Monthly Archives: April 2011

Farewell, Jeanne Leiby

I woke this morning to the news that my friend Jeanne Leiby died yesterday afternoon in Baton Rouge. She was a writer, the editor of The Southern Review and a beautiful person. I worked with her on a few small projects related to the Review and LSU and my work for 225.

Our mutual friend Alex Cook wrote a beautiful elegiac post on his blog that encapsulates what I feel about Jeanne and now, her death, but I’ll say a few words here as well.

The first time I officially and really met her was in her office in The Old President’s House. We recognized each other immediately as like-minded spirits and within five minutes of meeting, we were talking and laughing like decades-long friends and plotting a benevolent new world order. This was Jeanne’s magic. She was so vivacious and passionate that she couldn’t help exciting the people around her, encouraging grandiose ideas as being very, very possible. She recognized the passions in others, which helped them see it themselves.

She was a wonderful editor, tough but compassionate. She was generous and warm, funny and bold. And while I am not her oldest or closest friend, I feel that my life is enormously bereft without her in it, without the possibility of her.

I still can’t believe it.


Filed under Baton Rouge, Friends, musing, weirdness

Reading in Q1

Lately, reading has felt like my full-time job, so I’m going to make a quarterly report of the books I’ve read. I was so ashamed of the low number of books I read last year (59, my lowest in a decade) that I vowed to step it up this year. So far, I have.

Keep in mind that these are not ALL the books I’ve read, but most of them. As I continue to do this, I may sometimes leave off books I’ve reviewed for 225 or elsewhere, unless those reviews have already printed. Them’s the rules of this new game, but I think it will be fun.


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Steig Larsson – I feel satisfied to have concluded the series. I’m glad I read them, but I probably won’t feel the need to re-read. We’ll see. Only time will tell.


Dirty Little Angels, Chris Tusa – Read the 225 review here.

The Wavewalkers: Pirate Wars, Kai Meyer – This book was also the conclusion of a series, the second I’ve read by this German writer. They’re a lot of fun, full of remixed world mythology and fables, which I love and I was really happy with how this series ended.

12 Reasons Why I Love Her, Jamie S. Rich + Joelle Jones – This is a graphic novel that Maurice recommended and loaned me. I felt like it could’ve been meatier story wise, but there were a few glorious moments and I continue to be interested in how image and text work together.


House of Prayer No. 2, Mark Richard – Read the 225 review here.

Only the Good Spy Young and Heist Society, Ally Carter – I’ve loved Ally Carter’s girl spy series for a while, so it was really good to catch up and read the latest book. But I am OBSESSED with her new series that begins with Heist Society. I want another Heist Society book like NOW. It was soo clever and fun. If you’re reading this Ally Carter, feel free to send me an ARC of the next book anytime.

The Red Garden, Alice Hoffman – For some reason, I keep thinking I’ve grown out of my Alice Hoffman phase. But, it’s habit to pick up her latest book each time and she never disappoints me. I don’t know why I keep thinking that. I was disappointed in Hoffman’s Twitter fracas last year, since she’s been one of my absolute top favorite writers for years, but her books continue to be lovely and chilling and inspiring. Every time.

Across the Universe, Beth Revis – The morning after I finished this book, I woke up from a dream about it and reached for the book to continue reading, only to remember I’d finished reading it a few hours before. I was so disappointed not have more of the book to read for the first time. I really loved the new world created here. It was absolutely tragic and interesting and cool.

Whip It, Shauna Cross – I really loved Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It, with Ellen Page, so I’ve been wanting to read the book that inspired it, formerly titled Derby Girl. I can totally see why Drew was inspired to make a movie because the character of Bliss just SCREAMS out from these pages, so funny and funky. It was a fun book and inspired a really good movie version.

Like Pickle Juice on a  Cookie, Julie Sternberg – Read the 225 review here.

Peter and the Sword of Mercy, Dave Barry + Ridley Pearson – I love this series a lot. It started off as an origin series about how Peter became the Peter Pan we know and love. They finished the series and I love that they listened to their readers and wrote this book for us, continuing the story. The last line made me cry big time. So perfect.

Dinner with Tennessee Williams, Troy Gilbert, Chef Greg Picolo and Dr. W. Kenneth Holditch – Read the 225 review here.

Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater – Another book that I got absolutely obsessed with. I ordered the sequel online before I’d finished it because I was consuming this book at such a rapid pace and the Borders by my house was closing and no longer had a copy. I’m not as engrossed by the sequel so far, but I love how innovative this first book is.

