Monday, April 23, 2012

Louisiana honors World Book Night April 23; new titles appearing now

World Book Night is a celebration of reading and books throughout the nation on April 23. Tens of thousands of people will share half a million books with others tomorrow — literally giving books away — in an effort to spread the joy and love of reading. For example, Patrice Melnick of Grand Coteau will be passing out 20 copies of the “Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kinsolver and my son, Taylor Coen, will be passing out “The Kiterunner” by Khaled Hosseini on the UL campus. World Book Night is a nonprofit organization supported by American book publishers, the American Booksellers Association, Barnes & Noble, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers and Ingram Book Distributors. For more information, visit

Letters About Literature
            The State Library’s Louisiana Center for the Book announced the state winners of the Letters About Literature competition, a national reading-writing contest 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’ lives or worldviews.
            The Letters About Literature national headquarters received 787 entries from Louisiana students. From these were chosen Louisiana’s finalists. Winning entries for each level were then selected by a panel of judges comprised of Louisiana teachers and librarians. National winners will be announced in the spring.           
            The Louisiana winners of the competition are:
            Level I (grades 4–6), first place, Ella Frantzen, individual entry, Lafayette; second place, Emma Gruesbeck, and third place, Asia Pikes, NSU Laboratory School, Natchitoches.
            Level II (grades 7–8), first place, Imogen Hoffman, Ursuline Academy, New Orleans; second place, Olivia Gower, Our Lady of Fatima, Lafayette; third place, Olivia Parker, Baton Rouge International School.
            Level III (grades 9–12), first place, Lea Trusty, Destrehan High School, Destrehan; second place, Samantha Barnes, Northshore High School, Slidell; third place, Rebecca Aaron, Bolton High School, Alexandria. 
             Frantzen wrote to “Old Yeller” author Fred Gipson: “I love to read because reading takes me away. When I read your book, though, it did not take me anywhere. It brought me home.” 
            The Louisiana Writing Project serves as a partner in the state’s Letters About Literature contest. For a complete list of this year’s winners and finalists, visit

New releases
            Lafayette writing instructor Kim B. Graham experienced tragedy all mothers fear. Her son, Pvt. Mark W. Graham, was critically injured in Iraq and passed away five days later at Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Exactly a year to the day, Kim Graham dreamt of a glimpse of heaven, one she feels prepared her for Mark’s death and that brought her comfort and strength to face her intense grief. Her book relating both, “A Song in the Night,” is heartfelt, both an examination of a woman’s spiritual journey to understand the divine and its relationship in processing grief and sorrow. Beautifully written, it will bring comfort to those in similar situations, as well as for those searching for truth. The book is published by Dragonfly Press.
            Jay Mazza has written a book examining the New Orleans music scene of the 1980s and 1990s in “Up Front and Center: The New Orleans Music at the End of the 20th Century.” The book is published by The Threadhead Cultural Foundation, an organization that funds recording projects.
            James Houk has published “Humanus Diabolicus:  A Postmodern Prophecy” with Margaret Media based out of Donaldsonville, “an anthropological commentary on the human condition set in the form of an apocalyptic novel,” Houk wrote me by email. For more information, check out the trailer on or visit 
            Rhonda Dennis of Morgan City has published a series of romantic suspense books set in the fictional town of Green Bayou. Her latest release, “Déjà Vu,” is the third installment with the first two books, “Going Home” and “Awakenings,” both released in 2011. For information or to read sample chapters, visit

Book news
            A&E Gallery presents poetry and performances from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdsay at the gallery, 335 W. St. Peter St. in New Iberia. Authors include Jim McDowell, Stephanie Judice, Margaret Gibson Simon and a short film by James Edmunds. There will also be an open mic, book sales and refreshments.
            The Berries, Bridges and Books annual writer’s conference will be 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Ponchatoula Community Center, 350 N. Fifth St. in Ponchatoula. The keynote speaker will be C.E. Vetter with participating authors Sylvia Rochester, Allison Hoffman, Deborah Lynne, Christa Allan, Kathryn Martin, Barbara Colley, Diana Rowland, Barry Bradford, Mike Artell, Sim Shattuck, Susan Mustafa and Ellie James, among others. Visit for more information.
            Kathleen Calhoun Nettleton has become publisher and president of Pelican Publishing Company of New Orleans. The daughter of former Pelican president, Dr. Milburn Calhoun, who died in January, she is an LSU graduate and former assistant to the publisher. Calhoun worked in Pelican’s sales department during high school and college and joined Pelican full-time in 1983. She became promotion director in 1985 and assistant to the publisher in 2008.
            Before it’s too late, check out the finalists for the Country Roads 2012 Readers’ Choice Contest and vote for your favorite. The author of the story receiving the most votes will win a $200 cash prize, and their story published as the “Readers’ Choice” in the magazine’s June 2012 Regional Writings issue. To read the short stories, visit
            The deadline for the 2012 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition is May 15. Now in its 32nd year, the contest has had among their winners Heidi Durrow whose novel, “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky,” won The Bellwether Prize for Fiction and Naomi Benaron, who won the Bellwether in 2010, among others. For more information, visit
            The Alabama Writers Symposium will be April 26-28 in Monroeville, Alabama. 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