Featured Author Baptiste Paul March 2019

The “Nos are Many, Rejections Plenty

It takes a lot to write a book

Baptiste PaulAs a picture book author, you hope that the book you create is well received by kids and adults alike. The years of research and writing boils down to a single moment—release day. Are people going to be as excited as I am about this book? Will this book deliver the message I want to share with the world? For me, the biggest award is knowing first hand that my book is helping to create a positive change in the world.

Two years ago, my wife, Miranda and I traveled to Cameroon to complete research on our co-authored book I Am Farmer. Prior to our departure, the US State Department advised us to reconsider traveling to Cameroon, noting it wasn’t safe because of a heated political situation. Fighting had broken out in many parts of the country; many had died. At that point, we were so heavily invested in our research that the thought of canceling never crossed our minds. Although we knew the risk, we chose to go. We knew it was going to be difficult, and we accepted the challenge that lay ahead.

This was a story that needed to be told.

Our book is the story of “Farmer” Tantoh Nforba, who, in my opinion, is one of the biggest environmental activists in Cameroon. Tantoh’s work includes, among other things, building water catchments, digging wells, and planting gardens. From village to village, kids danced with him; adults shouted his name wherever we went; mayors and chiefs welcomed him into their homes. An elder from one village shared that once the new water catchment was installed, not a single person had gotten sick or died from drinking contaminated water. I’m in awe of Tantoh’s story and his hard work on behalf of the people of Cameroon.

“Time short, story long,” is one of Tantoh’s many proverbs. His work keeps inspiring people. In less a month since I Am Farmer hit bookshelves nationwide, there has been a call to action. Schools, churches, and community organizations are on the front lines advocating for better living conditions in Cameroon. Elementary students in Auburn, NY, have raised enough money for the construction of a new well for the eco-lodge that Tantoh has built. Also, my church, Prince of Peace in Green Bay, is on the path to raising $5,000 for another well project in Cameroon.

Well project at Tantoh’s eco-lodge funded by Auburn Elementary

All my life I have been surrounded by activists just like Tantoh. People who want to make this world a better place. People who want to improve the lives of others through selfless acts. I did not have to look far. One of my everyday favorites is my mother. She couldn’t read or write, yet she was able to get electricity to our neighborhood in the village. For more than five years, she walked endless miles to government offices. When the “nos” from political leaders and heat exhaustion slowed her down, she persisted. She never gave up, even though it might have been the easiest thing to do.

I Am Farmer by Baptiste Paul and Miranda PaulInspired by my mother, I too persist. At one of my past jobs, I was witness to an unfair system and how employers don’t always compensate their employees fairly. In this case, I too walked for change: I took matters into my own hands and organized a strike. My demands were simple. No work if we didn’t get paid a fair wage. Luckily, I did not get fired. Instead, two amazing things happened that week. My boss saw what one man was capable of and challenged me to go out and do something incredible in this world. His words to me: “it’s amazing how you pulled this off.” And, when we received our checks that Friday, everyone got a 100% raise.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Never give up!” The changes we wish to see in the world—clean drinking water for the people of Cameroon, electricity for a village, fair wages for workers–do not come easily. At least, it hasn’t for me, for Tantoh, for my mom. Sometimes it can feel like the world is against us. Sometimes we can’t catch a lucky break. The nos might be many, the rejections might be plenty, but each step in the process is important. The key is to keep walking. Success is much sweeter when we’ve learned from our failures.

This is why I write. To inspire. To learn. To bring the world the stories of the people who, one step, one well, one penny at a time, make change a reality.

 

The Field by Baptiste PaulBaptiste Paul is a Caribbean-born author of three books for children. His debut picture book, THE FIELD, received starred reviews from Kirkus, The Horn Book, and Booklist. According to Kirkus, his co-authored book ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL, “will pique readers’ curiosity.” His picture book biography, I AM FARMER, chronicles the work of Cameroonian environmentalist Tantoh Nforba. Born and raised on the island of Saint Lucia, Baptiste is a native Creole/Patois speaker who enjoys reading his books and sharing about his experiences with anyone who will listen. Learn more about Baptiste at baptistepaul.net.