How the Hangman Lost His Heart, K.M. Grant – This is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. That should tell you something. I loved, loved, loved K.M. Grant’s de Granville trilogy so passionately that I immediately bought an entire set for my sister, who is the mother of a toddler, and bugged her till she read them. So I’ve been searching for this stand-alone book ever since I heard about it. My library finally got a copy and it was not what I was expecting. Well, honestly, I don’t know that I could’ve expected this book. Who could? It’s a really surprising and clever adventure story about a stubborn girl who convinces people to risk their lives and their families to help her. And what mission are they helping her fulfill? She’s determined to rescue her uncle’s severed head from where it has been displayed after he was executed for treason. The story is based on K.M. Grant’s ancestor, who was the last man in England hanged, drawn and quartered. Did I mention it’s a book for young readers? I really love the renaissance literature for young people is undergoing.

I know I used the word “love” a lot in this post. I’ve decided you’ll forgive me because there are some really awesome books in my quarterly reading report. Check them out!


Filed under books, freelance work, literature, New Orleans, pop culture, what I'm reading

Going to Bragtown

This is a double decker brag post as the clever people in my life are succeeding left and right. Let’s dive right in.

Flood Streets, the film created by my friend Helen Krieger and her husband Joseph Meissner, will premiere at WorldFest Houston on April 11th and is also showing at the Boston International Film Festival April 23rd. Helen just had a signing event for her book In the Land of What Now, which inspired the film.

Lindsay Rae Spurlock just had several shows during SXSW and is performing regularly now in L.A., supporting her CD Heart On.

Zack Godshall just the Louisiana premiere of his film Lord Byron at the Manship Theater in Baton Rouge. I loved reading this:

Made in Lafayette for less than $1000, the film features the first all-Louisiana cast and crew film to go to the Sundance Film Festival.

Q & A to follow, so stick around to hear from Zack and some of his talented cast spill the beans on how they pulled off this no-budget film right here in Louisiana! And what it was like to bring to Sundance the lowest budget film in the festival’s history.

Barb Johnson will be reading April 12th at 7 p.m. as part of Loyola’s 1718 Reading Series at the Columns on St. Charles. If you’ve never seen her read, you really shouldn’t pass up this opportunity. And if you have seen her before, it’ll be a great time to catch up with her. 🙂

Maurice Ruffin just had his short short “Zimmerman” published on the Gold Room reading series’s website and his story “The Sparer” is a finalist in the Country Roads Writing Contest. During the month of April, all of the finalists’s stories are up and we can vote for the winner of the Reader’s Choice Award. I hope you’ll go read them all and vote for your favorite. My favorite is “The Sparer.” 🙂

Terri Stoor has a funny, touching piece published with the St. Petersburg Times. It’s on their website, so you can read it in its entirety. I heard her read it recently, which was a special treat.

While I was writing this, Nick Fox gave me the great news that a story of his has been accepted for publication by Third Coast.

And my latest 225 piece is about writer’s block. I got to talk to some of my amazing writer friends for this and what they had to say is incredible. Check it out. Unfortunately, we had to cut some great quotes from Brian P. Moore and Jamey Hatley because of space. I want to include a bit of what they said below. Enjoy.

Brian, who writes for the New York Post, told me:

It’s my guess that the despairing totality of, say, Dashiell Hammett’s paralysis is a rare bird. Most writer’s block is case specific, and with some time away can be tackled with minimal angina. Writer’s block isn’t something to be confronted so much as elided, which should suit the non-confrontational personalities of most writers. If I can’t get a character out of a room in my novel, there’s always a newspaper story to work on. It’s a reverse whac-a-mole approach, where the mole is free to roam without fear of head wounds.

And Jamey said:

When I think of writer’s block, I mean that something isn’t working. I remember reading an interview with Toni Morrison where she said, ‘You shouldn’t write through it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.’ So, being blocked for me is crucial information. When the writing is stalled, when I can’t get the right words, there’s usually something that I haven’t figured out yet that I need to know.  This is not to say that I am gracious during the waiting process. I whine, I complain. I draw dramatic red lines through pages of text. I have never regretted waiting out the block. The rewards have always been worth it.


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Filed under Baton Rouge, books, bragging on, freelance work, Friends, funny, literature, movies, New Orleans, pop culture