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