What is LOWA, anyway?
Maybe I should give you a little background information on the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association before I post the third in the series about our 70th annual conference. LOWA is the official professional organization for outdoor journalists in our state and the keeper of the official state Fish Records. Arthur Van Pelt may have been a charter member, and the organization created an award in his honor based on his lifetime of outdoor conservation. The award isn’t given annually; only when a member is deserving. This year, the award rightfully went to Glynn Harris, writer and radio show host in Ruston, LA.
Additionally, in order to encourage young would-be outdoor journalists, LOWA sponsors several awards for youth. They are the Youth Journalism Contest for children ages 8-18, divided into two age groups. The two categories are essay and photography. The next is the Youth Hunter of the Year award, wherein a male and female youth submit an essay about a memorable hunt. The newest award, and one I helped introduce this year, is the Youth Angler of the Year award, wherein a male and female youth submit an essay about a memorable fishing trip. The prizes are over the top and well worth it for Louisiana’s outdoor young people who have a penchant for writing and/or photography.
At 70 years old, it certainly isn’t a young organization, and I think I can safely say it might be one of the original “good ole boys’ clubs”! Historically, most outdoor journalists were men, right?
It started with the Youth Journalism Contest . . . .
My introduction to LOWA was back in 2005, when somehow, somewhere, I read about the Youth Journalism Contest, and I encouraged Termite, who was nine at the time, to write an essay about living on the bayou. He couldn’t yet type, and he hated to write, so he dictated it to me, and I typed it up for him, improper grammar and all, so it would be in his “voice”. The judges chose it as the third-place winner, and he was invited to attend the annual awards banquet. Conveniently, the awards banquet took place nearby Houma that year, making it easy for us to attend. The banquet was a BIG deal and we had a great time. How had I never heard of this organization before?
Little did I know, that before the night was over, I would be approached about membership because of my book, Before the Saltwater Came. Who me? You want ME as a member? I was taken aback and a wee bit flattered, but mostly, I didn’t feel worthy as I watched major players in outdoor journalism like Don Dubuc, Joe Macaluso, Deb Burst, Andy Crawford, Todd Masson, John Flores, Lyle Johnson, and Mike Lane walk forward to receive awards for excellence in their crafts. Their combined journalistic prowess showed in all areas of TV and radio broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online publications. All I had to my credit was a children’s picture book, written from my passion for the area in which I live.
Eventually, I accepted the invitation to join, and a new door opened to me, which I walked through with some fear and trepidation. As a new member, and one of only a few females in the group, I decided that if I were going to ever walk up to that podium and get handed an award for excellence, then I had better step up my game. So I purchased a copy of the La. Sportsman Magazine and began reading pieces by award-winning LOWA members.
The year was 2006, and in one issue of the Sportsman, I read a little blip of a piece about two men going kayak fishing–something not so common at that time. As I sat reading on the porch of our old house, I glanced out at the bayou and thought, “Now THAT is something I’d like to try.” After a string of serendipitous events, I got in touch with the only kayak fishing charter around and got myself invited to go kayak fishing with them, as well their island and dolphin-watching boat tour around Grand Isle.
Capt. Danny Wray, Kristen Wray, and Capt. Mark Brassett of then, Calmwater Charters, treated me to a marvelous trip, getting up close and personal with the dolphins. We started off the trip catching speckled trout and red fish from Wilderness Ride kayaks. On our tour, saw oodles of pelicans on Queen Bess Island, and as a bonus, Capt. Mark took me wade fishing, and all told, I was in Heaven. With a mindful of information and vivid memories and a full SD card in my camera, I came back home and churned out my first ever feature article for the La. Sposrtsman titled “Cajun Sleigh Rides”, resulting in my first paycheck as a professional outdoor writer.
