Monthly Archives: October 2009

NaNoWriMo Saved My Life…

See Emilie guest blog about NaNoWriMo at Mike’s Writing Workshop and Newsletter. This guest post features my sister as A., the elder little girl in my tale. Check it out.

More here at home later. Stay tuned.

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Filed under freelance work, New Orleans, pop culture, writing updates

Hey Dancing Heart

The title of the post is the title of a personal ad I happened to see. I love it, so I’m kinda playing around with it to see what it fits. Because I just have to use it. 🙂

Life’s been kinda chaotic. My temp job came to an end and the very same day (after my going-away party, awwww), I drove up to Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Book Festival. Many of my friends were on panels and Jamey was kind enough to invite me to share her gorgeous hotel room. That first night, we were driven in style to the Author’s Party at the State Library – which was good, because I hadn’t packed for the cold and that’s a bit of a walk from the hotel! We met some really amazing people, caught up with old friends and ate wonderful food from Mansur’s in the stacks of the State Library. There is nothing like witnessing your friends being celebrated, so it was a good night. Jamey and Barb met up with the folks from the Oxford American who’ve published them this year, as well as other writers-including Alex Cook, who not only writes for Oxford American, but 225 Magazine and Country Roads as well. And it turns out we have a decade-past M’s Fine and Mellow Cafe connection, so that was cool. Louis and his wife Elly were there and I got to see my mentor David Madden as well. After we were put into the last cars back to the hotel, some of us decided to go out on the town a bit, though we had to be up early, and that was a blast as well.

The whole time we were at that end of downtown, near the LSU Museum of Art and the hotel, close to the river, I was having fits of nostalgia, some really powerful flashbacks. Nearly ten years ago, the hotel was a ruin and the museum wasn’t there. Downtown was a ghost town after 6 p.m. when all the government workers would flee the encroaching darkness. M’s Fine and Mellow and Tabby’s Blues Box were pretty much the only things open and the year that I became a regular at M’s (every Tuesday, open mic night) was a year of my personal blossoming. I met many of my friends then and there, I forced myself to come out of my shell more. And it really felt like the place was ours, empty and dangerous as it may have been. Now the mural that used to be on the side of M’s is gone, replaced by a painted sign for The Roux House, which occupies the same space. The parking lot I used to park in is the cradle of the gorgeous museum, whose rooftop offers a breathtaking view of the river. Tabby’s is gone and in its place, a club my friend Daniel Lee plays at sometimes, I think. I met Daniel that very first Tuesday I went to M’s, grabbed his hand as he passed by my table and told him how much I liked his music. He thanked me and sat down to talk. These days, downtown Baton Rouge is full of life and it’s great to see. It’s not the same, but it’s still a beautiful thing.

The day of the Book Festival was glorious and overwhelming. I don’t know what voodoo the organizers of the Book Festival do, but there always seems to be gorgeous weather for the festival. Sometimes it’s hot, but as far as I can remember, it’s always been clear. This year, it was chilly with such a crystalline blue sky, you felt like you were walking around in an advertisement.

I had to pop in and out of panels to see everybody, but I feel satisfied with my glimpses and experiences. Barb in the enormous Senate Chamber with Rick Bragg et al for just a few minutes. Then, Louie’s book reading where I ran into a friend who is coincidentally a fan of his and was gratified to hear another reader say, “I picked up your book because of the piece I read in 225…” Then, a thrilling ride in a golf cart with Elly and Louis to the signing tent – Elly and I crying, “Wheeeee!” and urging the driver to go faster on the sidewalks around the Capitol building and Louie trying to act like he didn’t know either of us.

After chatting with Louie and Elly for a few minutes, I wandered around some of the vendor tents, stopping to talk to the great folks who publish me occasionally at 225 Magazine. It was really nice to put a face to the e-mail conversations. I’ve known my editor, Jeff Roedel, since our days in the Cinema Club together at college, but I hadn’t met Tom Guarisco, 225‘s editor, though we’d communicated. One of the downfalls of freelancing, though it’s so great when you get to have a face-to-face. I’d never spoken with Rachael Upton, the online news editor, but I was very pleased to meet with her there at the festival. She does really great work with the website and she just happens to be really nice.

