Sunday, August 31, 2014

Opelousas's Ken Wheaton enjoys Cajun family dynamics in 'Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears'

             Ken Wheaton of Opelousas, author of “The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival” set in St. Landry Parish, has published a new novel with Louisiana ties, “Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears,” where a freak accident forces a New Yorker to return to Louisiana and confront her Cajun past. The novel centers on Katie-Lee Fontenot, who goes by Katherine Fontenot in her new New York life. She’s one of several sisters with equally hyphenated names and two brothers hailing from St Landry Parish, a place no doubt where Wheaton mines his colorful characters. Katie-Lee’s upbringing around strong family members and a tragic incident in her youth forces her north and she’s not happy about heading home again years later. Her trip back to Acadiana forces her to confront old truths and a few misunderstandings, not to mention those crazy Cajuns she calls family. It’s a fun book with a few laugh out loud moments, not to mention heartfelt touches that invariably lie beneath tough sibling behavior. Many Louisianans will recognize family members. Wheaton, who now lives in Brooklyn, is the managing editor of the trade publication Advertising Age.

New releases
            Emmy Award-winning documentary film producer Sally Rosenthal pens a fun tale about a group of frogs who assist Minnie Feinsilver when she drops her pot of matzo ball soup in “Matzo Frogs.” Since Minnie had to help a friend with a broken leg, she losses her Shabbat meal and her cousins are due that evening. The neighborhood frogs hear of her predicament and decide to help out, putting together matzo ball soup following Minnie’s kosher recipe. They even throw in some matzo in the shape of a frog, which tips Minnie off on who made the soup. In payment , Minnie leaves a bowl on the window that night. David Sheldon illustrates the charming book about Jewish traditions told in an unusual way.
            Best-selling author Laura Childs travels to New Orleans during Halloween for No. 12 in her Scrapbook Mystery series. Scrapbook maven Carmela Bertrand discovers the owner of Oddities Antiques murdered and a Napoleon death mask stolen in “GossamerGhost.” In addition to a good mystery, there are scrapbooking tips and New Orleans-style recipes.
            New Iberia librarian and romance author Lynn Shur has published several new romances, the latest “Always Yellow Roses,” released this week. The book concerns a feud between the Courville and Niles families in the 19th century. More than 100 years later, reincarnated lovers are destined to end the feud with their marriage but hatred still flares between the two families.  
            Carol McMichael Reese has authored “New Orleans Under Reconstruction: The Crisis of Planning” with contributors, looking at the variety of responses from politicians, writers, architects and planners in the restoration of New Orleans and examining how to plan for the future. She and several contributors will discuss and sign the book at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, at the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.

Lafayette Gazette
            The Lafayette Gazette newspaper was established in 1893, representing a faction of the Democratic Party opposed to the Democractic Party view of the Lafayette Advertiser. The weekly paper was published on Saturdays and existed until 1908, when it merged with the Advertiser. The original bound papers were kept intact by Jeanne Mouton Jeanmard and William H. Mouton and will be donated to the Special Collections Archives of UL’s Edith Garland Dupre Library at 10 a.m. Friday in the Jefferson Caffery Reading Room. Digital scans of the Gazette can viewed online here.

Author Dinner
            The Friends of the Lafayette Library have chosen award-winning newspaper columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson to the Friends’ annual Author Dinner. Johnson is the author of “Poor Man’s Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana” and “Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming.” The dinner will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Petroleum Club. For information or to order tickets, call 984-8661.

Fearless Voices
            “Fearless Voices of the Struggle: A Spoken Word Stage Play,” directed by Tony Wilson, features a cast of spoken word artists, writers and performers collaborating on this exhibit of activism through art that tackles themes such as sexual assault, relationships, religion and racism. The performance begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at UL’s Burke Hall. Tickets are $15.

Library cards
            September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, a time to remind people that enjoying your local library is the best value imaginable. Library cards are free and are the gateway to wonderful services, such as computer usage, study rooms, videos, music, downloadable materials and so much more. Of course, it’s also filled with wonderful books. All you need is a form of ID and this magical kingdom is yours. What are you waiting for?

