You may have noticed some articles by Cheré Dastugue Coen in Lagniappe from time to time. She is especially interested in travel, and often contributes to Lagniappe’s summer Weekend Escapes features.
As a writer, Coen certainly stays busy. Under the name Cherie Claire, she’s published Cajun mysteries, historical novels and five non-fiction titles about Louisiana. The Lafayette-based Claire has 10 Louisiana-themed romance novels to her credit.
Give Up the Ghost, the fifth book in Claire’s Viola Valentine mystery series, was released shortly before this magazine hit the stands.
Here’s the story: in 2005, Hurricane Katrina uprooted Viola Valentine from her dead-end job and what she deemed a loveless marriage. Three years later, she and her husband Thibault “TB” Boudreaux are starting over on a Tennessee houseboat. She is following her dream as a travel writer and TB is finishing school at Smoky Mountain University.
But ghosts of the past hound the couple, bringing negative energy into their peaceful cove. With her family at stake, Vi must learn to harness her supernatural powers, face her fears and fight the evil that threatens them all.
So, obviously, this is a mystery that incorporates the supernatural. Sounds like a good mix to me.
At the recent Louisiana Book Festival, Claire (probably working as Coen) moderated the “Modern Day Romance: Love Finds a Way” panel at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge with authors Abby Jimenez and Casey McQuiston.
When someone’s written a lot of books, it can be a drag to go online and find and sift through all the titles. I’ll give you a list of Claire’s works that may not be complete, but will at least get you started.
Viola Valentine Mystery Series: A Ghost of a Chance, Ghost Town, Trace of a Ghost, Ghost Trippin’, Give Up the Ghost
The Cajun Series (historical romances): Emilie, Rose, Gabrielle, Delphine, A Cajun Dream, The Letter
The Cajun Embassy (contemporary romance): Ticket to Paradise, Damn Yankees, Gone Pecan
And one more book: Carnival Confessions: A Mardi Gras Novella.
Here is a list of books written under the name Cheré Dastugue Coen: Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets (with Jude Bradley), Cooking in Cajun Country (with Carl Breaux), Haunted Lafayette, Exploring Cajun Country: A Historical Tour of Acadiana, Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History. Visit cherieclaire.net for more.
Winning Bayou Writers
Of course, we have many aspiring young writers who live a bit closer to home. From time to time, the Up Fronter mentions the activities of the Bayou Writers Group. Last month, the group honored budding wordsmiths in its Young Writers Contest Awards Ceremony.
The annual contest was open to all students in grades six through eight as well as high school students who live in Allen, Calcasieu, Jeff Davis, Beauregard and Cameron Parishes. Writers could enter works in the categories of poetry and prose. At the awards ceremony, the winners were given their certificates and invited to read their works to the audience.
Not all the young writers were able to make it. But the Up Fronter was able to get a complete list of the winners. See if you know any of these emerging talents.
Ashlynn Elliott, ninth grade, Lacassine High School
Connor McLaughlin, 12th grade, St. Louis Catholic High School
Aaron Mansell, ninth grade, Sulphur High School
Gracie Savoie, sixth grade, Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School
Jasmeen Thind, eighth grade, Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School
Aliya Kattash, eighth grade, Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School
It looks like somebody’s got the poetry bug at EDS. I’m guessing that at least one teacher there is having students read really great poetry. And that’s a big boost for our culture. The Up Fronter will continue to keep you apprised about the Bayou Writers Group.
Art And Song Contest
The George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts is accepting submissions from young Louisianans for competitions in art and songwriting. The deadline is Jan. 17, 2020.
The Songwriting Competition will provide a platform for high school songwriters (juniors and seniors) across Louisiana to showcase their work. Three young songwriters will be awarded $10,000 in college scholarships; a chance to record their winning songs in a professional recording studio under the mentorship of Grammy winning producers and engineers; and the opportunity to perform their song on stage during the Trombone Shorty Foundation’s annual Shorty Fest benefit concert during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
For both the visual art and songwriting competition, students are asked to explore the connection between music and visual art through an original work of art or song. If they like, students can use the questions at georgerodriguefoundation.org to give them ideas about the work they create. They can also go to this site to get information about how to submit completed works.
The awards ceremony will take place on Saturday, March 21 at the Sheraton in New Orleans.
Beauregard Jail In Horror Flick
Just a note: the Beauregard Parish Jail is featured in the new Netflix horror film Eli.
Here are a few brief notes about the jail’s history. The Hudson River Lumber Co. donated a tract of land to the City of DeRidder for a courthouse and jail. Falls City Construction Co. was awarded the contract in Sept., 1913. Both buildings were completed in 1915 at a cost of $168,000. That’s a lot of money for that time and explains why the building looks so strong and sturdy. All the pricey Gothic detailing is what’s made it look so spooky right up to this day.
This is the jail that’s called the “Hanging Jail” and has a nationwide reputation for being haunted. DeRidder offers a long series of tours of the jail every Halloween season. A 2017 KPLC-TV report on the place began with the statement “There is an undeniable strange feeling when you enter the Beauregard Parish Hanging Jail.”
As a lifelong horror movie junkie, I can tell you there is no more ideal setting for a horror movie than an old, dark, rambling institution such as a big jail, an even larger prison, a sanitarium or sanitorium, a hospital or even a decommissioned U.S. Navy battleship. For a good example of what I’m talking about, watch Guillermo del Toro’s flick The Orphanage.
The Arts For Youth
The Teche Center for the Arts (TCA) in downtown Breaux Bridge will soon present its fifth annual music, arts and culture camp for youths 7-13. The camp, called Treble on the Teche, will take place Nov. 25 through 27, 8 am through 4 pm daily.
Musician and teacher Brazos Huval, the camp coordinator, has gathered accomplished musicians and artists in Acadiana who will teach area youth at the camp. Each day will consist of classes in a variety of disciplines: music, art, dance and language. Students can learn percussion, accordion, guitar and fiddle. Lunch will be provided by area restaurants.
Treble provides an opportunity for students, musicians, artists, volunteers and others in the community to share in the richness and diversity of Cajun and Creole culture.
Treble on the Teche will culminate in a musical performance by the students and musical instructors at TCA on Nov. 27, 4 pm. The event is free to the public.
Parents are encouraged to register their child early as this is apparently a popular camp. To register, go to artsatteche.com. Additional sponsors and volunteers are welcome. To get more information, call 337-962-5886 or 337-366-0629.
Wine Comes To The Myrtles
The very first St. Francisville Food and Wine Festival will come to the Myrtles Plantation Nov. 17, 11 am to 4 pm. The event will highlight the region’s culinary, musical and cultural scene. Top chefs will serve small plates paired with craft cocktails as well as fine wines. Chefs Ryan Andre of Soji Modern Asian, Will Avelar of Mawi Tortillas, Bonnie Breaux of Café Sydnie Mae, Regina Charboneau of Regina’s Kitchen and Daniel Dreher of Restaurant 1796 will be on hand.
There will also be a cheese and charcuterie station and an oyster bar on the grounds. Area bands will provide music for dancing.
If you need driving directions to The Myrtles, you can find them at the plantation’s site at myrtlesplantation.com. It’s a little bit north of Baton Rouge.
Yes, this is the place that some call the most haunted site in the U.S. But you don’t have to stay after dark to enjoy the beautiful grounds and refreshments at the Food and Wine Festival.