ATPE Teacher Spotlight: Pamela Brown-Ledet
Date Posted: 5/10/2023
Pamela Brown-Ledet is not only a kindergarten teacher at Pflugerville ISD’s Rowe Lane Elementary School, her campus’ 2020 and 2022 RLES Teacher of the Year, and the president of Pflugerville ATPE, but also she is now an author. Brown-Ledet recently published a children’s book titled Things You Should Know Before I Go that is a tribute to her only child, Matthew.
ATPE sat down with Brown-Ledet to talk about her first book, what inspires her to write, and what’s next in her journey as an author.
Tell us about your book, Things You Should Know Before I Go.
Things You Should Know Before I Go is a book of lessons that I have taught my son over the years. In 2011, I almost lost my life to a pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs). My physician at the time shared with me that only 2% of the people who have a pulmonary embolism to the extent that I had survive! At the time, my son was 12 years old. I had to ask myself if he knew everything he needed to know to grow up and be a kind, respectable, and an overall good person. I just picked up a note pad and began to write those thoughts down. The best part about the book is that it has pictures of Matthew in his earlier days, from a few months to 5 years old. In every page, you will find a picture that accompanies each life lesson.
This is your first published book. What does that mean to you?
It means the world to me. As a child, I always loved reading! When anyone would ask me what I wanted for my birthday or any holiday, I always said that I wanted books. When I became a teacher, my goal was to teach my students to love books as much as I do. In order to do that, I had to introduce them to great literature that made reading fun and enjoyable. I wanted to one day contribute to that diversity of books for children.
Have you always been a writer?
I never considered myself a writer, even though I kept a diary in middle school and journals from special events. I am a visual learner, so writing things down has always been a strategy for helping me to remember things. Interestingly enough, I don’t recall ever thinking that I would one day write a book!
What inspired you to write this book?
My plan was to record the advice to my son on a sheet of paper and share it with him one day when he was older. In 2021, I began to take a series of workshops called, “Pen, Publish, Profit,” given by retired educator and friend Samone Brown, PhD. I knew that she had written and published her own book, and I wanted to learn about the writing process from her. While sharing the book one evening during class, I received a lot of compliments and encouragement to share my book with the world. The instructor/owner of Samone Publishing heard my story and invited me to get my book published through her company. I decided to take the words of advice that I recorded for my son and turn them into a book.
What is your writing process like?
I try to always have a journal or note pad within reach to record ideas as I think of them. When creating a story for children using the words that I wrote, I thought about my audience. I began to ask myself questions. What would make my words interesting to young people? For what age group was I writing? What kind of illustrations would bring my words to life? Next, I had to try and find an illustrator. I talked to art teachers, asked other writers, and did some online research where the cost and legal paperwork of working with an illustrator were concerned. With this book, I tried for a long time to find an illustrator. When that didn’t happen, I recalled a book that was written by the late Arthur Ashe’s daughter, Camera. The book contained black and white photographs of Camera with her father. It was one of the most beautiful books I had ever seen. I made the decision to see if any of my pictures that I had taken of Matthew would match the words from my book, and I found many. When my words and pictures finally came together to create a book, I began to seek ways to get it published.
Can you tell us about your experience getting published?
My experience with getting published was one of learning to be patient and to persevere. Life happens. We went through a pandemic as a country. I set a date of presenting it to my son for his graduation in 2020, and it was published in 2023. I knew that it would happen one day and even considered self-publishing. When I got news that the publishing company was ready to have it printed, it was perfect timing! My book was introduced to the world just prior to my retirement, so I will have more time to promote it! It just all worked out perfectly.
Do you know other children’s book authors?
I do! Being a member of the first cohort of “Pen, Publish, Profit” authors, one of our assignments was to find a mentor. I was introduced to the children’s book author, Dr. Lynda Jones Mubarak, author of Maxine’s Hands and the complete Maxine series. The purpose of connecting with a mentor was to have someone who could mentor us as we walked through the book-writing process. Throughout the years, I have met other authors who were visitors to our campus and more by attending book festivals. I got a chance to meet world-renowned author Kadir Nelson years ago before he had his first book published as an author and illustrator at the Texas Book Festival. I was introduced to Angela Shelf Medearis at the Austin African American Book Festival. Finally, local author, Michelle Tate, a former teacher, visited my campus. Years later, I was able to turn to her for information on writing and self-publishing children’s books. Writers benefit from talking with and learning from other writers.
What is your favorite childhood book?
My favorite childhood book was Bedtime for Frances, a story about a little girl badger named Frances who does everything she can to keep from going to bed. I loved Frances because she was cute, had such a great personality, and loved to sing songs that she created on her own. I enjoyed the entire Frances series of books by Russell Hoban. When I was older, I fell in love with the Romona series by Beverly Cleary and the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol.
Do you have any other writing projects in the works?
I do have some other projects in the works! In the writing workshop, I learned that most children’s books authors write books in a series. To me, that meant that while they are having one book published, the follow-up book is being written and prepared to go through the process. A follow-up book to Things You Should Know is next for me. I have another children’s book coming that has to do with experiences that I had while teaching 5- and 6-year-olds to solve real-world problems using what they have learned from all subject areas. It is amazing how compassionate our little students can be. They truly have an altruistic perspective when it comes to the world around them.
Do you have advice for other educators that would like to get published?
I recommend attending writing workshops where you can meet other up and coming authors. Talk with those who have self-published, as well as those who have published through a company. There are lots of YouTube videos about how to become an author. Do your research. I find that teachers have great stories to tell. We work with some of the most amazing human beings … children!
Fun fact about Brown-Ledet:
A fun fact about my book is that I hid the contents of the book from my son for three years. He knew that I was writing a children’s book. He just didn’t know anything about the book. I told him that it was a surprise. In March of this year, I finally received my first copy. I asked my son to take a seat and search BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com for my full name. When he did, he saw the cover of the book for the first time. He looked puzzled for a moment. Then, I asked him to retrieve the envelope from the coffee table a few feet away and remove its contents. When he held the book for the first time and thumbed through the pages, he walked over and hugged me in congratulations with a big smile on his face. What surprised me was his reaction to sitting and really looking at the words and pictures throughout the book. My tall, strong 20-year-old son lowered his head to his arms and cried! I asked him what made him cry. He said that he spoke some of the same words from the book to a friend of his who needed advice earlier in the week. To this day, I still get emotional when I think of his reaction.
Congratulations, Pamela—we look forward to reading your next book!