by Nick Katsoris
It all started one evening in the kitchen. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, had opened a box of Loukoumi candy, a rich, sweet nougaty type candy that relatives bring you back from Greece, and I said to her, "Hand me the box of Loukoumia, Loukoumi." I actually called her Loukoumi and it fit. And then I thought, what a great name that would make for a children's book character one day.
Flash forward a couple of years to the beaches of Positano, Italy, on believe it or not, our honeymoon. Voula and I were married, I was (and still am) a practicing attorney in Manhattan, my first book, the legal thriller titled Crimes of Fire was about to be released and the idea for the children's book flooded my mind. The entire story just appeared like a Nickelodeon cartoon, but that is where it remained for a couple more years.
March 13, 2004 - the happiest day of my life (that and my wedding day, of course). My son was born and the emotion overwhelmed me. I am usually very calm and collected, but with every contraction and every push, I grew more and more emotional. And I can still remember the shocked look on my wife's face when our little red-headed son was born into a family chock full of brunettes - boy is she lucky he resembles me and my father. At least that's what they tell me!
A couple of months went by, we started reading books to our newborn and it hit me, "I have to do it for him." And so the character of Loukoumi was born. The first Loukoumi adventure began about a little lamb that wanders off alone at the airport and meets her friends Gus, Marika, Fistiki and Dean, who all help her get home in the end.
It was a great little story I thought, yet there wasn't a publisher or literary agent in sight. More than a few rejection letters later, I decided that I have to do this for Dean and I have to do it for myself. So I found an illustrator on the internet, I located a printer, and published the book myself. One write-up in the New York Times, a 15 city Barnes & Noble book signing tour and 2000 copies later, the book went into a second printing. The book spawned a Loukoumi plush toy, t-shirts and I landed an agent and a publisher in Europe, which has and is translating the book into several languages. Trust me, it wasn't easy but you never know what can happen unless you try.
Just recently I published the second Loukoumi adventure titled Growing Up With Loukoumi which in a way resembles my story. The book is about what Loukoumi wants to be when she grows up. She entertains the possibility of being a doctor or a lawyer or a firefighter, but in the end she realizes that she can be and do whatever it is she wants in life, if she works hard and believes in herself, because "if you believe in yourself your dreams will come true."
This project is my dream come true because along with the book I have been graced with the voices of several celebrities on an accompanying narrated CD including Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis, Grammy winner Gloria Gaynor (who also recorded an original song on the CD titled Believe), CBS News anchor Alexis Christoforous, American Idol's Constantine Maroulis and Guiding Light star Frank Dicopoulos, and the proceeds from the CD are being donated to a national children's charity. Each of these celebrities has been wonderfully dedicated to the project.
It has also been a thrill to read the book to kids and hear them echo aloud the words: "Believe in yourself and dreams come true." I am now on a national book signing tour and I am happy to report that Barnes & Noble has recently placed a national in-store order for the title.
My motto has become: Believe in yourself and your publishing dreams will come true, because as a result of Loukoumi I started my own publishing company NK Publications. I am now assisting other talented authors with their publishing gems including the hilariously funny, warm, endearing and honest new memoir "Peeing In Peace: Tales & Tips for Type A Moms," by Beth Feldman and Yvette Manessis Corporon. Other titles include "I Get Knocked Down: A Woman's Survival Guide to Business & Life" and an upcoming children's book about a young television reporter.
The entire process has opened my eyes to the scores of wonderful authors out there. Each has a story to share, some have advice to give, or others just want to entertain their readers, and I feel privileged to be going along for the ride. At a time when everyone is reciting New Year's resolutions, mine is "believe in yourself and dreams do come true." Give yourself a chance. You won't be disappointed.