Having that piece accepted and published in our state’s most popular outdoor magazine for hunters and fishers gave me the confidence to query the editor to see if he’d be interested in a piece about coastal land loss, my passion. The article, “Terrebonne’s Defenses Nearly Gone” was accepted, published, and garnered me my first, 1st Place Excellence in Craft award in 2007. The awards banquet was in Shreveport that year, my old stomping grounds, and LilSis was with me that night. When my name was called, you could have knocked me over with a feather, and I believe she will vouch for that. I was truly shocked, honored, humbled, and giddy as a school girl all at the same time. I felt I had arrived!
The members of this organization, although often working for competitors in the outdoor journalism world, are comrades in the trade, encouraging and helpful to newbies like myself. By and by, the good ole boys accepted me as one of their own, and now I am good friends with many of them. They have helped me tremendously, and the annual conference workshops help us improve our skills as writers, photographers, and broadcast journalists. Now I even get to fish with them!
LOWA membership opens more new doors
Being a member of LOWA has opened other doors for me and challenged my skills as an outdoor writer and photographer. Late in 2011, Don Dubuc chose me as one of three guest hosts to join him in a new round-table discussion radio show called “Hunt Fish Talk“, broadcast from New Orleans. In our first year, one of our show segments earned an Excellence in Craft award from LOWA. Now in my fourth year doing the radio show, I dearly love it and am very grateful to Don for giving me this opportunity and for allowing me this time to try my wings in his industry.
A couple of years ago, while searching for a book online, I came across this book, “Louisiana Women”. On a whim, I ordered it through Amazon and had totally forgotten about it until the package arrived. I dove into the book and read about famous Louisiana women, some familiar to me, but most not. In my favorite chapter, I learned about a Louisiana native named Mary Land, and you’ll never guess what she was. Yep, she was an avid fisher woman and one of the first female outdoor journalists in our state. And guess what else? She was a member of LOWA and eventually became President of the organization. She even published a cookbook, and as soon as I read that, I was back on Amazon looking for a copy. Further, she and Arthur Van Pelt were colleagues in New Orleans way back when. That I could somehow reach back and be connected with these legends in outdoor journalism really excited me.
Now, the proud owner of her original cookbook, and an avid fan, I continue to be inspired by Mary Land’s legacy. I plan to do a post entirely about her when the time is right; but for now, I am certain that discovering Mary Land was no accident and another significant bread crumb on the trail of this path of outdoor journalism letting me know that I am, indeed, on the right one.
I started out today to share with you our trip into the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge, which was the start of Day 2 of our LOWA conference; but as sometimes happens with this blog, the writer in me had other things in mind. With the photos edited and ready to plug into a post about the Teche NWR, my fingers did the walking and led us down this historical road, instead.
In retrospect, I realize this piece is more about my history with LOWA than about actual LOWA history. Well, heck, I’m sorry about that. I started reminiscing and got carried away.
But as the kids say, I hope “it’s all good”.
“to be continued . . . . yet again”
As the saying goes…”You’ve come a long way Baby”.
Ha ha! I remember that commercial! Ain’t it the truth. It’s kind of weird to backtrack through everything and see things in a timeline. Gives me a new perspective on how things came to be the way they are. But I’m sure it’s that way in everyone’s life . . . we just don’t usually take the time to sit down and write it all out. So glad you’re still here with me!!!!
It’s good to know more of your story. It is encouraging to read about women who make a difference in the world, as in your case using your home and interest to motivate others to enjoy the environment and to preserve it. Keep telling us more!
I’m not sure how much of a difference I’ve made, but I keep on trying! Since you’re relatively new here, you may have some catching up to do if you have some idle time, and you’re not busy clipping your nails or something equally important and thrilling. But up there on the menu, click on About BW, from there select “My Bayou Life” and start with Chapter 1. I’ve written 12 chapters about how I came to be here in 1978 or so up to the birth of my firstborn. I haven’t written a chapter in a while, and regular readers have asked me to, but I hope to get back to it. I can’t imagine that reading about my life is any more interesting than one’s own life, so I stopped. Maybe I’ll revisit Chapter 13 and see what comes about. Thank you for still being here!!