Book events
            Katy Simpson Smith of Jackson, Miss., will sign copies of her debut novel, “TheStory of Land and Sea,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, at Maple Street Book Shops in New Orleans and at 6 p.m. Thursday at Octavia Books in New Orleans. Smith has been working as an adjunct professor at Tulane University and is the author of “We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835.”
            Author Johnette Downing will perform a concert at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park Visitor’s Center from 11 a.m. to noon Friday, Sept. 5, with a booksigning to follow at noon at A Tisket a Tasket on Decatur Street in New Orleans.
            Gary Stewart and Susan Mustafa sign “The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father... and Finding the Zodiac Killer” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at Barnes & Noble, 5705 Johnston St, in Lafayette.
            The Bayouland Storytellers Guild of Southwest Louisiana present folktales and fairy tales for ages 4-12 at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at the South Regional Library. Donations of canned fruit and vegetables will be accepted, to benefit the Council on Aging-Meals on Wheels Program.
            The Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services will offer a “Writing the Breakout Novel Intensive Seminar” Sept. 15-21 at the Whispering Woods Hotel and Conference Center in Olive Branch, Miss. Literary agent Donald Maass, author of the “Writing the Breakout Novel,” will teach daily classes. Registration is limited to 35 students. For information, visit

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana,” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History” from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Louisiana Book Festival announces WordShops for 2014

            The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library will host five WordShops on Friday, Oct. 31, in Baton Rouge, the day before the Louisiana Book Festival.
            Fellowship of Southern Writers member Jill McCorkle, author of four story collections and six novels, presents “Finding the Story,” a fiction workshop focusing on showing and telling the story one has always wanted to write. 
            Mark Dunn, a genre-busting novelist, leads young writers in “Breaking the Rules: A Teen Writing Workshop for the Creatively Hyperactive,” an exploration of the non-traditional ways of expressing oneself with language.
            Comic artist Barbara Slate guides attendees on how to write and draw comic books and graphic novels as she presents “You Can Do a Graphic Novel.”
            Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Haymon presents “Making Poems out of Your Own Experience” through translating memories into poems. Haymon has published four poetry collections. She also edits the LSU Press Barataria Poetry Series.
            Journalist Earl Swift, author of five books of narrative nonfiction, presents “The Lovely Bones: On Organizing Your Research and Writing,” offering strategies for organizing field notes, interview transcripts and documentary research. 
            For additional information or to register for WordShops, call (225) 219-9503 or visit

New releases
            Clifton Taulbert, author of the bestseller “Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored,” has published a memoir, “The Invitation,” chronicling the transformative experience Taulbert had in accepting an invitation to dinner in Allendale, South Carolina, where he relives old wounds growing up in segregated Mississippi. The book addresses a powerful turning point for a black man, that of facing childhood pain in a time when social mores have dramatically changed. It’s a poignant memoir, although a bit slow moving for my tastes. I couldn’t help thinking this would have been better served as a long magazine piece. Taulbert is the author of five other books and president and CEO of Roots Java Coffee and the founder and president of the Building Community Institute.
            Former Louisiana state representative and Special Forces veteran of the Vietnam War Odon Bacque has written an e-book on his time in Vietnam titled “A Walk in the Park: A Vietnam Comedy.” The book recalls Bacque’s often times comedic experiences during the Vietnam War, largely thanks to the letters he wrote to his wife, Cookie, while he was deployed. The book is available at
            Michael Pitre of New Orleans, a former Marine, has published a debut novel of war titled “Fives and Twenty-Fives.” Kirkus labeled the novel “one of the definitive renderings of the Iraq experience.” The title refers to the rule of war where soldiers must scan five meters, then sweep twenty-five meters when investigating a possible roadside bomb. Pitre is a graduate of LSU where he was a double major in history and creative writing. He will be signing books at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Octavia Books in New Orleans. To watch a trailer for the book, visit

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Her next book is “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History.” Write her at

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Louisiana novel on Crook's Corner longlist

