Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Festival of Words to feature award-winning poets, writers and songwriters, drive-by poetry

Ava Leavell Haymon
            The Festival of Words, a literary festival featuring readings by nationally recognized authors, creative writing workshops in the public schools and community centers, a community stage for open mics and more will be Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 6-8, 2014, in Grand Coteau and surrounding areas.
            This year’s festival authors include Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea, Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Leavell Hayman, songwriter Roddie Romero of the Grammy-nominated Roddie Romero & the Hub City All Stars, mentor, educator and poet Latasha Weatherspoon, and poet-activist, cultural journalist, playwright and actor Anderson Dovila. Students from throughout Acadiana will participate in the annual “Drive-by Poetry” readings, where poetry will be read impromptu in places such as grocery stores, boutiques and restaurants.
Luis A. Urrea
              Luis Alberto Urrea, 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is a writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph. His first book, “Across the Wire,” was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award. Urrea also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, “Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life” and in 2000, he was voted into the Latino Literature Hall of Fame following the publication of “Vatos.” Born in Tijuana, Mexico, to a Mexican father and an American mother, Urrea has published extensively in all the major genres. The author of 13 books, Urrea has won numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Roddie Romero
              Poet Laureate of the State of Louisiana, Ava Leavell Haymon's most recent poetry collection is “Eldest Daughter,” published by LSU Press. She has written three previous collections, “Why the House Is Made of Gingerbread,” “Kitchen Heat”, and “The Strict Economy of Fire,” also from LSU Press, and edits the Barataria Poetry Series, which will premiere Spring 2014. Her poems have appeared in journals nationwide. Prizes include the Louisiana Literature Prize for poetry in 2003, the L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award for 2010, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2011 Award in Poetry.
               Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars are a Grammy-nominated Louisiana band who have been performing worldwide at the most prestigious festivals and venues for more than 20 years. This Louisiana band is celebrated not only for its authenticity when performing or recording traditional Cajun and Creole music indigenous to South Louisiana, but also for the original songwriting which stays true to Louisiana inspirations. They have recently garnered a Grammy nomination for their double record, “The La Louisianne Sessions.”  
Latasha Weatherspoon
              Latasha Weatherspoon, a native of Ville Platte, Louisiana, is a mentor, educator, and poet. She has also served as a mentor writer for WordPlay as well as a community mentor for Project Rise. She was on the Baton Rouge slam teams for 2005 through 2009. She graduated in the class of 2011 with a Masters of Science Speech, Language & Hearing Science from Southern University. She is currently a speech therapist in Houston.
Anderson Dovilas
              Anderson Dovilas was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This young author has published in France, the U.S. and Canada. He has attended the State University of Haiti where he studied linguistics with a minor in ethnology.  He is a poet-activist, a cultural journalist, a playwright, and an actor. Dovilas has participated, collaborated and organized several cultural events; and often organizes street performances to rein-act the history of the battered country.  He did this to create social activities, to educate and entertain. He is one of the directors of the Haitian American Art Network, Inc.
            To learn more about featured authors and view a schedule of events, visit or contact Patrice Melnick at (337) 254-9695 or

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