Sunday, February 26, 2012

'I'd like to thank the...writers?'

            Tonight is the worldwide spectacle known as the annual Academy Awards, where most likely more is spent on couture gowns, jewelry and parties than books. You might think that a silly statement, considering one has nothing to do with the other, but consider this — several of the movies nominated for Best Picture are based on literature.
            Nominated this year for Best Picture, films adapted to the screen from books, are: “The Help” (book by Kathryn Stockett), “The Descendants” (by Kaui Hart Hemmings), “Hugo” (based on “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selnick) and “Moneyball” (by Michael Lewis). Other film adaptations up for Oscars tonight include “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy” (book by John le Carré) and “The Ideas of March” (based on Beau Willimon’s play “Farragut North”).
(If you want to learn more about these films, visit but go all the way down the page to find where the writer accolades are buried. If you think that was a snide remark, you’d be correct.)
Closer to home is “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” for Best Animated Short. The film directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg celebrates the healing power of books and stories and was produced by Shreveport’s Moonbot Studios, its first released animation.
            Of course I’m partial but not just because this incredibly lovely film was produced in Louisiana or that it premiered in Lafayette in early 2011. The 15-minute movie follows Mr. Morris Lessmore who loses everything in a storm, a combination of Hurricane Katrina and “The Wizard of Oz.” His world turns black and white and all seems lost until he spies what appears to be a librarian carried through the clouds by a host of flying books. The stories he discovers within her library bring color back into his life. 
            For lovers of books and hopeless romantics, you’ll find this incredibly gentle, poignant film will tug at your heart. I choke up every time.
            The iPad app of the book was one of the best-selling apps in history so I’m not alone, and a hardback book is planned with Simon & Schuster later this year.
            Movies are a lovely thing, one of my most favorite pastimes. But they all start somewhere. I hope Hollywood remembers from whence all good things come and the joy that books bring, whether holding a story within two hands or watching it dance upon a silver screen.

Goodnight Acadiana
            Lesley Crawford Costner has penned a delightful children’s book examining the beauty, history and people of Acadiana titled “Goodnight Acadiana.” Illustrated by Camille Barnes, the book says goodnight to the many aspects that make up Cajun Country, with Lafayette at its center — Henderson Swamp, the Ragin’ Cajuns, local restaurants, St. John’s Cathedral, the Evangeline Oak and much more. In addition, there’s a wonderful explanation of Acadiana in the book’s opening, plus definitions in the back titled “Lagniappe.” If you’re looking for a sweet book for children that defines Cajun Country with lovely illustrations, “Goodnight Acadiana” is a perfect fit. For more information, visit

New releases
Pelican Publishing of New Orleans has published a fun collection of cartoons by Bill Bryant of Natchitoches in honor of the not-so-bright armadillo. “The Armadillo Book” pokes fun at the creature’s tragic relationship with roads and truck drivers, gets creative with its unusual armor and shape and enjoys some puny moments. Those who can’t help passing an upside down armadillo on the side of the road and pondering its unfortunate fate will enjoy this book and have a few laughs. Bryant is the former head of the Department of Fine and Graphic Arts at Northwestern State in Natchitoches.
            Curt Iles, a Louisiana storyteller and author of eight novels, has published “Uncle Sam: A Horse’s Tale,” a children’s book that is a companion to Iles’ recent release, “A Spent Bullet.” Both books are set in Louisiana in 1941 during the weeks leading up to Pearl Harbor. Iles is a native of Dry Creek and writes of swamps, creeks and piney woods in western Louisiana. For more information or to purchase his books, visit

Writes of Spring
The Acadiana Writing Project, UL-Lafayette’s Creative Writing Program and the Lafayette Public Library are hosting the 2012 Writes of Spring Writing Contest. Students in grades K-12 who reside in Lafayette, St. Landry, Acadia, St. Martin, Vermilion and Iberia parishes are eligible. Participants may submit an original work in English or French in the genres of poetry, fiction or nonfiction. High school students may also submit works in drama. First-, second- and third-place winners in grades 9-12 will be honored at a Young Writers Ceremony and reception April 25 at South Regional Library, 6101 Johnston Street. First-place winners will have their works published in UL’s literary journal, “The Southwestern Review.” Following the awards ceremony, Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane will present a special reading. First-, second- and third-place winners for K–8 grades will be honored at a Young Writers Ceremony and reception April 21 at South Regional Library. All winners will be notified by phone in advance of the ceremonies; names will be posted on the library website,, on April 10. The deadline for submissions is March 30. For guidelines and forms, visit the Lafayette Library web site at

