In Memoriam: Dianne de las Casas

The Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans mourns the passing of Dianne de las Casas, one of our earliest members, August 21, 2017. Dianne was a prolific author of children’s picture books, known for such works as Cinderellaphant, The Little ‘Read’ Hen, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The Cajun Cornbread Boy, The House that Santa Built, and most recently, Captain Deadeye and the Bully Shark. She was a talented storyteller, gifted with the ability to make her audience join in the fun of her performances. And she was tireless in her efforts to promote children’s books with her work as the founder of Picture Book Month in November. She was not just a New Orleans treasure – she traveled the world. And she always brought that New Orleans spirit with her in her colorful and flamboyant style!

During the chapter’s first year, she gave a fabulous workshop on social media at the Tulane University Bookstore, and we had the pleasure of treats created by her daughter, Kid Chef Eliana Marisol. Our hearts go out to Eliana Marisol, Soleil Lisette, and John Couret.

 

Second annual board retreat a big success thanks to members’ involvement

Our second annual board retreat was held a week ago and, once again, a big thank-you goes out to Marie Breaux, our intrepid president, and her husband for hosting us in their home and—even more important to New Orleanians—feeding us! Thank you also to Vice-President Nina Calvo for bringing a humongous apple pie, Treasurer Karen Kersting for honey from her bees, Social Media Chair Serena Jones for juice and to new Chapter member Pam Ebel (also a new National Bookwoman editor) for champagne with which we toasted our efforts at the end of the day.

Though goals and plans inevitably change as the Chapter year (September through June) unfolds, usually due to circumstances beyond the control of an all-volunteer organization, we’ve found it necessary to dream big and then focus on reality. Without the dream, we’ll never know what great things we might be capable of. With this thought in mind, we were especially gratified to have several new members, as well as long-time member Melinda Palacio, join the board at the retreat. Any volunteer organization is only as good as its active members; and attendance and involvement at the retreat is pointing us forward, toward a very good year.

The focus of the retreat was programming, including fundraising, which is an essential component of our being able to support the “community of the book”, one of our stated goals. During the retreat, it was suggested we have more publishing industry-driven programming and that a ‘pitch’ event giving writers the opportunity to meet with literary agents would be highly welcome. Similar events have been hosted by other chapters, but unlike in NYC, New Orleans doesn’t have a pool of agents to draw from, so an event like this one will take long-term planning. Please let us know if you can help. Among other suggestions, new members in attendance proposed a project whereby volunteers donate their time and expertise to evaluate and consult on manuscripts via an online submission service. We’re also hoping to have events to learn about the work of our many accomplished writers.

The retreat has become an important step toward fulfilling our mission, but it was also fun to discuss, listen and brainstorm together. Even if you were not able to attend in person, we are always open to ideas. Fundraising continues to be an evolving challenge and we’d love to hear from you regarding it. Please email us at wnbaofnola@gmail.com if you can help out your Chapter and your fellow members in any way. With the kind of participation that started at the retreat, we are confident we will continue to have fun throughout our year as we support each other in our individual and collective endeavors.

— Teresa Tumminello Brader, Secretary

WNBA NOLA Retreat

On July 16, Board members and chapter members enjoyed a delicious Sunday brunch and a busy afternoon of planning programs and events for the year ahead starting this fall!   Held at the home of President Marie Breaux, the Retreat set the stage for a lively discussion of all things literary and how we can promote reading and support women writers.  There was great food and drink….and there was champagne when all the work was done!  As Marie told attendees, “We have great plans for the coming year.  Even better, you all make the WNBA-NOLA so much fun!”  Member Pam Ebel said, “Thank you for hosting a wonderful and creative day. Your home is a wonderful, eclectic venue that makes creativity flow. I look forward to working with everyone in the future.”

And if you weren’t at the board retreat, we ask that you take a few minutes to read a post at the site’s blog page. It should be of interest to all members as we get ready to plan our upcoming year. http://wnba-nola.org/?p=1085

Chapter Potluck

The June Social/Networking Potluck Dinner was packed with members, friends and food. They kept coming in waves — and in the case of the food that was a good thing as everything had to be tasted. Incoming president Marie Breaux thanked soon-to-be-Past President Sheila Cork and her husband John, presenting them with WNBA-N.O. travel mugs. Member Susan Larson was given the same as thanks for hosting at her lovely, book-filled home.

Louise Penny and Trudy Nan Boyce are the recipients of the Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction

