accountable and accountable for his choices and actions, and why it would make him a better person and a better knight.”
Visit bookflorishing.wordpress.com to purchase the book.
Visit KelliAnnArt.com for more information on Kelli LeBeouf’s illustrations.
For more information on Arc Imagery photography, contact Angela Carmane at 409-658-6088.
— From Sierra Kondos