WNBA-New Orleans was founded in June 2011. Our members are booklovers, booksellers, editors, librarians, publishers, scholars, and writers of all genres.
We meet at various locations in the New Orleans area to network and discuss varied literary topics of interest with speakers and other presenters.
This past, August our Chapter once again participated in Culture Collision, a citywide gathering held for nonprofit arts organizations of all sorts to publicize their upcoming cultural seasons.
Our chapter’s table, beautifully decorated by WNBA board member Pam Ebel, was staffed by new vice president Andrea Panzeca and several other members. They engaged with the attendees, promoted our organization, and recruited new members.
Putting the Banned Back Together
In honor of Banned Books Week in September, Nina Calvo, our president, hosted our second recruitment event of the season, Putting the Banned Back Together.
Supplementing the bounteous food and drink was a silent auction run by Sara Woodard, our membership chair. Just a couple of the fun items up for auction were earrings that lit up and banned books socks.
Members and guests read passages from their favorite banned books.
Our guest of honor, nationally acclaimed New Orleans journalist and host of WWNO’s Music Inside Out, Gwen Thompkins steered the subsequent discussion into the partygoers’ own experiences of reading banned books and into whether there was ever a book they might’ve wished banned at one time or another.
Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction
The annual Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction was established in 2012 and is administered by our chapter. The 2018-19 awards ceremony was held at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz and Heritage Center in October.
The Prizes honor the memory of the late Diana Pinckley, a longtime crime fiction columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Pinckley was also a civic activist and a founding member of our chapter.
This year Ellen Hart, author of 32 novels in two series — the oldest begun in 1989 and featuring a lesbian restaurateur, received the prize for Distinguished Body of Work.
Novelist J.M. Redmann introduced Hart, noting how her books have helped lead the way for LGBTQ writing to be accepted by mainstream publishers and readers. Hart, unable to attend in person, spoke to us via Skype of her writerly journey and thanked the Pinckley Prizes committee for the honor.
Marcie Rendon received the Debut Novel prize for her book Murder on the Red River . Arts and culture journalist Alison Fensterstock presented the award to Rendon on stage and facilitated a discussion that included the audience. Rendon, a member of the White Earth Nation, answered questions about her indigenous characters and spoke of her experiences as a community arts activist supporting other Native Americans in their pursuit of the creation of their art.
The Art of Biography
Led by the efforts of Marie Breaux, our past president, our National Reading Group Month event, The Art of Biography, was a special one. Held at Xavier University’s library in early November, the event featured historian Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of the definitive three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, and playwright Clare Coss, most recently the librettist for an opera about Emmett Till and his mother. For more about the event and these talented women, please see the Bookwoman Blog post about it.
Our annual December party was held at Nina Calvo’s lovely home. As always, the holiday potluck was a lot of fun with too much wonderful food and never too much conviviality. It’s a great opportunity for getting to know new members better; for catching up with those we haven’t seen in a while; and, mostly, for enjoying each other’s company.
Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival
The highly anticipated Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, held the last weekend of every March, could not be run as the best literary festival (just ask the out-of-town authors!) without several of our chapter members who serve in various capacities, such as on the board, on staff, and those who taught a Writers’ Craft Series and/or moderated or participated on the literary panels as authors or publishers.
The list includes Sara Woodard, Susan Larson, Tracy Cunningham, Constance Adler, Anne Babson, Nancy Dixon, Samantha Downing, Gina Ferrara, Kathleen Calhoun Nettleton, and Anne Boyd Rioux.
Tulane University’s Rare Book Collection
On April 9, we held our chapter’s most recent event. Dr. Jane Pinzino, Coordinator for Scholarly Resources for the Humanities at Tulane’s Howard-Tilton Memorial Library gave a presentation featuring Tulane University’s Rare Books Collection. Pinzino was assisted by Elizabeth Boyne of Tulane’s Special Collections’ Rare Books.
Pinzino took chapter members on a behind-the-scenes tour of the stacks, which include sections dedicated to books having anything to do with dogs or cats, the Legacy Collection, the Koch Botanical Library, and part of Tulane University’s spectacular maps collection.
We were then led to their Audubon Folios where Boyne related the role Lucy, wife of the more famous John James Audubon, played in her husband’s being able to accomplish all he did during his 11-year project of documenting “every bird in America.”
Pinzino and Boyne had selected certain books, mostly related to women in some capacity, for our perusal. A surprise to us, we were invited to turn the pages of any of the volumes, including a gentlewoman’s late 15th century book of hours; a 1773 edition of Phillis Wheatley’s poems; and a 21st century accordion book by Megan Piontkowski called Feminist Ships, a story of boats captained by women. We were enthralled.
Our chapter has acquired some new members, and we look forward to meeting them at our final get-together of the year, as well as all of us working together in the upcoming year.
Compiled by Teresa Tumminello Brader, WNBA-New Orleans chapter secretary and The Bookwoman correspondent.
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