            The longlist for the Crook's Corner Book Prize was announced recently, a curated list of the best debut novels set in the American South published between January 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014. The books were selected from entries submitted by major publishers, independent publishers and self-publishers. The winner will be announced in January 2015, with novelist Lee Smith the judge for the third annual prize.
            The list includes “Queen Sugar,: by Natalie Baszile; “Byrd,” by Kim Church; “The Resurrectionist,” by Matthew Guinn; “Flying Shoes,” by Lisa Howorth; “Remember Me Like This,” by Bret Anthony Johnston; “I Shall Be Near To You,” by Erin Lindsay McCabe; “Heart of Palm,” by Laura Lee Smith; “In the Garden of Stone,” by Susan Tekulve; “Saint Monkey,” by Jacinda Townsend; “The Ways of the Dead,” by Neely Tucker and “Mother of Rain,” by Karen Spears Zacharias.
            Baszille will be a featured speaker at the Louisiana Book Festival Nov. 1 in Baton Rouge.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Her next book is “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History.” Write her at

Sunday, August 17, 2014

UL-Lafayette professor Michael Martin examines the life of Sen. Russell Long in new book

            University of Louisiana at Lafayette history professor Michael Martin examines the life and career of former U.S. Senator Russell Long in the biography, “Russell Long: A Life in Politics,” published by the University of Mississippi Press.
            The book follows Long, the eldest son of former Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, from his youth growing up in Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans to his election to Congress as part of the “Class of ’48,” a group that included Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey. Long served in the Senate for three decades, rising to chairman of the Finance Committee and democratic majority whip.
            Martin is the Cheryl Courrégé Burguières/Board of Regents professor of history at UL and director of the Center for Louisiana Studies. He is also managing editor for Louisiana History.
            He will speak on “Long: A Life in Politics” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, at the Jeanerette Museum, 500 E. Main St. in Jeanerette. Martin will discuss the Long family and how they have affected Louisiana politics and will autograph books following the program. For more information, call (337) 276-4408.

At Congrès
            Warren A. Perrin, Mary Broussard Perrin and Phil Comeau will release their new book on Acadian history on Monday in the Louisiana Pavilion at the Congrès Mondial Acadien 2014 in Grand Falls, New Brunswick. “Acadie Then and Now: A People’s History” and the French version “L’Acadie Hier et Aujourd’Hui: L’Histoire d’Un Peuple” is “an international collection of articles from 50 authors which chronicle the historical and contemporary realities of the Acadian and Cajun people worldwide,” according to Warren Perrin. The collection includes 65 articles on the Acadians and Cajuns living today in Louisiana, Texas, and Maine; in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec; and in the French regions of Poitou, Belle-Ile-en-Mer, and St-Pierre et Miquelon. Congrès Mondial Acadien is a worldwide Acadian event reuniting Acadians separated by the British expulsion from Nova Scotia beginning in 1755. The event is being held in the northern section of Maine where Acadians settled, plus parts of the New Brunswick and Quebec provinces of Canada.
            The Louisiana book launch will be at 11 a.m. Sept. 28 at Vermilionville in Lafayette, so check back to this column for more details.
            Brenda Trahan of Lafayette is also attending Congrès and will be hosting book events with Barry Ancelet, Zachary Richard, Richard Holledge, Amanda LaFleur, John Francois, Earlene Broussard, Kirby Jambon and other authors of Louisiana. The book events are sponsored by Louisiane-Acadie, Inc. and the Louisiana Office of Tourism. And John “Pudd” Sharp, the Center for Louisiana Studies assistant director for research, will screen his documentary, “Water on Road,” during Congrès festivities.

Tennessee Williams special
If you’re planning to attend the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival March 25-29, 2015, in New Orleans, here’s your chance to save money. A regular VIP all-access pass costs $500 but the organization is offering it for $400 if you purchase one now. The pass admits participants to every event, which includes almost 60 literary panel discussions, food and music events and theater performances. For information, visit

Book news
            Mary Gehman, creator of Margaret Media Inc. publishing out of Donaldsonville, has sold the publishing house to a group of New Orleans writers. According to Gehman, the new owners will continue with the 21 books Margaret Media has published over the past seven years and Gehman will return to writing her own.
            Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have acquired the rights to all 10 books in Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” series, including the upcoming “Prince Lestat.” The books feature Lestat de Lioncourt, an 18th century French aristocrat who becomes a vampire.

Fall sale announced
            The Friends of the Lafayette Public Library fall book sale will be Sept. 10-13 at the Heymann Convention Center Ballroom, with wonderful deals on books. Friends of the Library members may attend the first night of the sale (for Friends only) on Sept. 10. Membership is a deal — $5 a year — and you can join the night of the sale. For more information, visit Since its inception, the Friends have donated $669,626.16 to the library system, according to their web site.

