About three years ago, Charmain Zimmerman Brackett had a chance meeting with some long-lost cousins.
“I grew up in Georgia, and most of my dad’s family lived in Las Vegas. I didn’t really get to know his side of the family,” she said. “One of my cousins moved to Georgia, and I went with my parents to meet her and her sister who was visiting from Las Vegas.”
Her cousin, Becky Bagshaw, was interested in genealogy and spent the next few hours telling Brackett about their family’s circus history. Their great-grandmother, Pearl Clark LaComa, had been part of a circus owned by LaComa’s father, Mack Loren “M.L.” Clark. And their grandmother, Juanita LaComa Zimmerman, had wanted to be a writer. She wrote down snippets of her circus memories in spiral-bound notebooks. Bagshaw promised to send photocopies of pictures and these journals when she returned to Las Vegas, and she did.
“The box she sent me was full of my grandmother’s writings and copies of photographs. It was fascinating to me, but it saddened me at the same time because I never knew any of this when my grandmother was alive,” said Brackett.
Over the next two years, Brackett went on a quest to pull as much circus information together as possible. She traveled to Baraboo, Wis. to research at the Robert L. Parkinson Library and Research Center and to Alexandria, La. where her family’s circus had its winter headquarters.
She spent countless hours on the Internet.
She gathered family photos from other relatives in Texas and Washington state.
“At first, I thought I’d do something just for my family. I wanted to put the photographs together in one place in a medium that could be passed down from generation to generation.
After posting a few photographs of my grandmother on social media, I discovered other people were as interested in my family as I was,” she said.
With her journalistic background, she had hoped to write a non-fiction work about her great-grandparents’ lives, but despite her efforts, she couldn’t find enough information. So she went to Plan B – write a children’s book based on the notes her grandmother had written. There was enough information for that. She enlisted Erica Pastecki, an artist and art teacher, to create paintings which would be used as the basis for the illustrations. Brackett also hired Ashlee Henry to do the design of the book.
In November 2014, Little Pearl’s Circus World was published.
And on Jan. 3, readers at The Kindle Hub voted her book as the Best Children’s Book of 2014.
“It’s really exciting to see people get behind this project. I’m thrilled with the way the book turned out, and I can’t wait to see where it leads,” she said.
Synopsis of Little Pearl’s Circus World
Before she was 5 years-old, Little Pearl Clark was performing in her father’s circus, the M.L. Clark and Son’s Combined Shows. Join Little Pearl behind the scenes of her circus world. Little Pearl’s Circus World is based on the true story Pearl Clark LaComa (1890-1927).
About the Author
Charmain Zimmerman Brackett started her writing career while still in college joining the sports staff of the local paper as a correspondent taking high school sports stats. She’s continued working for that same newspaper for more than 27 years. She published her first novel, The Key of Elyon, in 2012, and it was awarded the 2014 Yerby Award for Fiction at the Augusta Literary Festival.