Sunday, April 16, 2017

Award-winner Kimberly Willis Holt pens another winner with 'Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel'

Kimberly Willis Holt, author of the National Book Award-winning novel “My Louisiana Sky,” wasn’t born in Louisiana, but Louisiana keeps appearing in her books. Her parents hailed from Forest Hill and she had such fond memories of the central Louisiana town that many of her stories are set in fictional towns based on Forest Hill or in Forest Hill itself.

But I digress, because what I really want to write about is her charming latest chapter book for young readers, “Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel.” Thirteen-year-old Stevie loses her parents in a car accident and is forced to move in with her grumpy grandfather, Winston, who owns a run-down motel in Esther, Texas. There are so many things Winston isn’t saying about Stevie’s parents and why she never knew about him or her grandmother, who’s deceased. Winston isn’t comforting either, coming across as a cold, unfeeling man. The motel and town consist of several interesting characters, all who provide unique aspects to the story. There’s eclectic Violet who runs the motel office and lives in a colorful Victorian in need of landscaping; Mrs. Crump who home schools Stevie but has narcolepsy and falls asleep precisely at 12:30 sharp; and Roy, the 13-year-old son of the motel’s maintenance man who befriends Stevie. They all work together to provide our engaging main character with support and comfort and convince her that Winston isn’t all that bad. And, as the story of her parents emerges, both Stevie and Winston begin to understand each other.

Back to the Louisiana connection — along the way Stevie discovers more family members, her father’s sister who runs a nursery in Forest Hill. She realizes why her father loved gardening so much, a trait he passed on to Stevie. The Forest Hill family provides the support she needs but can Stevie leave her grandfather and the Texas Sunrise Motel behind?

I’ve read several of Willis’s books and this one tops my list, filled with enjoyable characters who waltz in and out of Stevie’s life and keep us guessing on where the plot moves next. Stevie’s story flows sweet and gentle like a summer breeze on flowers, and you’ll find yourself smiling through most of its pages. Don’t miss passing along this sweet tale to your young blooming readers.

Louisiana Comic Con
Louisiana Comic Con, a two-day fan convention with appearances by TV and movie personalities, comic book artists and more, will be Saturday and Sunday, April 22-23, at Hirsch Memorial Coliseum in Shreveport. The event will include more than 20 celebrity guests, such as Jason Mewes (“Clerks,” “Jay” and “Silent Bob Strikes Back”); Seth Gilliam (“The Walking Dead,” “The Wire”); Johnny Yong Bosch (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers”); pro wrestling legend Ted DiBiase and more. Guests from the world of comics and animation include James O’Barr, creator of the comic book series “The Crow;” Bob McLeod, author “The New Mutants,” “Spider-Man” and “G.I. Joe;” Tom Cook, animator of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and more. For a complete list of guests, visit LouisianaComicConSBC.com.


Book news
The UL-Lafayette Press is having to give up warehouse space so it’s having a Warehouse Clearance Sale from 9-4 pm Wednesday and Thursday on the third floor of UL’s Dupre Library. It will take place during the University’s Spring Break, so there should be plenty of available parking. There will be thousands of books, representing dozens of titles at greatly reduced prices. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/238764446590229/ to see what items will be on sale.

Entries for the 11th annual Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, created to honor outstanding literary work from rising African-American authors, will be accepted now through Aug. 15. The Gaines Award honors novels or short-story collections published in 2017. Galleys for 2017 publications are also accepted. The winner is chosen annually by a panel of professional writers and academics and will be honored on Jan. 18, 2018, at the Manship Theatre at the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge. Information on criteria and entrance forms for the award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize, is available at www.ernestjgainesaward.org.

Mary S. Palmer, an English lecturer at Faulkner University in Mobile, Ala., has been awarded a grant from Faulkner to write a book about the new genre of Tourism Writing. Palmer co-authored “The Callings” with Loretta Theriot of Lafayette.

Kristina Mullenix of Juniper Creek Editing and Literary Services will hold a three-day workshop titled “How to be a Poet” May 2-4 in Ocean Springs, Miss. The workshop will include a class, a writing lab and a poetry showcase. For more information or to register, contact the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education at (228) 818-2878 or visit http://themaryc.org/?event=may-2017-poet-3-day-workshop.

The Alabama Writers’ Conclave will host a writers’ conference and contest June 30 through July 2 in Birmingham. Larry Brooks will be the keynote speaker. For more information, visit www.alabamawritersconclave.org.

At the library
Jon Donlon has researched what is considered “purple leisure” activities, which often include gambling and the topic of his book, cockfighting in southern Louisiana. He will discuss his book “Bayou Country Bloodsport," and the cultural impact cockfighting has had on southern Louisiana, at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Iberia Parish Library St. Peter Branch, 1111 W. St. Peter St. in New Iberia. For more information, call (337) 364-7150 or visit IberiaLibrary.org

Southern Writers Workshop will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Main Terrebonne Parish Library in Houma.

Mary Ann Armbruster, co-chair of the Healer’s Demonstration Garden at Vermilionville, will lead a talk on “Medicinal Plants of Louisiana” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lafayette Main Library.

The Victory Garden Spring Planting Party, in collaboration with Townfolk and the Urban Naturalist, will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at 217 Olivier St. in downtown Lafayette. Then on Saturday, participants are asked to help with the Carencro Community Garden at 10 a.m., located behind the North Regional Library.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.