Picayune — The owner of Ladybug Books & Gifts, Lois Ellitt, would love for Picayune to become known as a writer’s haven and she’s doing her part to make it happen. When she and husband Steve opened the bookstore on East Canal Street 18 months ago, she designated a room in the back of the large building as the writers’ room.
“The writers’ room is where writers can go and have no distractions,” she said. “When they get in there, they have to write. I’ve raised children, and I know that writers need quiet space and separation.”
Ellitt has the room set up to accommodate several writers at the same time. There’s a word processor and DSL hookups that can serve four laptop computers at once as well as dictionaries, thesauruses, references and material to aid character and plot development. She says writers can hook up electronically or sit on a futon with a pad and pencil. There’s even a 1910 set of books by Robert Louis Stevenson for inspiration.
“I hope that spurs writers to know that literature is a lasting proposition,” she said. “I’ve been kind of surprised at how much the room is used. We have beginning and established authors come here.”
This writers’ mentor also sponsors seminars to help authors hone their craft. A police officer recently led a class on weapons for those who want to realistically describe any plot involving guns and how they’re used.
“Writers of mysteries and thrillers need to get a real idea of how to write blood and guts,” Ellitt said. “One writer who was present described how a female private investigator took a revolver from a little silk purse and the policeman told her ‘that’s not possible.’”
All kinds of writers from science fiction to children’s books have used Ellitt’s writers’ room and attended seminars. There is no charge for the classes — she feels it promotes the store and comes back in the long run — and a meal is usually served. She’s hoping to have an all-man’s day soon, featuring hunting books and how to write them. A hunter who hunts only with spears is already scheduled to speak and Ellitt is planning a menu to include venison stew.
Back to the written word?
“I’m working to promote writing,” she affirms. “We need a mass exodus away from the cinematic and back to the written word.”
The Pearl River County branch of the Gulf Coast Writers Association also meets monthly at Ladybug Books & Gifts.
Dealing mostly in used books, this bookseller describes her shop as straight across the board. In the 1,200 square feet of space devoted to books there’s every genre, including historical, romance, serial, mystery, horror, classics, children’s, Christian, Bibles, biographies, war and combat and much more. Local, self-published authors have a whole shelf of their own.
“A new type of romance novel I’ve noticed is werewolves, vampires and shape shifters,” she said. “Also, I’m adding a metaphysical line. There’s a demand for this return-to-nature genre.”
She says she tries to keep a lot in the shop and will take requests from customers and let them know when the book arrives.
There’s an easy, open atmosphere among the bookshelves with plenty of space between shelves. There are also wingback chairs just right for curling up to read. “Everything is set up to encourage browsing and lingering,” Ellitt said. “I have one little lady who takes off her shoes and sits down in the aisle to read.”
People around town let Ellitt know they’re thrilled the bookstore is there and she’s pleasantly surprised at the number of people from nearby Slidell and New Orleans who make regular stops at the Ladybug.
Intent on creating a community atmosphere, Ellitt displays and sells art from the Picayune Artists’ League. The selections change monthly. She also displays and sells lamps, silk flower arrangements and candles made by local artisans.
Ellitt, 50, took an unusual career path on her way to becoming a bookseller. She’s lived in several states and worked on fishing vessels and offshore drilling rigs, been a florist and ran a dice pit in a casino. Spinal cord damage from a car accident left her needing to do something different.
“I’ve always loved reading and writing, so I knew it had to be something involving books,” she said. “I looked for something with people who are like minded and that’s how the bookstore came about.”
She says the business is holding its own and she is pleased to offer members of the community books they can afford.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.