Monthly Archives: August 2009

A tale of a brave little phone who could

So I lost my cell phone yesterday while playing volleyball. There were very few places it could have gone, but there was a scramble when it started to rain as everybody grabbed up their things and ran off. The volume was turned up high and everybody I knew called the thing, so it seemed pretty clear nobody had it. Yet, I looked for it in the rain and it was no where in sight.

Out of sheer stubbornness (and hopefulness), because I couldn’t afford to pay $200 to replace a phone I paid $50 for, I went back to the courts today and there, in the middle of our court where it must have fallen out of my bag, was my cell phone. Half buried in sand and still on.

It still works! After almost 24 hours in wet sand, undoubtably being rained on some, the thing is still going. I cleaned it off, and so I have my cell phone back. I’ll never take my brave little cell phone who could for granted again (Sanyo flip phone for anybody who’s interested) and this is a perfect demonstration of why nobody can reach me while I’m playing volleyball. Usually, I don’t take it with me. 🙂

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Cajun singing, hellacious road trips and new jobs

My only excuse is that I’ve been very, very busy. There was a trip to Baton Rouge, then a turn around back to New Orleans with an interview the next morning, followed immediately by a long drive to see my family (made longer by a lovely visit all together with my sister and her son on the way). The short stay with my parents was abbreviated by a hellacious trip back to New Orleans (read: an extra two hours) and I began a new job the next day. Whew.

However, I’m not just whining. I do have a gift for you.

In Baton Rouge, I caught the Baton Rouge One Book One Community (there is a New Orleans version of OBOC) event, which featured Rheta Grimsley Johnson (whom I have written about before, recently) talking about her book Poor Man’s Provence. We were a lucky, lucky audience that night because not only did we get Rheta (more than enough for any audience), but she brought with her Helene Boudreaux (who sang for a while before Rheta spoke) and Jeanette and Johnelle, all of whom feature vividly in the book. (Read it, so you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about).

I got to meet up with great friends of mine at the event, Susan and Larry Broussard, and when all was said and done, when the volunteers were packing up and the audience had mostly gone, it was just the Cajun Contingent left and sure enough, Helene and Larry found that one French song they knew in common and started singing.

Finally figured out how to get the video on here – my first YouTube video! And here’s a bonus present, a picture of Rheta and I together. And don’t forget, you have the 225 piece to look forward to, yet!100_6586b

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My book? Oh, that!

So, the book is finished. This makes me think of that quote (that is attributed to everybody even remotely witty, though I think Oscar Wilde actually did say it): “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.” So, I’ve done my best to get the book into a shape where it can function on its own before I abandoned it and that’s pretty much the best that I think any of us can do. I think it has a fairly good chance of surviving without my running back to rescue it. Maybe someone will help it out along the way if it breaks down on the side of the road or gets sick or something else traumatic. It may never be prettier or smarter than it is now, but it will have to make its own way in the world soon, taking its own chances, as we all do.

Erlack. You’d think I was sending my firstborn down the river in a basket or off on an ice floe or something.

I like Jamey’s word for it – graduation. My novel is not being abandoned. It’s graduating and going off on its way in the world, to discover alcohol, philosophy, Ramen noodles and experimental drugs and sex at college. Oh man. Um, novel? Would you like to come home? Great, it’s already left and it won’t come back now. Well, I just have to trust that I wrote it right.

While I was looking up the Oscar Wilde quote, I found some others (here and here) that consoled me, made me laugh or just nod in utter agreement. For your entertainment:

There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.  ~Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. – Cicero

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.  ~Ray Bradbury

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. – Dorothy Parker

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.  ~Anaïs Nin

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads. – Erica Jong

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.  ~E.L. Doctorow

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. – G.K. Chesterton

A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.  ~Charles Peguy

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it. – Groucho Marx

Oh, I have to stop now. Somebody wants to take me out to eat to celebrate abandoning my novel. Yay!


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Bollywood Hero – flash mob?

A friend posted this on Facebook and my comments below are literally just what I commented on her FB post. 🙂

I object to this being called a “flash mob.” More like an excuse not to get shooting permits. 🙂 Great, entertaining performance? Yes. Enormously effective advertising? Yes. Flash mob? No. Cause clearly, if there’s been a “flash mob” announcement, I obviously would’ve shown up to get my Bollywood on. Lol.

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Getting to brag on some friends

On Wednesday, I opened up my e-mail newsletter of Publisher’s Lunch and read a hysterical blurb for a recently-sold book, realizing that the recently-sold book is by one of my first fiction teachers at LSU! We’d caught up a few years ago at AWP and through Facebook, so I got to congratulate her the old fashioned personal way (if not old fashioned face-to-face) and now I’m congratulating her publicly and *commanding* all of you to write down the name of this book, cause you’re going to love it:

Robin Becker‘s BRAINS: a zombie memoir, the first-person account of a college professor-turned-zombie who retains his sentience and recruits others like him on a heroic quest to fend off the living while searching for the meaning of un-life, to Gabe Robinson at Harper, in a nice deal, for publication in Summer 2010, by Janet Reid at FinePrint Literary Management (NA).

Then, on Friday, it came to my attention that finalist results for the Faulkner-Wisdom awards were up on the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society website. Without further ado, congratulation shout-outs to:

Maurice Ruffin (short story finalist, still in the competition), Jenn Nunes (novel-in-progress finalist as well as short story semi-finalist), Jane Stubbs (novel-in-progress finalist), Susan Kirby-Smith (novel-in-progress finalist), Penelope Dane (novel-in-progress finalist), Mark Spitzer (novel finalist and husband to Robin Becker above), Missy Wilkinson and yours truly (finalists for the novel category).