Book events
Arlene Hebert, author of the children’s series of books titled “Angeltale Adventures” will speak at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, at the Abbeville Branch of the Vermilion Parish Library. For more information, call (337) 893-2674.
The Writers’ Guild of Acadiana will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St. in Lafayette. WGA is an organization made up of local writers, published and unpublished, who share and gain knowledge in the craft of writing. Beginners and veterans of the writing industry are welcome.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” 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

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

March into LA library book sales

Spring means cleaning out the old and bringing in the new books! Here are library sales happening in the Bayou State in March:
First up is the LSU Libraries Friends of the Libraries Annual Book Bazaar March 1-3 at the LSU Mini-Farm and Nelson Memorial buildings on the LSU campus. More than 65,000 used books will be for sale from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 1 and 2 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 3.
Books of interest include The Hamilton Collection 18th and 19th century leather-bound books, rare Louisiana items, “The Architectural Style of A. Hays Town” and more.
Proceeds from the bazaar help to fund special purchases for the Libraries' collections, and come from the sale of donated books.
For more information, call the Book Barn at (225) 578-5925. Leave a message and a Friend will call you back.
The Friends of the Lafayette Library will hold their spring book sale from Thursday through Saturday, March 8-10, at the Heymann Convention Center Ballroom, 1373 College Road in Lafayette. Books will be sold by the inch and include a large variety of subjects.
For a small fee you can join the Friends and be admitted to the Friends Members Only night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 7. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 8 and 9, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 10.
For more information, call (337) 501-9209.
The Friends of the Jefferson Public Library will conduct its semi-annual Big Book Sale beginning on Thursday, March 29, at the Pontchartrain Center, 4545 Williams Blvd. at the Lake, in Kenner. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, March 29-31 and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 1.
More than 60,000 gently used books, puzzles, DVDs, CDs, videotapes, music tapes, and vinyl records will be offered for sale. According to members of the Friends of the Jefferson Public Library, the sale includes an exceptional collection of collectibles, art, travel, history, military and Civil War books.
For more information, call (504) 455-2665 or email at
Have a book sale you want to promote? Let me know at

Monday, February 20, 2012

Broussard honors African Americans of Lafayette, Southwest Louisiana

Sherry T. Broussard of Lafayette has entertained audiences for more than 30 years with her innovative, award-winning storytelling. She is an educator, former academic librarian, researcher and community activist and has produced black history and cultural programs in regional schools, churches, libraries and museums. Broussard is also the founder and president of Bayouland Storytellers Guild of Southwest Louisiana and the Just Write Cultural Arts Group and cofounder of Malunda African-American Book Club. This month, Broussard’s “Images of America: African Americans in Lafayette and Southwest Louisiana” by Arcadia Publishing has been published. Broussard will hold a book signing at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St. in Lafayette and at 2 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Paul and LuLu Hilliard University Art Museum on the UL-Lafayette campus.

Cornell Landry, author of “Goodnight NOLA” and other children’s picture books has published a new children’s book just in time for Carnival season. “Happy Mardi Gras,” illustrated by Sean Gautreaux, teaches children the history of Carnival. 

If you’re headed to New Orleans for Mardi Gras fun, try the “Food Lovers’ Guide to New Orleans,” a pocket sized book by Becky Retz, a staff writer with The Times-Picayune, and James Gaffney, a travel writer who lives in New Orleans.

And speaking of The Times-Picayune, the newspaper is celebrating its 175-year anniversary with a commemorative book titled “Our Times — New Orleans through the Pages of The Times-Picayune.”

Louisiana publisher Margaret Media has published an end-of-the-world scenario with philosophical lessons titled “Humanus Diabolicus: A Postmodern Prophecy” by Baton Rouge author James Houk. The fantasy-New Age novel is available through and local booksellers such as Cottonwood Books in Baton Rouge. To reserve a signed copy, call (225) 343-1266.

Michael Dan Jones, author of “The Tiger Rifles: The Making of a Louisiana Legend,” will give a talk on these Louisiana Confederates at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Young-Sanders Center at 701 Teche Drive in Franklin. Jones will display a reproduction Tiger Zouave uniform, Baton Rouge Arsenal accoutrements and a Mississippi rifle like those worn and carried by the unit. He will also have on display several art prints featuring the Tiger Rifles. The Tiger Rifles, Company B, of Wheat’s Battalion became famous because of their flashy Zouave uniforms, battalion commander Major Roberdeau Wheat and their heroics at First Battle of Manassas. Their nickname, Tigers, became attached, first to the battalion, and then to all Louisiana troops serving in the Army of Northern Virginia.  Jones co-authored “Lee’s Foreign Legion: A History of the 10th Louisiana Infantry Regiment” with Thomas Walter Brooks. The Southwest Louisiana Historical Association has published a series of books by Jones, including “Southwest Louisiana in the War Between the States,” “Southwest Louisianians Defend the Nation” and “Adventures in Old Calcasieu.” The lecture is free. For more information, contact the Young-Sanders Center at (337) 413-1861 or

Terry Bethea will sign copies of her children’s book, “Why Snails are Slow” at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St., Lafayette.

