Louisiana Book News by Cheré Dastugue Coen

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Letters About Literature award winners announced

The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana announced the 2014 winners of the annual Letters About Literature contest, a national reading-writing competition that asks students to write a personal letter to an author or poet, living or dead, explaining how that writer's work impacted the students’ life or worldview.
Two students from Episcopal School of Acadiana received awards out of 198 Louisiana entries.
The 2014 winners from throughout the state are:

Level I (grades 3–5) first place, Peter Menard, Episcopal School of Acadiana and second place Emily Adcock, Lakewood Elementary, Luling;
            Level II (grades 6–8) first place, Ewan Todt-Tutchener, Episcopal School of Acadiana; second place, Marcus Lewis, Lusher Charter School, New Orleans and third place, Celeste Mercadel, Lusher Charter School, New Orleans;
            Level III (grades 9–12) first place, Hayden Brewster, St. Paul’s School, Covington and second place, Ashton Van Deventer, St. Paul’s School, Covington.
              State winners will be recognized at the Louisiana Book Festival on Oct. 31. Winners will be awarded $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place, made possible by a Library of Congress grant. Louisiana’s first place winners’ entries have been submitted to the Library of Congress for the national competition.
              To read the winners’ letters visit here. Letters About Literature is presented in partnership with the Library of Congress Center for the Book and the Louisiana Writing Project.

Louisiana Book News is written by Cheré Coen, the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Greg Iles continues best-selling series with 'Bone Tree'

Some things come in small packages, others in sizes much like Harry Potter. Such is the latter of Greg Iles’s latest book in his gothic trilogy featuring Southern lawyer Penn Cage. “The Bones Tree” follows the first book in the thriller series, the New York Times best-selling “Natchez Burning.” Since I have not finished this captivating — and quite large — novel at press time, here’s the gist: Cage and his fiancée, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi’s most powerful men. But the real danger begins when FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn’t the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who controls the terrorist group is the chief of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox. The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage—who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him—is either to make a bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles’ downfall. The trail leads to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over 200 years, a place of terrifying evil known only as “the bone tree.”
Iles will be signing “The Bone Tree” at 6 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble, 2590 Citiplace Court in Baton Rouge.

At the library
            Last week I was asked to do two programs at the Ouachita Parish Library in West Monroe — with librarians/branch managers Kathy Franks at West Ouachita and Vicky Powell at Searcy Memorial. Both the hospitality of the librarians and the kindness of the people who arrived to discuss my latest books was overwhelming.
            That following Saturday I was honored to be part of more than 40 authors attending the annual Authors Row at the Jones Creek Library in Baton Rouge, an event the librarians host to support local writers. I got to sit next to one of my most favorite people in the world, David Atwood, a voice-over specialist from Alexandria who’s written two amazing poetry collections.
            In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I think Louisiana libraries and the people who run them unsung heroes of the literary world. Not only are libraries the pulsing hearts of our communities but on the front end of the fight against illiteracy. Plus, they help writers keep the lights on and get us out of our dark little corners where we work in solitude.
            I’m in awe of these wonderful people and I can’t thank them enough.
            One of the authors I reconnected with at my West Monroe workshop was Phil Sims of West Monroe, author of the Christian thriller surrounding a returning Vietnam soldier in “Not Without Purpose.” The book follows returning Eric Sanderson who reconnects with a high school friend, Johnny “Slick” Matthews, and ends up with a dead man in Matthews’ truck. The men dump the body where two Boy Scouts are beginning a hike on the Appalachian Trail and so begins the tale.
Sims, a Vietnam veteran and a Boy Scout scoutmaster, related how his publisher will be going out of business at the end of April so get your copies of this captivating novel now before it’s too late. Amazon and Barnes & Noble online also offer the book in ebook format, and if you still want a future paperback, Sims will be republishing.
            Today is the last day of National Library Week, but every week is a good time to visit your local library. 

Poetry Month
In celebration of National Poetry Month, the Louisiana Center for the Book is offering its fifth annual Just Listen to Yourself: The Louisiana Poet Laureate Presents Louisiana Poets from noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the State Library Seminar Center in Baton Rouge. Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Haymon will host the event and poets from throughout the state will read their works, including Ralph Adamo, Jack B. Bedell, Darrell Bourque, Carlos Colón, Peter Cooley, Dorothy Early Davis, Gina Ferrara, Ashley Mace Havird, Julie Kane, Madeleine LeCesne, Melinda Palacio, Alison Pelegrin, Chancelier “Xero” Skidmore, Afton Wilky and Andy Young. Listen to Yourself is free and open to the public. Attendees are invited to bring brown bag lunches and come and go as their schedules allow. For more information visit www.state.lib.la.us.

