Monthly Archives: May 2010

Updates from the writing trenches

For those of you folks Googling my guest blogger Nick like mad (trust me, no exaggeration), here is an excerpt from his latest low-tech e-mail newsletter:

“And in the middle of this [the oil spill], strangely, I’m planning a four-month exodus. Four months of travel across the country, for reasons ranging from work to family to catharsis. I’m struggling a little with that right now. This year feels very much about reconnecting and putting things to rest. Forgiveness. Completion. All that jazz. And that all sounds great. I’ve been planning this for a while. But in the middle of these great thoughts, and the possibility of completing my book (more on this in a moment), there are two hang-ups. One is a measure of guilt that I am leaving with that ugly slick hanging a hundred miles away. The other is the very real fear that, when I come back to New Orleans, it won’t be home anymore.

Let me explain…

In thirty-one and a half years on this planet, I’ve lived in eight states and a foreign country. I’ve moved roughly thirty-five times. Since I’ve landed in New Orleans, however, the idea of changing my zip code again has seemed insane. I’ve never lived anywhere in my life that felt more like home. This is the advantage of moving a lot. I’m sure I’ve found home. I’m living the life I want. And now I’m going to bug out for a few months to go close loops, see people, and finish my novel. And then I’ll come back.

The best way I can frame this is as a love affair. New Orleans is my girl. And I’m going to leave my girl for four months. And I have this deep fear that she’s going to change the locks while I’m gone. That I’ll come back to the only place in the world I can imagine calling home and find myself rejected.

It’s probably an irrational fear, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Maybe it won’t be like that. Maybe New Orleans will take me back with open arms. Maybe she’ll make me sleep on the couch for a few nights, and I’ll have to bring her flowers and candy and tell her she’s the only one for me. Which is true. But if I get back here and can’t hear the walls breathe anymore, I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do.

It might be that the oil spill is making it more real, or that it’s making me feel that I’m abandoning a place I profess to care so much about. I don’t know. But I’m going anyway. This summer is going to mean something important. I’m sure of that. And, in my better moments, I’m sure I know exactly why.”

I’m always a little jealous of Nick’s summer ramblings, I must confess. A lot of people do leave New Orleans during the summers. But while I understand Nick’s need to use the time for his travels — traveling is important, transformative — I have to say, summer in New Orleans is a strange time. Sometimes awful, sometimes wonderful. You kind of have to experience it for yourself. So  maybe, Nick, if you whisper in your girl’s ear, “I promise I’ll stay next summer,” maybe she’ll welcome you back more easily than you think. When you come back. 🙂

Nick’s newsletter ends:

“One final note. On Friday, I completed the third draft of my novel. 384 pages. 111,000 words. Whew.

I’m going to do a final polish in the next couple months. And then I’ll start sending it out. More details to follow. It’s nice to be in the homestretch.

I have two weeks left in this city before I hit the road, and it’s a strange place to be in. I feel like my whole life is looking at my history right now, and bringing it up to speed with my present. I’m moving out of my place and placing my things in a storage locker. In two weeks, I’ll board a Philadelphia bound train with a backpack and a guitar and spend four months living on the road. Finishing my book, playing music, reading and writing poems, collecting stories. And all this in the faith that when I come back to New Orleans, she lets me come home.

Sometimes you have to have that faith. A month ago, I watched Meghan walk down the aisle. On May 20, my grandparents will celebrate their sixty-sixth wedding anniversary. We’re human, and silly as it seems, we make plans. And there’s a good reason for that.

Sometimes our plans work out.

All the good songs,

While we’re on updates, I got one from Gordon of After the MFA for the first time in a while. In his post Overcoming the Urge to Quit, there are times he could be speaking my own thoughts:

“I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a bit morose over the last couple of years. I have wanted to quit wanting to write and been indulging that demon as much as possible. But something kept stringing me along. I didn’t want to succumb to writer’s block. Maybe because I don’t believe in it. I just need the proper motivation. Getting an MFA Isnt the proper motivation. Getting published isn’t either. Teaching isn’t it. Praise from a teacher or workshop don’t do it either. It’s from me… Or you if you’ve been going through the same thing as me.

In any case, I am playing the part of my own motivation and saying to everyone who wants to listen that I am back (on the block?) and I want to be a writer. I am a writer.

And now it’s time to write.

