Louisiana Book News by Cheré Dastugue Coen

Published Sundays in The Daily Advertiser of Lafayette and Monroe News Star of Monroe.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Author-historians honored for their work

            This past weekend the Foundation for a Historical Louisiana gave out its annual awards to eight preservationists, including authors/historians Carl Brasseaux and the late Sue Eakin.
Carl Brasseaux
            Brasseaux is the a history professor at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, was director of the Center for Louisiana Studies and is the author of more than 30 books, many on Cajun culture and history. The French government honored him with the title of Chevalier in l’Order des Palmes Académiques, an award reserved for those whose scholarly pursuits are deemed to contribute significantly to French culture.
            Eakin, a scholar, educator, preservationist and storyteller is credited with securing the republication of “Twelve Years a Slave,” the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup that was made into an Academy Award-winning movie in 2013. She first found the book at age 12, and it was the subject of her master's thesis at LSU. After years of research she published an authenticated version of the book in 1968 and two years before her death published an updated version with maps and photos of the area around Cheneyville where the book was set.
Sue Eakin
            Eakin also earned a master’s degree in journalism at LSU and taught history at LSU-Alexandria. She earned a doctorate from UL-Lafayette at age 60.
            Brasseaux received the Cultural Preservationist Award and Eakin, who died in 2009, received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.
            Other awards went to Vincent Caire Sr. of LaPlace, an historian, author and advocate for the restoration of the Art Deco Shushan Airport, now Lakefront Airport in New Orleans; The Historic New Orleans Foundation and its director, Priscilla Lawrence; and to Nancy Vinci of St. Francisville for her efforts to preserve architectural treasures of “Audubon Country” and the historic district of St. Francisville.

New releases
            On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to a New Orleans gay bar called the Up Stairs Lounge, killing 32 people. The event stands as the deadliest fire in the history of New Orleans and is said to be the largest mass murder of gay men in America. Clayton Delery-Edwards, a graduate of USL, now UL-Lafayette, recalls this tragedy, the news coverage that followed and the lack of outrage from city officials in his book, “The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar, June 24, 1973.” The case was never solved. 
            Tulane professor Thomas Beller has published a biography on author J.D. Salinger (“The Catcher in the Rye”) titled “J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist.” Publisher’s Weekly calls the book, “an exceptionally well-researched, deeply felt, and thoughtful exploration of the elusive author’s history.”
            The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press has just published “African American Home Remedies: A Practical Guide with Usage and Application Data” by Eddie L. Boyd and Leslie A. Shimp. The book includes information obtained from two studies conducted in affiliation with the University of Michigan to demonstrate the use of more than 100 home remedies and herbs and their relation to socio-demographic characteristics in the African American community.
            Michael Lewis of New Orleans, author of the bestseller “The Big Short” and “Moneyball,” follows with “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.” Flash Boys concerns a small group of Wall Street men “who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post–financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks,” according to the book’s promotion. 
            Joseph Boyden, who divides his time between Northern Ontario and New Orleans, sets his latest novel “The Orenda” in the Canadian wilderness 400 years ago when Native Americans and Europeans first meet. “The Orenda illuminates the shadowy moment of our inception as a country,” the National Post said of the book. “It forces us to bravely consider who we are. ‘The Orenda’ is much more than a timely novel. It is a timeless one; born a classic.”

Summer reading
            Sam Irwin is a freelance writer and the author of “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean.” He’s also a reader and he offers a great summer reading list at LANote, Irwin’s blog. To view Irwin’s “Summer Reading List — Heavy Books and Light Reading,” visit www.LANote.org.

