Local author Janice Daugharty launched her newest book, Nannie’s Moon on February 10th at the Turner Center for the Arts in Valdosta. The day was bittersweet for the author. As a writer, it was a day of accomplishment. As a grandmother, the day was peppered with sadness.
A departure from her usual work, which is rooted in the culture of the American South, Nannie’s Moon is a children’s book that tells a personal story—a story about Janice and her granddaughter Laney. February 10th was her granddaughter’s birthday—the reason Daugharty chose to launch the book on this day. Her granddaughter, Amelia Elaine “Laney” Dowdy co-authored this book with her. However, there is a lot more to this book than the story printed on the pages.
A Memorial to a Born Storyteller
On May 26, 2018 Laney Dowdy was killed in a car accident not far from her beloved grandmother’s house. She had just left Janice and Seward Daugharty’s Cow Creek home in Echols County, a place where Laney spent a lot of time as she was growing up. She was twenty-six-years-old. Laney worked as a catering assistant with Covington’s while earning a psychology degree at Valdosta State University.
Friends and family that knew Laney tell about a young woman who worked hard and liked to help others. Dr. Joshua Rodefer, professor of Psychology and Counseling at Valdosta State University, remembers Laney as a hard worker, a well-read individual, and someone who loved to tell and listen to stories. “She was a free spirit and a good soul,” he said. “Laney had aspirations of graduate school. I very much looked forward to having her in my class and seeing her graduate.” Dr. Rodefer says he felt that she was very loyal to those who were close to her.
In honor of Laney, Daugharty established the Amelia Elaine Dowdy Scholarship Fund at Valdosta State University for VSU psychology majors with all proceeds from the sale of the book going to the fund. VSU provided the initial seed money of $1,000 and sales have already increased the fund to $2,000.
The Story of the Book
The book, about a little girl visiting her grandmother’s farmhouse, tells the story of how the child learns of the natural cycles of life from her Nannie as they watch tomatoes grow in the garden. Nannie teaches her to wait until the tomatoes are ripe before picking them. “They watch the moon waxing and waning; they watch the tomatoes grow from tiny yellow flowers to red, ripe orbs,” according to a blurb about the book. It’s a book about the ebb and flow of life—a tender story about the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. The little girl calls the full moon a “ripe moon” after seeing the full, ripe tomatoes on the vine.
After Laney’s death, Daugharty hired local illustrator Deborah Bailey Raines to bring the story to life in pictures. Daugharty wanted to honor Laney and complete the project they started when Laney was just a child.
The title of the book developed after Janice’s debut novel “Dark of the Moon” hit the bookstores. Laney, only a toddler at the time, shouted “Nannie’s Moon!” when she spotted her grandmother’s books in stores. Later, when she saw the moon in the night sky, she called it “Nannie’s Moon.” Pictures in books were called Nannie’s moons; she drew and colored Nannie’s moons. Daugharty suggested to Laney they write a book together and the book was born.
By the time Laney was in kindergarten, they had finished the first draft of what would become their children’s book. Laney told her teachers that she had written a book. “My Nannie helped me,” she told them.
“We worked on the book together periodically over the years until just before she started college,” says Daugharty. “ I remember us laboring over word choices, polishing the prose, and trying to get it as exact as possible.” The idea was the book would help fund her education so they decided to self-publish the book in e-book format.
“A friend told me a while back that she could hear Laney telling it the way she would tell stories to her friends,” says Daugharty. “For me, as the co-author and grandmother, I find her voice in every line, especially her habit of saying ‘and then’ and ‘the next time’ or ‘the next day.’” Daugharty says her granddaughter was a story teller by nature. “Like me and my daddy,” she says.
Janice Daugharty’s 1997 novel, Earl In The Yellow Shirt, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She is the author of ten acclaimed novels, five other novels in e-book-only format, and a short story collection—Going Through The Change. All of her work can now be enjoyed in e-book editions and can be found on Amazon.
Readers can buy Nannie’s Moon at Turner Center for the Arts at 527 North Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia 229-247-2787 www.turnercenter.org or online at Snakenationpress.org. The unillustrated e-book is also available at all online bookstores.
Janice Daugharty will be signing Nannie’s Moon on Saturday March 9th from 10-2 at the Azalea Festival, Avon booth, in Valdosta.