The inspiration for the new Rapides Parish Library literary festival, Ripple on the Red, trickled down from Bayou Teche in New Iberia. Karen Riley Simmons, adult services and outreach manager for RPL, was asked to be on the staff of Books Along the Teche, New Iberia’s literary festival last March.
She said the festival down there is fantastic. But, Central Louisiana also has its own very rich and active writers’ culture.
Every month, the library features a local author and artist. There about 25 book clubs for all ages at the library that Simmons facilitates in addition to the writing groups.
“And local authors are always calling to have their book signings,” said Simmons.
So, Simmons thought, why not have a literary festival here?
She ran the idea past various RPL people who all liked it. Now, Ripple on the Red is getting ready to make a big splash Friday and Saturday at the Westside Regional Library, 5416 Provine Place in Alexandria.
Various writing and poetry workshops for both adults and teens will be held. There will also be an Author/Artists Alley featuring Rapides Parish Library’s Authors and Artists of the Month from the last two years showcasing and selling their work.
“It’s a great time for Christmas shopping. It’s perfect to kick off the season,” said Simmons.
“I love the timing of this new festival. It gives people a chance to come out and get autographed books for Christmas presents. It’s the perfect unique gift for hard-to-buy-for people on our Christmas lists,” said Christee Gabour Atwood, author of “Coming Home” and “In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands.” She was an RPL Author of the Month and will be at the festival signing copies of her books.
Anita Sanders of Dat New Orleans Taste will host a cooking demonstration. Children’s activities will include a family craft station, Butterbean Tales storytelling with Rosa Ashby Metoyer and a young writer’s workshop for ages 7-11 with one of RPL’s Author of the Month, M.L. Tarpley. Plus, there will be food vendors like Bayou Dawgs, Penne Express and ice cream from Mz. Breezee’s. There will be a free book table as well.
The name Ripple on the Red comes from an internal RPL newsletter called “The Ripple,” said Simmons.
“That because RPL, pronounced, is ‘ripple’,” she explained. “That’s why it’s the Ripple on the Red because we’re RPL.”
The festival has something for everyone, said Simmons. All the workshops are free, and not only are they open to writers, but they are also open to anyone curious about the writing process.
“Alexandria is the perfect place for a literary festival. It’s the heart of the state and there’s no better spot for writers to gather to celebrate the gifts that come from their hearts,” said Atwood. “
I am happy and excited to be a part of Alexandria’s first literary festival. The Rapides Parish Library is doing wonderful things to help promote the many local talented authors we have here as well as boosting literacy in our community,” said poet Shelley Jinks Johnson, who will present a workshop on “The Healing Power of Poetry.” The workshop set for 11:45-12:30 p.m. Saturday is for those interested in learning how to create a poetry practice that can bring healing to poets and their readers.
“The participation by the local artist and author community has been great,” said Sandie Flynn Buller, RPL public relations manager.
Simmons said what has been most remarkable for her is how everyone she has asked to be a part of the festival or to help has agreed.
“The only thing we need now is for the community to come,” she said.
“The Ripple on the Red Literary Festival is an official NaNoWriMo “Come Write In” site for the National Novel Writing Month of November. Writers from across the region are invited to take part,” states an RPL press release.
The festival kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Friday with mystery writer Ashley Weaver. She used to be a Rapides Parish Librarian and is now a librarian in Allen Parish, said Simmons.
“She has written this very popular series of mysteries, the Amory Ames Mystery series, and also the Electra McDonnell series. She’s going to have a book club party themed after her mysteries. They’re like cozy mysteries like Agatha Christi,” she said.
The night will include fun and games themed after the Amory Ames Mystery series. On Saturday at 10:45-11:45 a.m., Weaver will host a workshop on “The Series-ous Writer.”
Louisiana writer Curt Iles will start the event Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with an author’s talk on “The Storyteller’s Voice.”
Iles has 13 books and four novels to his credit, said Simmons. He is also a regular patron of the Rapides Parish Library who uses the library to write his books.
“He’s been a friend to the library for so long,” said Simmons.
At 12:30-1:30 p.m., Kionna Walker LeMalle will host an interactive workshop, “The Great Character Surrender,” for those who are in the process of writing fiction.
Walker is the winner of the 2023 Lee Smith Novel Prize for her second novel, “Behind the Waterline.” She also taught at LSUA before moving to Houston, said Simmons.
The festival also features a writing prompt, where people can write up to 1,000 words in any genre to the prompt, “Open your senses and experience the world.”
“I think this is special and I don’t think any other literary festival in the country is doing it. We have a festival writing prompt,” said Simmons. ”You can write on this prompt ahead of the festival and then you bring that, and it gets workshopped.”
Jef Goelz, the workshop facilitator for “Writing Promptly,” chose the prompt.
“He’s the facilitator but other writers will give you feedback,” said Simmons.
The workshop will be held at 1:45-2:45 p.m.
Dr. David Holcombe will host “Writing in a Flash” from 10:45 a.m.-11:30 a.m. The workshop will teach writers how to write short form fiction well.
Micheal Wynne, host of the Cenla Authors Club will present “A Self-Published Primer” workshop from 1-1:45 p.m..
“He has self-published all of his books and he has multiple books. And he helps people do that,” said Simmons.
The teen poetry workshop, hosted Sherry Gentle of “Ignite the Mic,” is set for 10-10:45 a.m.
Twenty-year-old Tori Couvillion will present “My Writing Fantasy” at 11-11:45 a.m. The workshop will teach teens how to write fantasy and build a fantasy world.
“The teen workshops include a teen poetry workshop with Sherry Gentle of ‘Ignite the Mic’ and ‘My Writing Fantasy’ which is about fantasy writing, how to build that fantasy world,” said Simmons.
Kylen Guilbeaux of Opelousas who just hosted several animation workshops for the library will host an “Illustrating for Graphic Fiction” workshop from 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Simmons and Buller said they are excited about the festival and where it can go from here.
“This is just our inaugural event and we can’t wait to see what we can add year to year,” said Buller.
“I hope this is only the beginning of what will become a lasting literary tradition that we can grow each year,” said Johnson.
“This will be a great start of something that can grow to draw readers and writers from around the state and further,” said Atwood. “Central Louisiana is such a vibrant writers’ community. This festival will help draw attention to the abundance of talent we have here and encourage others to come and discover their new favorite writers.”