Book events
            LSU forensic anthropologist Mary Manhein, author of “Floating Souls: The Canal Murders” and “Bone Remains,” has been spending part of her summer addressing northern Louisiana public libraries on the human stories behind the skeletal remains of some cases she has studied. She will be a featured speaker at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug 21, at the Vidalia Convention Center, 112 Front St. in Vidalia. The event is free and open to the public.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Her next book is “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History.” Write her at

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lippman's latest a tangle web

             Multi-published author Laura Lippman, who often spends time in New Orleans, releases “After I’m Gone” this week featuring Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash.
            Brewer is investigating the murder of Julie, the mistress of Felix Brewer who disappeared 10 years before to avoid serving a 15-year prison sentence for mail fraud. Brewer had left behind five devastated women: his sophisticated wife, Bambi, their three lovely daughters, and Julie. Brewer discovers a tangled web of bitterness, jealousy, resentment, greed, and longing, stretching over five decades with the enigmatic man at its center.
            Lippman was awarded the first Pinckley Prize for a Distinguished Body of Work at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in March. She is the author of 19 crime novels, many featuring her signature character, Baltimore detective Tess Monaghan.
            The Washington Post called “After I’m Gone,” “surprising and satisfying. [...] Like everything else Lippman has written, ‘After I’m Gone’ transcends the limits of genre.”

New releases
            Edward F. Haas of Ohio, a professor of history at Wright State University who’s written numerous books on Louisiana and New Orleans, has just published “Mayor Victor H. Schiro: New Orleans in Transition, 1961-1970,” published by the University of Mississippi Press.
            Another book by the University of Mississippi Press is “Creating Jazz Counterpoint: New Orleans, Barbershop Harmony and the Blues” by Vic Hobson, a trustee for the National Jazz Archive and a 2009 Woest Fellowship winner of the Historic New Orleans Collection.
             Shannon Selin of British Columbia, Canada, got the idea for her novel “Napoleon in America” while dining at the Napoleon House in New Orleans. She thought, “What if Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped from St. Helena and wound up in the United States?” The book takes place in 1821 as French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is rescued from imprisonment by Louisiana pirateer Jean Laffite, ending up in New Orleans where he struggles to regain his health aided by voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. Here, many wish for him to reconquer France or take Canada away from the British, some to conquer Texas from Mexico. How Napoleon lives out his life in American exile makes up the book’s story. For more information, visit the author’s web site at
            Kathryn and James Elliott, therapists at Anthetic Psychology Center of Lafayette, have written a self-help romance titled “Hearts Entwined: The Love Letters of Therapist-Soulmates.” The book consists of 130 love letters written during their courtship 25 years ago. Hearts Entwined is available at Anthetic Psychology Center, 3110 W. Pinhook Rd. Suite 101 Lafayette, 70508, and
            Retired Sunset teacher and counselor Renee Hilton-Taylor has compiled a collection of poems titled “Our Everywhere God! Waking Up to God’s Almighty Presence through Poetry,” published by Inspiring Voices, a service of Guideposts magazine. Hilton-Taylor leads individual and conference retreats at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau.

Book events
            The UL-Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies’s new series, Bayou State Books Talks, continues at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, at the South Regional Library with Marty Mulé speaking about his book, “Game Changers: The Rousing Legacy of Louisiana Sports.”
            George Gunter will sign his book “Cast of Characters” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, at Maple Street Book Shop in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Her next book is “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History.” Write her at

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Domingue continues fantastical literary series

