My life was made complete on Monday when I received an e-mail about my book, The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival. Now, full disclosure, I’d had a business lunch with this person and gave her a copy of the book. So it’s not like she picked it up on her own and read it. That said, she did read it, while on a business trip, and took the time to write back. To those of you who know me well, when you see the signature below, you’ll know why this is like getting an email from Santa Claus:
I just got back from a two week business trip to the Middle East. I took your book along for the ride. And I truly loved it! Your writing style is wonderfully engaging. I felt like I knew the characters. And I could not put it down.
Thank you for sharing your book with me. I’ll look forward to reading the next one!
Cheryl A Bachelder
CEO & President
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
That’s right. THE CEO OF POPEYES LIKED MY BOOK.
The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival is light-hearted, fun and an adventure in reading. His characters have a certain charm and resilience that just make you love them. You can tell Ken Wheaton writes with a genuine affection for his characters as they deal honestly with the situations handed to them and no one is ostracized for being “different”. Gently touching on racism and sexual preference, these issues are part of the big picture of the book, but does not overwhelm the story. Hilarious one moment, tender the next, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Grand Prairie.
A year before my first novel was set to come out, I knew I’d have to turn to social media. If I wanted to move copies of The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival, I’d have to switch to a new paradigm, think outside the box and, at the end of the day, create synergies with strangers across the country. After all, gone were the days when a well-written book was enough to make your mark (if such days ever existed). Advertising and other methods of old-fashioned marketing, I knew, are dead and don’t work at all anymore. And I certainly didn’t know the right people in New York’s celebrity-making blog and book factories — you know, the ones who decide who the next big thing will be based on a new writer’s degree from Iowa, or a handful of 500-word blog posts, or the lovely pallor of his/her white white skin, or a killer blowjob administered at a party.
Luckily there was Twitter. If it could overthrow Ahmanedinejad and bring freedom to all Iran, certainly it could sell a few thousand books.
A while back, I mentioned that my aunt had called to tell me the real priest in the real St. Pete’s in the real Grand Prairie had said some not-so-nice things about The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival during Mass and in the church bulletin. Well, someone was kind enough to send me the words from the bulletin a while back and I figured I’d share.
Saint Peter Roman Catholic Church bulletin:
New Book is “a Lie”
Recently Kensington Fiction published a novel by author Kenneth J. Wheaton, Jr., a native of Opelousas. It is entitled “The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival.” In his own words, the author offers this note in the book: “[W]hile there is a St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in a town called Grand Prairie, Louisiana, and, there once was something called a Rabbit Festival, this book in no way reflects reality – or any reasearch – on my part. In other words, the whole thing’s a [expletive] lie.” Before you consider supporting this author by buying his novel, please know that the contents of this book are highly insulting to the Grand Prairie community and offensive to the Catholic Priesthood in general.
You know, it’s his right to be offended. And maybe some priests will find it offensive. But just as he takes issue with the book, I take issue with his claim that it is “highly insulting to the Grand Prairie community.” Because that, my friends, is a lie. And I don’t base this only on my respect and fondness for Grand Prairie, but also because people who are from Grand Prairie and some who still live there actually like the book.
And the truth is plenty of Catholics around the world and specifically in South Louisiana know stories about priests behaving oddly (and, yes, badly). And that doesn’t send them running to other faiths or into the cold, uncaring arms of atheism.
In fact, I found out last week that there was a priest in South Louisiana, one town over from Grand Prairie, with the last name of Sibille (just like my narrator) who left the church to marry a woman. (And thank God I didn’t know that while writing the book because who knows what I would have changed … aside from the name.)
Watch me mumble. Watch my shirt dance. Here I am on Stacked Up TV. And if you get tired of looking at me, you can read a little rant I posted about the process. According to me, “at times it looks like I’m doing a bad job of trying to pass a lie-detector test, what with the shifty eyes.” Hey, they asked!
Also, I totally tried to promote all the kind people who’ve helped me out in some way or other, but it all went out in the editing process. So, if you haven’t already, go buy the following books.
“Chock-a-block with Cajunisms, quirky characters, and divine descriptions of food, Wheaton’s work never stumbles into cliché. Instead he delivers a accomplished debut that ends too quickly, and leaves the reader imagining a return to future festivities.”
THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL succeeds nicely at being a light-hearted, enjoyable story yet with some challenging concepts in the background. Many of these are approached sympathetically, with approaches to racism and sexual preference immediately coming to mind. But the book focuses to a much greater extent on the ways in which Christians approach each other and also other congregations. Perhaps the greatest focus of all is the ways that people choose to view human vices. Yet the book never comes off as entirely serious and is always enjoyable to read. From the beginning, author Ken Wheaton does a fabulous job of acquainting readers with his great community and also integrating his writing with authentic Louisiana culture.
The first two things confronting me when I arrived at the Barnes & Noble in Lafayette, Louisiana: 1) a stack of 75 copies of The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival sitting on a table and 2) a woman sitting nearby reading a copy of my book.