I hope people are still out there, sort of watching me and my self-neglected blog. I want to make this as public as possible — I am committing to finishing something I am proud of and working hard at it. There. I said it.

Have you been going through some rough writing times? Would love to know how you worked through it. For me, I guess it’s just been a matter of giving it time and eventually getting sick of hearing myself complain. That and ultimately showing my two beautiful girls that quitting at something you love just shouldn’t be an option.


My sister, Aimee, also sent out an e-mail to friends and family recently.

“Thanks to all of you who have supported my writing previously. I’ve been having trouble making myself write and finish my novel. That’s why I’m sending you this message. I have a deadline. October 31. By October 31 I will finish the first draft of my novel. Simple? Not exactly. After all, what is a deadline without some consequence for not meeting it or reward for succeeding? That’s where you come in. For those of  you who would like to participate, please come up with some incentive for me to meet my deadline. Tantalize me. Pressure me. I perform under pressure. So if you would like to help, send me a message back telling me why it is I must complete my novel by the deadline. And then, periodically, keep reminding me. But please don’t feel obligated if you’d rather not.

Thanks everyone!

It’s tough finding time and motivation for something like a novel. But we’re all pushing through. If you read my blog, I’d love for you to comment – send little encouraging messages to these writers. To us writers, I should say. I’m one of them.

My deadline has gone out the window, what with the job. And I’m grateful the job came when it did – you’ve no idea. Sometimes, it’s even harder to work on your own projects when you actively love your day job, like I do. 🙂 It’s a good problem to have. But, in solidarity with these writers, I’ve decided to set a deadline for myself.

I will finish the third draft of my novel by October 31st, same as Aimee. I want to be done in time for NaNoWriMo. No ifs ands or buts. No whining or excuses. Just a third draft. By October 31st.

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Filed under book news, bragging on, freelance work, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, writing updates

Only in a Gleeful world…

…one that can sometimes look very much like our own:

One of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.

Apparently, Washington Square is a popular locale to propose and be proposed to:

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Get your brag on

Good news abounds!!

Bill Loehfelm recently signed a two-book deal with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, set for release in 2011 and 2012. The first, his third book, is called The Devil She Knows, and will be out spring 2011. His second, Bloodroot, is out in paperback this year on Sept 7th.

Nick finished the third draft of his novel April 30th.

Dave is a music editor on Treme! Jamey, Maurice and I have a standing date to watch Treme together every Sunday and Dave joined us for the third episode (his first credited work on the show), “Right Place, Wrong Time” after we’d spent the day at Jazz Fest (and I got a minor sunburn).

And. Well. This bragging on post will include a self-brag. I wasn’t sure if I could talk about this piece of good news in my life, since I signed a confidentiality agreement, but I recently saw my name on the Narrative Magazine masthead. Yes, I can confirm, I am an intern for Narrative Magazine. I had to apply because I’m uber superstitious and not only did I see the “seeking interns” newsletter myself, but at least two people I respect urged me to apply. On the same day. While this may be the last I write about my internship (confidentiality agreement and all), I can also confirm that I am super excited because I admire this literary magazine tremendously. And, as Jamey just said a minute ago, “It’s kinda a big deal.”

My horoscope said to invite friends to dinner tonight. So, that’s just what I’m gonna do.


Filed under book news, bragging on, freelance work, Friends, New Orleans

What I’ve been thinking about lately…

Everyday, I read dozens of little news items about the whole gamut of human experience. Literary and movie news, scientific discoveries, music, random celebrity-ness (yes, I admit) and current events. My co-workers do as well, and from time to time, one of them will announce some odd or interesting factoid or this-just-in and the rest of us will listen.

My first week at my new job, one of my co-workers said into the large, silent office we all share: “So, what’s going on in the world?” One of my other co-workers said, “A woman says Steven Seagal made her his sex slave and Treme got picked up for a second season.”

Random. But then, we’re news and information junkies.

Throughout each day, I have an ocean of factoids and images in my head, each swimming around in there like strange aquatic life. One day, I read the Wikipedia page on the Donner party and had those horrific deets bouncing around, and then read a review of Exit Through the Gift Shop and did my budget. That’s just modern life.

So, here are some links to randomness that I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks.

-A man rescued a woman being attacked, got stabbed and died on a NYC sidewalk as bystanders avoided and ignored him. So horrified by this one, I read a second article later the same day.

