Monday, October 29, 2012

Photographer Slaughter, writer Melnick create beautiful homage to Grand Coteau

            Like many college students, interests in other parts of campus turn into careers. And so it was with John Slaughter, who studied English at Northwestern in Chicago but frequented the film department. Over time he honed his photography skills, and after returning from a trip to Guatemala looked for a new place to live in his home state of Louisiana.
             His wife found a teaching job in Grand Coteau and Slaughter began both a photography practice and a job at the Opelousas Daily World. In 1983, he and his wife opened The Kitchen Shop in Grand Coteau, then Catahoula’s Restaurant, known for its vibrant, oversized photos of Catahoula dogs.
            Slaughter has published a photographic tribute to the town he calls home titled “Grand Coteau” (UL Press), with photos of the historic town spanning 35 years (1977-2012). The book spotlights historic structures such as St. Charles Jesuit College and St. Charles Borromeo Church, but also the restoration of homes, street scenes, barnstormers, porch cats, barn billboards, fields and countryside and a host of the town’s residents.
            Patrice Melnick, who owns Casa Azul in Grand Coteau and organizer of the annual literary Festival of Words, has written the introduction and captions to the photos. She interviewed many of the people spotlighted in the book, providing fascinating insights into one of Louisiana’s jewels.
            A book release party and a presentation by Slaughter, who will discuss his vision and process as a photographer, will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Catahoula’s Restaurant, 234 Martin Luther King Drive in Grand Coteau. Special guests will share oral narratives about Grand Coteau and there will be light refreshments and books available for sale. For information, call Melnick at (337) 662-1032 or email

Gaines Award
            The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has named Stephanie Powell Watts winner of the 2012 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her novel “We Are Taking Only What We Need.”
            The award will be presented to Watts on Jan. 18, 2013, at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge. The ceremony starts at 6:30 p.m. followed by a reception. Both events are free and open to the public, though seating is limited and reservations are required for this cocktail-attire event; contact Jessica Boone at or (225) 387-6126.
             The Gaines Award includes a $10,000 cash prize and honors outstanding work from rising African-American authors while recognizing Gaines’ contribution to the literary world. 
            Published by BkMk Press, “We Are Taking Only What We Need” is a collection of short stories chronicling the lives of African-Americans in rural North Carolina. The book is Watts’ first and was named a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, the John Gardner Fiction Award, the USA Book News Award and the ForeWord Reviews Award.
            Watts is a faculty member at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. 
            Judges for the 2012 Gaines Award were Thomas Beller, award-winning author and professor of creative writing at Tulane University; Anthony Grooms, an author and creative writing professor at Kennesaw State University; Phillip Lopate, author and recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts grants and two New York Foundation for the Arts grants; Francine Prose, author of more than 20 books, including “Blue Angel,” a nominee for the 2000 National Book Award; and Patricia Towers, former features editor for O: The Oprah Magazine and a founding editor of Vanity Fair magazine.

Dupré sale
            The Friends of Dupré Library Annual Book Sale will be Nov. 8 through 10 on the first floor of the Edith Garland Dupré Library, 400 E. St. Mary Blvd. on the UL-Lafayette campus. Hardcover books will be sold for $1 and paperbacks 50 cents. The sale also includes LPs and other recordings, priced at $1 for singles and $2 for sets.
            The book sale will be 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Nov. 8 and 9, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10. Friends of the Library and UL faculty and staff are invited to a preview from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7.
            For more information, call (337) 482-6677.

New releases
            Dr. Roger Carpenter, associate professor of history at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, recently published “American Indian History Day by Day: A Reference Guide to Events.” The book lists historical events in American Indian history, and the day that each event occurred. 
            “The Mi’kmaq Anthology Volume 2: In Celebration of the Life of Rita Joe,” edited by Theresa Meuse, Lesley Choyce and Julia Swan, has been published by Pottersfield Press of Nova Scotia. The Mi’kmaq Native Americans inhabited Nova Scotia and other parts of the Canadian Maritimes, and came in contact with the Acadians.
            “The Delta Queen Cookbook: The History and Recipes of the Legendary Steamboat” by Cynthia Lejeune Nobles, published by LSU Press, features 125 recipes prepared by the steamboat’s former chefs during their tenures onboard.
            Ernestine Triplett, a native of Larose and now resident of Breaux Bridge, has published a memoir titled “Story of a Broken Handmaiden,” set within the communities of southeast Louisiana. The book is available as an ebook.
 Angela Quezada Bertone of Ponchatoula, a speaker and leader of spiritual retreats for women, has published a spiritual self-help book titled “Good Morning Sunshine.” The book is available on her web site, most online bookstores and at the Sonlife Christian Bookstore in Hammond.

Book events
             Katherine Soniat will read from and sign her sixth collection of poetry, “A Raft, A Boat, A Bridge,” at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the University of New Orleans Sandbar in New Orleans. This event is free and open to the public. Soniat’s “The Swing Girl,” published by LSU Press, was selected as Best Collection of 2011 by the Poetry Council of North Carolina and “A Shared Life” won the Iowa Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared recently in Women’s Review of Books, Hotel Amerika, and Crazyhorse. Soniat teaches in the Great Smokies Writers Program at UNC-Asheville.
            Last week I mentioned Peggy Sweeney-McDonald’s new book, “Meanwhile, Back at Café du Monde.”  Sweeney-McDonald and local contributor Chef Jay Ducote will be appearing from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at the Kitchenary at Heymann’s, 456 Heymann Blvd. in the Oil Center of Lafayette.
            Michael Allen Zell will sign copies of “Errata” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, followed by a reading and signing from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Faubourg Marigny Bookshop in New Orleans.
            Ron Thibodeaux will sign “Hell or High Water: How Cajun Fortitude Withstood Hurricanes Rita and Ike” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at the main Terrebonne Parish Library.
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