Monday, April 8, 2013

'Swamper' brings children into Louisiana wetlands

            Naturalist and environmental educator Amy Griffin Ouchley was leading a nature hike when she spied a rabbit, larger than eastern cottontails and able to swim. Vowing to her group that she would research this rabbit, Ouchley later found letters in a hollow stump near her house from “Swamper,” the swamp rabbit, all of which have made it into a delightful book titled “Swamper: Letters from a Swamp Rabbit” by LSU Press.
             The children’s nature and science book, geared toward 8- to 12-year-olds, offers lessons about life in a Louisiana swamp, accented by brilliant photographs, questions from the author for students to ponder and related activities for children to create. Students will learn about Swamper’s role in the web of life, animals that prey on rabbits, migratory and resident birds in the wetlands and much more.
            “Swamper” provides a fun way to learn environmental science and would make a great complement to elementary school classrooms and nature centers.
            Ouchley received the Conservation Educator of the Year Award in 2011 from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and she lives in northeast Louisiana with her naturalist and author husband, Kelby Ouchley, near an overflow swamp.

Poetry Month
            April is National Poetry Month and the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana will present its third annual “Just Listen to Yourself: The Louisiana Poet Laureate Presents Louisiana Poets” program.
            Julie Kane, Louisiana poet laureate, will host the event from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the State Library Seminar Center, 701 N. Fourth St. in Baton Rouge. Poets from around the state will join Kane in readings of their work, including Nordette Adams, Jack B. Bedell, Darrell Bourque, Gina Ferrara, Charles Garrett, Christopher Hannan, Ava Leavell Haymon, Elizabeth King, Laura Mullen, Melinda Palacio and Jennifer Reeser. (Bedell, Haymon and Mullen are all nominees for the next Louisiana poet laureateship.)
            Registration is not required for this free event. Attendees are invited to bring brown bag lunches.

Clark to speak at ULL
            The Department of History and Geography and the Center for Louisiana Studies will host Tulane University Clement Chambers Benenson professor of American colonial history and associate professor of history Emily Clark at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the UL Alumni Center for a free lecture and book signing. Clark will speak on her new book, “The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World.”

            Through research in the New Orleans archives, Clark found that free women of color with ancestral roots in New Orleans were as likely to marry in the 1820s as white women. And marriage, not concubinage, was the basis of their family structure.
            The lecture and book signing is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Mary Farmer-Kaiser at 482-5206 or email

            “Extraordinary Recipes from New Orleans Chef’s Table” by Lorin Gaudin, with photography by Romney Caruso, highlights interesting dishes from the city’s famed restaurants. Each restaurant chapter spotlights the owners and chefs along with recipes and full-color photos. The book also includes special sections on farmer’s markets, gourmet food trucks and the like. Gaudin is also the author of “86 Recipes New Orleans: Recipe Cards From Top Restaurants for the Home Kitchen.”
            One of my favorite cookbooks so far this year is “Fred Thompson’s Southern Side: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate.” Veteran cookbook author Fred Thompson has compiled a host of great Southern sides, what he called the “apex of Southern cooking,” in easy recipes.

Film fundraiser
            The Festival of Words and Cane Fire Film Series presents an evening of beat poetry, silent auction and a special screening of “Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder” at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cite Des Arts, 109 Vine St. in downtown Lafayette.
            The evening begins with beat poetry performances by local poets Jerry McGuire and others and the silent auction includes handmade quilts, art glass by Karen Bourque, paintings by William Turley and more. The film begins at 8 p.m., a documentary by director Christopher Felver on poet, playwright, publisher and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti who helped to spark the San Francisco literary renaissance of the 1950s and the subsequent “Beat” movement.
            Food and drinks will be available through Cité des Arts’ Station Café. Tickets are $15 on sale at Cite and Casa Azul Gifts in Grand Coteau.
            For information, call (337) 662-1032, 356-5153 or visit and

Library events
            Mary Ann Armbruster will speak on how to create easy, low-maintenance home gardens at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the North Regional Library in Lafayette. A children’s project to create flower seed pockets will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday at South Regional Library. For more information on Lafayette Library events, visit

Book events
            The Writers’ Guild of Acadiana is sponsoring an Editing Workshop on Saturday at Johnson Street Java. The cost is $15 per member and $20 for non-members. Editors speaking will be Evan Moore of the Daily World, Sevie Ashley of 008 magazine, blogger and The Independent writer Anna Purdy and Judy Johnson, retired editor who worked for The Times of Acadiana, Acadiana Gazette and numerous other publications. Bring your laptops!
            Rita Leganski signs copies of “The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow” at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.
            The annual Jambalaya Writers Conference Saturday  at the Terrebonne Parish Main Library in Houma features keynote speaker Tim O’Brien, author of “The Things They Carried.” Other presenters include biographer Leo Honeycutt; novelists Ernest Hill, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Heather Graham; non-fiction authors Carolyn Long and Shirley Laska; children’s author and storyteller Rose Anne St. Romain; poets Ava Leavell Haymon, Jay Udall, and William Bradford Clark. Literary agents Page Wheeler and Rachel Eckstrom and editors Rose Hilliard, Katherine DePalma, and Monique Patterson will be there as well. The cost is $35 and includes lunch. Visit for more information.
            Three Covington authors will offer a program titled "Memories to Memoirs: Remembering Covington in Your Writing" at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Center of Performing Arts on 201 North Columbia St. in Covington. Authors include Christian Garcia, author of “Now and Always: A Louisiana Love Story;” Pat Fuhrmann Clanton, author of “A Potpourri of Memories — Growing Up in Covington” and David Arbo, author of “Covington: Images of America.” The event is free. For information, call Sharon Nunez at 892.2254 or email her at

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