And then it was back into the Capitol building for a whirlwind of panels. A few minutes in the “Humor in Welty” panel that some professors of mine from LSU were on, and then across the hall to Barb’s very intimate reading from her book, More of This World or Maybe Another. She read from the story “Killer Heart,” and there was this one particular line (won’t say which, not out of context) where I felt like she’d reached over and punched me in the stomach. I made an audible sound, a sort of agonized, “Oh,” and that’s probably one of the best compliments I can give a writer. Especially a short story writer because, as I confessed to Barb later that night, I struggle to read and write short stories. There’s something about them that is harder for me than novels. They’re very different beasts. More on Barb and her book in a few paragraphs.

I had to leave Barb’s panel to get to Jamey’s “Work-in-Progress” panel with our teacher Moira Crone and another writer named Maggie Collins. It was really great to hear Moira read her piece. Jamey’s was material I had heard about, but never read (or heard). She prefaced hers by saying that it truly was a work in progress as she’d been working on it that morning at breakfast. I can attest to the truth of that. 🙂

Again, I had to duck out early from the “Works-in-Progress” panel to get to Toni’s panel about the Bobbie Faye books. She was entertaining her crowd with behind the scenes stories about the repackaging of the series and they asked a lot of questions about whether there’d be a fourth Bobbie Faye book (yet to be determined), one reader even going so far as to passionately say, “I think you owe us that story.”

The rest of the day was conversations, drinks and then a long, wonderful dinner. And then a long, not-so-wonderful drive back to New Orleans, getting back late at night/early in the morning, whichever way you look at it. Sunday was a recovery and packing day, catching up two friends for lunch and dinner respectively, before driving to Georgia on Monday.

Tuesday, I attended a press session with some of the Top 10 dancers from Season 5 of So You Think You Can Dance. It’s interesting covering an event as press when you are also a fan of whatever you’re covering. It was hard to be cool and professional when talking to Evan, for instance.  At one point, he was playing lacrosse with one of the tour folks and the ball rolled up a hill to land at my feet. I got to toss it to him and I was giggling girlishly (in my head, oh, I hope it was just in my head) as I tossed it back to him. Hold onto that journalistic integrity with all your strength. You’ve got to, as there’s still something of a prejudice against bloggers (I was there representing Pure SYTYCD, not my personal blog). I think the dancers definitely appreciate the bloggers from the fan sites cause they know their names and stuff about the show – also, as “my boys” (Phillip, Jason and Evan) pointed out, one of the recent fan site bloggers knew a lot of stuff that was going on with the tour that only the dancers knew!

Also, an advantage of blogging? Immediacy. A disadvantage at times, maybe. But, that day, total advantage. I was able to go to a nearby Kroger with a Starbucks (and wifi) and upload the pictures I’d just taken for our readers. Check out the post I did that afternoon here. I’ve been struggling on a book for years that relatively few people have seen, so it’s nice to have something in my life that I can write and have thousands of people see immediately. It’s helpful to have some instant gratification in my life and career.

It was another long day as Mamma Mia! met me at the Arena for the show that evening and the show itself was several (wonderful) hours. And then, being the total dorks and enormous fans that we are, we stayed afterwards (hours in the cold) for the meet and greet with the dancers. All of the dancers I’d met that afternoon remembered me when we met late that night. Unfortunately, most of my pictures didn’t turn out all that well, but I had some good conversations I will always remember and I did get a picture of Evan’s and my almost-matching wrist tattoos. It was both a freelance opportunity and a great bonding experience with Mamma Mia! Lyndsey Parker (Reality Rocks) set a great precedent when she took her mom to the American Idol finale. Take your mom to work, payback for all those “take your daughter to work” days growing up. 🙂

And then, of course, we got to watch the Top 20 announcement episode together the next night. Had dinner with high school friends and their daughter my last night in town and then rocketed back to New Orleans on Friday – especially for a book party for Barb.

