A Season of Light - Johnette's Holiday Newsletter

Happy Holidays Friends!

A common theme in winter celebrations around the world is light.  It stands to reason that during the darkest, shortest days of the year around the winter solstice, the lighting of candles would play an important role in cultural and religious traditions. Festivals of light occur during Christmas, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Hindu Diwali, among others. In South Louisiana bonfires light the way along the Mississippi River levee. Light often represents hope, love, eternal life, faith, joy, insight, renewal, healing and enlightenment. I wish you and your children light this holiday season, and I hope you enjoy the candle craft in this newsletter.
May the inner light in us see the inner light in others.

2017 - An Award Winning Year

This year had many memorable moments. In October, I received  the 2017 Louisiana Writer Award at the Louisiana Book Festival. It is an honor to be among such esteemed past recipients as Ernest Gaines, Darrell Bourque, Tom Piazza, Chris Wiltz and fellow children's book author William Joyce. The award ceremony took place at the State Capital building, which ironically sits on the very land that my Canary Islands ancestor Jose Gonzalez Cabo was given for serving in the American Revolution under General Galvez at the Battle of Baton Rouge. Standing on my ancestor's land and receiving such a prestigious award for my body of work was deeply moving and poignant.  

In September, my Mumbo Jumbo, Stay Out of the Gumbo book, illustrated by Jennifer Lindsley, was selected to represent the State of Louisiana at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Jennifer, Scott and I attended the event, and stayed over a few days to enjoy the museums. If you have not taken the Museums at Night tour, I highly recommend it. 

In February at the 59th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, my husband Scott Billington received his third Grammy Award for producing the record "Porcupine Meat" by legendary bluesman Bobby Rush, earning Bobby his first Grammy. Their win earned me a Grammy Award Participation Certificate for co-writing and singing back-up vocals on two songs. What a thrill it was to be on stage with them when they accepted their awards. 

On a personal note, Scott and I adopted a health regimen of walking 3-5 miles per day as well as eating a plant-based diet. 90% of our meals are plants, leaving a little wiggle room for seafood on occasion. Many of our vegetables come from our home organic garden. As a New Orleanian, I never thought I could give up meat and dairy, but I am truly enjoying the switch and am astonished by how easy it has been. 

The new diet and fitness routine gave me plenty of energy for a heavy performance schedule this year. My Family Friendly First Friday concert series at the New Orleans Jazz Park has been running for nearly a decade, and will continue in 2018. Other performance highlights include the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, French Quarter Festival, Nantucket Atheneum, Grand Kids Festival in Galveston, Texas, Harvest Festival, and Bucktown Seafood Festival, as well as numerous school and library visits. My travels took me to Quebec, Maine, New Hampshire, Texas, California, Tennessee, D.C, Massachusetts, and across Louisiana. 

I am deeply grateful for the opportunities people like you have given me this year. I look forward to 2018 which is gearing up to be another exciting year with tours already scheduled in the Philippines, Scotland, Canary Islands, North Carolina, Mississippi, California, Massachusetts, Texas and Louisiana. 

May your holidays be filled with light, love, happiness, stories and song. 
with gratitude, 



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Candle Craft

To celebrate light, I hope you enjoy sharing this easy torn paper candle craft with the little ones in your life. 


Colored construction paper

  1. Select the colors you would like for your candle, flame and holly.
  2. Tear paper into the shapes of a candle, flame and holly. You will need to tear several small pieces to create holly leaves and holly berries.
  3. Layer the torn paper to create your design for each of the items.
  4.  Glue the layers to a full sheet of black or blue construction paper.
  5. Sing along while you create. The traditional song "This Little Light of Mine" is a perfect accompaniment to this craft. 
  6. Hang your creation in the family art gallery (on the refrigerator door). 

Live Shows
I would love to see you at upcoming concerts and author events. Check out my full schedule here!


Make a child happy — read and sing! Check out great music and books (if I don't say so myself) for your little ones here! 

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Johnette Downing · P. O. Box 13367 · New Orleans, LA 70185 · USA