Monthly Archives: December 2013

My end of 2013 homework

It occurred to me yesterday that 2013 has essentially been one long Friday the 13th, full of trials and trouble. However, it was also full of achievements. I’m so glad I’ve taken this opportunity to remember that. Jamey first suggested that I spend some time remembering what I accomplished back in 2010 and this year, she was instrumental in reminding me about most of this list. I’m grateful she did and I’m grateful I have her to make me do this homework every year. 🙂

Thirteen Amazing Things about 2013

1. I bragged on the wonderful, talented, hard-working people in my life, more than ever, and even had trouble keeping up with their achievements, there were so many.

2. I worked on my first t.v. show, which was an incredible education and a lot of fun. It premieres next month. Later in the year, I worked on a live, televised awards show, which was a short, crazy, enormously fun experience. I had the opportunity to work on my friends’ projects, which was very rewarding and inspiring. In the last of the year, I worked on a reality show pilot, another new t.v. experience.

3. I attended the weddings of dear friends, friends from the tango community and friends I’ve known for over a decade. I don’t talk a lot about my personal life on here, but I am so proud of my friends and families for all of the personal milestones they’ve achieved this year.

4. I co-wrote a feature-length script called Ostium, with writer Nick Cardinale, which was a Quarter Finalist in the Creative World Awards.

5. I organized and co-hosted a new tango series, Tango X. We had four installments this year, the last one was part of the incredible New Orleans Tango Weekend.

6. I moved for the first time in 6 years.

7. I was interviewed about my writing for the first time.

8. I performed my award-winning essay, “Tango Face,” for my tango community. It was an inspiring night of musical performances, readings and of course, dancing. Later, at Tango X, I had the opportunity to teach my first tango lesson, together with Casey Mills. And, “Tango Face” was published by the Double Dealer at the end of the year.

Orquesta Fleur Flyer, 2013-10-26 Cafe Instanbul(1)

9. I interviewed Josh Hanagarne in front of an audience and moderated Peauxdunque’s panel on writing groups, both at the Louisiana Book Festival.

10. I didn’t win NaNoWriMo, which ended up being its own awesome education.

11. I read almost as much nonfiction as fiction (27 to 34) this year, which is unusual for me. As I said in my last post, I became a student of the memoir in an effort to write a better one.

12. I took workshops and lessons from amazing professional tango dancers/instructors like: Damian Lobato, Rod Relucio & Jenny Teters, Silvina Valz, Tony Fan & Ilana Rubin, Ney Melo & Jennifer Bratt, and Homer & Cristina Ladas. I had the opportunity to study with these fantastic dancers and teachers because of the people in my tango community, who teach me every day. I’m taking all of the experiences and lessons I’ve had into my future in tango, looking forward to studying and dancing more.

David y Jessica Gentry (New Orleans Tango Weekend organizers), Homer Ladas and myself, Ney y Jennifer. Cristina Ladas took this great photo.

David and Jessica Gentry (New Orleans Tango Weekend organizers), Homer Ladas and myself, Ney Melo Jennifer Bratt. Cristina Ladas took this great photo.

13. I found my core. In tango (and dance), your core is what gives you balance and everyone’s is slightly different. It sounds like an easy thing, to find your core, but it isn’t. And even when you’ve found it, you have to continually work to access it, to use it to become a better dancer. I think I might’ve started on the road to finding my personal/emotional core this year, sorting through the junk to find the treasure. Now that I’ve found it, I look forward to working to access it, through my dance, my writing and my relationships.

I’m excited about 2014 and all that it promises to be.

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2013 Q4 Reading Report

My last quarterly reading report of 2013! I read so many great books this year and I’m in the middle of several more amazing books, so I know the first quarter of next year will be strong. Plus, I have plans for an awesome reading project, which I think you’ll all like.

October

Son of a Gun, Justin St. Germain – This book, about St. Germain’s emotional investigation into his mother’s life and death, as well as gun violence and machismo, was absolutely haunting. St. Germain takes an intensely personal story and turns it into a revelation about human heart. But the most impactful part is his willingness to say, “After all of these questions, I don’t really have answers.”

