Monday, September 29, 2014

New book examines Forest Hill, Louisiana, history

             I’m pleased to announce that my latest book, “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History” by the History Press, will be released to bookstores on Tuesday. The book examines the central Louisiana town of 900 residents that is also home to 200-plus plant nurseries that make up a multi-million dollar industry. Most gardeners know about Forest Hill and its nurseries but the town has a long and varied history. Plantation owners from the Bayou Boeuf area had summer homes near present-day Forest Hill, and plantation owner and Baptist minister William Prince Ford ran a mill there; he would become the first owner of Solomon Northup who later penned “12 Years a Slave.” By the end of the 19th century a timber boom began, with companies clearing away acres of longleaf pine. World War II brought Camp Claiborne, part of the largest peacetime war maneuvers in U.S. history. But it’s the nurseries that survived and grew, to borrow a pun, starting in 1901 by Sam Stokes and continued today by later generations of many of the original owners. I’ll be signing copies of Forest Hill at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, at Barnes & Noble Lafayette and at the Louisiana Book Festival, among other events.
           
Book launches
            Two new books are out this week with events to celebrate their launches.
            James Nolan signs copies of his delightful new short story collection “You Don’t Know Me: New and Selected Stories” (UL Press) at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans. Alexander McCall Smith, author of the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” novels, calls the book, “One of the most vivid pieces of writing I have come across for some time…it leapt from the page.” I couldn’t agree more.
            Designer Andi Eaton chronicles 300 years of New Orleans fashion in “New Orleans Style” and will sign copies (as well as meet and greet with specialty cocktails) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the book launch at Bellocq lounge in the Hotel Modern, 936 St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans.

New releases
            Cay Gibson of Sulphur has transformed a classic trickster tale in the fun new children’s story “Cajun ‘Ti Beau and the Cocodries,” published by Pelican Publishing. A young boy leaves home with a new set of clothes and a parasol but must hand them over to appease a group of hungry alligators. Soon the gators fight over the new prizes and spin themselves into a puddle of roux. The book, illustrated by Colleen D’Antoni, incorporates many French names and expressions and includes a glossary in the back.
            The Bayou Writers’ Group of Lake Charles will release its first anthology of poetry and prose titled “Journeys” on Saturday in both paperback and ebook formats. For more information, visit http://bayouwritersgroup.com.
            Mark A. Stevens is a former Lafayette resident and Advertiser editor and I mentioned his self-published book about the fabled Clinchfield No. 1 steam engine in previous columns. He’s since published the book with the History Press, titled “The Clinchfield No. 1: Tennessee’s Legendary Steam Engine,” along with author A.J. “Alf” Peoples. The book features nearly 80 vintage photographs, many never before seen by the general public, along with decades of media coverage. “The No. 1 had it all — intrigue, rebirth and revival mixed with sadness, anger and celebration,” Stevens wrote me by email.

Letters contest
            The 22nd annual Letters About Literature contest, a national reading and writing competition for students sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in association with its affiliate state centers, is now accepting entries. Fourth through 12th grade students write personal letters to living or dead authors from any genre explaining how what the students read changed their views of the world or themselves. Students may enter on their own or through their schools or local libraries in three levels: grades 4–6, grades 7-8 and grades 9–12. There will be 50 entries in each level from each state. Louisiana’s first place winners’ entries will be submitted to the Library of Congress for the national competition with the chance of winning up to $1,000. State winners will be recognized at next year’s Louisiana Book Festival. The student’s letter and entry coupon, available online, must be sent to Letters About Literature, P.O. Box 5308, Woodbridge, VA 22194. The postmark deadline for Level 3 is Dec. 15; for Levels 1 and 2, the deadline is Jan. 15, 2015. The entry forms and information may be downloaded at www.read.gov/letters
           
Book events
            The LSU-Eunice Performing Arts Series presents former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, in the auditorium of the Health Technology building. Bourque will read from his latest book, “if you abandon me, comment je vas faire,” in which he explores the life of early 20th century Creole musician Amédé Ardoin. The presentation is free and open to the public and books will be on sale for $10 with all proceeds benefitting the foundation to erect a statue in honor of Ardoin. 
            A film series honoring Ernest Gaines begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the South Regional Library; this week’s film is “A Gathering of Old Men.” The Ernest J. Gaines Center at UL Lafayette also has events planned throughout October; visit ernestgaines.louisiana.edu or facebook.com/ErnestGainesCenter.
            Kit Wohl signs copies of her new cookbook, “New Orleans Classic Creole Recipes” from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.