LOWA 71st Annual Conference and Awards Banquet (and giveaway)

Well, I’ve only been home about an hour, and I hurried and unpacked, threw my dirty laundry in the washer, and uploaded a couple photos so hopefully I could sit down uninterrupted and get this post started and finished tonight.  First off, congratulations to Mrs. Coach for winning the copy of Judy Christie’s book, Wreath a Girl.

It was raining cats and dogs early Friday morning as I carried loads of stuff to the car using the umbrella as a shield.  Not the best way to start a five-hour trip.  I was headed to Shreveport to attend the 71st annual conference and awards banquet for our state’s professional outdoor journalists organization, LOWA (La. Outdoor Writers Association).

The rain continued to pour, but I hit a bright spot in the otherwise dreary morning when my cell phone lit up with the photo and number of my middle child, 29-year-old Capt. Dan. 

“Hey Mom, where ya at?”

“I just got on Highway 90 headed to Shreveport.  Where are you?”

“I’m headed to a boat in Houston, and I’m a few miles behind you.”

So, we chatted for few minutes, hung up, and carried on with our separate trips and thoughts.  About an hour later, I made a quick stop at a gas station in New Iberia.  As I exited the building in the still pouring rain, I saw a car in a water-filled ditch just off of Interstate 49.  I called Capt. Dan when I got back in the car and told him about it, and he said he had just passed up that car, meaning he was now just ahead of me.  I jumped in my car and sped up the on ramp and slid into traffic somewhere behind him.

Just minutes later, traffic came to a slow creep, and my son called me again.  I put him on speaker so I could keep both hands on the wheel.  By this time, it was obvious the rain wasn’t stopping, and so much had already fallen that the ditches were filled to overflowing and the service road was covered. As we talked and inched along, we began to see cars stranded on the service road with water up to the door handles.  How in the world did this happen so fast?  

We were stuck in double lines of traffic heading west-bound on Hwy 90 as far as the eye could see. I tried to find a local radio station that might give us some clue as to what the holdup was.  We assumed a wreck, but before long, part of the problem became evident as my son inched his way into standing water.  

“Mom, the highway is flooded up here.  There’s a Lexus in front of me, so if they can get through, you can too.  Just get in the left lane, hug the yellow line on your left and go really slow.  I’m about four cars ahead of you, so just be careful.  Let’s stay on the phone.”

Okay, can you say nerve racking?  Can you say high tension?  We all know the power of sweeping water, and that water was coming across that highway from right to left with a vengeance.  I was holding my own and doing fine until an 18-wheeler decided the water wasn’t a threat to him and came up on my right side hauling you know what.  He pushed a nice wake ahead of him and out to the sides and I could hear the water lapping against my right door.  I honked my horn, screamed at him, and gave him some universal sign language.  Then came truck number two.  Really?  How can they be so rude and inconsiderate?

HWY-90-West-flood (3)As you might imagine, I did not take any photos of the flooded highway while I was passing through. But I did manage to take this shot before I got to the high water.  Hey, I had to be safe!

Once we made it through the water, the traffic brought us to another standstill. He and I were still talking while he inched along looking at the maps on his smart phone trying to find an alternate route for us.  We came to a left-hand crossover to Youngsville, which Dan decided we should take.  Big mistake. We got down that road several miles and stopped at a big grocery store to use the facilities and talk to the locals.  They informed us that our plan to take the back roads up to Interstate 10 would not work, as the back roads were already flooded. So, we had to GO BACK to Highway 90.  Meanwhile, I called Lil Sis in Shreveport, patched her into a three-way call, told her our dilemma, and she put her genius brain and tekkie map skills to work.  She found localconditions.com that showed real-time updates of flooded, blocked, and open or closed roads.

She then mapped us out a route on back roads on the north side of Highway 90 instead of the south side.  She stayed on the line and navigated us through some flooded waterways that once again made me very nervous, meaning I prayed aloud the entire time.  We had to take lots of detours, twists, and turns on roads I’ve never traveled before; but finally she got us to Breaux Bridge, (because we could not get to Lafayette on the closed highway) where we could get to Interstate 10, with Dan heading west to Houston and me heading east to I-49 just north of Lafayette.  All in all, it took us FIVE HOURS to get to that point, when ordinarily it takes us only two hours.  The entire trip to Shreveport took me eight hours instead of five and took him nine hours to get to Houston instead of five.  

The conference was great.  The awards banquet was a blast, and I want to as humbly as possible share with y’all that I had a banner year as far as Excellence in Craft Awards go.  I’ve worked really hard the past year trying to turn out quality writing that people would enjoy reading.  Also, I added newspaper to my repertoire this year by writing for the Houma Times for six months–something I’ve never done before.

