- Yonder Breaks the Morning (2014)
- The Matchstick Cross (2013)
- Everywhere in Mississippi (2012)
- Garden Alphabet (2011)
- The Sweet Dreams Book (2009)
- A for Angels: a Bible Alphabet (2007)
- Tales of the Good Life (2005)
- Mad for Maroon (2004)
- It Really Said Christmas (2003)
- The Turtle Saver (2002)
- Louisiana Alphabet ( July, 2001)
- Texas Alphabet (2000)
- Mississippi Alphabet (1998)
- All Over Alabama (1997)
- Everywhere in Mississippi (1996)
In Bruce, Mississippi on July 24, 1963, Laurie Parker, Mississippi writer and artist, and her fraternal twin sister Nancy were born to Sam and Ruth Parker. One year later the family, including her eleven-year-old brother Tommy and her three-year-old sister Lynn, moved to Starkville, where they all still live.
As soon as she could write, Parker began delighting those around her with her charming rhyming narratives. As Laurie Parker says, “My father was a high school basketball coach. So, I was aware early on of Mississippi geography and towns. . . . I have always loved to write in rhyming narratives”(telephone interview). It was almost instinctive for her to write Everywhere in Mississippi and All Over Alabama.
Starkville High School was one of the high points in life for Parker. In reference to her experience at Starkville High School, she stated, “I loved it. I was very happy”(telephone interview ). In high school she was acknowledged in various ways. Her many achievements include valedictorian of the graduating class of 1981, Miss Starkville High School, Senior of Distinction, a straight “A” student, Josephine Jacket and Co-editor of the High Jacket and an active member of the annual staff. In addition, she was given an honorary cheerleader award at the end of each year for her school spirit and the “bust-um” signs she made each week. She was also voted Most Spirited by her peers for helping her class win the spirit stick four years in a row. She was a National Merit Semifinalist and had a cumulative average of 30 on the ACT.
After graduating from high school in 1981, Parker continued her education as an elementary education major at Mississippi State University. To fund her education, she lived at home and worked one part-time job at the MSU Library and another at the First United Methodist Church kindergarten. Throughout her college career she had only one “B” and was a member of the Hall of Fame, an academic achievement awarded to outstanding students. At one point she was also a KA little sister, despite the fact that she did not belong to a sorority. She graduated in 1985, only to return four years later as an engineering major, after unhappily teaching at various levels in Starkville. She eventually quit college one year away from a second degree.
Remaining in Starkville, Parker began her hobby of jewelry making full time and traveling around the country to jewelry shows where she sells her works. Out of pure necessity she turned to writing and publishing a book for extra money. She could not have known the success that her books Everywhere In Mississippi and All Over Alabama, which she wrote and illustrated, would have. One year later, in 1997, she found herself having her first book published and beginning a second book of the same genre. Everywhere In Mississippi set sales records for the publisher Quail Ridge Press. Its beautiful illustrations and whimsical text have captured the very essence of Mississippi and the hearts of Mississippians of all ages. In addition to these two children’s books, she has written ten more rhyming children’s books: Garden Alphabet (2011), The Sweet Dreams Book (2009), A for Angels: a Bible Alphabet (2007), Tales of the Good Life (2005), Mad for Maroon (2004), It Really Said Christmas (2003), The Turtle Saver (2002), Louisiana Alphabet, (July, 2001), Texas Alphabet (2000) and Mississippi Alphabet (1998).
Parker has now also written two adult novels: Yonder Breaks the Morning (2014) and The Matchstick Cross (2013). Today she is still a Starkville resident. When asked if she has any advice for high school students or aspiring writers, she replied, “If something brings you joy that is what you are meant to do. Follow your heart” (telephone interview). Parker is also an artist and a member of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi.
by Rebecca Easley (SHS) 1997
1. Where and when were you born?
“I was actually born on July 24, 1963, in Bruce, Mississippi.“
2. What can you tell me about your parents?
“My parents’ names are Sam and Ruth Parker. My mother is originally from West Point and my father is from Pittsburg. My dad used to be a high school basketball coach, which was really where I first became of Mississippi geography and towns.”
3. Do you have any siblings?
“Yes. I have two sisters and a brother. My older brother’s name is Tommy and my older sister’s name is Lynn. She is a teacher at the third grade. I also have a fraternal twin sister named Nancy with Down’s Syndrome.”
4.What were you like in high school? What kind of student were you?
“Actually, I was a straight “A” student and was Valedictorian of my graduating class of 1981. I was also Ms. Starkville High School, Senior of Distinction, co-editor and “Josephine Jacket” of the High Jacket, and a member of the annual staff. My class won Spirit Week every year because of all the spirit signs I made. I even won “Most Spirited” and honorary cheerleader awards. Even then I enjoyed writing in rhyming narratives. I really loved high school!”
5. How was your college experience?
“I only made one “B” while I was in college and was given the Hall of Fame award while at MSU. I payed my own way through college by working one part-time job at the MSU Library and another at First United Methodist Kindergarten . I wasn’t in a sorority. Although, I was a KA little sister. I graduated in 1985 from Mississippi State in Elementary Education. Later, I went back and majored for three years in Engineering.”
