Launch Party Update: The Night of My Life

Photo Credit: Jeff McVay

The launch at Off Square Books on Tuesday, January 31 exceeded my wildest expectations. Approximately two hundred people showed up to support this book, and we celebrated with delicious desserts from independent caterer Peggy Tubertini and Provisions’ caterer Beth Vickers. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the extraordinary kindness  extended by the wonderful community members of Oxford, Mississippi. I have been counting my blessings nonstop and don’t know how I’ll ever repay such extreme generosity to this standing-room-only crowd that spilled out the door!

Photo Credit: Jeff McVay

We toasted several special guests that night, including a five-year-old superhero named Cauy Smith, whose mother placed a generous bid several years ago at the Heart Ball. Her donation to the American Heart Association earned her the right to name a character in my novel, Into the Free, which at the time had just been signed for publication and was still early in the editing phase. Together, Gay Smith and I worked a wonderful character into the story named Cauy Tucker (pronounced “Coy”), and I was excited that the REAL Cauy joined us for the launch.

Photo Credit: Jeff McVay

Next, the incredible Kelley Norris and Jessie Pinion entertained the crowd by performing Bob Dylan’s classic tune, Forever Young. When I wrote about Mama’s character singing to Millie, I heard Kelley’s voice in my head. It all started a couple of years ago when Kelley sang this song at Oxford-University United Methodist Church and made me cry. Her voice was so beautiful, she connected with me in a deeply moving way that made me feel what Millie must have felt when she heard her mother sing. I am certain everyone in the crowd at Off Square Books was moved as well, and I hope they always think of Kelley when they want to hear Mama sing to Millie.

Photo Credit: Jeff McVay

Finally, the amazing Taneeka Tyson wowed the crowd with a tear-jerking rendition of Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. With her rich tones, Taneeka left hardly a dry eye in the house as she represented one of my favorite characters, Mabel Tillings. Like Millie’s mother, Mabel also connects to Millie through song, and when I heard Taneeka perform in Mrs. Fairbanks’ First-Grade play at Bramlett Elementary School last year, I realized that hers was the perfect voice to symbolize Mabel’s. I’m honored to have worked with Taneeka and proud that she shared this special night with me. Her music has left a mark on the hearts of all who were blessed to hear her sing that night, and I hope she continues to explore her God-given talents.

I was thankful for the opportunity to acknowledge publically so many people who played a part in this journey, but of course I forgot to name a few…particularly author Patti O’Sullivan, Todd Liddell of Liddell’s Lens Photography, Jeff McVay of Oxford Town, and Chef Joel Miller of Ravine Restaurant (my all-time favorite place to eat in the universe!)…to whom I offer tremendous apologies and gratitude. To Patti, for reviving my love for the story when I was at a frustrating phase of the editing process. To Todd, for helping me capture this once-in-a-lifetime experience on film. To Jeff, for writing an incredible feature article about me for Oxford Town and for sharing wonderful photos with me of this whole experience. And to Joel, for providing original scrumptious recipes for my website to represent foods Millie would have loved.

My sweet family was there to celebrate the special occasion and the amazing Lyn Roberts of Square Books provided a much-too-kind introduction.

Find more photos of the event at and

All in all, the entire evening was too good to be true, and I feel as if I might have dreamed the whole thing. Tune in tomorrow for many more updates and lots of exciting news about Into the Free! A lot can happen in a week!



Leaving the Nest

Ole Miss Campus

Five years ago, my family and I moved to Oxford, Mississippi – a beautiful southern town where the University of Mississippi is the center of our culture. I do not exaggerate when I say the Ole Miss students are the lungs of our community, breathing life into our village  with the arrival of each new semester.

In recent weeks, local college freshman have been receiving my little picture books as unique “leaving the nest” gifts from their moms. Several co-eds have even stopped me on the square to tell me how much the books meant to them. Two confessed they cried when they read the books. I wouldn’t have believed them, but they even got a little teary-eyed just talking about it.


Remember that feeling? That stirring apprehension when we first dared to spread our wings and jump? There’s no doubt about it – leaving home for that first year of college can be just as frightening as that first day of preschool.

While I didn’t write these books with college students in mind, I admit I do get all tingly inside when I hear how these stories have warmed the hearts of children – no matter their age.