Poison Princess, Kresley Cole – I was completely surprised by this first book in a new series for teens. It spends such a long time as a relatively “normal” tale of teen life and then becomes a stunning post-apocalyptic tale.

Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward – This book is another example of how to transform personal stories and history into a universal revelation, putting personal faces to the argument that systematic poverty and criminalization haunts young black men, their families and communities. Ward’s writing is evocative, emotional and convincing. Everyone should read this book.

Too Good to Be True, Benjamin Anastas – I was blown away by Anastas’s ability (and willingness) to depict his rock-bottom experiences so bravely, with humor and openness. For a student of the memoir genre, which is what I’ve been this year, I couldn’t have asked for a better example of turning a small, humble recovery into brilliant revelation.

I Can’t Complain, Elinor Lipman – After some pretty dark reading this month, Lipman’s funny and short essays were the perfect remedy.

November

The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson – There are a few people who, when they recommend that I read something, I immediately put it on the top of my list. Okay, there’s 3 people. One of them, Maurice, recommended that I read this ridiculous, hysterical, searing book about an odd family of performance artists. I didn’t read much fiction this year, but I’m glad I made room for this book.

Endless Knight, Kresley Cole – I’m always impressed by authors who can take what seems to be a relatively limited premise and create a series of twists and redirects that feel both surprising and inevitable.

I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman – Funny, dark, twisted and thought-provoking, these essays take a very open, blunt look at the nature of evil, the faces of it and our perceptions of it. I was continually impressed by the mental gymnastics Klosterman leads his reader through.

Mud Show, Edwin Martin & Don E. Wilmeth – During NaNoWriMo, I found this book an invaluable resource to help jump-start me back into the world of my novel. The book includes an essay and a collection of photos from several tent circuses during the 80s.

Carry On, Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton – If there’s a theme to the nonfiction books I’ve read this quarter (and maybe all year), it’s “when things aren’t all right, here’s how I figured out how to be all right.” That’s pretty much this book. Doyle Melton does what the other authors on this list have done, bares her personal shames and mistakes and shows how she turned them around for herself. Despite some dark subject matter, the tone is light and humorous.

Coming Clean, Kimberly Rae Miller – I was absolutely blown away by Miller’s honesty, her ability to discuss being raised by hoarders, her ability to write about her parents and the way they lived with compassion and love, for them and for herself.

Innocence, Dean Koontz – I got my hands on an ARC of Koontz’s newest and dug straight in. I’ve been a Koontz fan since I was 10 years old – I credit him and his books with being my first teacher/lessons in writing. This novel reminded me so much of the early Koontz books that I loved as a kid, but conscious that the world has been influenced by Law & Order and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

December

“The Princess and the Queen, or the Blacks and the Greens,” George R.R. Martin, in Dangerous Women –  I’m desperate for the next book in the Song of Ice & Fire series, so I ripped right into this novella at the end of Dangerous Women, edited by Martin. The rest of the stories in the collection look very good, but I had to make this one my priority for the moment. The story is a prequel to the events in the Song of Ice & Fire series, written like a history text, and absolutely consuming.

Survival Lessons, Alice Hoffman – I’ve been a fan of Alice Hoffman most of my formative years, so I was intrigued to read this short text on grief and recovery. All of the “advice” is coming straight from a writer, so creativity in the wake of devastation is the real point, in my opinion.

I Am An Emotional Creature, Eve Ensler – These monologues are directed toward young women/girls, using their own voices. Sometimes I found them blatantly melodramatic, but I reminded myself that I’m not the ideal audience for these. My 12-14 self is, though, and I found much of this book spoke to her directly.

To be continued in the new year…

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Carol of the Brag

These aren’t late presents. These are the presents you get after Christmas when you’re going through present withdrawal. And these are presents you can easily re-gift, just by telling somebody about them. Instant recyclables, so they’re incredibly green and cost-effective. With no further ado, here’s the last (not-late) (green) (cost-effective) brag of 2013:

Rachel Marsh has an essay called On the Internet and On the Street No On Knows the Artist is a Dog in GENERATORprinthouse’s newsletter. Also, her story “The Yellow House” was published by Exegesis. When I was with Rachel in Scotland (in 2007), I visited the real Yellow House with her and sat in on her writing group’s meeting when everyone read what they’d written about the house. I even have my own version of “The Yellow House” somewhere. You should check out Rachel’s, and see what she wrote on her blog about publishing this piece in 2013, almost entirely unchanged since it was written in 2007.