One lucky 12 x 12 member will win a copy of I AM FARMER during the March check-in. Will it be you? Get your drafts written and revised in March for your best chance of winning! 

This Post Has 233 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing part of your personal journey with us. It’s truly inspiring. I wish you much continued success with many more books that help create positive change in the world.

  2. Thanks so much for this thoughtful post, Baptiste! I’ve been worrying so much about the world lately, and I really appreciate the positive stories.

    All twelve copies of I AM FARMER are currently checked out of my local library system, by the way. I’ll give it a review when I can get my hands on a copy…

  3. Thank you for showing us how a picture book can make a difference! I will return to read this post again when I need a bit of inspiration on my rejection-paved road.

  4. Baptiste,

    Thank you so much for inspiring us to go the extra mile and never give up. Thank you for the post.

  5. Such an incredible journey. I have had the pleasure of reading I am Farmer. It is a wonderful call to action and a beautiful book.

  6. What an inspiring story!
    Thank you for your dedication to changing the world with your talents and sharing that journey with us. I can’t wait to see how you continue to change the world with your words. I hope there will soon be a book about your mother. :0)

  7. Thank you for sharing your story and encouragement to keep pressing forwards, even when it’s difficult and easier to just give up.

    Will take your words to heart. 🙂

  8. It’s easier to think that one person can’t make a difference than to be brave and try to do so. Thank you for creating a book–a true story–that shows the good that a single individual can accomplish.

  9. Congrats on the book, and awesome at all the inspiring work you, your church, the kids, and Tantoh are doing!

  10. Thank you for sharing your inspiring stories of actions for change. Congrats on writing your latest book.

  11. You know, being a writer–especially a beginning writer–I tend to get wrapped up in my personal journey. I suppose we all do to one degree or another, regardless of our backgrounds or choice of hobby. In the last few months I’ve heard time and again about those two magical “p’s” of being an author: patience and perseverance. And it’s always been applied to the craft and work of writing: be objective with those revisions, don’t let the agent rejections keep you down, etc.

    Which is my long-winded way of saying that a post like this one from Baptiste is so, so appreciated. Here I am–and I assume a good deal of my comrades are as well–aching and squirming with thoughts of one day being published, having my name on the cover of a book, visiting a classroom full of eager readers. Meanwhile, villagers are praying that they’ll be able to quench their thirst without killing themselves. Families are boiling through summers without air conditioning. And minimum wage is a concept completely foreign to more people than we’d like to admit.

    Meanwhile, I enjoy the fulfillment of all these basic needs and more, plus a decent share of daily luxuries. And the question that keeps me up at night? Wondering when I’m going to get a good handle on this writing thing.

    Yeah. Sounds about right.

    But, deep down, I know that this is not an uncommon feeling for someone to have, and I’m sure it will happen for me again. And that it’s not necessarily a bad thing that it will. Far from it. Because I know that every person has their own road riddled with their own challenges, and that those journeys shouldn’t be compared to one another to determine which is worthier, which is the cause that really deserves to be fought for. I think art always and inevitably takes the losing role in these arguments: “How can I create XYZ when there are people who need actual help?”

    If this sounds like I’m thinking out loud, it’s because I am. I was provoked by this post, but in the best possible way. It checked my privilege, reminded me to be grateful for the fact that I can exist in a position where mastering my craft is one of my main personal obstacles. And with any luck the art I eventually create will make a difference of a kind, if only–as I hope the meandering thoughts of this post will–let somebody out there know that they are not as alone as they thought.

    Thanks, Baptiste.

  12. What an inspiring post, Baptiste! Thank you for your encouraging words and congratulations on all your success. Your hard work and “keep trying” attitude has certainly paid off, as readers all over the world benefit from your stories.

  13. This story inspired me to get to work with polishing my manuscripts and take this year to prepare something and submit it. And then to start sticking my neck out and sending something to an agent or an editor. And to read and donate books with an organized group to schools that are in need.

  14. Baptiste, this made me cry. You have expressed both the difficulty of the work we do but also the reason for it. Thank you – I’m so glad you are in the world.

