Monthly Archives: December 2011

My end of 2011 homework

Last year, Jamey set me a homework assignment to think about the things that I accomplished in 2010. I’m going to carry on the tradition of reflecting on the previous year now, at the tail end of 2011.

While it is not the end of a decade for the rest of the world, I am one week away from the close of a very important personal decade  —  my twenties. I am mostly thinking about that milestone in these last hours of 2011, but if I’m honest, I’m glad to bid adieu to 2011.

It has been a tough year, exhausting and definitive. Hard. Also, I became more myself this year, the last of my twenties, which is probably fitting, but which has also been painful. Many of my friends have promised that the 30s are much better than the 20s and 2012 already promises to be a banner year.

And now, 11 Things About 2011:

1. I worked on four movies and, in two of them, I had a new job title and new experiences. For Playing the Field, I was a film courier, which enabled me to conduct my “Great Louisiana Tour” and listen to many audio books, books I might not otherwise have read. For 21 Jump Street, I spent a lot of time on set shadowing a script supervisor friend of mine. I spent more time on set for that film that I did for all the other movies I’ve worked on combined.

2. I re-hauled the layout for my blog, then changed the name entirely. In between, I developed recurring posts like my Quarterly Reading Reports and my bragging on posts. The blog became a truer version of itself, more what I wanted from the experience of blogging. I wrote fewer posts, but they were more impactful. I had less traffic, but my recurring posts saw a gradual increase in traffic (though most traffic is still driven by Banksy-related searches, to be honest). I began actively deciding what my online presence would be, in earnest, during this year.

3. I mourned the deaths of three people. Their deaths instigated a lot of rumination on my part and brought about many conversations with people, both close friends and strangers. I have been, this year, both sad at their passing and humbled by what I know of their lives.

4. The year was marked by three car accidents in quick succession and though I was only in one of the accidents myself and nobody was seriously hurt in two of the three, it was more than I thought I could bear. I became very nervous in cars, but ironically, this year was filled with more driving than most, which forced me to face something I began to fear before it could cripple me.

5. I learned to tango. Or, I began to. I went to a tango lesson several months ago and since then, dancing every week has become one of the best and most educational experiences of my year – maybe of my life so far. I love to dance. I always have, but I had never recognized before how inexorably dance  (or the lack thereof) has always impacted my relationships. A new writing project was born from the experience, which I talked about at the end of NaNoWriMo. I’ll be working on a dance-themed memoir, or a book of dance essays. It’s kind of both things at once, which made Jamey think of Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running when I told her about it. Nice to know there might be a tradition for this crazy creation of mine.

6. I haven’t forgotten about The Winter Circus. Oh no. That novel has been with me for years and I inch quietly closer all the time. I’m in a strange stage with the book, where most of the writing of it does not involve writing, but thinking and dreaming. It happens sometimes. In the meantime, I wrote my first short story in a long time and probably the first I’ve conceived of from beginning to end all at once and was actually satisfied with at the finish of the first draft.

7. I have begun submitting my work for publication almost militantly, as I should have been doing most of the last few years. I’m lucky enough to publish reviews regularly (225 published almost double the pieces they did in 2010, which had itself been a productive year). But now, I am broadening my scope and submitting my fiction for publication and next year, I’ll submit creative nonfiction as well. I promise to brag on myself should my submitting be fruitful. When it is fruitful.

8. In direct correlation to taking myself more seriously as a writer, my writing community is growing. My own, personally, as well as that of my writing group. This year, Peauxdunque Writers Alliance staged its first literary concert. Yeah, You Write was enormously successful thanks to the efforts of our talented lineup and our equally talented members. I discovered, as chairwoman of the event, that I have a certain talent for orchestrating things like this and though it was very time-consuming, it was also very satisfying.

9. I struggled with change. Changes in my relationships. Changes in address–someone is moving soon from the house she’s had for years, which just happens to be situated on Emily Ave. and silly as this is, it has made me feel connected to her when we’re not together. Changes in my city. All of these changes are bittersweet. There is so much possibility in the midst of the wistfulness for the way things were. One example: today, my trusty coffee shop Cheers closed its doors. On my bio page, I call myself  “an official ‘Anchor of Cheers: Keeping the Place in Place since 2007.'” It will open again as a restaurant and there are many other coffee shops in this city. But Cheers has been such a central part of my life since I moved to New Orleans that when several of my friends heard the news, they asked (not entirely joking) if I would be moving. Cheers was my workplace between movie jobs, where most of The Winter Circus took its current shape. Most people knew to look for me there if they couldn’t get in touch with me. I met numerous friends there and people who have changed my life: one of my ex-boyfriends, Dave and Maurice just to name three. In a fitting farewell, not to mention an apropos New Year’s Eve celebration, Maurice and I wrote there together until they closed. We were the last customers.

10. I did not win NaNoWriMo. But I won in innumerable other ways because the experience of writing with my sister again was invaluable. As was learning that I can’t lock myself into a story for the sole purpose of finishing – I have to write what I’m passionate about. Story is more important that gimmick and it always will be, for me.