Writing events
            Festival of Words is hosting a 12-hour Word Crawl on Sept. 13 throughout downtown Lafayette, to coincide with that month’s Second Saturday ArtWalk. Area writers will seek sponsors for their public readings at venues throughout town during the 12 hours and money raised will be used to support the 2014 Festival of Words literary celebration held annually the first weekend of November. For more information, visit festivalofwords.org or call Clare Martin at (337) 962-5886.
            The Creative Minds Writers 2014 Conference will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug, 9, at Woodland Park Baptist Church, 1909 J W Davis Drive in Hammond. The keynote speaker is New York Times best-selling author Erica Spindler of New Orleans. Other authors will conduct break-out sessions on a variety of genres. For more information and to register, plus to check out the “Page-Turner Contest,” visit http://www.creativemindswriters.com/
Writing contests
            The deadline was the ninth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Contest, sponsored by the Southern Louisiana Romance Writers of America, has been extended until July 31. The entry fee is $15 and the top prize is a guaranteed read by editors at The Wild Rose Press. For information, visit http://solawriters.org/the-dixie-kane-memorial-contest/
            Heartla, the Baton Rouge chapter of RWA, is also hosting a contest for romance novels of all subgenres. The contest is open to published and unpublished authors ages 18 and up with the deadline to enter Aug 1. Awards include certificates and lapel pins to first three finalists and the winner receives $25. For more information, visit the chapter’s web site at http://www.heartla.com/heartbeat-2014-contest/.
            Writing contests not only support local writing organizations as fund-raisers but they provide chances to be critiqued by qualified judges and sometimes prize money or the opportunity to have work submitted to national publishers.

Book events
            An Evening of Comedy with author Christee Gabour Atwood will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Westside Regional Library in Alexandria. The event is free.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

10 Things to Make a More Perfect Literary World

1. If my plumber charges me $900 for four hours work, I think I should get the same for writing a book. Only seems fair.

2. In the same vein, publishers will acquire books from writers, pay them a good advance and then publicize the books. If publishers want to send writers bonuses for doing their own publicity, that’ll work too.

3. People who love popular fiction, “50 Shades of Gray,” comic books, romance novels and the like will stop apologizing for doing so. If you love a good book, it’s a good book. Period. And they will stop calling it trash!

4. Oh that note, reviewers will review books that readers love, including popular fiction, “50 Shades of Gray,” comic books, romance novels and the like.

5. Self-published authors will understand that everyone needs an editor — and get one.

6. Like most creative arts, there’s enough to go around. Writers will stick together and help each other out.

7. I have to pay my electric bill, mortgage, car note — you name it — every month. Publishers will mail out royalty checks that often too.

8. No one will ever recount the entire plot of their novel to me again. That’s why they call it reading. A sentence or two or three is OK. Something along the lines of “It’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ in outer space” is even better.

9. No one will ever tell me about their great idea and then ask that I write it for them, splitting the proceeds. That’s why it’s called writing. Sit in a chair before a computer and get to work. P.S. If you find someone to do this for you, let me know. I expect it will snow in Haiti that day.

10. Everyone needs support. Everyone has value. I will open my email and see those freelance writing newsletters announcing magazines and web sites looking for “writers with extensive experience” and pay a wage above $20 an article.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Orleans hotel hosts book event for Renee Harris, author of 'Royal and St. Louis'

            Lafayette native and LSU Law School graduate Renée Harris Austell and Robin Gohsman have co-authored a thriller set in New Orleans titled “Royal and St. Louis.” To celebrate the book’s release, the Omni Royal Orleans in the French Quarter (621 St. Louis St.) will offer a meet and greet with Austell at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, followed by a reception from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the hotel.
            Austelle, whose family is of French descent, received a post-graduate scholarship from CODOFIL to study French in Belgium, and later advised the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Human Rights, Democracy and United Nation Issues. The book launch will coincide with New Orleans’ Bastille Day celebrations.
             In the book a main character, Tucker Hamlin, stays in a balcony suite overlooking the Louisiana Supreme Court building, experiencing the sights and scents of the French Quarter. “Royal and St. Louis” takes readers from the streets of Paris to New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans, with pivotal scenes at the Omni Royal Orleans and nearby landmarks.
            The book is available for download at www.amazon.com and at www.royalandstlouis.com. For information on the hotel, visit omnihotels.com.

