Monthly Archives: November 2009
Whew, y’all. Life got hectic there for a while. Unbelievably so.
First. NaNoWriMo is pretty intense and that took up some of my time, getting that 1,667 words written every day. I did some other freelance gigs, as I always do, kept my eye out for jobs and even interviewed for one.
And then Words and Music came to town, as it does every year round this time. My approach was different this year than any other since I started going. I recently “finished” my book, only to realize that it was a pretty solid second draft, but that there’s so much I need and want to change. Therefore, I’m about to go into the third draft, which I hope will be the last until it sells and my editor has comments. Wishful thinking, but hopefully not that far off. So since I don’t have something to sell at the moment and so many of my friends were going to be in town, I decided that this year was all about my friends. Everything I did at Words and Music would revolve around them and spending time with them. And though conference days are always crazy long and overwhelming and that was true at Words and Music, too, I wasn’t really stressed out or overwhelmed and I enjoyed my friends so very much. For instance?
Thursday was the first day of the conference, for me. I got to catch up with S., who moved to St. Louis after we both graduated the MFA and I haven’t seen her since probably last years W&M, though we talk online regularly and sometimes on the phone. She was staying with P., and the three of us met up with Jamey and Barb at Stanley’s (yum) and then for cocktails with conference folks at the Faulkner House Bookstore. Where we met up with our friend Jane, who won the novel-in-progress this year (congrats, Jane!) and I met Helen Krieger, who I quickly bonded with. Especially after I asked her to guest lecture for my class the following week. Helen and her husband Joseph Meissner just finished production of a feature-length film based on Helen’s short stories, called Flood Streets. On Friday morning, I witnessed the enormously fun and inspiring panel that both Jamey and Barb sat on, along with Tom Franklin and their moderator Michael Murphy. I spent the day having incredible meals, conversations and experiences that included a Pimm’s Cup and lunch at the Napoleon House, a room full of women writers, a gorgeous dinner at the Monteleone and cocktails back at the Napoleon House again, replete with tall tales. On Saturday, I had lunch with my Papa Bear who was in town working near the conference, then dived back in, enjoying a day that included friends, Dennis Lehane, opera and an unforgettable dinner with entertainment provided by Wes & Eugene’s Cabinet of Wonders. This was a mind-blowing combination of comedy and music by writers and musicians such as Wesley Stace (John Wesley Harding), Eugene Mirman, Laura Lippman, Rick Moody, Laurie Lindeen, Tom Piazza and Soul Asylum‘s Dave Pirner, who sang “Runaway Train,” for us. You can see what I mean by mind-blowing. Where else can you have all these experiences in one place?
And that’s not even mentioning my lovely friends who placed this year. I mentioned it before in a bragging on post, but it bears repeating. Congratulations to: Jane Stubbs (novel-in-progress winner and finalist, and short story semi-finalist), Jessica Deckard (essay winner), Cara E. Jones (essay finalist), Maurice Ruffin (short story finalist), Jenn Nunes (novel-in-progress finalist as well as short story semi-finalist), Helen Krieger (novel-in-progress finalist and short story finalist) , Susan Kirby-Smith (novel-in-progress finalist and poetry finalist), Sean David Hobbs (novel-in-progress semi-finalist), Penelope Dane (novel-in-progress finalist), Missy Wilkinson (novella finalist – TWICE!), Duncan Kemp (novel-in-progress finalist), Maggie Collins (novel finalist), J. Ed. Marston and Tad Bartlett (novel finalist), and Mark Spitzer (novel finalist). In the chaos of all the talented people on that list, I’m sure I might’ve forgotten somebody or mistyped something, so check out all the results here. Regardless, the clear result is that these people rock. We’ve got something good going on in Louisiana, especially New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
On Sunday, I recovered, packed for Baton Rouge and saw New Moon with a friend. May talk about that, soon. Haven’t decided yet…
And then, I spent an incredibly overwhelming and exhausting and wonderful three days teaching a screenwriting course to high school kids at LSU. This was so rewarding! And did I mention exhausting? For all of us, I imagine, me and the students. I think I exploded their brains. These kids were hanging out with me on their Thanksgiving vacation and it was just an incredible experience that, with any luck, I’ll repeat in the summer in a longer week-long format. We all knew this pilot 3-day session was too much information crammed into too little time, but we had to try it out. And I think the kids and I did pretty darn well together. I was very excited to see their ideas for movies and can’t wait to see what they do with them. But, if I exploded their minds, teaching in that format killed my body, especially after all the NaNo writing this month. So, I rewarded myself with a massage at my favorite place in Baton Rouge. It was tip top and lovely and just right.
I was lucky enough to have a wonderful Thanksgiving, first an early one with Toni‘s family (who I adore), then on the actual day with B. and friends at her place and then some lovely friends from grad school at an apartment that two people I mentioned in association with W&M have lived in over the years (S. and now, P.). Lol. Triple the turkey for me this year, though I didn’t get to see my family.
On Friday, before returning to New Orleans, I was lucky enough to meet a fellow with the same name as a famous singer, who is a writer and comedian. I saw J.‘s NaNoWriMo sticker on his laptop, talked with him a bit, invited him to sit with me and then had my first ever Word Wars. We did three half hour word wars back to back and though I beat him each time, he was definitely further along than me and finished his 50,000 words first. And I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I hadn’t met him. He gave me a giant boost that day with the word wars and just meeting him. It helped get me back into the NaNoWriMo mindset after a lot of distractions.