  15. Great post, Baptiste! Thank you for giving us a peek at your publishing journey and for sharing your insights on how important it is to have patience and to persevere in our writing!!

  16. I loved hearing more about your trip to Cameroon and further efforts to help with
    the situation there. I Am Farmer was inspiring and I’m glad it is helping to make a
    difference!

  17. Your drive to make the world a better place is fantastic. You put so much into your work and it’s really paying off. I Am Farmer is an inspiration for everyone of us. Thank you for sharing your story.

  18. Your post made me think how each of us has the chance to make a difference big or small each day. Whether it’s a smile and hello to that lonely person or something bigger like saving people in your community. thanks!

  19. Wonderful post, Baptiste. Your passion to make change comes across loud and clear. Just like tossing a pebble into a pond and seeing all the ripples it makes, our stories make ripples, too. We never truly know the impact (or how many ripples they will make)!

  20. Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring story, Baptiste! Books can make such a difference in people’s lives, simply by planting the seed of awareness.

  21. Thank you Baptist’s for your insights, and for reminding me that saying “That’s just the way it is” is easy. Being part of the change is something we can all do with our writing!

  22. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story and encouragement. We love The Field and are looking forward to I Am Farmer!

  23. Congratulations on getting your work published. Your trials have been inspiring. I think there are many interesting people who need to have their story told. May you have continued success.

  24. So excited to read this story. I think using your platform as a children’s author is an amazing way to equip and encourage children to make a difference across the world and in their own neighborhood. Thanks for the encouragement as many of us want to make that difference too with our writing. May we all see and witness the amazing stories of change that need to be told. And may the children who read this story be inspired to do something.

  25. Thank you for this inspiring and encouraging post, Baptiste. Wishing you (and Miranda) much continued success!!

  26. Baptiste, thank you for sharing SEVERAL stories of action and inspiration- all packed into such a focused and concise post. Your passion is so evident, and I get the sense that having a short conversation with you is enough to make ANYONE stand up straight and identify some way that they can bring about a needed change.

  27. Thank you Baptiste for the very important work you are doing! Your stories are filled with love, conviction and hope. Thank you for the inspiring post and reminding us of how powerful the written word is!

  28. Thank you for giving us some of your background and the background for I AM FARMER. You and Tantoh are both inspiring!

  29. Your inspiring feature author article reminds me that we all have the ability to spark positive change. A book can often become the product of who we are and what is in our heart. Thanks for revealing your heart. Congratulations on your book!

  30. Wow Baptiste, what an inspiring journey! I’m so glad you were able to bring the book I AM FARMER out in the world and that many more people are being inspired by this book to do good deeds in the world. Thank you for writing this wonderful post!

  31. These are all wonderful causes that you have gone to bat for. Some who live in comfort often take for granted some of the basic elements of life like clean drinking water. That’s a cause close to my heart as well. Thank you for your post and for your contributions to the world of children’s books.

  32. This post, and your stories, are so inspiring! Thanks for working, and writing, to change the world for the better!

  33. Thank you for sharing your journey, Baptiste. It is so inspiring. And thank you for writing these important stories for children.

  34. Love the positivity of your post Baptiste! Thank you for sharing your journey with inspiration and hope.

  35. This post left me feeling positivity for efforts, action, and persistence of the human spirit. Here-here! to how your book has inspired communities to help the people of Cameroon.

  36. Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey with us. You continue to inspire us all with your determination to make a positive difference with your wonderful books.

  37. The persistence, love, and inspiration come through so clearly. Thank you so much for sharing! As long as there are stories like these by Baptiste Paul, the world is sure to, however slowly, evolve into a better place.

  38. Why you write is a testament to your character. I look forward to reading your latest book, and all the books to come.

  39. “This is why I write. To inspire. To learn. To bring the world the stories of people who, one step, one well, one penny at a time, make change a reality,” Your purpose for writing resonates within my heart. Thank you for the brave steps you and your wife took to research for your meaningful book, I AM A FARMER. Thank you too, Baptiste, for the beautiful tribute to your mother (the makings of another book) and for sharing other events from your personal testimony. I am truly inspired!