Lil Sis went to the banquet with me and used my cell phone to take some photos. And I swear to you 2016 EIC Winnersthat I did NOT fan out those certificates that are in my hands!  A photographer came over, fanned then out, and then handed them back to me saying, “Now, don’t you think that looks great?”  Well, it just meant the world to me that I had won so many awards, and I really didn’t feel the need to flaunt them. But guess what?  I’m going to flaunt them now because many of you have followed this blog since its birth in 2007 and have watched as I branched out into other areas of outdoor journalism, cheering me on every step of the way.  So, I hope it’s okay if I share my awards with you!

Here’s what I won:  

3rd Place in Newspaper for my article about bird watching, “For the Birds”, written for The Houma Times

3rd Place in Broadcast for a Hunt Fish Talk radio show episode about “Blue Crabs”

2nd Place in Broadcast for a Hunt Fish Talk radio show episode about  “Freshwater Diversions”

And then . . . .

1st Place Magazine Short Feature for “Muscadine – Fruit of the Vine” written for Country Roads

2nd Place Electronic for “Vibrio” written for this blog

1st Place Electronic for “Alligator Returns” written for this blog

And the award that I am the MOST excited about:

1st-Book-Regret the Egret

Regret the Egret won over two other adult books, and I just could not be more proud and thankful!  Also, many thanks again to Kayla Harris Johnson whose illustrations helped tell the story so well!

And for those of you who might want to know a little more about this competition: LOWA is the only professional organization for outdoor journalists in the state, which includes print, electronic, TV and radio broadcast, and digital media.  We all compete at the same level in the different categories.  The judges are outdoor journalists from other states.  Our names are blacked out of the submissions, so they have no idea whose work they are judging.

So, the new journalistic year began for me on June 1st, and the only way I can outdo myself next year is if I produce something in each of the above categories plus magazine long feature and photography.  If I had won in those two categories, it would have been a clean sweep, and I’m not certain if any other LOWA member has ever done that.  Again, I’m not bragging.  I just can’t stop grinning about these awards knowing that all my hard work paid off TWICE (because each one of these certificates has a check taped to the back of it!)

In my next post, I’m going to write about the Youth Angler of the Year Awards, so stay tuned!

Yes, it was a long weekend of worry about friends and family members in the midst of all the rain and rising water.  There is vast devastation of homes.  Having been through three floods myself, I can truly empathize with them.  Not to take anything away from those poor folks, but Capt. Dan lives in Baton Rouge, the proud owner of his first house purchased not quite a year ago.  His wife had to evacuate Saturday, and with all the high water and road closures near their house, it was not until TODAY that they found out whether or not their house flooded.  Praise God!  The water stopped before it got into the house.  We are so very, very thankful while we continue to pray for those who’ve lost everything.  Our hearts truly go out to them, and if I didn’t have to be here caring for The Capt. and Miah, I’d be up there helping somebody do something for these people.  Lil Sis and I shopped yesterday for essential toiletries and put together care packages to put on an 18 wheeler today headed down to the flood zones.  I just wish it were more . . . . .

I’ve checked on reader Choupiquer who lives in the flood zones, and his house is still dry.  I tried to check on reader Steffi, but I have not heard from her yet.  Anybody else?  Please let us know how you fared the flooding. I hope the rest of our friends are high and dry and were spared.  Truly, I really do know how it is, and if I can help from this desk, do not hesitate to ask me.

RICE-MIX-WEB-BANNER-FLATPlease leave comments below to be entered in a random drawing for two of these Louisiana Fish Fry Products!  

BW

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LOWA 71st Annual Conference and Awards Banquet (and giveaway) — 29 Comments

  1. Congratulations!!! You deserve every one of those!! I am so happy for you and wondering which wall is going to be covered or is it going to be a scrapbook? 🙂 Whichever, I can just about guarantee there will be more added to it soon. And your new book did great. Just takes a good writer. 🙂 Hope you get a bit of rest soon.

    I am still praying for everyone in the floods. I’ve been watching the reports. You should have received an award for just getting to the banquet without a boat! I noticed your vehicle is made like mine, hard to see where the front of it actually ends. I have a 4 cylinder and it would have flooded out for sure.

    • Oh, Cammy, which wall? I hadn’t even thought of that, but it reminds me I need to see if I can find certificates from previous years if I’m ever going to preserve them at all–even in a binder of some sort. What I need to find is someone with some free time on their hands and a love of scrapbooking to take all these mementos I have stashed here and there and do something with them, at least for my kids to look and when I’m dead and gone. I would have said grandkids, but I don’t have any yet. Yes, we shall all continue to pray for these folks. Having been through flooding four times, I really do feel for them. Once the reality has set in, the hard work begins. Hot, hard work.

