Author encourages children to follow their dreams

Advocate staff photo by JOHN MCCUSKER -- Local author and literacy activist Alexander McConduit, right, connects with Joseph Macklin, 6, as he reads from his books to summer campers at Pleasant Zion Baptist Church on July 10. McConduit hopes to inspire young people to write and be published.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN MCCUSKER -- Local author and literacy activist Alexander McConduit, right, connects with Joseph Macklin, 6, as he reads from his books to summer campers at Pleasant Zion Baptist Church on July 10. McConduit hopes to inspire young people to write and be published.

The sweet sound of a brassy trumpet fills the streets of New Orleans. Well, maybe it doesn’t sound so sweet when Little Louie is learning to play.

In Alex McConduit’s latest children’s book, “Thorn in My Horn,” Little Louie loves to play his trumpet so much that it becomes a nuisance to his mom. Little Louie practices relentlessly, determined to be the best at what he loves to do.

It’s a message McConduit wants every child to get.

“In life, if you want to do something, you just go out and do it,” McConduit said. “It’s that simple.”

McConduit played the trumpet when he was growing up, and he admits his mother told him to practice outdoors a few times, but that’s where the similarities between him and Little Louie end.

As a 2004 St. Augustine High School graduate, McConduit went on to study business marketing at Loyola University. After dabbling in hospitality, social media and online radio, McConduit turned his focus to writing children’s books.

“I never wanted to be a writer,” McConduit admitted. “The only thing I knew about writing is that it was an easy way for me to get a good grade in school.”

After the words to his first children’s book, “The Little Who Dat Who Didn’t,” came to him during the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl-winning season, McConduit created his own publishing company, Big Boot Publishing, using money he’d saved while working at the Roosevelt Hotel. “Thorn in My Horn” is the third book he’s released under the Big Boot banner.

After riding the success of “The Little Who Dat Who Didn’t” and another book, “Snowballs for All,” McConduit said “Thorn in My Horn” presents a different challenge.

“My two other books have their seasons. When snowball season comes around, sales pick up for ‘Snowballs for All,’ and it’s the same with the Saints season and ‘The Little Who Dat Who Didn’t,’” McConduit said. “This one, ‘Thorn in My Horn,’ I felt like I didn’t have a gimmick for it.”

Illustrator Darrell Rollo suggested they add music — printing a musical score on each page that reflects the mood and tempo of the story, and that any reader can play along to.

“I hummed (the music) and had my friend play it on the keyboard so I could get musical notations,” McConduit said. “So for example, every time Louie plays by his mom, he plays a certain tune.”

Since “Thorn” was released earlier this month, McConduit has stayed busy reading the book aloud at summer camps and schools, and encouraging children to pursue their own dreams.

“Writing is my way to affect little kids, to talk to them and show them that if you want to be a writer, be a writer; if they want to be an artist, be an artist,” McConduit said.

And nowadays, there’s no need to defer dreams to a faraway time “when you grow up,” he said.

“You have Kickstarter, Facebook, Paypal, Wordpress, and kids know how to use these things better than adults,” he said. “So why do they have to wait until they grow up?

“They can do everything now.”