Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 28, 2015

Lifelong Dream Realized – Book Give-Away

Tracey had her kids draw the winner for THE JUMBIES and the winner is Leslie Zampettis. Congratulations Leslie! Please send your address so Tracey can send you your prize.

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Lifelong Dream Realized

I loved fairy tales as a kid. And I listened to a lot of jumbie stories. Jumbies are very tricky, very bad creatures in Trinidadian lore that will just as soon eat you as look at you. These were the stories parents told kids at bedtime. If you woke up in the morning with mosquito bites, you were told it might have been a soucouyant, a vampire-like creature who sheds her skin at night and flies around as a ball of flame to suck the blood of children. If you heard your name called at night, it might be a douen, a child-sized creature with backward feet and no face that would grab you and take you into the forest most likely to eat you. The lady that your uncle was dating might be a La Diablesse. You just had to get a good look at her feet to see if one of them was a cow’s hoof. And the strange sounds at night might be a lagahoo with his chains, or dragging his coffin through the trees.

Listening to these stories was not as traumatic as it may seem. They’re told with a wink so kids know (sort of) that this is all just pretend. And while jumbies were as fascinating to me as the tricky and sometimes vindictive European fairies I read about, where were the jumbie books? I guessed I’d have to take care of that myself.

After my first novel was sold, I was inspired by the Haitian folktale The Magic Orange Tree, a Cinderella-type folktale with a wicked stepmother, and just the right amount of magic. I set out to add Trinidadian jumbies to the framework of this story and create an entirely new fairy tale, one with a small brown girl as the hero (which, incidentally, had also never been in my fairy tales). It turned out that jumbies were not only tricky in the stories I heard, they were also tricky to write. It was years before I thought I had a decent enough draft. I workshopped this book, revised it what seemed like a zillion times, and sent it to my agent, who queried three editors. They all rejected it. My agent thought we should move on. I disagreed.

angel graceIt was after 2005 and the kidlit market was getting tough. The thought of leaving my agent was frightening, even as an already published author. In fact, I read that it would be harder, since a new agent could see my track record and know that while Angel’s Grace was well received, it did not have huge sales. But ultimately, I had to do what I thought was right for my career. It took me a year to finally move on. One day, I penned a very nice letter and was agent-free.

The very next day, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It turned out that waiting around in a hospital for surgery or radiation or chemo was time well spent researching agents and revising. The rejections were close-but-not-quite types, which left me encouraged. I attended the next NJSCBWI conference (with a new crop of hair). My critique partners were very encouraging, but the editor for my one on one critique told me that I should just move on. Again, I disagreed. I revised again and prepped a second round of queries.

At the time, Marie Lamba was a new agent at Jennifer De Chiara Literary. She was at the beginning of her career, and so was I. I queried her, along with about 11 other agents. Three of them were interested, but Marie called first. Our 40 minute phone call (which I took under the desk of my brand new job) was so amazing, that I decided to become her client immediately, even though you’re really supposed to give it a few days, and let the other agents know you have another offer. I got off the phone with her, emailed the other two agents and told them I was off the market.

jumbies500_Marie and I went through 3 rounds of revisions. They were not major, but it took about 6 months. When the book went out on submission I expected a long wait. 3 weeks later, Elise Howard, editor of The Graveyard Book, called. I didn’t care if anyone else was interested, I knew I wanted to work with Elise. There were a few more rounds of revisions, and then the book I had been waiting for since I was a little girl reading fairy tales and hearing jumbie stories on warm nights in Trinidad was complete. Today, the entire world can read it.

I created a jumbies “field guide” which is available at Algonquin YR. In March, it was the most downloaded page on their site. People were interested, and the excitement was starting to build.

You can win a signed copy of The Jumbies and some swag by commenting below (one entry), sharing this post on Facebook with the hashtag #TheJumbesAreHere (two entries), and sharing “RT and comment at [this post’s URL] to win a copy of #TheJumbies” on Twitter (one entry for each share).

A winner will be chosen and announced by Kathy on Sunday morning.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks so much for sharing, Kathy, and for all your support!

  2. What an amazing journey you’ve had. Can’t wait to read your book. Your message is important and one I need to hold on to as I work on a couple of stories I really believe in.

