Monthly Archives: September 2011

Reading in Q3 – August

I really picked up the reading pace this month, making up for lost time and visiting the library a lot. Whenever I’m between movie gigs and freelancing, reading and library visits are two of my favorite things.

Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead, From Dead to Worse, Dead and Gone, Dead in the Family, Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris – I’m taking something of a reading vacation for myself and breezing through these books in 2-3 days each. Definitely Dead was a bit confusing in some places, especially at the beginning with the timing. Something pretty interesting happened in the gap between books and Sookie mentions Bill was with her when it happened, so that was a bit strange to me. I’ve been loving the series so much that I’m actually becoming increasingly disappointed with True Blood and how much it’s veered away from the plots and characters of the books. Trying to enjoy the books and the show as two separate things, though I was incredibly disappointed with the Season 4 finale. I don’t know if I’ll keep watching the show.

The Southern Cross, Skip Horack – My review will be published in 225 Magazine. Link coming soon. here.

Twenty Boy Summer, Sarah Ockler – I specifically requested this book from the library after reading about it being banned. The description of the book sounded really good and the reasons for it being banned were so incredibly dumb, so I was intrigued. I’ve so rarely read a book that addressed grief so well, especially grief processed by a teen. It really resonated with my own experiences and relationships growing up, and then also with things I’ve only experienced now, as an adult.

The Devil She Knows, Bill Loehfelm – My review is upcoming in 225 Magazine. Link to come.

Bumped, Megan McCafferty – Really fascinating look at a very possible reality where teenage girls are the only ones who can conceive and so become the most important people on the planet. Up until they’re about 19. Really says a lot of powerful, interesting things about our tech-addicted society, the marketplace, relationships, growing up, all of those things. I’m increasingly impressed with not just the books that are available for teens, but the teens themselves for being such a hungry audience for these extraordinary books.

Matched, Ally Condie – And this one just blew me away. Set in a “perfect” future society that orchestrates every detail of the lives of its citizens — their meals based on ideal caloric intake, their deaths on the their 70th birthday, their jobs and their “matches” — it really demolishes the idea of perfection. This Utopia has selected 100 of the greatest paintings, songs, poems, etc. and banished the rest, a form of banning so extensive that it’s terrifying. There is no new art, no new creative thought. Citizens don’t even know how to write with their own hands, only how to select words to form messages, a cut-and-paste method. The teen characters in this book are so hungry for choice that unauthorized poems become a way of communicating connection, love, secrets and history and learning to write your name by hand becomes an enormous act of rebellion. This book has a lot in common with Fahrenheit 451 (as well as 1984), but is so cleverly wrapped up in juicy, romantic melodrama. And the most haunting thing is that the future depicted here is not at all unlikely or very far away.

The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han – Swoon. This was a just delicious teen romance set during the summer, but written so very, very well. I loved Jenny Han’s Shug and I knew I’d love this series, too. Belly, the main character, was so vivid and ferocious in her desires and uncertainties that it was impossible not to completely fall for her and identify with her. And then it turns out the book is so much more than “just” a lighthearted teen romance and I’d gotten so beautifully conned into reading a deeply emotional book about families and friendships. I had to read the next two books as quickly as I could, but my local library didn’t have them. Good thing I have a library card in three cities and two states…

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield – This book kicked my ass. It’s a drill sergeant of a book, but also calm and encouraging. It’s a short book, often with just a little text on each page. But I read it s l o w l y because each page kinda punched me in the gut. I read passages aloud to my friends, fellow writers and artists, and they never failed to kind of gasp after I finished, cause they’d gotten punched in the gut too. I can’t recommend this book enough. I actually kept it out from the library because I want to re-read it.

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Can’t stop the brag

In Faulkner-Wisdom Contest news, Peauxdunquian Terri Stoor has won the top short story prize for “A Bellyful of Sparrow” and her essay “Bird Dog” is 2nd runner-up in the essay category. Congrats to Terri!

Fellow Peauxdunquian Amy Serrano has launched the website for Amy Serrano + Associates, a “global society of creative media and communications professionals that offer commissioned projects and in-house initiatives, the benefit of our group’s combined award-winning capabilities and superlative credentials.”

Helen and Joseph‘s film Flood Streets won Best Picture at the Action on Film Festival in Pasadena and a Gold Remi at WorldFest-Houston. They have been all over the place, screening Flood Streets at many film festivals. On October 14th, Flood Streets will have its local premiere at the New Orleans Film Festival. Check out the new trailer:

Jim Davis was interviewed by CHOW about the history of Cracker Jack prizes and his own collection, which is so extensive, he maintains a devoted website and has loaned it out for display.

James Claffey has an essay “Bolt the Door” up on Cobalt Review, a new literary magazine. And also, “Daisy Chain” is up on Shady Side Review

My review of A More Noble Cause, a biography of A.P. Tureaud is up at 225’s website. I can’t tell you how many times this book has come up in conversation since I read it.  A fascinating portrait of A.P. Tureaud, the Civil Rights/school integration movements and also, south Louisiana in historical context.

And this last bit is more of a tease than a brag. Peauxdunque Writers Alliance is working on something big, details to be divulged very soon, so stay tuned!

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Fess Up Friday – The Mission Possible Edition

I really should’ve updated last Friday, because I had something amazing to write about. Though, I was probably too wiped out from the amazing thing to write about it so immediately.

I’ve been making a list for myself of contests I want to submit writing to, of residencies and grants I want to apply for. And their deadlines. I’ve been checking the list every day and since I just made it, some of the deadlines are coming up fast. You could say some of the deadlines are NOW.