New releases
            Out this week from James Lee Burke is “Wayfaring Stranger,” the New Iberia native’s 35th book. The Denver Post calls the novel, “A sprawling thriller drenched with atmosphere and intrigue that takes a young boy from a chance encounter with Bonnie and Clyde to the trenches of World War II and the oil fields along the Texas-Louisiana coast.”
            Edward Reed of Fenton, who attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now UL-Lafayette) and worked for NASA leading up to John Glenn’s first space voyage, has written a memoir titled “I Remember When.” The book is available through Tate Publishing, Kjuntales Bookstore in Abbeville and at Barnes & Noble Lafayette. For more information, visit http://edwardreed.tateauthor.com.
            Another Louisiana memoire out now is Robin Roberts’ “Everybody’s Got Something: A Memoir.” The anchor on “Good Morning America” grew up in Pass Christian, Mississippi, but attended Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.
            Joseph Boyden, who divides his time between Northern Ontario and New Orleans, sets his latest novel “The Orenda” in the Canadian wilderness 400 years ago when Native Americans and Europeans first meet. “The Orenda illuminates the shadowy moment of our inception as a country,” the National Post said of the book. “It forces us to bravely consider who we are. ‘The Orenda’ is much more than a timely novel. It is a timeless one; born a classic.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cookbook Thursday: Country's 'Greatest Eats'

            Some of country music’s greatest stars have come together in a new cookbook that’s a collaboration in its own right — between Southern Living and the CMT channel — with “Greatest Eats: Showstopping Recipes and Riffs from Country’s Biggest Stars.”
            As you might imagine, there’s plenty of dishes from the heartland, such as casseroles, beer can chicken, ribs and pot roast. But there’s also gluten-free spaghetti Pomodore from Laura Bell Bundy, who suffers from celiac disease, and innovative meat-free dishes from vegetarian Katie Cook. It’s an eclectic range offering a wonderful variety, from Wynonna Judd’s broccoli-rice casserole to Zac Brown Band’s personal chef Rusty Hamlin of Baton Rouge, who dishes up Louisiana-inspired creations such as Louisiana blue crab-stuffed catfish fillets.
            The book is filled with photos and personal stories of the musicians, accented by their album covers and accomplishments, plus excellent shots of the food. The cover was created by the Hatch Show Print shop, a landmark in Nashville that’s been producing concert posters and album covers for 135 years.
            The following are recipes for Hamlin's catfish fillets and also Alan Jackson's "Favorite Chicken Salad."

Louisiana Blue Crab-Stuffed Catfish Fillets
Makes: 6 servings   
8 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, plus more to taste
1⁄8 teaspoon hot sauce, plus more to taste
1⁄2 pound fresh lump blue crabmeat, drained
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
6 (7-ounce) fresh catfish fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
Table salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bacon-Mushroom Stone-Ground Grits
Cajun Rémoulade
            Directions: Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and next three ingredients, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, and 1⁄8 teaspoon hot sauce, and cook one minute. Add crabmeat, breadcrumbs, and additional Cajun seasoning and hot sauce, if desired. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
            Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butterfly catfish fillets by making a lengthwise cut in one side, cutting to but not through the opposite side; unfold. Spoon stuffing crab mixture evenly down center of one side of each butterflied fillet; fold opposite side over stuffing. Brush fillets with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place fillets on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Serve with Bacon-Mushroom Stone-Ground Grits and Cajun Rémoulade.

Alan’s Favorite Chicken Salad
Makes: 6 servings   
4 (6-ounce) skinned and boned chicken breasts
1 (46-ounce) can pineapple juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1⁄2 cup toasted slivered almonds
3⁄4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries (optional)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lettuce leaves

            Directions: Bring chicken and next three ingredients to a light boil in a large  Dutch oven over medium heat; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 45 minutes or until chicken is tender. Remove from heat; drain. Cool chicken 10 minutes; shred chicken with two forks. Combine chicken, almonds, mayonnaise, and cranberries, if desired, in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper. Serve on lettuce leaves.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Great books, authors, relaxing spa — does it get any better?