  40. I love your humanitarian mind-set! We can all do something to help people who are less fortunate – thank you for reminding us of that and for sharing your insights with us.

  41. Thank you for sharing these stories of perseverance and change with us. I Am Farmer is a remarkable book, and because of it, Tantoh is inspiring change far beyond the borders of Cameroon. Thank you for your example and thank you for showing us what a difference one person can make.

  42. There are many people in this world making a difference, but their stories are never told. The people behind the stories are not doing for themselves to be known, but to improve other’s lives. They put others first. Your writing is brining their quiet work to the forefront when so many in the world are doing it for personal recognition. I applaud you for your journey in writing and hope someday your words will make a difference in lives yet to be matured.

  43. So inspiring, Baptiste. Thank you for your story and personal insights. Reminds us all to persist-not only in our writing life-but in reaching out to help others and make a difference.

  44. Thank you, Baptiste, for the work that you create for all readers young and old. And reminding us that children’s books can reflect different realities than our own.

  45. Baptiste,
    I’m honored to call you my friend. I’m happy that Tantoh was able to finally get his visa and hope that your trip to schools and bookstores creates more positive feelings that inspire children and readers to do what they can to change the world. I look forward to doing something similar— opening hearts with my sure to be published manuscripts!

  46. Baptiste,
    I’m honored to call you my friend. I’m happy that Tantoh was able to finally get his visa and hope that your trip to schools and bookstores creates more positive feelings that inspire children and readers to do what they can to change the world.

  47. This post filled my heart with hope for a world that seems to be faltering badly. You have given me hope and determination to do more than worry and whine. Thank you.

  48. Thank you for bringing focus to ‘the world the stories of the people who, one step, one well, one penny at a time, make change a reality’. Your work is inspiring, Baptiste!

  49. What a wonderful story! I hope that it is read and shared in all parts of the world!
    Thank you for sharing your journey.

  50. It’s so important to remember that one person can make a difference. Thank you for sharing personal and inspiring stories!

  51. Thank you for these words of encouragement:
    “…each step in the process is important. The key is to keep walking. Success is much sweeter when we’ve learned from our failures.”

    Needed to read that today!

  52. Dear Baptiste,
    Your unselfishness is an inspiration to us all, Being able to write about your personal research for your books is special. Thank you for sharing your story.

  53. Baptiste—I can’t wait to read your book. Your protagonist reminds me of my father who worked on potable water projects in many countries during his lifetime. I’ll be curious to hear about Farmer Tantoh and all his work!
    Ann

  54. Thank you, Baptiste, for all the good work that you do, and for reminding me of the power of the written word.

  55. One day, someone will need to write YOUR story on activism, Baptiste. And I hope you write one about your mum, too–bless her and Tantoh!

    1. I’m amazed and moved by Tantoh and his story. Thank you for sharing your journey and the story behind the story, and for bringing I Am Farmer to light (with Miranda). Truly inspiring all around!

  56. Thank you, Baptiste, for sharing your inspirational story about Tantoh, as well as your own. JYou are truly a light for others to follow.

  57. This idea of agency, that each of us can make a change, no matter how small we may feel, is well-stated. Sometimes we feel like we have to be someone other than who we are–someone with more education, more power, more visibility, more of whatever it is that we feel we lack. But the truth is that we just have to want to accomplish our goal, no matter the obstacles. I’m so motivated by this story. Thank you for sharing it with us and with the world!

  58. How empowering for those NY elementary students! How life-saving for the Cameroon people! This is what literature is all about. Reaching out, sharing with others, opening eyes and hearts. Thank you Baptiste.

  59. Thank you for sharing how your determination and persistence to bring change to the world has influenced your writing. You are inspiring, both in your writing and your activism!

  60. Will definitely read the story. Clean drinking water is so essential…someone can and did make a difference.

  61. I feel like Baptiste and his sweet wife have gone far in making a positive change in the world! They are an inspiration. During down times (and always), their persistence and talent make us feel uplifted and able to create.

  62. This line really struck me: “For me, the biggest award is knowing first hand that my book is helping to create a positive change in the world.” What a positive and empowering message! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  63. Thank you for sharing your journey…and your very special story. Your work (and wife’s work) are so inspirational…and as writers, we are always looking for more of that!!