11. Lagniappe. This one is true about 2011 and it will be true about 2012. I seek, always, balance in my life. I achieve it continually in little ways and the little ways connect into bigger ways. I wish us all balance in 2012 – not more sorrow than we can stand at any one time and no less success than we deserve for all of our work.

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Reading in Q4

The 4th Quarter has been one of the lightest so far, but there are some real gems in here.

October

We’ll Always Have Summer, Jenny Han – This is the satisfying conclusion to what could have been a sappy teenaged trilogy in a lesser writer’s hands and what is, instead, an absolutely riveting tale about three friends growing up and the ways that their friendships change.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sara Gran – An interesting flip on a standard mystery, this weird novel (in the good way) set in post-Katrina New Orleans and is certain to be only the first in a series featuring private eye Claire DeWitt. I’m fascinated with the way different writers, using different genres and different agendas, are weaving Katrina into their narratives.

Dark Rain, Mat Johnson – Also set in post-Katrina New Orleans, this graphic novel tells the story of Dabny, reluctantly drawn into a bank heist in the chaos of the aftermath of Katrina and the people he meets in the city. While reading Dark Rain, I kept thinking I really need to read more graphic novels – so many narrative possibilities!

Pym, Mat Johnson – Talk about weird! This novel is a re-imagining, a sequel, and also a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and also it’s own bizarre creation. The tale of an all-black expedition to the Antarctic is funny, thought-provoking and also, just plain weird.

Wild Ride, Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer – Silly, fun. Jennifer Crusie’s novels are always witty, light and fast-paced and the books she co-writes with Bob Mayer are even more so. Not my absolute favorite of their collaborations, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Uncommon Criminals, Ally Carter – I thought  Carter’s Gallagher Girls series was inventive and awesome, but she outdoes herself with the Heist Society books, about a family of art thieves. I ate this second book in the series up as soon as I got my hands on it. Only downside is waiting for the next one…

November

One Day, David Nicholls – Once again, I was intrigued by the movie… I probably shouldn’t admit that. The movie is pretty good and the book, of course, is better. Gut-wrenching, of course, but a very good read. By very good, I mean that you’ll want to kill both of the characters and pound your head against the wall in frustration. But, you’ll definitely be emotionally invested.

Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin – Not only was this the second book in a row I read because I was intrigued by the movie, but oddly enough, it’s the second in a row with a lead male character named Dexter. Which I don’t find to be a particularly romantic name, especially in light of Dexter. Besides the point. I’d never gotten around to reading Emily Giffin before and the book was a lot better than I’d thought it would be (also frustrating, see One Day, above).

Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner – Continuing my mission to catch up on JennWein’s books. Only one left! Well, till she publishes another… There are certain obvious inevitabilities in every one of Weiner’s books, but what amazes me about her writing is that once she establishes the (let’s face it, sometimes ridiculous) situations and the characters, she burrows in so deeply under their skin that it’s often frightening and uncomfortable, but always, she introduces us to not just fleshy, but fully fleshed-out women in modern circumstances.

Deadlock, Iris Johansen – Always ridiculous, Johansen books are nevertheless addicting. I don’t know why I can’t stop reading her. The books are almost impossible to distinguish from each other, the characters all one of maybe five stock types that Johansen relies upon (and almost all with the same voice). But, after all of that is said and done, I still read her books. This one is about the same, perhaps marginally better than usual as it follows an archeologist in a preposterous set of circumstances.

December

The Future of Us, Jay Asher + Carolyn Mackler -This story, about two friends who stumble upon Facebook in 1996, is brilliant, haunting. Facebook in this book is a (future) time capsule, a Ouiji board, a DeLorean, a time machine. It reminds me of Big (so therefore, also 13 Going On 30) and also, weirdly of Before I Fall. It’s a great book, like a classic 80s movie and I mean that as the highest compliment.

Blood Game, Iris Johansen – This one is an Eve Duncan book. Eve Duncan books are my least favorite of Iris Johansen’s, though she’s the character that really helped launch Johansen (who was writing romances decades ago). As annoying as Eve Duncan is to me, there was something about this book that made me determined to seek out the rest of the books, including the trilogy that hopefully concludes Eve Duncan’s story.

That’s all of my Q4 reading so far, but if I manage to finish the book I’ve been reading before midnight, I’ll be sure to add my review, to wrap up 2011’s reading…

Before I go, I should add that I was disgusted with the number of books I read last year (59) and I was determined to read more in 2011. I usually aim for 100 books a year and I managed 105 this year. But always, quality wins out over quality and this has been a great year for reading.

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Emilie’s 2011 Best List

Each year, one or two categories are really easy while others are really difficult. Books will be fairly easy, movies much more difficult. Here we go…

Books:

Because I did my Quarterly Reading Reports, it’s a bit easier for me to pinpoint which books stuck with me all year long. The surprise for me, considering how slow I am when reading nonfiction, is that almost half of my best books of 2011 list are nonfiction titles.