Let me say one more time – it’s a wonderful thing to see your friends celebrated and no one deserves it more than Barb. Hosted at a gorgeous Midcity home right off the bayou, the event was simply breathtaking, what each and every one of us can aspire to one day. Reward for finishing and publishing our books. Earlier in the day, I’d been reading More of This World or Maybe Another at Cheers and Barb’s story “If the Holy Spirit Comes For You” made me cry in public. If you can make me laugh out loud on buses or cry in my local coffeeshop, you have completely moved me, sucked me into your world and, as I said earlier, that is the highest compliment I can pay a writer. I was so mad at the characters in that story and so mad at Barb for pulling all these emotions through my skin (painfully) and out of my body with her words. But apparently, it’s great advertisement for her brilliance because my neighbor S. saw how upset I was and when I told her why I’d been crying, she said, “I can’t wait to read that book!”

And that pretty much brings us up to date, to now. I’ve fallen out of the habit of being at Cheers everyday [:(] and today, just now, I noticed that they painted over the bathroom graffiti. It was really disorienting and kinda sad. But then, I just told myself – it’s a blank slate, a clean canvas. Like my book. What was there was great, but what will be there will be better. And I can’t wait to see what it will be.

Two people at the festival told me, “it’s your turn soon, to sit over there and sign books.” I have to take their faith in me and make it my own. And do the freaking work.


Filed under bragging on, family, freelance work, Friends, So You Think You Can Dance, writing updates

Guest blogger – Bobbie Faye Ate My Brain

My sister Aimee writes too and she’s a big reader. Recently, she read Toni’s Bobbie Faye books and loved them. So, when she sent me a message complaining about a household problem, I was astounded by how much her “voice” in the complaint sounded unlike her own and almost…kinda…like…Bobbie Faye. It was like my sister was possessed. Check it out:

Okay, no need to freak out. Completely. Really. It’s okay. Despite the huge hole in the back of the house. And the leaking roof. And the electric short in my son’s bedroom. And the rats. Did I just say rats? Um, yeah, I’ll be moving out now. Or calling the health department. Can you condemn my house for me? Or, I don’t know, Ratbusters? Home Makeover? Don’t know whether to vomit or cry or just run like hell. Okay I shouldn’t have said that, but nothing else seemed appropriate. Freakin’ hole, mold, dripping water, rats. Rats in my house! And I almost freakin’ got electrocuted turning on the light. And did I mention I’m now living with rats? My son is NOT going back in that house. At least not until it is efficiently bombed. And can I request an airplane to dump a load of 100% concentrated bleach over what’s left? A ton of it. Literally. Bank, you can have the house back. We don’t want it anymore. Overreacting? Me? Didn’t you hear? Okay, well, maybe a little.

So when I pointed out to her that she kinda sounded like Bobbie Faye, she extended the possession as a…what…experiment? Early NaNoWriMo writing exercise?

Hello, Home Depot. You said: More saving. More doing. Well, that’s why I’m here. I’m broke, or financially challenged if you prefer, but I still got some doing to do. Got to kill me some rats. Or trap them. Or trap them and kill them. I don’t really care as long as they exit my house. Heck, exit my entire property. Don’t want ’em comin’ back. So Home Depot Man, what do you recommend? What’s worth me making a larger dent in my itty bitty bank account? Well, you have a little bit of everything, huh? No recommendations? Not very expert-y, are you Home Depot Man? Last time I let one of you orange dudes make me feel dumb for being a young(ish) female in a home improvement store.  Okay, I’ll take one of everything. Yep. You heard me. Don’t laugh. You don’t know which one I should use so I’m givin’ ’em all a test drive. Load me up. Wooden snap trap? Yep. Click and set trap? Sure. No view No touch kill trap? Oh yeah. Glue traps? Add to cart. Large or small? Both. Electric whatever trap? They make those? Oh, do you sell rat bazookas? I could REALLY use one of those. Poison? Um, no. That would just be mean. Okay, no, not really. But I am not cleaning up that mess when I finally find the bodies. Thank you very much, Home Depot Man. You were no help at all. But I’m feelin’ pretty good right now.