Least Favorite Love Songs now has three episodes up from its second season. Check them out. This webseries is produced by a small, incredibly talented crew of locals, so I’m bragging on them collectively.

CavanKerry Press will be publishing Brent Newsom‘s book of poetry Love’s Labors.

After a successful fundraising campaign, DaVida Chanel‘s play “Hip Hop is Alive” traveled to the Atlanta and Chicago Fringe Fests this year. “Hip Hop is Alive” was performed at the New Orleans Fringe Fest in 2011.

Dub Lee and Chris Odinet‘s house was featured in The Advocate, also showcasing some of Dub’s gorgeous paintings.

Left Hand Press will publish Susan Kagan’s Basic Wiccan Ethics.

Here’s a great short documentary on Montana Miller and her aerial/acrobatic career.

In addition to his general awesomeness and lots of readings about town, Maurice Ruffin has an essay in the “cultural atlas” Unfathomable City (pg 133).  It’s a beautiful book, full of local folks, so check it out. Here’s a great review in the Chicago Tribune, which mentions Maurice’s essay.

Joselyn Takacs‘ story “Something Irrevocable” was finalist in the 2013 Narrative 30 Below contest. She was also a finalist in 2011 with her story “Flares of Little Warning,” available here.

Aaron Hogan of Eye Wander Photo won a “Fearless Award” for “Jamaican Bride,” one of the “most daring and extreme wedding photographs worldwide.”

Che Yeun‘s amazing essay “Saphir’s Room” is online at Trop Mag and she’s been nominated for her second Pushcart Prize for her story “One in Ten Fish Are Afraid of Water.”

“Dreams Do Come True,” a photo exhibit by L. Kasimu Harris is at Bellocq through January 19th.
L. Kasimu Harris photo exhibitMary McMyne‘s story “Lilith,” a retelling of how Lilith is cast out of Eden, will be published by NewMyth.com. Her chapbook Wolf Skin will be published by Dancing Girl Press and her novel-in-progress The Book of Gothel received a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant.

James Claffey, among many, many other achievements, has been interviewed here. Also, read his story “Prehistory” here. And a short story at Causeway/Cabhsair called “His Life a Pitted Table…”

Melissa Remark wrote the film Call Me Cappy, which just wrapped production.

Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Louisiana just named Mari Kornhauser the winner of its inaugural Iris Award for Outstanding Contributions to Women in Film & Television.

mari WIFTVeronica Brown‘s The Daughter of the Puppet King will be published next year.

She is Alex by Eritria Pitts has a new video called “Secret Santa.”

Jamie Amos has a story coming out in the Florida Review called “A Good Dog Buries Its Bone” and was just named Assistant Nonfiction Editor at the New Orleans Review.

Hila Ratzabi has a poem at Women Poets Wearing Sweatpants.
Spillway Magazine has published poetry by Alison Grifa Ismaili.

Jamey Hatley has just published an essay about the art of postcards at The Toast.

Many of my former and current brags are listed in Chris Waddington’s “Top 10 Books of 2013 for New Orleans readers” and there is a smorgasbord of brag-worthy writing in the newly released The Double Dealer. Work by Peauxdunquians Terri Stoor, Cassie Pruyn, Tad Bartlett, J.Ed Marston, Tom Carson and yours truly (pg 410), as well as Rodger Kamenetz, John Biguenet, T. Geronimo Johnson, Harold Ellis Clark, Jennifer Steil, Chris Tusa, Alison Grifa Ismaili and Elsie Michie, among many, many more. You could spend weeks reading the excellent writing in the 400+ issue of The Double Dealer and I hope you do.

That should see you into the next year. I’ll be posting my regular end-of-the-year posts over the next few days and the brag will be back in 2014, have no fear.

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