(New Orleans, LA—June 1, 2017)— Louise Penny and Trudy Nan Boyce are the recipients of the Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction, named to honor the memory of Diana Pinckley, longtime crime fiction columnist for The New Orleans Times-Picayune. The prizes will be presented September 8, 2017 at The Academy of the Sacred Heart/Nims Fine Arts Center, 4301 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. This ticketed event is open to the public.
Bestselling author Louise Penny, the first Canadian to receive the award, is the winner of the Pinckley Prize for Distinguished Body of Work; her appearance in New Orleans is part of her national tour for a new novel. The author of 13 novels in the Armand Gamache series (the latest, Glass Houses, will be published August 29th), “Penny has created a world where most of us would like to live,” the jury said. “In the village of Three Pines, Quebec, readers take refuge and delight among its endearing inhabitants.  Crime may occur, but it never triumphs, not when Gamache is on the case. Penny finds her mantra in the words of W.H. Auden – ‘Goodness exists’ – something we need reminding of in these times.”  “What amazing company – all women whose works I admire and enjoy,” Penny said.  “All trailblazers in an industry we love. As was Diana. It also speaks volumes about Diana and her friends that not only was this award created, but that it celebrated both the established and the emerging. This generation and the next. I’m where I am because of other women in the industry, be they authors, editors, publicists, reviewers, booksellers, librarians. And now we all get to help the luminous new voices.”
Atlanta resident Trudy Nan Boyce wins the Pinckley Prize for Debut Novel for her book Out of the Blues, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, the beginning of a series featuring Detective Sara Alt, or “Salt.” Boyce’s experiences as a beat cop, Homicide detective, senior hostage negotiator and lieutenant all add authenticity to her writing, in what the judges called, “This gutsy, confident first novel.”  “What a thrill,” Boyce said. “I am honored to be among such company as the past award recipients and to be chosen by your judges. And, man, do I love New Orleans! I last visited two or three years ago for the French Quarter Festival; stayed in a B & B on Esplanade near Treme. It was, as New Orleans often is, magical. I’ve got a story I’ve been working on for years that is inspired by a coming of age experience I had in New Orleans when I was thirteen.”
The Prizes were launched in 2012 by the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans to honor Diana Pinckley, who was a founding member, as well as a civic activist who gave her time and energy to local and national causes. WNBA-NO, composed of writers, librarians, publishers, and booklovers, was founded in 2011, as a local affiliate of the national group, which began in 1917.  The judges for Debut Novel this year were novelist Jean Redmann, author of the Micky Knight and Nell McGraw series; Mary McCay, author/editor of books about Rachel Carson, Ellen Gilchrist, and Walker Percy; and journalist Susan Larson, host of “The Reading Life” on WWNO-FM. Previous Pinckley Prize winners include Laura Lippman, Nevada Barr, and Sara Paretsky for Distinguished Body of Work, along with Gwen Florio, Adrianne Harun, and Christine Carbo for Debut Novel.
Penny and Boyce will each receive a $2,500 cash award, as well as a beautiful paper rosette fashioned from the pages of their books, created by New Orleans artist Yuka Petz.  For tickets to the event go to: OctaviaBooks.com Tickets are exchanged for a copy of Louise Penny’s newest book Glass Houses. For more information: pinckleyprizes.org.
Submissions for 2018 Debut Novel Prize open June 1, 2017.

An Evening with some Sassy Bookwomen of New Orleans!

Despite a pesky rainstorm on May 30th, members enjoyed a fabulous evening to discuss the Sassy Bookwomen of New Orleans, our inaugural Book Circle held at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation.  The program was facilitated by Freddi Williams Evans. Freddi was recently awarded the title of Humanities Hero by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.  Note: see Blog page for more info.

SASSY BOOKWOMEN OF NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans chapter’s Bookwomen Speak program in The WNBA Centennial Visionaries Series

In an event that reflected the culture and geography of its location, the New Orleans chapter of the Women’s National Book Association held its “Bookwoman Speaks” program Tuesday May 30, 2017 at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center on Rampart Street, the dividing line between the French Quarter (the city’s first settlement) and the historic Tremé neighborhood (America’s oldest surviving black community). Chapter member Freddi Evans led our group in a Story Circle with the theme “Sassy Bookwomen of New Orleans.” The theme arose from the desire to explore the sassy voices of New Orleans bookwomen, both contemporary and historical.

New Orleans women have always been an incredibly creative and outspoken species – not only in their writing, but in every aspect of life: cooking, costuming, singing, dancing, making music, running businesses. Does New Orleans provide an atmosphere where women are freer to express themselves on paper as bookwomen?

Our Story Circle generated memories about authors past and contemporary, publishers (including Eliza Nicholson, owner of the Daily Picayune where women’s advice columns were pioneered), a painter, a music impresario, poets, the founding of Ladyfest New Orleans, musicians (naturally), journalists (including Diana Pinckley for whom the chapter named its annual mystery writing prizes), a woman who restores eyes, voodoo (both Marie Laveau and Sally Glassman, a contemporary practitioner, artist, and gallery owner), nuns (and their role in establishing many of the institutions in the area), historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall (influential scholar and author who developed a database of enslaved Africans which has become a key genealogical research tool) and everyone’s favorite chef and food author, Leah Chase (the first chef honored with two portraits in the Smithsonian Institution at both the National Gallery and the National Museum of African American History, she’s fed presidents – not holding back about telling them what they ought to eat! – and is still cooking at 94 years of age).

The WNBA-NOLA Story Circle honored the participatory nature of New Orleans culture – everyone tells a story – and the deep and ongoing contributions of the African American community to the creative life of the city. Story Circles were developed by the Free Southern Theater which was founded in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. (The method as taught by John O’Neal, one of the FST founders, is explained here: http://wagner.nyu.edu/files/leadership/PracticeNoteStoryCircleMethod0608.pdf.)

The WNBA-NOLA Story Circle was facilitated by chapter member Freddi Evans, an author, scholar, arts educator, and literacy advocate, recently named by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities as its Humanities Hero for the month of May. Freddi co-chairs the New Orleans Committee to Erect Historic Markers on the Slave Trade to Louisiana, a project of the National Park Service. She has authored award-winning children’s books and the notable 2010 cultural history Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans. Forthcoming works include co-editorship of New Orleans & the World: The Tricentennial Anthology and co-authorship of a biography of the life of African American artist John Scott. Freddi has twice been a Fulbright Scholar.

Freddi closed the WNBA-NOLA Story Circle with the observation that this method reminded her of libation ceremonies in which the names of those who have passed on are spoken and ancestors are remembered. The WNBA-NOLA story circle remembered many of our sassy forbearers and contemporary inspirations.  In the centennial year of the WNBA, it was a fitting way for bookwomen to speak.

An Afternoon with Emily Dickinson

On May 21 several Chapter members viewed A Quiet Passion at the Broad Street Theater and then stayed (in the theater’s roomy bar) for a round-table discussion about the movie and the life of Emily Dickinson facilitated by Chapter Member Constance Adler.