  2. I’m here and I’m dry. We had no water issues. Can’t say the same for 2 of my children. I will say it was minimal though. My daughter, son-in-law, 2 grandchildren and 3 grand dogs are here with us. They lost power Sun, the water was rising around them so they got out while the could. The only way in or out was by boat by Mon morning. This morning Hubby, daughter, s-I-l and grandson launched our folding Porta- bote about a mile away and went in to check for damages. Luckily there was no water in the home.
    My eldest son’s work shop had about 5 1/2″ in it. The house is 2′ higher so he had no problem with it getting in the house. Both my sons work for the Baton Rouge Fire Dept. They left for work Sat morning and were relieved this morning. They go back tomorrow and have been told they will probably be there much longer than their 24 hr shift.
    No one was prepared for this. Places that have NEVER flooded are completely underwater.
    Sorry, BW got carried away. The sad part is there’s so much more to be said.
    Congrats on your awards. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you place in every category except video? AND as far as I know you don’t do video. Quite impressive!

    • Steffi, glad your family didn’t suffer from having their homes flooded. We have certainly seen some strange weather these past couple of years. Trouble with areas flooding that never have before is that they will continue to flood after the first time. We have an area west of us that flooded a few years ago and now, every time we get really heavy rain, it floods again and washes out the banks that TRA built many years ago and rebuilt several times since.

      • Steffi, thanks for the update, and we’re very glad those closest to you were spared. And please thank your firemen sons for their service. I know they are tired. As far as awards, radio and TV (video) are in the same category of “Broadcast”, so the only two categories I didn’t place in are “Magazine Long Feature” and Photography. This is most likely the closest I’ll ever come to a clean sweep!! I’m satisfied!

        • Cleanup started yesterday on the workshop. Everything is scattered outside to dry and 2′ of Luan and insulation has now been removed. No telling how long this will take to get done. As you know the studs must be cleaned and dry before repairs can be made, IF you can the materials needed to make the repairs. Then of course, everyday life goes on. Mac is at the FD today.

  3. Well deserved congratulations on the awards! Glad ye made it there and back without incident…our hearts are with others who are struggling through this weather. Stay safe, mates.

    • Thanks so much, Capt.! Yes, and as flooding continues, we must continue to think of the flood victims and do what we can from where we are!

  4. Congratulations! Wonderful recognition for your work. Thanks for reporting on your status regarding the flooding. I was wondering how you were faring. Praying for everyone with flooding issues.

    • Thank you, Bonita. We had a beautiful day down here Wednesday with sun all day and no rain, and I was able to do a tour that has been rescheduled twice already. We will continue to pray for all these devastated families.

  5. Woo-hoo!!!! I’m doing a happy dance here with all those awards! Especially for Regret the Egret! Your talent is becoming more and more appreciated!! I couldn’t be happier for you.

    I didn’t realize you were caught in some of that flooding rain. It’s so good to hear that Daniel’s home did not flood.

    I can feel the easy breathing you’re doing…..

    • I was so excited, I think I might have done a little happy dance to on my way up to receive my award for the book, which was the last one announced! When I first joined LOWA, they had pursued me for membership because of my first book, Before the Saltwater Came, and the irony is that it was considered for an EIC award in 2006 but it did not even place. So imagine my shock, surprise, and great pleasure when this book not only placed, but it WON. I’m still smiling over this one! I’m so sorry about your son-in-law’s house, especially since they had just completed some major remodeling, right? I hope they are holding up okay.

  6. Dale and I are so proud of you! Such talent you do have ! I enjoy everything you write and love your blog! I do love Regret the Egret! Congratulations on all the awards. You are so deserving!

    • I’m glad to call you and Dale friends! And super happy that you enjoyed the book! Hopefully I’ll see y’all down at the camp soon!

  7. Congrats on all the awards. YOUR AMAZING!!!!……So thankful that you made it up there and back safely. Also, so glad that Dan’s house was spared. GOD IS GOOD!!!

    • Well, I was hoping to be blogging about and sharing photos of our Toledo Bend fishing trip. As it turned out, I’m not sure if it rained at your camp, but it rained all day both days I stayed over in Shreveport. I still want to go with you when we can, but I know the camper is returning home in a few days. We’ll do this next time we can, okay?

      • You made the right choice to take a rain check! Sadly, we are going back this weekend to pack it all up. We will defiantly be going back and you are welcome to come anytime.

  8. Congratulations on all your awards and accomplishments. You are so multitalented, so accomplished in so many areas. And you do everything with enthusiasm, passion, and grace. Capt. Wendy, you are certainly a tour de force!

    • Those words mean so much coming from an accomplished author like yourself, Deb. By the way, if you’d like to sponsor the blog one month by giving away a copy of your book, just let me know. I’d be happy to do that with you. Hope all is well in your world and that the second book is not far off . . . or did I miss something already?

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