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On the Wings of Books

In addition to more than 200 authors, the Louisiana Book Festival on October 29 will be presided over by its first-ever “book angel” sculpture.

bookangelIn addition to scheduling the best literary programming the state has to offer, each year the Louisiana Book Festival commissions a Louisiana artist to create an original work of art. For the first time this year, the featured art is a sculpture created by Kelly Guidry, the chainsaw artist of Breaux Bridge.

Guidry created a book angel, which he named “Libby” for libraries and librarians. Guidry realized its wings needed some words to fly so he incorporated past Louisiana Writer Award recipient and Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque in his process. Bourque created “Words, A Poem” which is engraved on Libby’s wings.

“Every year, we welcome thousands to celebrate not only the written and spoken word but also the culture of our state,” says State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. Most authors attending the Baton Rouge festival have a Louisiana connection. For example, this year’s featured guest Rebecca Wells grew up in Alexandria. Although she’s been living in the Northwest for the past 20 years, Wells still considers Louisiana home and has set all of her books, including bestseller Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, there.

rebeccawellsWe talked to Wells (pictured) earlier this month about what it feels like to come home for the festival, how she’s come to embrace both the “rapture and toxicity” of Louisiana and what guests at the festival can look forward to during her talk (and a special performance).

Other Southern writers and Deep South favorite authors attending this year’s event include David Armand (The Gorge, My Mother’s House), Julie Cantrell (The Feathered Bone), Margaret Eby (South Toward Home), Matthew Griffin (Hide), Ashley Mace Havird (Lightningstruck), Dixon Hearne (Delta Flats), poet David Kirby (get up, please), Ashton Lee (“Cherry Cola Book Club series), Vicki Salloum (Faulkner & Friends, Candyland), Katy Simpson Smith (Free Men), Kent Wascom (The Blood of Heaven) and Hester Young (The Gates of Evangeline).

While book talks and panels run throughout the day both inside the Capitol building and the State Library, there is music, cooking demonstrations, storytelling and more on the Capitol grounds. This year, fans of Ignatius J. Reilly can look forward to a cooking demonstration with Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, author of A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook. Also of note is a presentation by musician Zachary Richard in the Capitol Park Museum. Richard will present “The Gift of Les Cenelles in Word and Song,” a celebration of Louisiana’s French language poetry tradition, past and present, featuring French Immersion students reading from the original anthology published in New Orleans in 1845.

burke-creole-belleYou can also purchase books on site or bring your well-read copies from home and get them signed by the authors during designated times. Other ways to get the most out of your book festival experience include attending a WordShop. This year, authors teaching sessions are Margaret Eby on “Writing about Place,” Catherine Gourley on “The Journey Inward: Reflective Writing and the Letters About Literature Program,” Daniel José Older on “Crisis Creates Us: Narrative Fundamentals,” Peter Cooley on “Influence and Inspiration: Mining Your Obsessions” and Bill Loehfelm on “Casting Characters.”

Finally, join in the “One Book, One Festival” read of James Lee Burke’s Creole Belle: A Dave Robicheaux Novel. A book club discussion will help close out the festival from 4-5 p.m. in the Capitol.

The 2016 Louisiana Book Festival is October 29 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m, in downtown Baton Rouge at the State Library of Louisiana, the State Capitol, the Capitol Park Museum and nearby locations.

Capote and Literary
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