Book events
“Making Medicine: Finding Health in Your Kitchen” will be offered from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Alexandre Mouton House/Lafayette Museum, 1122 Lafayette St. in downtown Lafayette. Local author, Master Gardener and medicinal herb enthusiast Lanier Cordell will explain how ordinary kitchen items can help keep you well. Refreshments will be served.
         The Jeanerette Museum is hosting a history talk by Robert Allen Alexander Jr. on “Last Island: The First Storm” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 22. Alexander, head of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Nicholls State University, will discuss what is considered Louisiana’s first great storm, the hurricane of 1856. He will draw from the books, “Chita: A Memory of Last Island” and “Last Days of Last Island,” to bring to life the chaos and devastation of the category four hurricane and its effect on Louisiana. For more information on this free program suitable for an adult audience, contact the Jeanerette Museum at (337) 276-4408, visit their webpage at JeaneretteMuseum.com or email the museum at jeanerettemuseum@yahoo.com.
            Kimberly Willis Holt, author of “Dear Hank Williams,” will be signing books at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23, at Octavia Books in New Orleans. Holt is the author of the many award-winning novels for young adults and children, including “The Water Seeker,” “My Louisiana Sky” and “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town,” winner of a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She is also the author of the bestselling Piper Reed series of chapter books and several picture books. For more information, visit http://www.kimberlywillisholt.com/.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cookbook Thursday: Prohibition in New Orleans

When Prohibition ruled the land folks in New Orleans weren’t always following the rules. Shocking, we know. A fun book reflecting the time and the city’s lack of obedience is “Shaking Up Prohibition in New Orleans: Authentic Vintage Cocktails from A to Z” by New Orleans artist Olive Leonhardt (illustrator of the New Orleans literary magazine The Double Dealer) and political activist Hilda Phelps Hammond. 
The duo produced this collection of illustrated recipes and alphabetic poetry in 1929 and the guide has been cleverly reproduced by LSU Press, edited by Gay Leonhardt, granddaughter of Olive and curator of shows for The Center of Photography at Woodstock and The Hermitage Museum and Gardens, among others. 
Leonhardt will sign copies of her book at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, at Octavia Books in New Orleans.
Here’s a sampling from the book:

Jitters one can best express
In jabbering words of emptiness,
Birdie witted, episodic
Also tant soit peu nomadic (slightly nomadic or slightly aimless),
Paracme (when crisis of fever has ended) to every smile,
Rococo but so worth while!

1 teaspoon of sugar
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 glass of gin

Monday, April 13, 2015

LSU Press releases 'Acadian Odyssey' paperback

            LSU Press has released the paperback edition of “Acadian Odyssey,” the 1955 book by Oscar William Winzerling that details the history of the Acadian expulsion. Winzerling, a Roman Catholic priest and educator who received his Ph.D. in history from the University of California–Berkeley, uncovered and researched documents in European national and private archives to explain the story of the expulsion of the Acadians from their homeland in Nova Scotia and the subsequent journey through America, England and France that led them to Louisiana. The new edition includes a foreword by Carl A. Brasseaux, Acadian history, author of more than 30 books and a former history professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
New releases
            Idealist Jay Mize believes he can start an organic farm among the Mississippi hills and throws his passion and finances into a farm beside a river. When the river floods his land and Mize loses everything, his wife leaves him and he struggles to stay alive. In the midst of his now paranoid agony, Mize discovers a dead body on his flooded fields and hides the body instead of reporting it to the authorities. Such begins Jamie Kornegay’s debut novel, “Soil,” deemed “the arrival of an exquisitely deranged new voice to American fiction” by author Jonathan Milles. Kornegay will read from and sign his haunting gothic Southern novel at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.
            L. Kevin Coleman became a flamenco guitarist at 17, performing for José Greco and his Spanish dance company, then attended the Royal Conservatory of Music. He graduated Tulane Law School in 1979 and has practiced law in New Orleans ever since. Coleman has published a novel, “Different Springs,” and he will offer a flamenco guitar presentation accompanied by a flamenco dancer, plus a reading and signing of his book at 6 p.m. Saturday at Octavia Books in New Orleans.

Gaines Award
         Writers, freshen up the keyboard! Entries are now being accepted for the ninth annual Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, an award that includes a $10,000 cash prize. Sponsored by Baton Rouge Area Foundation donors, the Gaines Award honors outstanding fiction (novels or short-story collections) from rising African-American authors in honor of Louisiana native Gaines’ contribution to the literary world. The 2014 winner was Mitchell S. Jackson for “The Residue Years,” which was also named an Honor Book by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.
Previous award winners include “The Cutting Season” by Attica Locke, “We Are Taking Only What We Need” by Stephanie Powell Watts, who also won a Whiting Writers’ Award and “How to Read the Air” by Dinaw Mengestu, who was selected as a MacArthur Fellow in 2012. Entries will be accepted through Aug. 15. For more information, visit www.ernestjgainesaward.org.

Louisiana Book News is written by Cheré Coen, the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “ExploringCajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.