In Maurice’s Facebook note “A Fine Time to Be a Teller of Tales,” he said something that really struck me:

…I think this news is proof that we have a strong community of writers in New Orleans. I also think that 100 years from now people will look back at the stuff we made and ask “what on Earth was going on in New Orleans?” “Jamey Hatley and Emilie Staat were coffeeshop mates?” “Maurice Ruffin knew Terri Stoor?” “Bartlett and Marston wrote a novel together…via the internet? That’s crazy.”

I’m so glad to be included in such a constellation of bright lights and so very proud of everybody, especially all those LSU folks. Jamey Hatley won the novel in progress award just a little while ago, as did my dear friend Mary McMyne, both of whose novels are *highly* anticipated. I can’t tell you how honored I’ve always been to be among such talented people, to get the chance to learn from them.

And then there’s Barb Johnson, who recently won the highly prestigious Gift of Freedom and whose book More of This World or Maybe Another is out in October. Write that title down as well.

And these are just a handful of the folks who have big, bright news about their writing at the moment. We have such a great community of incredible writers here in South Louisiana. I look forward to lots more news in the near and foreseeable future and I also anticipate seeing many of these folks at Words & Music and the Louisiana Book Festival, if not sooner. Can’t wait! Congratulations everybody!

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Remembering John Hughes

Just read an incredibly touching post remembering John Hughes, written by Alison Byrne Fields, who wrote him a fan letter as a teenager and with whom he corresponded for a few years. Really, you have to read, it’s a pretty incredible read.

[8.12.09: Here’s a link to Molly Ringwald’s piece in The New York Times. You might have noticed I didn’t really say anything personal. It’s because the loss of John Hughes is really just impossible for me to quantify. I didn’t know him personally, but it’s impossible for me to imagine my life without his films. I have been formed by them, indelibly.]

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Bobbie Faye’s baaaaaaack

The newest Bobbie Faye book, When a Man Loves a Weapon, is out today. While I love the first two books, I think the third one just may be my favorite. 510zfw1aWjL._SL500_AA240_

Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Living single in her trailer was great for a time. But now Bobbie Faye’s officially engaged to, and has purchased a home with, the hottest FBI agent on the beat: Trevor Cormier. Even though she still has no idea what he really does on the job, Bobbie Faye has never been happier…until Trevor gets called away on an urgent assignment and leaves her in the care of body-guard slash babysitter Riley.

As it turns out, Bobbie Faye could use a little extra security. The man she helped put in behind bars, the murderous Sean MacGreggor, has escaped from prison…and is dead-set on revenge. With still no word from Trevor—who was only supposed to be gone for three days—Bobbie Faye finds herself reluctantly turning to her detective ex-boyfriend Cam for help. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect Bobbie Faye…so long as Trevor stays out of the picture. For good.

If you like Janet Evanovich, Jennifer Crusie and kick-ass Southern women who make you laugh out loud, Bobbie Faye is for you.

Toni’s also pretty funny when she’s blogging, so read her talking about writing love triangles on Book Binge.

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No need for fiction in Poor Man’s Provence

A while ago, I was assigned a story for 225 that included interviewing an author by telephone. I’d read her book and really enjoyed it and was very nervous at first (she’s a journalist! syndicated!), but she was so warm and genuine that I quickly felt like I was talking to an old friend. It was a wonderful conversation and yielded QUITE a lot more than I needed for my short piece. I also found out that the piece was going to run in the magazine after her appearance in Baton Rouge, so I asked my editor if I could do a companion piece here to encourage folks to read her book and go to the author event at which she’ll appear.

So, the deets.

The book is called Poor Man’s Provence and its author’s name is Rheta Grimsley Johnson. Her book was selected as Baton Rouge’s fall One Book One Community selection. This is a great program where community partners encourage all of Baton Rouge to read the same book twice a year and  provides tools and events for community dialogue. I encourage all of you, whether you live in Baton Rouge or not, to read this book, which is about Rheta’s experience of being more than a tourist but not quite a local of Henderson, Louisiana, deep in Cajun Country. The book has very short, engaging chapters and is a very fast, fascinating read, no matter how much you know about Henderson or Cajun culture.

One of the things that Rheta said that struck me most deeply, but I wasn’t able to work into the 225 piece was, “In the south, there’s no need for fiction. The truth is so rich.” As a fiction writer, I chose to see this as hyperbole, but it also strikes me as utterly true. No matter how strange our fiction is, it never can quite compare to the truth of the idiosyncratic way of life around us and the best novelists, in my opinion, write unbearably true things about people that just happened to not exist completely before they wrote about them.

Rheta’s voice vibrated with passion whenever she spoke with me about Henderson and the friends she made there and she writes that way about them, as well. It’s easy to feel like you’ve made a whole batch of new friends as you’re reading.

After you’ve read the book, go see Rheta speak August 20th at 7 p.m. at the Cox Communications Building on the LSU campus. When I asked if any of the “characters” (in more ways than one) would attend the event with her, she said she’d ask them if they’d like to. Regardless, Rheta will be there and so will many readers ready to discuss this incredible book. Good times will be had.

1588382184 300dpiRheta jacket photo crop

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