1. House of Prayer No. 2, Mark Richard

2. Across the Universe, Beth Revis

3. Whip It, Shauna Cross

4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick

5. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

6. The Southern Cross, Skip Horack

7. The Devil She Knows, Bill Loehfelm

8. Matched and Crossed, Ally Condie

9. The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

10. Knowing Your Value, Mika Brzezinski

Notables include Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, Jenny Han’s Summer trilogy, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Movies:

This list is a little longer and includes movies I saw in the theater and watched on DVD (or streaming).

1. Country Strong

2. Daydream Nation

3. The Adjustment Bureau

4. Wild Target

5. Bridesmaids

6. Elvis & Anabelle

7. Winter’s Bone

8. Super 8

9. Hanna

10. HappyThankYouMorePlease

11. Hugo

12. Our Idiot Brother

13. Stupid, Crazy Love

14. Circo

15. War Horse

My list includes one documentary and two others that I really enjoyed were Exporting Raymond and Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. A few films that were far better than I anticipated, rising above their genres should also be noted: X-Men First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Cowboys & Aliens.

TV

1. How I Met Your Mother

2. 2 Broke Girls

3. Raising Hope

4. The New Girl

5. Castle

6. Falling Skies

7. Downton Abbey

8. So You Think You Can Dance

9. Dancing with the Stars

10. Survivor

Notables include Bones, In Plain Sight and Psych of course, Storage Wars, Terra Nova, Suburgatory and Community (which I got into late this year), as well as wonderful cancelled shows I streamed on Netflix: Party Down, The Unusuals and The Good Guys.

Music:

Albums –

1. Adele’s 21

2. CAKE’s Showroom of Compassion

3. Christina Perri’s Lovestrong

4. Jenny Owen Youngs’ Batten the Hatches

5. Lissie’s Covered Up With Flowers

Singles (not from any of the above) –

1. The Generationals “Ten-Twenty-Ten”

2. Kid Cudi “Pursuit of Happiness”

3. Lil Wayne “How to Love”

4. Michael Franti & Spearhead “Say Hey (I Love You)”

5. Timothy Bloom & V. Bozeman “Till the End of Time”

On any other day, I might give different answers, but as of this moment, this is my 2011 Best List.

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‘Tis the Bragging Season

This bragging posts follows up on a few items mentioned in my last bragging post – Bragging on the River.

First, I really should brag on the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. We put on a stellar first event in our new series of literary concerts, Yeah, You Write. It was an unforgettable evening, made even more so by the participation of our exceptional performers (Amanda Boyden, Bill Loehfelm, Gian Smith, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Mat Johnson, Terri Stoor), as well as MC Nick Fox, DJ Sep and Lee Ware from Faulkner House Books. We’ve begun work on the next event in the series.

I’d like to brag on the folks at the State Library of Louisiana, who orchestrated yet another fabulous Book Festival. My only complaint is that I hope we’ll finally get a 2-day festival because there were too many incredible authors and events competing for my attention at the same time! They always pick the one day of the year guaranteed to be beautiful in Louisiana. I don’t know how it works out that way every year, but it’s always a good time to visit Baton Rouge.

Two weeks after the Louisiana Book Festival, Words & Music went down and one of the biggest highlights for me was the Awards Banquet on Friday. For someone like me, who lives to brag on my friends, the banquet was a feast of bragging. So many of our number were recognized, as well as new friends, and it was really thrilling and inspirational. But Rosemary and Joe of Faulkner House Books deserve a grand brag for all of their work on the conference, which is always an amazing experience and a lot of fun.

Flood Streets (a feature film by Peauxdunquian Helen Krieger and her husband Joseph Meissner) had an encore screening at the New Orleans Film Festival in October and they’re now offering gift packages to raise money for the next round of their festival tour. They’ve almost reached their goal – less than $500 to go!

I think Maurice Ruffin has made it a personal goal to be bragged about in all of my “bragging on” posts because he has yet another bit of publication news. His short short story “Mr. Face” will be published in Stephen F. Austin University’s Regarding Arts and Letters Magazine in April 2012.

Christopher Shipman‘s book of poetry Human-Carrying Flight Technology was published last month by BlazeVOX.

Hal Clark (also known as Harold Ellis Clark) of WYLD’s Sunday Journal has been named a semi-finalist in Organization of Black Screenwriters‘ 2011 Original Script Contest for his feature script, Chummy’s Spirit.

Ronlyn Domingue has signed a 2-book deal with Atria Books, the publisher of her first novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, for The Mapmaker’s War (Spring 2013) and Lead Us Whole, Beautiful Child (Spring 2014). Ronlyn’s been working hard on these two interconnected novels for the past five years and they’re highly anticipated!

DaVida Chanel‘s play Hip Hop Is Alive was performed last month at the New Orleans Fringe Fest.

Long-distance Peauxdunquian (while she’s studying writing at Johns Hopkins, that is) Joselyn Takacs is a finalist in Narrative’s 30Below Fiction Contest for her short story “Flares of Little Warning.”

Congrats to everybody and may the rest of the year be filled with good news to brag about!

 

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