            What’s better than a retreat to a full-service spa in the hills outside Austin? How about a spa retreat that features book and authors?
            Lake Austin Spa near Austin is offering a “For the Love of Books Author Series” in which authors visit the resort and offer classes to participants as well as chances to enjoy spa services with them. Coming up in July is “Readers Love Romance” with New York Times bestselling authors Tessa Dare, Kerrelyn Sparks and Lori Wilde. There will be writing workshops, a wine and chocolate reception, wine and cheese chat and chances to enjoy activities with all three. Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nine historical romance novels and three novellas. Sparks is the New York Times bestselling author of the Love at Stake series that’s up to book 15 and Wilde is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 70 works of romantic fiction. 
            Coming up later this summer is Patricia Schultz, author of the international bestsellers “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” and “1,000 Places to See in the UnitedStates and Canada Before You Die” and Katrina Kenison, author of “The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir” and “Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment.”
            Lake Austin Spa is a full-service resort owned by Louisiana natives Michael W. McAdams, who lives in the Dallas area, and William W. Rucks IV of Lafayette. The two men met at LSU.

Cracker Jack Awards
            Who knew that Jim Davis, the director of the Center for the Book at the Louisiana State Library, was a Cracker Jack collector? And because of this knowledge Davis wrote the introductory first chapter history of Cracker Jack in “The CrackerJack Collection: Baseball’s Prized Players,” a book that celebrates the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest baseball card collections in the world. Recently, “The Cracker Jack Collection” by authors Tom Zappala and Ellen Zappala took the silver prize in the Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Awards, bumped out by “A Passion for Grouse: The Lore and Legend of America’s Premier Game Bird,” which took gold. Davis, who has a great sense of humor, quipped, “I think it should have been the gold winner, of course, but I won’t ‘grouse’ about it.”

New releases
            When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, Ibby is sent to live with her eccentric grandmother, Fannie, in New Orleans. Fannie’s African American cook, Queenie, and her daughter, Dollbaby, take the young girl under their wings and teach her the ways of the South, in addition to the dark secrets of Fannie’s house and life, in Laura Lane McNeal’s “Dollbaby.” McNeal discusses and signs copies of the book at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.

Books Talks
            The second Bayou State Books Talks by the UL-Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with Michael Marshall speaking about his book, “GallantCreoles: A History of the Donaldsonville Cannoniers,” at the South Regional Library, 6101 Johnston St. in Lafayette. The book explains the 19th-century Louisiana militia company, highlights its activities during the Civil War and includes biographies of each Donaldsonville Canonnier who served. The event is free and open to the public, and books will be available for purchase.

Book events
            The Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association’s upcoming lecture series “Clean Steams” will feature Dana Nunez Brown, who will speak about “Plants that Soak It Up and Slow the Flow” at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Southside Library. Brown is a Louisiana landscape architect and author of a new book, “Using Plants for Stormwater Management.” The talk will be free to the public, but reservations are required; visit www.BayouVermilionPreservation.org or call 591-1582.
            Voices Season Reading Series presents a special evening of literary readings by poets J. Bruce Fuller, Hillary Joubert and J.K. McDowell at 7 p.m. Thursday at Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar in downtown Lafayette. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Clare L. Martin at martin.clarel@gmail.com.
            Sam Irwin will sign “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the CajunCrustacean” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Old Governor’s Mansion, sponsored by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana.
            Cajun French poet Beverly Matherne will read from her work in French and English with accompaniment by professional drummer and percussionist Michael Tramonte at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ascension Parish Library-Gonzales Branch, 708 S. Irma Blvd. in Gonzales. A book signing and reception will follow. Free, but call to register at (225) 647-3955.
            Mark Sutter, author of “Edible Wild Plants of Texas,” will offer a four-hour workshop on finding edible plants from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Vermilionville in Lafayette. For more information and to register, contact Jolie Johnson by calling (337) 233-4077, Ext. 211 or email Vville@BayouVermilionDistrict.org.
            Several authors will be signing copies of their books at the Ville Platte Bastille Day festivities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Ville Platte Civic Center Pavilion. Authors include Mary Gehman, author of “The Free People of Color of New Orleans;” Jane Vidrine and Jean Kiesel, authors of “Evangeline Parish;” and John LaFleur, author of “Laissez Les Bontemps Rouler: Could ‘Louisiana French’ Have Survived Without the Acadians? Commerce, Confusion & the Consequences of ‘Cajun’ Cultural Identity.”
            To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion at Normandy, which was June 6, Lafayette novelist Dennis Ward and documentary filmmaker Bonnie Friedman will present their related artworks at 3 p.m. Saturday at Cité des Arts Theater in downtown Lafayette. Ward will discuss his historical novel, “Mademoiselle Gigi,” based on a true story of Gisèle “Gigi” Carriton, a young Jewish girl who survived the Nazi occupation of France. Friedman will screen her documentary “Operation Sussex,” which honors the men and women of a secret allied spy mission. The author and filmmaker will answer questions and have books and DVDs available for purchase and signing. For further information, contact Ward at (337) 453-0726 or ZydecoDen@bellsouth.net.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Orleans librarian wins Lemony Snicket award