  3. Great story, Tracey! Thanks for sharing your journey. It will inspire all of us.

  4. What a good example of dedication to one’s dream. Truly inspiring.

  5. Thanks for sharing the story behind Jumbies, and your inspiring journey to say yes when the world was telling you no. I’m putting Jumbies on my to-read list.

  6. I love Tracey’s message of believing in your story enough to persevere. If you stick with it and make the necessary edits to create the best work possible…wonderful things like this dream can happen. Congratulations Tracey!

  7. Reblogged this on Darlene Beck-Jacobson.

  8. Living in Puerto Rico now for ten years, I am beginning to enjoy the local tales and the diversity in the culture. Much different than the NE. One morning, I saw my papaya tree arch way down. I raced to my front door and there was a monkey with two papayas under his arm and one hand still clutched on the tree trunk. Although he was nearly 4 feet tall, I shooed him away. As he raced across the yard, my thoughts raced and a plethora of trickster monkey tales from my perspective laced with my observations of my new culture woke up my muse. Although they aren’t scary folklore tales like Jumbies, they do reflect the island life and the culture. My enthusiasm for moving further with the group of stories has dwindled. HOWEVER, Tracey’s article has re-inspired my project. Lit a candle under my butt!! HA-HA It’s fun to be able to present different facets of life to kids, like Tracey has done. SO back to “Never Trust A Monkey” series of stories. Thank you.

  9. Beautiful story, Tracey. The universe must love you! XO

  10. I enjoyed reading your story, Tracey! Wishing you all the best in the future!

  11. Congrats Tracey.

  12. Congratulations on your newest book, Tracey. Thanks for sharing your journey. 🙂

  13. Congratulations on The Jumbies! Reminds me of so many Filipino folklore stories growing up.

  14. Hooray for your stick-to-itness.

  15. Oh my gosh, you guys. I am so, so happy that I can give anyone some inspiration. Believe me, there were a lot of days that I thought I should pack it in. Thank you for commenting!

  16. Thanks so much for your inspirational story! I’m adding your novel to my to-read list for me and my daughter. Cheers!

  17. I can hardly wait to read Jumbies! I love island lore. A visit to Trinidad as a 10-year-old has always been a fond memory and now that I know it was the soucouyant that visited in the night, I’ll take a mosquito bite any day without complaint. Congratulations!

  18. Jumbies sounds amazing! I already have it on order for my school library. Thanks for the inspiration, Tracey!

  19. Congratulations! And thanks for the reminder to keep going, even (especially) when it’s hard. I can’t wait to read Jumbies and share it with my daughter!

  20. Congratulations! Great story of persistence and never giving up!

  21. What a wonderfully inspirational story, and the Jumbies sound awesome! My daughter would love to hear this read as much as I would love to read it. Thanks for the inspiration and will take it with me into the next writing session.

  22. I’m trying to decide if the Jumbies will freak out me or my daughter more :O) but I cannot wait to read your story! I love that you wouldn’t give up no matter how many people told you that you should, influential people at that. Congratulations!

  23. Thanks again, all of you. I know it’s hard sometimes. But you just have to believe in yourself, even if no one else will.

  24. Thanks for sharing your story! Your diligence is an example to the rest of us. Congratulations!

  25. Reblogged this on Marie Lamba, author.

  26. I had the pleasure of taking TWO wonderful workshops with Tracey at the NESCBWI conference this weekend. Jam packed with practical advice and bubbling with support for all. The world is better for your perseverance! My students love your book, and you are an inspiration for those of us promoting authentically diverse work. Kudos to you and thank you.

  27. Loved hearing about your trials — and your persistence. It gives me hope.

  28. Congratulations on your inspiring journey!

  29. Thank you for an inspirational story!

  30. Even if I don’t win; thankyou sooo much for this encouraging piece. I love the fortitude you displayed in your commitment to introduce Jumbies to the world. I have seen quite a bit of buzz about it but your words have convinced me to order the book. Keep up the good work. Another reason for me to stay in the fray.

  31. Congratulations Tracey. I just started Jumbies. Looking forward to reading it with my daughters!

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