Thanks for point that out. I will enjoy reading more about your bayou life and I do encourage you to finish that book!
I don’t have time to clip my nails since I am completing a book myself and busy planning a community event to celebrate family caregivers in November, National Family Caregiving Month. Since I wrote a devotional book, A Promise Kept, after caring for my mother for several years, I have been busy writing articles, book signings, etc. and advocating family caregivers. When I see your blog, I stop to read because it brings back wonderful memories of fishing, hunting, and enjoying outdoor sports with my sons. If I were still teaching, I would probably share information about you with my students, especially 4-H’ers. Finish your book, it will be good reading for us Louisiana women. By the way, I just chatted with some of my lady friends about planning an adventure trip to the bayou.
Your last line gave me chills! Y’all come on down!! Just let me know. Where can one purchase your book? I’d like my readers to know. Will you send me a private email through this site, please, so we might have a little conversation? Thanks!
I believe I still have my copy of La. Sportsman with “Cajun Sleigh Rides”. I knew then that you’d amount to something in the literary world! Just kidding with ya, lovely Cuz. You arrived eons ago.
As always, I await your blog posts to read more about your adventures!
Well, fuzzy cuzzy, I’m not even sure I have a copy! I need to find a really good friend with time on her hands who loves to scrapbook and turn over what I do have so it can be put into some kind of binder for my for my grandkids. Everything is here and there in boxes, for pete’s sake. Might as well be in the trash, right? You are still my No. 1 fan and supporter! I miss your face! Gorge’s here we come . . . one of these days . . . . sooner than later . . . .
What you need to do, pronto, is get a copy of everything you’ve ever published and put it into pdf format, so you’ll have it when you query someone and they say, “Please attach pdf files of previously published material.” I could happen.
Of course, that would be, “It could happen.” I suppose “I” could happen, too, but nothing’s going to happen if I don’t get out of this house and get to work!
Does that mean scanning and saving as PDF? I guess that’s way better than a scrapbook, right? I assume you are experiencing fall-like temps too? Very conducive to working outdoors for a change!
Did you ever find the cookbook by Mary Land?
Yes, I am the proud owner of her 1954 cookbook and have read it several times. Why do you ask?
Friends, I have been asked via social media why I’m not commenting on or writing a blog post about the 10th Anniversary Katrina. Well, first off, hundreds of others who were directly impacted/flooded by Katrina in New Orleans and other coastal towns are doing a fine job of that. The 10th anniversary that impacted our family and community the most was Hurricane Rita, one month later. This blog was not being written back in 2005 when all that happened, however, I did mention Rita once this blog got underway in 2007. If you want to read those posts, please type Hurricane Rita in the search bar and go from there. Just wanted to clarify all that . . . .
I remain fascinated by your site and like you we were impacted by Rita when we still lived in Orange, Texas. We sought refuge at the farm near the southern parts of Toledo Bend and still had one heck of a blow 90 miles inland. I am certainly not slighting those directly impacted by Katrina but we felt like we survived through the
“forgotten storm.” In our kitchen hangs a little piece of art called “Twisted Sisters” who were Katrina and Rita, of course. We had lots of folks from the great state of Louisiana staying in the recreation building of our church who vacated for points west at the thought of another hurricane.
I just want to say thanks for keeping it interesting to visit your pages. Congratulations on your writing success!
I’m very interested in knowing more about your piece of art called “Twisted Sisters”. Can you tell us more? I’m sure you did have one heck of a blow at Toledo Bend. We, too, feel like we survived the forgotten storm, and again in 2008 for Hurricane Ike, which flooded us as much as Rita, if not more. How long have you been following the blog, Bob? I did a lot of posts about Gustave and Ike back in 2008, in much detail with photos. Your evacuation experience, etc. may have been very similar to ours. Thanks for the kind words, too!