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