The thing is…we all have fears. There are times when we each feel small in this great big world. And we all want to know that we’re not alone. The message in the books is universal. It speaks to the child in each of us.

If you’d like to give these books as a gift to someone special in your life,  I encourage you to support local retailers. In my home state of Louisiana, signed copies are available at The Bee’s Knees (Denham Springs) and Cassie’s Closet (Walker). In Oxford, MS., you can find signed copies of the books at Peas & Carrots and Square Books, Jr.

Square Books, Jr. Oxford, MS

Plus — Now, you can order these books directly from Square Books, Jr. where I will sign and personalize them just for you. Pick them up or have them delivered to the recipient of your choice. Orders can be mailed anywhere. Their gift wrapping is free and super cute! Contact Square Books, Jr. for more information: 662.236.2207

Of course, the books also are available nationwide and through many online retailers. Please visit the Order Books segment of this blogsite for options.

Thanks again for your continued interest in these little books. I know it sounds extremely corny — but I really am amazed daily by the fact that a simple story I wrote with my daughter, to help her sleep through the night, has grown arms and reached out to hug the world. Thanks for sharing the love.



Hear Julie’s Interview on NPR’s Mississippi Edition


When I received a call from Lisa Michie with Mississippi Public Radio, I was extremely honored to be invited for an interview on the reputable program, Mississippi Edition. I was packing the car for a road trip to Louisiana and was worried I’d have to miss such a unique opportunity.

Thankfully, the show’s producers were very kind and flexible; and sure enough, on Thursday, July 30, the host, Karen Brown, called me at my mother’s house in Baton Rouge to conduct the interview over the phone.

You can listen to the entire 30-minute program at the link posted below, or scroll forward to hear my Book Club segment at 22 minutes and 10 seconds.

Hear Julie Cantrell on Mississippi Edition radio program (NPR)

Thanks, Mississippi Edition! It was a huge honor to be a guest on your program.


Double the Decker, Double the Fun



Double Decker weekend in Oxford is one of my favorite events each year. I love to lollygag around the Square, tapping my toes to tempting tunes and indulging in sinful homemade ice cream sandwiches the size of a basketball (YUM!).

With my in-laws on the calendar, I was looking forward to my first weekend off since the books were released March 1. Then I was asked to drop in Square Books, Jr. during the festival and sign for a bit. Now – no matter how much I needed a break – that was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I spent about two hours in the bookstore and really enjoyed meeting people from all around the country. I couldn’t believe how far folks traveled to attend our fabulous festival. Scotland, New York, and Seattle were just a few of the unique areas from which visitors launched their trek to my dear old Oxford. It was wonderful to see many friendly faces drop in for a chat as well. And thanks to all of you, the books were a steady sell — with the bookstore hanging on to the few spare copies, so you can find them there if you’re still searching for a special gift.

I’m happy to say that book sales continue to soar across the south, and it looks like the news is out in other areas of the country as well. I’m hearing feedback from friends in Colorado, New Hampshire, Texas, Maryland, and Illinois that they’ve found the books at their local bookstores.  I’m also seeing additional online sources added each day, including Books-A-Million and other large chains which I assume are stocking copies on shelves as well.

So far, Barnes & Noble,, Lifeway, and have been big supporters. Of course, I am partial to the independent booksellers and boutiques who have played a tremendous role in the success of these little books.  Not to mention the many of you who have promoted these books with a passion I can’t possibly explain. Word-of-mouth has proven to be my weapon of choice — and boy, oh boy, and I glad my friends talk as much as I do (smile). (Please refer to the Order Books tab for a list of booksellers — which I’ll try to update in a few days).

Thanks to each and every one of you —  for your continued interest and for helping these stories land across the country. It’s been an exciting ride for me, and I hope you’re getting to experience the excitement, too!


Thanks for the Smiles, Discovery Day!

 I was very excited to join the spirited preschool children at Discovery Day School in the Oxford University United Methodist Church on Wednesday, March 11. Here I am with two classes – roaring like lions!



Of course, they don’t always act like ldscf0505ions. Sometimes, they’re just sweet, cuddly little lambs. They taught me tons of new happy thoughts to keep away the scary dreams: Riding bikes without swallowing bugs; not falling out of a tree when you sleep; and letting your pet pterodactyl drive your monster trucks. Not bad for an on-the-spot assignment. Gotta love kids’ imaginations