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.