When I began inventorying my bookshelves, choosing volumes to take along on a house move I’ve already told you about, it surprised me to see how many covers bear the names of former colleagues and current friends.
The oldest among them is Frenchmen Desire Good Children, a history of New Orleans street names by the late John Chase, who was a Times-Picayune cartoonist when I arrived here in the ‘50s; local newspaper and political histories by the late Walter Cowan and John Wilds, States-Item editors who greeted me when I began my new job; a book about the Klan by Patsy Sims, an editor during my “second career” as a features writer; books about books by Susan Larson, who joined us in the Times-Picayune Living section after our two dailies merged.
There is Getting Off at Elysian Fields, a compilation of the obituaries John Pope wrote for the T-P; One Dead in the Attic, reporter Chris Rose’s account of hurricane Katrina; Walking New Orleans, by Barri Bronston, who covered “Kidstuff” for the Living section when I worked there; and a pair of cookbooks by former food editor Dale Curry.
Also among these “keepers” are assorted small works such as Whimsical Madame New Orleans from 1928, by Carmelite Janvier and from the shelves of the bookstore of the late Fidelia Anding, who became my mother-in-law. Another, a small tome, featuring Gardens of the French Quarter and including a picture of the Confederate jasmine climbing to a balcony in the patio of the late George Anding, my father-in-law.
But the three editions of “street,” published annually by students in the Lusher Charter School creative writing classes are material that I would grab and run with should my bookcase catch on fire. They contain work by my grandson Jack Webster. Who’d even think of filling the trash with stories and poems by youngsters destined to become their generation’s J.D. Salingers and Maya Angelous?
One of their number is already on her way: She’s Princeton student Madeleine LeCesne, who won a gold medal two years ago at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards ceremonies in New York and was named a National Student Poet by first lady Michelle Obama. Last summer Jack brought home a silver medal in poetry from the Carnegie Hall doings and got scholarship offers from two liberal arts colleges, one where he’ll be attending classes at this fall.
Jack’s mentor has been Brad Richard, founder and chairman of Lusher’s Creative Writing Department and co-director of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards/Southeast Louisiana Writing Region. He has published three collections of poetry and was recipient of the 2015 Louisiana Culture Artist of the Year Award. His work has been featured in numerous prestigious anthologies and journals.
This evening at 6 Richard and his students will release the 2016 edition of “street” at Maple Street Book Store with readings of some of the prose and poetry that cover the pages. The book also will be sold at the store on the days to follow.
I might have had a byline in a publication like this had I bothered to do some more work on the poem that my own creative writing teacher said he found so interesting.
But I’d already fallen in love with the newsroom.