  64. Baptiste, you come from good stock! You are opening people’s eyes to ways we can be a part of changing lives for the better. I really enjoyed THE FIELD and I look forward to reading your other books…..with more to come, I hope.

  65. Children deserve to have role models like Tantoh, your mom and you! It only takes one person with courage and conviction to bring about change and what a great thing for kids to know.
    Thank you for bringing us Tantoh!

  66. Thanks Baptiste! Clean water is something we take for granted but so essential. Thanks again for sharing your story. Best of luck in the future.

  67. Thank you for your stories, Baptiste. I love the story of how your book came to be, and I hope to read the story you have just released. I wish you good luck as you move forward in your picture book writing career.

  68. Dear Baptiste,

    I enjoyed reading your blog post and am excite to buy and read “I am a Farmer.” I have been an activist most of my life and focused on the environment much of that time. It is tiresome work and can feel hopeless. Thank you for bringing hope to children around the world. Someday, I too will bring hope via a published book. Thank you and Miranda for your deep commitment to creating a better world by telling stories of those creating a better world.

    With warm regards,
    Jo

    PS. I am glad you returned home safely from Cameroon and I hope all is getting better politically.

  69. Great post, Baptiste! I’m writing about a woman in Brazil who‘s taking matters into her own hands and helping make other people’s life more comfortable. I believe the world needs more books about those people! Thanks for inspiring us!

  70. Beautiful work, Baptiste! I cannot wait to read everything! Thank you for sharing your journey and insight!

  71. Thank you for sharing these amazing stories — yours as well as Tantoh’s. I’m fascinated by the activism in African nations — and just how challenging life can be. And also amazed at how something as simple as a well or catchment system can improve the health of a community. I was talking to a coworker recently and told her I’m fortunate — I have running water, electricity and a roof over my head. It’s easy to overlook these every day blessings that we have. Thank you for reminding us about other places in the world.

  72. Wow! This is like inspiration upon an inspiration upon an inspiration. My dad taught me that everything was my job. If I notice it needs to be done, I should do it. All my life I’ve received such joy in doing little things to make a place or person’s day better. Baptiste, you, Tantoh, and your mother inspire me to think bigger and to stick with my writing – my lofty goal to inspire the love of reading and art and experiencing them together. And I can’t wait to read both your books!! One more reason to be grateful for 12×12!

  73. I can’t wait to read your new book! I’m sure it will be as inspiring as your post. Clean water is essential to life and growth. Thank you for sharing your journey and writing about Tantoh. Your words have sparked me to keep writing and challenged me to learn from the “Nos.”

  74. Such an inspiring post, Baptiste! There are so many amazing, inspirational people in the world…including you. It will be a pleasure to read your book and I’m sure it proves to be a huge success.

  75. Baptiste Paul, we’re so grateful you “never give up.” When we become buried under rejections, we feel the weight of writing above the “slush pile.” Your inspirational goal of making a difference for good through your research, donated efforts, and published book is one we all celebrate. Congratulations on publishing your story and for influencing positive change. You are extraordinary! May your writing journey continue to reward you with inspiration and learning. Your success is the world’s success. Blessings!

  76. Wow, what an amazing story, both the writing of this book and the book itself. Never give up even when the NOs are piling up around you. Thank you for your perseverance and vision to help make the world a better place.

  77. What an amazing and inspiring story. A great lesson in response to rejection. Congratulations to you and your hard work.

  78. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so powerful to see how your personal inspirations translated into your professional successes that will impact so many lives in a positive way. I’m looking forward to sharing your book with my high school students as we study world issues of water.

  79. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, and the lengths you took to write I Am Farmer. I can’t wait to read it, and your other works Baptiste!

  80. Baptiste Paul, you are an inspiration. Thank you for making the world a better place and congrats on your book release!

  81. I’m impressed with how quickly you’re seeing the benefits of sharing Tantoh’s story. You are creating a positive change. Congratulations!