            Ronlyn Domingue of Lafayette created a stir with her 2005 debut novel, “The Mercy of Thin Air,” then followed that success with “The Mapmaker’s War,” uniquely narrated by a woman in second-person, a mapmaker living in an ancient but fantastical kingdom who inadvertently starts a war. 
            Her latest, “The Chronicle of Secret Riven: An Account of What Preceded the Plague of Silences,” is the second book in the “Keeper of Tales Trilogy,” and continues where the first left off, although a thousand years after the Mapmaker’s War. A city has been built in the land of the Guardians, once a non-violent people who guarded a mythic treasure, one discovered by the female mapmaker. In the second book, life and business continue much like our modern world, where prestige and position predominate.
            The book revolves around Secret Riven, a young girl who doesn’t speak until her seventh year, but who can communicate with animals and plants and relates better with the natural world. Like her cold but genius mother Zavat, an expert in ancient manuscript interpretation, Riven experiences unsettling dreams and visions. She takes solace from two friends and mentors, Prince Nikolas, the heir to the throne, and Old Woman, who Secret discovers in a stretch of wood shown to her by a squirrel.
            One day an arcane manuscript arrives for her mother to translate, and not long after her mother dies and the manuscript disappears. By the time Secret reaches adulthood, just past adolescence, she is called upon to find the manuscript and face a destiny as strange as her upbringing.
            Domingue leaves us hanging with “Secret Riven,” offering teases of what’s yet to come and hopeful answers to how the history of this fantastical world fits together. There’s talk of a “plague of silences.” We wonder how the mythology of the first book will come to play. And will Secret discover what’s true about herself?
            Originally, the plan was for two books in the series but it developed into a trilogy, which is good news for readers, offering us more time in Domingue’s world.            
            For more information on the books, visit                       

New releases
            Donna McGee Onebane of Lafayette has just published “The House That Sugarcane Built: The Louisiana Burguières,” which tells the saga of Jules M. Burguières Sr. and five generations of Louisianans who, after the Civil War, established a sugar empire that has survived into the present. Onebane is a folklorist and English professor at UL-Lafayette.
            Joel Dinerstein, a Tulane professor, and Frank H. Goodyear III have researched what is cool in America, including an examination through photos and film, in “American Cool.” The book looks at the evolution of “cool” from the 1930s until today, and complements an exhibit currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
            Zachary Lazar of New Orleans has published “I Pity The Poor Immigrant,” a novel that reads like a memoir about a Jewish-American gangster.
            Christopher Everette Cenac with Claire Domangue Joller of Houma have published a documentation of southeast Louisiana brands in “Livestock Brands and Marks: An Unexpected Bayou Country History, 1822-1946, Pioneer Families, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.” Cenac is the Terrebonne Parish coroner and Joller is a journalist.
            Kathryn and James Elliott, therapists at Anthetic Psychology Center of Lafayette, have written a self-help romance titled “Hearts Entwined: The Love Letters of Therapist-Soulmates.” The book consists of 130 love letters written during their courtship 25 years ago.
            I recently enjoyed the first U.S. edition of “The Silver Donkey” by Sonya Hartnett, a middle grade novel first published in 2004 and winner of the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. The story concerns two young French girls who find an injured soldier in their woods. At first, the girls keep the soldier’s appearance a secret, bringing him food while enjoying his stories and a tiny silver donkey he holds as a good luck charm. But the soldier needs to return home to an ailing brother and the girls enlist the help of their brother and a friend.
            “The Silver Donkey” brilliantly captures the conversations of children and their innocent views on the world, as well as the unrealistic romantic lure of war. As the children’s visit the soldier, we learn of his abandonment from the trenches of World War I and the horrors he has seen through both his eyes clouded from warfare and through the stories he tells relating to the brave and steadfast donkeys. 

Writing events
            This Saturday is the Berries, Bridges and Books writing conference in Hammond with keynote speaker Erica Spindler. Registration is $35 and includes lunch. For a complete program, visit
            The Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective is offering a unique fundraiser, a literary “Word Crawl” at Sept. 13’s ArtWalk, to help support its seventh annual Festival of Words in November. Participants may read their work during the all-day, all-night “Crawl” with support from sponsors. It’s a great way to read your work in fun places during a fun event and support a festival promoting literacy and the written/spoken word in Acadiana. For more information, visit or call Clare Martin at 962-5886.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Her next book is “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History.” Write her at

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cover of 'Forest Hill, Louisiana' released

     I’m so pleased to announce that the cover of my latest book, “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” has just been released, to be published by The History Press. The book detailing the history of this small town in central Louisiana that owns a unique history and is home to 200-plus plant nurseries will be available this fall. 
     I will be appearing at several book events, including the Louisiana Book Festival on Saturday, Nov. 2, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For a complete list of my book signing and appearances, click here.