I smile myself through the self checkout and even giggle a little as I load my arsenal in the back of my SUV. I’m feelin’ kinda redneckish. Okay, rats, I’m packin’ and comin’ for ya.

Hello, rats. Rambo’s home. Yeah, it’s just me, but I’m warning you now, I’m armed. You know, I can hear you scampering around in my kitchen cupboard. I am not amused. In fact, that knot in my stomach is back. But I’ve got a bagful of rat killers with your name on it. Haha. Literally. Unless your name is Bob. You know, I once had a rat named Bob. No, he wasn’t my pet. He was my biology assignment for a semester. I kept him swimming in formaldehyde for weeks. I skinned him, cut out all the fatty tissue, cut off his muscles, exposed all his bones, tore out his organs. Could be you. I’m just sayin’. We could talk this out. Make a deal. You can leave now. I won’t set any traps if you do. Cuz really, Mr. Rat, when I said anybody was welcome to come destry my house, it wasn’t really an invitation. Sorry for the confusion and all, but please GET OUT OF MY HOUSE. You are seriously freaking me out. Okay, I shouldn’t admit that. But I’m setting this trap now. Pull the label back. Check. Insert peanut butter. Wait a minute. Peanut butter? Really? Okay, if you say so Mr. D-Con. Turn trap clockwise until the red “set” light comes on. Check. Now place in high traffic area. Okay, Mr. Rat, I’m opening the cabinet door now. Last chance. Only don’t let me see you. Aahh! I don’t want to hear you either! Drop the trap! Drop the trap! Close the door! Phew! Did I just unset the trap setting it down too hard? Okay, throwing it in the cabinet. Mr. RAt meets Wussy Rambo. That’s okay, Mr. Rat, really. Cuz you know what? I may be the cowardly soldier here, but I also have a commanding officer (a.k.a. my darling husband). And when he gets home, you are toast, you hear me? But it would be really great if you could get yourself into that trap in the meantime so I can have bragging rights. Mr. Rat? Okay well, gotta get back to work. We’ll be back to check on you. Please be in the trap by then. Thank you very much.

Maybe she just had no choice. That’s my guess. Especially when she wrote back, “Oooh. Oooh. Can I call my book Bobbie Faye Ate My Brain?”

My favorite part of this story? Toni’s response when I emailed her all of this. “LOL! That really did sound like Bobbie Faye ate her brain!” Typical. Toni shows no remorse that her character is so virulent now after three books, not only is she possessing Toni, but also perfectly innocent people who just happen to read her books. Bystanders!

Just so you know, everything in this guest blog really did happen exactly as related here. Including Toni’s lack of remorse and Aimee’s purchase of every variety of rodent killer known to humankind. Honestly. This is just reportage, folks.


Filed under book news, funny, NaNoWriMo

Bragging on Dave and Dare

My friend Dave worked on the film Dare (music supervisor) and he just sent me the trailer. Really does a good job of whetting your appetite for the movie. Check it out.

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Filed under bragging on, Friends, movies, music

BIG time bragging on Jamey

I subscribe to the GalleyCat email newsletter and today (thank goodness she warned me first), Jamey Hatley was featured as a Writer to Watch. She’s been stirring up major buzz for a few years now, most recently because she had an extraordinary piece in the Oxford American which was accompanied by eerily appropriate and gorgeous images. You can see pictures of her signing the issue for me here. The exceptional Ms. Hatley is one of the biggest reasons my book has lived to see a second draft and is now proceeding to a kick-ass third draft. Not only is she a phenomenal writer, she’s a mentor, friend, co-worker and partner in crime beyond compare.

I’m sure Jamey’s gonna blush when she reads this and maybe all this seems like overkill – but if it does, you don’t know Jamey and you haven’t read her. I’ll never be able to say enough good things about her, let alone more than enough.

One of my favorite pictures of Jamey is on my phone, so I’ll have to get that and post it for y’all soon.675A0042b

[10.21.09: Finally got that great pic of Jamey off my phone. Here it is.]

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Filed under bragging on, Friends, writing updates