  82. The stories of advocacy and persistence you shared about Tantoh, your mom, and you were incredibly inspiring. Thank you so much for putting books into the world that truly make a difference! There are stories that need to be told and I am grateful you’re telling them!

    This quote resonated with me so much: “The key is to keep walking. Success is much sweeter when we’ve learned from our failures.”

  83. Thank you for sharing this encouraging insight with us! I’m excited to be part of 12 x 12! May your journey continue to be filled with yeses!

  84. Many thanks for sharing with us about your book and advice to never give up . Writing for children is the biggest challenge I’ve ever had so I needed to hear your message. Congrats to you and thanks again!

  85. Wow! You are an inspiration to us all! I’m so impressed by the incredible amount of time, effort, and research you invested to make I Am Farmer a reality and being awareness to an urgent cause. I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for sharing!

  86. Thank you for the inspiring article! I’m looking forward to reading your new picture book, congratulations!

  87. What an impressive post! It shows the power a kid’s book has to move, educate, and inspire! Thanks for sharing!

  88. Thanks for this inspiring post. One person can make a difference, but persistence is key. I have I AM FARMER on hold at the library. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  89. Nice work! I just got back from spending my Spring Break building houses in Mexico. Feels great knowing people have a safe place to live now. I don’t know who had the brilliant idea of asking high schoolers and a few adults to come build houses on their vacation, but it is the same kind of person as your Farmer. Thanks for showcasing this individual!

  90. Your message of persistence and the evident hope that you have shines through your writing. I am always on the hunt for inspiring picture books for my daughters and will certainly be picking up yours! Uplifting and encouraging stories like these are like medicine to the soul and truly do impact the direction of the world.

  91. Baptiste,

    Thank you for a such a powerful post. What s way to rally the troops! I was really moved by Farmer Tantoh’s story and loved the book. This is an amazing story to get out in the world— a person who, against all odds, perseveres and creates a positive change in the world. Thank you again for sharing your own personal journey. I think your personal injection of that spirit makes your books incredibly moving. We love them all!

    Best of luck to you,

    Kelly

  92. What an inspiring journey! Thank you for sharing this with us, and for all that you’re doing to make this world a better place. Children’s books are such an important part of that. <3

  93. This is so inspiring and amazing – exactly what I needed to hear today! I believe that your direct impact on the community and the world is exactly what we would all love to see through our writing. Thank you for sharing this and for encouraging us all to never give up.

  94. Every bit of this post is fantastic – your own journey, the inspiration your mother provided, your incredible subject, and of course, turning it into a picture book for children! I look forward to reading it with my son.

  95. Reading this brought tears to my eyes, so inspiring! Thank you for reminding me why sharing our stories is so important. We really can make a difference, whether it’s one story or one well at a time.

  96. While reading Miranda and Baptiste’s books, I am constantly reminded of the good in the world. Life can be so difficult, and I am in awe of the many activists that change the world. I hope I can do some good in my very little way. I know Miranda and Baptiste do with their books.

  97. Batiste – What an amazing story that needed to be shared and told. Thank you for this…I will get a copy!
    Thank you!

  98. Thank you for sharing your stories of perseverance and change. A better world is not only possible, it’s within reach, especially when we are united. Thank you for being an advocate for change and telling the stories that need to be told. Wishing you the best with your books.

  99. Thanks for sharing this inspirational story. I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, so your title of course drew me in. (It was also fun to read that you live in Green Bay!)

  100. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is truly inspiring and it’s wonderful that you are celebrating people who strive to make positive changes in society. We should all commit to doing our parts in driving change as well.

  101. I am delighted to learn about “I Am a Farmer,” Baptiste, and look forward to reading it. What wonderful work you are doing!

  102. Timing is everything, right? I mean, I put off reading this post (March was incredibly out of control) and after listening to Stacey Abrams tonight, I’ve been thinking about all the small changes (and big ones too) that can be made by any of us. Your story is inspiring. I wish you and “Farmer” much success!

  103. Congratulations on the impact I AM A FARMER is making. I appreciate your reminder: our goal is getting our message out there.

  104. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us, Baptiste. Your message to never give up applies equally to the world of publishing. We need to persevere if we want to get our stories out there. The best of success with your books!

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