And that brings us full circle. Keep your eyes peeled for NaNoWriMo recap and wrap up posts from both me and my sister, Aimee, who I mentioned in my guest blog at the end of October, NaNoWriMo Saved My Life. In that post, I talked about how Aimee and I used to write together as kids and had both sort of lost our way with writing in recent years and how we were both attacking NaNoWriMo this year. Check it out while you’re waiting for those recaps.
Halfway through the month, I have written 25,692 words. I am, therefore, a little more than halfway to my 50,000 word count. Whooo hooo and whew. 🙂
I got behind by a day or two (several thousands of words) and then hustled to catch back up. It’s all pretty chaotic, but I keep reminding myself that’s okay. That’s what NaNoWriMo is about, after all. A beautiful, chaotic, wordy mess. 🙂 And since my book is called The Chaos Queen, I’m thinking maybe chaos is an indicator that I’m on the right track. At least in the first draft.
In other news, I saw an amazing show this weekend. It was The Devil Makes Three, Hurray for the Riff Raff and Death By Arrow at One Eyed Jacks. I saw The Devil Makes Three and Death By Arrow a few months ago at The Hi-Ho Lounge and that was a phenomenal show, as well. So, it was good to see them playing together again and I really enjoyed One Eyed Jacks. When I heard Hurray for the Riff Raff was playing this show with the other two bands, I stumbled upon their awesome Daytrotter Session and they’re quickly becoming one of my favorite bands.
And also, I’m reviewing Barb’s book for 225. And though I’ve been talking non-stop about her book since I read it, it was actually kinda hard to think of the best words to use in print to review her work. But fun. It won’t be out for a while, but I’ll be sure to let you know when the issue hits newsstands in Baton Rouge. Lol.
So there it is, my belated fess up. 🙂
Here are some friends you haven’t heard of yet (from me), but whom both had some great news recently. You have to check this out.
My dear friend Montana Miller, who I met while researching my novel several years ago, is a circus performer and pop culture professor. She just published an article in the journal Practical Matters called “Teenagers, Purity Rings, and Rites of (Blocked) Passage.” According to the last line of her abstract, Montana’s essay examines “the public performance, the expectations of adults, and the diverse personal meanings that teenagers articulate about sexual abstinence.”
Here’s a fun video she did for her classroom a while back.
And speaking of videos, here’s some awesome animation from Thomas Moran, who is, little known fact, the one who first got me blogging. He is also, much more known fact, a phenomenally creative person. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to get his Facebook video to embed here. It’s a great animated video about a great battle on the chessboard, so go check it out.
The second that NaNoWriMo kicks off every year, all hell breaks loose. My computer has gone to the doctor several times in just a few days. Then, I got sick and went to the doctor. And I can’t even blame my sister and her sick kid, since they live no where near me. 🙂
But we are both moving forward, as best we can.
An update: I have achieved 13,285 words. I should be more around the arena of 16,670 by the end of today, but considering all that’s happened, I don’t feel so far behind. We’ll see how much I can catch up. One day, I was able to do almost 5,000 words! If I could only do that today, it’d put me ahead…
So, this amounts to my most significant communication with the outside world lately. In parting, I have this to say. To those not doing NaNoWriMo – I’m sorry I continuously forget to say National Novel Writing Month and make you feel left out, but you should be writing a novel in a month and then you’d be one of the cool kids spouting “NaNo” deliriously left and right. To those NaNos out there, both strangers and friends, YOU CAN DO IT! Just 100 more words, then 100 more and then after that, only 100 more…
Ronlyn has a new essay up at The Nervous Breakdown. It’s the one that she read at the LSU MFA reading back in September and after reading it again, I feel even more strongly that this essay is terrifying and inspiring, consoling and funny. It’s an incredibly brave and honest essay. Check it out.
The excitement has been building steadily, especially this last week. Sure enough, on the eve of NaNoWriMo, I have to take my computer to the shop so massive amounts of viruses can be removed. And my calendar is littered with commitments, so I can’t become a true hermit. And of course, I don’t feel like I used my time wisely enough, like I didn’t truly prepare. I have three new projects in addition to the novel I’ve been working on for an age and I’ve finally settled on one for my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m calling it The Chaos Queen for the moment
But I read the first Pep Talk from Chris Baty and it fired me up to get going.
So I sat down, rolled up my sleeves and started this crazy marathon. I just finished today’s first writing session, which was mostly one scene. At first, it was torturous and painful. Contrived and self-conscious. Suddenly, it exploded and my two characters largely did everything I asked them to, but in their own very particular ways, in ways I never would’ve thought they’d do them. Suddenly, I had an entire backstory for one of my main characters, a pseudo-villain (who’s mostly well-meaning and misunderstood), who I love. I just let the characters have their say with each other and just when it felt like we’d gone too far, revealed too much too early, I realized I had a doozy of a conflict. I got excited. I knew why my almost-villain existed in the story, what he wanted and what he was trying to do to get it. All this in 6 pages and 1,756 words. So I’m off to a great start.
Never one to leave well enough alone, I’m going to sprint for the next check point, try to put some words in the bank for those lean days ahead that don’t go so well. Stay tuned – more later.