Saturday, October 20, 2018

Take a Trip to the Cane River Bohemia Book Launch at Cammie Henry Research Center in Natchitoches

The Cammie Garrett Henry Research Center, NSULA
We drove to Natchitoches Thursday for the first book event for Cane River Bohemia.  I was a nervous wreck and looking back now, I can't fathom why.

The event was held on familiar ground, the Cammie Henry Research Center at Watson Library at Northwestern State University, where I did most of my research.  This is where Cammie Henry's archives are and a great deal of my research consisted of reading her letters, papers, documents, and the correspondence she received from others.

Mary Linn Wernet is the archivist there and she terrified me when I first began this project but soon became a friend and guide.  I could not have written this book without her and that's a fact.  Today, I treasure her friendship and smile every time I think about some of those days pouring over photographs with her and the discussions we had.

With Mary Linn Wernet, archivist, CGHRC


Mary Linn's assistant, Sharon Wolff, prepared a terrific exhibit prior to the book event which will remain on display for several weeks if you want to get over and see it.  It's all about Cammie and her circle of friends, and her children.  You can see photographs and scrapbook pages from Cammie's collection as well as letters between the circle of friends.  There is also a small table with Lyle Saxon's Children of Strangers on display and Caroline Dormon's Wild Flowers of Louisiana, which is very rare and impossible to find now.  It's the first time I've actually seen it and the color plates are absolutely stunning.

Wild Flowers of Louisiana by Caroline Dormon

As time for the event approached, I actually began to calm down.  The books arrived from the bookstore, the caterers arrived and began setting up, and soon the first guests began to arrive.  It meant so much to see some familiar faces and friends who drove over from Shreveport. That helped my nerves immensely.

The fabulous caterers: the cucumber sandwiches were fab!

The next two hours went by in a blur.  Literally everyone was so warm and welcoming.  Everyone was as interested in Cammie as I have been and it was especially gratifying to me to see that this is a book that people have been waiting to read.  Not necessarily MY book, but people have been waiting for a book about Cammie Henry.  Like me, they want to know more.  People got their books signed and then sat down at the tables and had refreshments or visited with friends.



During the evening I was so honored to see the president of the university, Dr. Chris Maggio, come by; he's doing great things at NSULA and is such a friendly and personable man. I really enjoyed visiting with him.

With Dr. Chris Maggio, NSULA President.  (Bill Vance photo used with permission,
Natchitoches Parish Journal).

I was over the moon when J. Michael Kinny came in.  J. Michael had The Book Merchant on Front Street for a very long time and it is still missed.  It was the perfect indie book shop and I have always wanted to open one just like it.  Maybe one day.  J. Michael wrote the blurb for the book and it was just perfect; he captured exactly what I wanted to achieve: "...you'll see Miss Cammie and Lyle Saxon sitting behind the Big House sharing stories and laughter...".  I want my readers to feel like they have experienced Melrose as it was when Cammie had her writers and artists colony there.  When J. Michael came in I bolted around the table to give him a hug. I'm forever grateful to him for not just the blurb but for being who he is and for sharing books with me through his shop.

With J. Michael Kinny, The Book Merchant

One of the highlights of the evening was when the Henry grandchildren came in.  I felt right at home with those ladies and wish I could spend more time with them.  What fun they are!  We laughed and shared stories and I just fell in love with them.  They felt like family.  I could not have been more honored that they came to this event.  I wish I'd taken a picture with them!

Several ladies with the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches came by and bought books, and had them signed, and that meant so much to me.  Their mission in preserving these historic sites, Melrose and Lemee House, and well as the rich cultural legacy of Natchitoches, is so important.  Having Cammie's story now available now only adds to the rich history at Melrose and hopefully will help support their cause.  I lobbied a little bit for the site manager job at Melrose but I didn't get very far!  ;)

In short, there was never any reason for me to be so nervous; everyone was, as Natchitoches always is, so warm and welcoming.  I was sorry for the night to end.  I was sorry we sold out of books: I wanted everyone to be able to go home with a book, but the bookstore did take orders and promise free shipping as soon as they arrive, so it turned out fine.

After the event, Steve and I headed down to my favorite eatery, Pioneer Pub, for fried alligator bites (and he had eggplant fries).  After dinner we turned north on I-49 and headed home but I felt like a kid at Christmas for the next 24 hours.

I'm looking forward to sharing Cammie's story in the coming months; the next event is the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge on November 9-10.

As I prepare now to begin another book, I'm not moving too far away from Cammie.  I don't want to go into details on the project yet but I will say that I am collaborating with someone on this one and I could not be more excited about it.  We've been doing some necessary legwork over the past few months and have all the pieces in place now, so I've boxed up my Cammie files, kept out the things I'm going to carry over, I've cleaned off my desk and I'm ready to start writing.

I'm not comfortable with a lot of self serving posts like this but the event was so wonderful and so gratifying that I just had to share it.  I can't thank everyone involved enough for making this happen.

Further Reading:
Cane River Bohemia Book Signing Held at Cammie G. Henry Research Center (Natchitoches Parish Journal, October 19, 2018).


1 comment:

Adrienne said...

Will be ordering post haste. I love books about inspirational peeps.