6. Do you have any interesting stories in relation to your book?
“Not really. Although I have heard from people I haven’t heard from in years! I also sometimes get some interesting mail.”
7. When did you become interested in writing?
“When I was younger I used to write cutsie things for school projects and friends and more serious stuff for myself.”
8. Do you have I favorite author?
“I loved Dr. Seuss as a child. Once I even modeled a story I wrote after his style called Where Do Bubbles Go When They Pop?
9. Why did you choose these subjects for your books?
“Money was the bottom line! Growing up I had always wanted to write and publish a book. I actually came up with the idea in the bathtub. I had become aware of the market for Mississippi made goods through my jewelry sales. Quail Ridge Press enabled me to publish my book regionally. Since I have always been interested in town names, it came naturally. I wrote the text first and signed a contract, and then I did the illustrations. It actually had a different ending at first!”
10. How long did it take you to write these books?
“After I wrote the first page, the rest came as I researched Mississippi. I worked on it for two months, and then set it aside to pick up on the jewelry. I eventually picked the book back up and sent it off. All in all, it was published in less than a year. Although the plot of the first book was easier to write, I was able to fix things I didn’t like in the first book the second time around.”
11. Have you received any awards?
“No. I did set sales records for Quail Ridge Press.”
12. Are you currently working on any new books?
“Yes. I have written a third book. I signed in March. It is a Mississippi ABC book. I’m still working on the illustrations, but I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be out in 1998.”
13. How long have you been making jewelry? Do you prefer writing of visual arts?
“I started making jewelry as a hobby nine years ago and did about one show a year through engineering school. I definitely prefer writing much more! It’s so joyous.”
14. How has Mississippi culture and life influenced you writing?
“Lack of distractions in small-town Mississippi.”
15. Do you have any advice for future writers of high school students?
“If something brings you joy, that is what you are meant to do. Follow your heart. Think hard about what you want to major in in college.”
Review of Everywhere in Mississippi
by Rebecca Easley (SHS)
Laurie Parker’s book Everywhere In Mississippi is a charming tale of a young Mississippian and his misadventured statewide search for his lost dog, Skippy. Her clever usage of alliteration, rhyme, and more than 300 of the most interesting names of Mississippi towns, along with page after page of beautiful illustrations and detailed maps make this short story enjoyable for locals of all ages.
One of the aspects of this book which appeals to children is its use of alliteration and rhyme. Parker states that she would “like to think of this book as ‘Mother Goose for Mississippi’ or ‘Southern Suess(sic)’!”(press release 1). Everywhere In Mississippi is filled to the brim with beautiful words and an “AABB” rhyme scheme:
“So many towns! How far we went!
And yet, our day was not ill-spent,
Because I have to say,” said Skip,
“I really did enjoy the trip!
I love the state of Mississipp—
The towns, the folks, the scenery, too,
From Biloxi up to Mound Bayou!
I’m glad we did this. How ‘bout you?”(Parker, Everywhere In Mississippi 29).
The author also uses consistent alliteration such as
“I called and called and looked real hard
In Batesville and in Beauregard. I searched and searched both near and far.
I searched in Starkville, Stonewall, Star,
Inverness and Ingomar” (Parker, Everywhere In Mississippi 4).
This display of classic literary elements attributes to the book’s renowned success.
Another of its assets is its educational value. Finely detailed and accurate maps on the inside covers give the reader a convenient visual reference. There are also many references within the text such as the southern drawl and Indian names which add a special insight into Mississippi heritage and culture. The reader easily receives both a visual and mental picture of the aura and geography of the state.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of Everywhere In Mississippi is that Laurie Parker not only wrote it, but illustrated it! Her colorful collages vividly portray the very heart and soul of Mississippi. As one modern critic states, “In her story and illustrations, Parker has succeeded in capturing the aura of Mississippi with references and/or pictures of things like magnolias, mockingbirds, wisteria, kudzu, cotton, porches, etc.”(press release 2). Not only do the illustrations enhance the story itself, they literally paint a picture of small-town Mississippi.
After first reading this book, I was struck by the beauty portrayed through its rhymes and illustrations. A more in-depth look revealed a vivid glance into the very essence of Mississippi, portrayed through its beautiful text and illustrations which enthrall all who encounter it. Everywhere In Mississippi is truly a necessity for classrooms and coffee tables all over the state.
- Laurie Parker’s Official Website
- Parker pens first novel. Hattiesburg American (2014)
- Interview with Laurie Parker by Gwen Sisson
- Cosper, Denise. “Everywhere In Mississippi.” Alumnus. Spring 1997:8-9.
Lucas, Sherry. “Starkville artist’s new rhyming book skips around small-town Mississippi.” Clarion Ledger. 5 November 1997.
- Parker, Laurie. All Over Alabama. Brandon, Mississippi: Quail Ridge Press, 1997.
- Parker, Laurie. Everywhere In Mississippi. Brandon, Mississippi: Quail Ridge Press, 1996.
“Skippy is Lost in Mississippi!” Press release from Quail Ridge Press. 14 November 1997:1-4.