Author visits Leesville schools, will speak at NSU Thursday

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Author, editor, teacher Denise Lewis Patrick was the featured speaker at three elementary schools in Leesville Monday. Patrick, a 1977 graduate of Northwestern State University, is visiting Louisiana from her home in New Jersey and will also be a guest instructor in several NSU communications classes this week. She will offer a public lecture beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 8 in Magale Recital Hall, preceded by a reception and book signing from 6-7 p.m. in Orville Hanchey Gallery.

Patrick, accompanied by her mother, longtime educator Edwina Lewis, visited Vernon Middle School, West Leesville Elementary and Parkway Elementary to discuss her work and creative process with fourth and fifth graders and read from her books. She discussed with classes topics on which they are writing, answered questions and encouraged them to listen and make observations about things around them. She also discussed her love of research, how story ideas come to her and showed students books she made by hand as a child and as an adult.

The elementary school presentations were coordinated by Anna MacDonald, library associate at NSU’s Leesville campus, and Martha Koury, Leesville campus director, and included an introductory skit based on one of Lewis’s books with three actors from NSU lab schools and two from NSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance under the direction of NSU Elementary Lab teacher Lisa Wiggins. Performers were sixth grader Victoria Wiggins and fifth graders Bess Stewart and Sydni Jones with NSU students Taijha Silas of Pineville and Madeline Monlezun of Covington in a skit based on “Meet Cecile,” the first in the Cecile series of Patrick’s popular American Girl books.

As part of the visits, NSU First Lady Jennifer Maggio delivered boxes of books to each school. The books were collected during Maggio’s Forks Up for Literacy campaign in which she collected more than 4,200 books for schools, daycares and youth centers in the region.

Patrick is a Natchitoches native who earned a degree in journalism at NSU in 1977 and a master’s in creative writing from the University of New Orleans. A long-time resident of New York City area, she is a freelance writer, editor, instructor and literary consultant who has authored books of poetry, short stories, picture and board books for children, non-fiction biographies, middle grade novels and a young adult novel.

Patrick has written narratives for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center exhibition, published a review in the New York Times and has written sections for Fodor’s Travel Guides to New York City. She has also worked as an editor for Scholastic, Inc., as well as several other publishing companies and teaches intermediate writing at Nyack College.

After penning two stories for the American Girl Doll series, Patrick was lauded by the African American Academy of Arts and Letters for Children’s Book of the Year, was a runner-up for the Lamplighter Award by the National Christian School Association and had two books listed as Best Books for the Teenager by the New York Public Library. She has served on the advisory board for the Books for Kids Foundation, as a mentor for an afterschool writing club, as a writer’s coach and as an elementary school reading volunteer.

Her most recent book released in January, “A Girl Named Rosa,” tells the story of Rosa Parks for elementary students.

Patrick was inducted into Northwestern State University’s Alumni Hall of Distinction, the Long Purple Line, in 2014.

Books will be offered for sale and refreshments will be provided at the March 8 event. For more information on Patrick, visit her website at deniselewispatrick.com.