Business News Wednesday, August 23, 2006
business feature of the week:
“Cajun Fairies” Sha Bebe dolls come to life in Mathews
By: Justin Martin
The spreading of Cajun culture does not always come in the form of crawfish and accordions or swamp tours and cypress knees. Sometimes they come in the form of fairies, and author Mary Lynn Plaisance is asking you to believe.
The lifelong resident of Mathews released her second book, “Cajun Fairies,” in May. It is a followed-up to her first work, “In the Land of Sha Bebe,” released in 2004.
Most days Plaisance can be found in her Mathews shop, Beb’s Place. Visitors will also find an assortment of Cajun Fairies and Sha Bebe dolls, the very ones that started her on her journey to local folklorist.
“It started with one doll named Jolie back in 1991,” Plaisance explains, sitting at her worktable, which is covered with doll parts.
Plaisance says Jolie was a spur of the moment idea from the mind of a lifelong seamstress. Like any heroine, she needed a hero. Soon came Beau, a companion for Jolie. She chose the names for their English counterparts, pretty and handsome.
Her dolls became popular with locals, family and friends, but more importantly tourist, who heard about Jolie, Beau and Beb’s Place from local tour guides.
“I was always explaining to tourist what beb meant,” Plaisance says. “It is a term of endearment. My mother used it; my grandmother used it; and we (she and her husband) do too.”
Each doll in her shop is handmade by Plaisance and signed and dated. Each doll is given a name by their owner, and the name is written across the dolls heart.
Plaisance had been approached to mass manufacture the dolls on several occasions, but she feels it would lessen the sentimental value and what makes each one an individual. “I had a lady from New York tell me, ‘We are going to mass market it’,” Plaisance remembers back to her early days in the doll making business, “I said, ‘Who is we? I am by myself over here.’”
The location of Beb’s Place led to Plaisance’s next step in her journey.
Directly behind her first shop, grew rows and rows of sugar cane, and directly in the middle of that sugar cane field stood a patch of old trees. The real reason those trees were never cut down was, because the dirt was not fertile enough to bother with. But, land that farmers saw as useless, Plaisance saw as fertile with Cajun tales.
“That is the magical land of Sha Bebe,” she said with the same wild hair that conjured Jolie.
Plaisance always wanted to be a writer, even taking a fiction writing course several years ago. But, after years of developing story ideas, she could never stumble upon an original. There was always someone who had already written something similar. That is what led her to create the folklore and history of the Land of Sha Bebe.
“Now, nobody can write what I’m writing,” Plaisance says. “I created The Land of Sha Bebe. I created the dolls. So, nobody can take it. It’s my story.”
Plaisance began developing a land (not a town or a village) where her Sha Bebe dolls live. She filled the land with characters and created her own Cajun fairy tale.
Once a month 100 dolls leave the land, with permission from the Queen, of course, to venture out into human land to help humans with their problems.
Plaisance self-published her first book, “In the Land of Sha Bebe”. It is the story of Jolie and Beau, who are born in the sugar cane fields. They “popped” to life by Madame Plume and taught manners by Miss Betty Lou. Soon the dolls are sent into the human world to help Emily, who has just lost her father.
“Cajun Fairies”, Plaisance’s second book, focuses on Robes Pierre, a wicked Cajun Fairy who wants to destroy the happiness and wonderfulness of Sha Bebe. Things begin to look down for the “Land of Sha Bebe,” but Pierre doesn’t count on the resilience of Queen Faustina and her entourage.
Her second book was also self-published, but with the help of Author House, a self-publishing company based in Indiana, which was in turn distributed by Ingram Book Group, the world’s largest wholesale distributor of book products.
With the help of Ingram, Plaisance’s books are now available worldwide through amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.
A third installment of the series is expected to be released next year, though a title has not yet been decided. The next book is anticipated to be a bit on the dark side with the emergence of bad dolls, the author warned.
“All of the dolls in the Land of Sha Bebe are good, but in the next book that will change,” Plaisance said. “They are going to meet up with mean, ugly dolls. They are going to leave the Land of Sha Bebe, and it’s going to be spooky. I am going to keep it G-rated, though.”
Plaisance said she can not decide whether it’s the doll making or the book writing she enjoys most, but she will be taking a break from making her copyrighted dolls on Sept. 2nd so she can appear at La. Cajun Stuff in the Southland Mall for a book signing from 11am until 5 pm. Interacting with her readers brings a smile to Plaisance’s face every time. She can go on talking about her imaginary land for hours on end. When she does get to meet loyal readers, many ask the same question about her Cajun tales.
“Everyone want to know if the legend is true ,” Plaisance said, her tone hinting that she doesn’t even know herself anymore. “I kept telling them ,’No’, then I started saying what I have on the front cover of my first book, ‘Do you believe?’ It all depends on if you believe.”
Justin Martin can be reached at (985) 876-3008 or justin.tri-parish-times.com
Thank you Justin