So last Thursday, I had plans to watch the Saints game out with some friends and I canceled on them. I stayed home with the game on downstairs (my office is in a loft) and cranked out a 3,000 word story. from scratch. in three hours. And then submitted it to a fiction contest. While I’m not advocating reckless unprepardness, I’m proud of myself for refusing to let the deadline daunt me. Submitting is the thing. Winning would be nice, but submitting is the objective. Creating the work and putting it out in the universe instead of holding it back till its perfect. Perfect sounds like a great idea–and it is, in moderation–but for a perfectionist like me, who’s developed an unfortunate and chronic case of lily-liver, perfect is dangerous. I’m a good writer. And I’m a good editor. I can be good at those things forever and perfect a thing to death, never letting it see the light of day outside of a few readers. OR, I can be brave and put my work out in the world, let it have a test run and see how it looks when it returns.

The best part of this mad dash to write a story was that my sister and I did it together, counseling each other in phone conversations and via text. And we both submitted to the contest.

So that was last Thursday.

This Thursday, yesterday, had a sense of deja vu. The day followed an almost identical path. I had plans with friends to watch the Saints game. And I canceled. To stay home and put together my submission for another fiction contest. The friends were supportive last week and rather incredulous this week. And while it sucked to disappoint them and ground myself to the house, the postmark deadline is today and I have a busy day, so I had to prepare the submission last night if it was ever going to get done. And it had to get done. Or else.

This time, I took a different path. I submitted a discarded chapter from my novel The Winter Circus, a chapter which doesn’t belong in the novel anymore but I’ve always loved. The events still take place in the world of the novel, but the readers don’t get to see it in real-time action anymore. It might be referenced by characters in passing, but won’t be fleshed out. So, it’s perfect. The chapter was under the word limit and required very little tweaking, as it was already pretty strong as a stand-alone. And since the chapter no longer exists in the novel, publication in a magazine is a way it may potentially reach readers.

Again, my sister and I had a war council as we decided to beat the deadline and submit regardless of the obstacles. The last I heard, she had an idea and was rolling with it. So, submitting is the thing. As Jamey always says, you gotta play the literary lotto. If you wanna win, you gotta buy a ticket.

In between these two Deadline Thursdays, I applied for a residency. Don’t worry, I took a bit more time with that one and wasn’t quite as crunched against the deadline. And now, I’m armed with a list and building the battle plan. I’ll have my war council convene as needed. We are fierce and we’re already winning.

P.S. If you’ve sensed a new determined, even war-like, attitude from me about my writing lately, I’d have to say a lot of it probably comes from reading The War of Art, which is the best and the scariest and the truest writing book I’ve read yet.

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Reading in Q3 – July

July was a month for freelancing, which meant lots and lots of good reading.

While I Live, John Marsden – If you love Hunger Games, you have to read Marsden’s Australian series, which starts with Tomorrow, When the War Began. I think of it as a precursor to Hunger Games, because it features a strong, kick-ass girl as a protagonist and kids fighting a war. While I Live is the first of a trilogy, The Ellie Chronicles, that follows the Tomorrow series. It features Ellie and the gang recovering during an uneasy peace following the treaty that ended the war. Except this “peace” includes some pretty brutal stuff, as well as Ellie’s struggle to run her family’s farm and take care of her and Gavin. I was 19 when I read started reading the Tomorrow series, so it’s a bit odd and cool to read the follow-up trilogy after experiencing The Hunger Games.

A More Noble Cause, Rachel L. Emanuel + Alexander P. Tureaud, Jr. – Read the 225 review here.

The Cinderella Deal and Trust Me On This, Jennifer Crusie – These are plain fun and also, funny. Toni introduced me to Jennifer Crusie. I read all of Crusie’s books that Toni had while I was staying at her house during Gustav. The intro to Trust Me On This says it’s Crusie’s first screwball comedy, which was odd to me because all of her books seem like screwball comedies to me. They’re comedic romances which usually feature a cast of interesting characters and implausible but interesting events, if I’d have to describe them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling – This was my third time reading the last Harry Potter book. I probably shouldn’t have read it right before seeing the last movie, because I was extremely conscious of the differences between the book and the movie, which has never really bothered me before. It was pretty cool to watch Part 1 of the last movie while re-reading the book, though. And it’s always fun to re-visit this world, which is so comforting and real.

Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris – I read the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series back in December of 2009 and bought this second book soon after, but didn’t feel terribly compelled to read it. I’d enjoyed the first book, but wasn’t caught up. Reading this second one, I did get well and truly caught up. So much so that I asked my mom to find the next few books at the used bookstore we love and send them to me. It boggles my mind that some people don’t realize that True Blood is based on a series of books, this series, but several people have been surprised to find that out. Now that I’m more invested in the books, I have to say that while there are a lot of differences between the show and the books (of course), Anna Paquin has really nailed Sookie. But maybe I think that because I picture Paquin’s Sookie in my head while I read. 🙂 Well, regardless, the books confirm that I really prefer Eric to Alcide and Alcide to Bill.

Hollywood Car Wash, Lori Culwell – Read the NOLAFemmes review here.

Club Dead and Dead to the World, Charlaine Harris – Eating these up like candy, reading one book every three days or less. Dead to the World may be my favorite so far, but as an Eric fan, that’s probably to be expected. Also, since this book covers the current season of True Blood, it was interesting to see Sunday’s episode. It diverged enormously from the book and in some ways, I was okay with that and in some ways, I was actually a little disappointed.

I read a TON of books in August and I’ll post my mini-reviews later this month.

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