Casa Azul in Grand Coteau will offer a French open mic at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23. Free. Participants may share poems, stories, songs and other forms of creative expression in French, either borrowed or original. For more information, call (337) 662-1032.

The South Regional Branch Library will screen “Precious,” the first film directed by a black director (Lee Daniels) to be nominated for Best Picture at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23. The screening is part of a series by the Lafayette Parish Library Black History Month.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” 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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Can Louisiana rise to the top?

            USA Today recently reported the top 10 most literate cities in the United States and Washington, D.C., came out ahead with Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis, San Francisco and Denver following.
            This rating is “based on data that includes number of bookstores, library resources, newspaper circulation and Internet resources,” said Central Connecticut State University President Jack Miller.
            My question is, with all the great writing pouring out of the South, why aren’t we higher on the list? So my challenge to you, dear readers, is to read more, stay informed, enjoy our fabulous libraries (and Louisiana is tops in that regard) and get Louisiana on this list!
            Here’s one way to start. “One for the Money” starring Katherine Heigl has hit movie theaters. Did you know the film is based on the Janet Evanovich novel and Heigl plays the recurring character of Stephanie Plum? So if you enjoy the movie, go read the many, many Stephanie Plus books out there.
            Two other recent films based on novels are “Albert Nobbs,” based on the short story “The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs” by George Moore, starring Glenn Close and “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” based on the novel by Lionel Shriver. But as Mary Wortley Montagu once said, “No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.”

Abbeville Library

Author, storyteller and educator Cheri Armentor will give a dramatic and interpretive presentation on Le Courir de Mardi Gras at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, at the Abbeville Library. Her performance includes the story she published, “Le Courir du Mardi Gras — The Chicken that Got Away” with Cajun French music and language. Children will ride on hobby horses, dance for the audience, throw Mardi Gras beads and beg for gumbo ingredients.
Also at the Abbeville Library:
Glass Artist Ginger Kelly offers a Fleur De Lis/Mardi Gras inspired glass art workshop for teens and adults from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9; call (337) 893-2674 to register. Note: Kelly has moved her glass gallery into the space formerly a coffee shop in Breaux Bridge, along with Sonny Monteleone’s Bella Arti custom framing and photography.
A short film by Joe York titled “To Live and Die in Avoyelles Parish” will be shown from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the day on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
For more information on the Abbeville Library, call (337) 893-2674.

Friends Luncheon

The Friends of the Opelousas–Eunice Public Library presents “Love You Libraries” membership luncheon with Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne as the featured speaker from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) at Evangeline Downs Event Center in Opelousas. To reserve a spot or for more information, call (337) 942-3879 (Opelousas) or (337) 550-1380 (Eunice). Just don’t dally; it sold out last year.
A bit of history about the St. Landry Parish libraries — they are the only parish where libraries are not part of a parish-wide system. The money raised by Friends memberships and this luncheon will help to build up the two municipalities library system, in addition to combating illiteracy within the parish, said Gerald Patout, library director at LSU-Eunice.
“Illiteracy remains a huge problem in the parish and until the needs for improved and expanded public library services are addressed in a meaningful and substantial way, this drift into economic stagnation and deteriorating educational opportunities will simply continue,” Patout wrote me by email.
OK readers, here’s a great opportunity to get involved, fight illiteracy and do something wonderful for yourself. Attend the luncheon and meet the heroes in our community, our wonderful librarians!
Mark Twain is believed to have said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

Jambalaya Conference
The ninth annual Jambalaya Writers’ Conference will be Saturday, March 31, at the Terrebonne Main Library in Houma. The keynote speaker will be Pulitzer Prize-winning memoirist and journalist Rick Bragg (left), author of two best-selling memoirs, “All Over but the Shoutin’” and “Ava’s Man.” “The Prince of Frog Town” is his latest, completing the trilogy. Other speakers include Mary Kay Andrews, Eileen Dreyer, Heather Graham, Damon Stentz, Brigett Scott, Robert San Souci, Dianne de Las Casas, Chris Cenac, Claire Joller and poet laureates Julie Kane and Darrel Bourque, along with Jack Bedell, David Middleton, John Doucet and Alison Pelegrin. That’s just a tip of the iceberg. There will also be a visiting agent and editors, plus a free critique to those registered for the conference (deadline Feb. 17). The cost for everything, including lunch, is only $30 if you register by March 16; after that the conference will cost $35. Registrations are accepted at the door.  Special accommodation rates are available at the Courtyard Marriott, across the street from the library. For information, visit
Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” 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