            I'm a writer so I'm a stickler for not stealing other people's work. But Shelf Awareness reported on the American Library Association today and mentioned that Laurence Copel (shown here seated on the right) won the inaugural Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity. She received $3,000, $1,000 in travel expenses, a certificate and "an odd object from Handlers's private collection" designed by New Orleans' own Mo Willems. (The Lemony Snicket books are written by Snicket which is actually author Daniel Handler.)
            Copel won the honors at the recent ALA’s Newbery Caldecott Banquet.
            Copel owns Jude Grove's Free Library in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. According to Shelf Awareness, "Copel moved from New York City to New Orleans in 2010 and opened a library in her home using her own money and some small donations." 
            Here’s where I do the stealing. I’m borrowing their photo (although I doubt they will mind since I'm linking them throughout). From left are Dora Ho, Los Angeles Public Library; Snicket; Nanette Perez, ALA's Intellectual Freedom office; Eric Suess, chair of the committee and director at Marshall Public Library in Pocatello, Idaho; Copel's son Kazumi Yamazoli; Copel; Julius C. Jefferson Jr., Library of Congress; and Barbara Jones,ALA's Intellectual Freedom office.
            If you’re not familiar with Shelf Awareness, it’s a great web site and newsletter spotlighting independent bookstores, authors and books.

Monday, June 30, 2014

More fun with photos

            Since I came out of the darkroom to being a thrift store photo hunter, I have come to realize I am not alone. After reading the June 29 column, Jim Davis, director of the Louisiana Center for the Book at the State Library of Louisiana, informed me of Ransom Riggs’ “Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescuedfrom the Past” and the odd photos inside the “Miss Peregrine Peculiar Children” books.
            “I have an unusual hobby,” Riggs writes in the introduction to his book, “I collect pictures of people I don’t know.”
            The book is full of odd photos of people doing fun and unusual things — sleeping on lawn chairs, drunk in the backyard, playing outlaws with guns — but it’s the accompanying comments that make it so wonderful. There’s a man hanging from a rope beneath a cactus with the inscription, “Me, believe it or not.” Or the person with his head literally in the sand, “The ostrich himself! (Phil).” A laughing woman from 1918 stands before the quote, “Treat me rough, kid.”
            Not all are funny; some are poignant and thought-provoking, like the happy soldiers glad to return home after a tour in Vietnam.
            If you want a story with your photos, the best-selling Miss Peregrine series by Riggs mixes up fiction with photography of children in strange poses that beg for a fun description.
            “Love that book,” Davis wrote me about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” “though Hollow City is not as good, as sequels often aren’t.”
            So now that I know there are more books out there to feed my own fascination with old photos, especially ones with crazy writings on the back, I have my reading cut out for me.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.