-Lane Bryant plus-sized lingerie commercial censored. This pieces mentions a Victoria Secret ad that I saw about 20 minutes before (and an hour after) reading this.

Women make less money when they get married and take their husband’s last name?

-Even though I worked on The Final Destination, apparently there will be a 5th in the franchise. Not so final, after all. Are any of us surprised? I remember reading the script and thinking, “Last one, huh? Yeah, right…”

-A book of Marilyn Monroe writings! I’ll certainly read that book. Feel free to send me an advance copy for review, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Seriously.

-An utterly hypnotic YouTube video of 500 years of female art subjects morphing into each other. Check it out!

-Kelly Osbourne gets flak for claiming that she looked healthier and skinnier after she started wearing self-tanner on Dancing with the Stars.

-Author Kathryn Stockett has a Google Maps application on her site with her readers’ names and locations. This kinda just scares me. Especially since my mom’s book club is reading The Help next month.

New Mark Twain manuscript has surfaced, in memory of his favorite daughter, who died.

-Cadillac driver stops a purse snatching! With the car!

-Molly Ringwald’s therapist told her to stop dating writers and be a writer.

Darth Vader-narrated GPS! Hysterical video. 🙂

Daughter of serial killer writes book.

How the pill liberated women – the author’s mother counts it as the most important invention of her lifetime.

-“Sea Waif” tragedy survivor breaks 50-year silence.

CW is resurrecting Moonlight! Well, just reairing episodes along with The Vampire Diaries. But still cool. Alex O’Loughlin is wonderful. See The Back-Up Plan for evidence. I did, last week, in a double feature with Date Night.

-The breeder of the labradoodle regrets the designer dog trend.

-The story behind the Carrie Underwood song “Play On.” And her fellow AI alum, Kelly Clarkson, has a new song I can’t wait to hear (it’s been pulled anywhere you might be able to hear it online) – “Wash, Rinse, Repeat,” apparently lambasting the music industry in general and “Already Gone”/”Halo” co-writer Ryan Tedder in particular.  And while we’re on AI, 5 potential replacements for Simon Cowell – I’d love any of them.

The Art of ConfessionCurtis Sittenfeld interviews Meghan Daum and Emily Gould! Wonderful piece – I wish it were five times longer. You might remember that in my very first blog post (almost 2 years ago!), I described my attraction/repulsion to blogging thusly:

So that’s my way of saying I’m ambivalent about blogging. Primarily because of delicious little trainwrecks like this: Emily Gould Blogs All

-This lovely photo project, Dear New Orleans, came to my attention because of the wonderful Scene Magazine‘s most recent issue.

-Somebody recently told me that Mr. Rogers was formerly a sniper in the army and I repeated this to a co-worker, who got me hooked on by using it to REFUTE THIS RUMOR!

-And now, we come full-circle to my horror at the NYC left-for-dead-on-the-sidewalk circle with a much more positive story about a group of individual female students rushing a man who was attacking another woman. They pinned him to the ground till the authorities arrived – and probably, as all parties acknowledge, saved her life. A round of applause to those woman, and my admiration.

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Filed under American Idol, art, books, funny, movies, music, New Orleans, politics, pop culture, t.v., weirdness

The May Lovely Bones Challenge

***Warning ahead of time: There are SPOILERS following! Mostly, for the movie The Lovely Bones, maybe also the book and The Time Traveler’s Wife.***

A while ago, I watched The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I’d just finished reading, on Maurice’s suggestion. I Tweeted:

is watching Time Traveler’s Wife. Very different from the book. I’ve no idea how this movie would seem to me if I hadn’t read the book. 12:18 AM Mar 30th

Thus began a conversation with Morganafq (Donna K), who I’ve never met in person. I can’t really remember how we came onto each other’s Twitter radar, but I suspect it’s STYCD-related. Morganafq does movie reviews under the heading “From the Rental Queue,” (#FTRQ), so it makes sense that she saw my Tweet and chimed in.

Donna K @emofalltrades I haven’t read the book TTW but recently saw the film. I thought it bland and without depth but saw potential. About right? 1:16 AM Mar 30th via Seesmic

@Morganafq: kinda felt like a Cliff’s Notes of the book. Only, a Cliff’s Notes that would’ve made u get a C- because there big were changes. 11:20 AM Mar 30th via web

@emofalltrades Thanks for the input – I’ll definitely check the book out as I thought the story seemed solid. 🙂 11:37 AM Mar 30th via Seesmic in reply to emofalltrades

@Morganafq: It is solid, good word. I had my issues, but was impressed with the way the author “built” the story (she’s a book artist). 3:48 PM Mar 30th via web

More recently, I Tweeted:

was really disappointed with The Lovely Bones for just about a thousand reasons. 12:54 AM Apr 27th

And a second conversation began:

Donna K@emofalltrades OMG I just watched that! How awful was that movie? No emotional anchor whatsoever. I’m so disappointed, truly. 1:03 AM Apr 27th via Seesmic in reply to emofalltrades

@Morganafq: Let me count the ways. 1) Suzie does nothing. I know she’s dead, but still. All that build up, and she DOES nothing? 9:03 AM Apr 27th via web

@Morganafq: 2) There was NO resolution for any of the other characters, even though we got really pretty shots of “where are they now.” 9:04 AM Apr 27th via web

@Morganafq: 3) Far too much style and far too little substance. 4) So confusing and precious. 5) Her 1st kiss = creepy. For all parties. 9:05 AM Apr 27th via web

@Morganafq: Basically, u summed it up w “no emotional anchor whatsoever.” Have u read the book? I was gonna, but now, I just don’t know… 9:06 AM Apr 27th via web

@emofalltrades Agreed on EVERY point you made about Lovely Bones. Haven’t read it but like you now I don’t know. I hear it’s vastly better. 12:20 PM Apr 27th via Seesmic in reply to emofalltrades

@Morganafq: Maybe one of us should read it and let the other one know. 1-2-3, NOT ME! 2:16 PM Apr 27th via web

@emofalltrades Oh no! You aren’t suckering me into this one! I’ll triple dog dare you to be the one to read it. 😉 3:06 PM Apr 27th via Seesmic in reply to emofalltrades

@Morganafq: Okay, so let’s make a blood oath (long distance) that we’ll both read it during the month of May and report back to each other. 3:38 PM Apr 27th via web

@emofalltrades What the hell… this could be fun, especially if we do a compare/contrast to the movie. Amazon here I come! 🙂 6:17 PM Apr 27th via Seesmic in reply to emofalltrades

So, we set up some rules for our May Lovely Bones Challenge:

[Me] Long isn’t too big a problem, but maybe we should max u @ about 2,000 wds. Seem fair? Rules! #1 Must have seen the movie b4 read book? 6:26 PM Apr 27th

[Me] #2 Must submit review/thoughts by midnight May 30th for publication on the blog May 31st. #3 Everybody has 2,000 wds. No more. 🙂 Yes? 6:27 PM Apr 27th

[Morganafq] I like it! Yes to all 3 rules, especially seeing the movie 1st. I want to know who really fell down on this – the author or Jackson. 6:42 PM Apr 27th

[Me] Yup, I think the pt of the exercise is the movie-book connection.  7:17 AM Apr 28th

So, here we go. Morganafq and I have each started reading. And by the end of the month, we’ll post our thoughts about the book and the book-to-movie transformation. You’re welcome to join in! But the key is that you see the movie first and then read the book for the first time. And you get your thoughts to us by midnight (my time, Central US time zone) on May 30th.  Enjoy, everybody!

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Filed under books, Friends, movies, pop culture, review

My friends are flash mob stars, again!

Those dern Baton Rougeians are at it again, this time at Fest for All and dancing to Duffy’s “Mercy.” I’m not sure if Leonard Augustus choreographed this one like he did the Laurel Street Lollapalooza back in January – that is may be him dancing in the center of the circle at the beginning, with the red hat. Becks and Torlief are definitely dancing up a storm once more.

I saw Torlief first, about 23 seconds in. He’s the tall, bald black dude wearing a bright blue tank top. Once I knew where Torlief was, I knew Becks had to be somewhere nearby. Then, I realized that she’s the brunette girl in the red tank top – on the left bottom side of the screen with her back to us. She gets cut out of the video several times – maybe she’ll be more visible in the official version. At about 2:06, the camera pans back and she’s facing the camera, still on the left.


I stole these pics off the flash mob’s Facebook page (and cropped them):

Becks in the red on the left and Torlief in the blue tank on the right

Torlief in the blue and Leonard Augustus in the red hat and tank

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Filed under bragging on, Friends, music, pop culture