Category Archives: book news

My end of 2015 homework

This end of the year assessment is an interesting one for me. I started doing this six years ago, at Jamey’s prompting and now it’s one of my favorite ways to wrap up each year.

In the past, I often haven’t wanted the year to end and I’ve been anxious about the coming year.  The last few years have been really tricky and challenging, so I’ve been eager to start fresh. I feel really calm about 2016, even though my upcoming birthday is almost simultaneous with the beginning of both a month of Mercury Retrograde and a Jupiter Retrograde (which is going to be interesting, I understand from reading my horoscope).

All that is to say that while I haven’t achieved everything I’d hoped to achieve this year (see: the last item on the list), I’m still satisfied with my year. A friend asked me tonight what my resolutions are for 2016 and I realized that my only resolution is to continue doing what I’m doing and, in some cases, more of it.

1) I learned a lot about blogging and even met a lot of amazing bloggers. I just didn’t blog. If you count *this* post, I only updated three times this year, which is the total number of posts I published in December 2014. It wasn’t intentional and I felt really bad about it at first. And then I just stopped, posting and feeling bad. I decided to do it again when it felt right, when I had a better sense of what I wanted the blog to be in the future. And, in the meantime, I Tweeted a ton. It started to feel like poetry to me, the opportunity to quickly be creative within a rigid structure (limited characters). I hope to use Goodreads more regularly in 2016, because I would like to continue writing my fun, crazy subjective book reviews. I read a lot of great books this year.

2) My once-temporary apartment became permanent. At the beginning of 2015, I thought I’d be moving for the 3rd time since 2013 and I was pretty miserable about it. I’d fallen in love with my place and my neighborhood.

I’ve made a cozy, impermanent, perfect little home here for myself and while I’ll probably have to move again soon, I know now that I absolutely love Mid City…

I went so far as to look at a ton of apartments and while none of them was right, I thought I’d have to pick one. And then, on my birthday, a reprieve. It was pretty amazing timing. Since then, I’ve finally settled in completely, hanging mirrors, hooks and cork boards, buying a bookcase and filling it up with books that had been in storage for a year. I downsized to a smaller storage unit and while the majority of my books are still there, I’m now “all in” on my place.

3) My mission to cook more and eat healthier continued. If you need proof, my Twitter feed is evidence. It’s filled with food photos, love letters to cast iron skillets, longing notes about breadboxes. I became ravenous for avocados and beets, two foods almost unknown to my diet previously. Cooking and preparing meals became my main form of entertainment as well as a resolution for better health. A good friend moved last year and gave me a bunch of her kitchen stuff and I endeavored to use it. When the sweet amazing couple who I bought bread from every week at the market left town, the baker taught me how to make bread. Suddenly, I was baking my own bread every week, bringing a loaf (pic below) to every gathering of friends and taking serious pleasure from feeding the people I care about. There’s nothing like it.

Another friend visited early in the year, scoped the contents of my fridge and said, kinda judgey and suspicious, “What’s up with all the green stuff in your fridge?” I was thrilled. And so here you go, a pic of my fridge from a few days ago, way more green than earlier in the year. To round out the photos, a  “skinny cheesecake parfait” (mine is made with minced cranberries instead of strawberries) I just made with the mixer I got for Christmas.

4) I jettisoned broken things or any experience or relationship that didn’t work for me anymore. Including a job that was making me miserable. A grudge that kept me from walking into a place I’d once loved. I lovingly laid to rest painful “what-ifs” about past relationships. And the real biggie – I worked on giving up habits that weren’t serving me or were actively hurting me.

5) I challenged myself to do things that made me anxious or uncomfortable. Liiike, a friend gave me a VIP pass for Jazz Fest and I used it to go see Lenny Kravitz by myself – which is terrifying because I have trouble with crowds. Gotta say, the VIP access was huge in making it possible, but it was definitely still a challenge.

An editor of an amazing publication expressed interest in my writing and I sent work not once, but twice. I talked myself through a mid-flight panic attack. I binged the first 5 seasons of The Walking Dead and then read the comics and started watching every week, even though I’m a total wuss and almost never watch scary stuff. After years of being intrigued by this show, I just dove in and became a huge fan. Instead of letting panic or anxiety control my decisions, I let the things I loved, or wanted to love, guide me.

6) I focused on the people I was with and/or what I was doing at any given time. Meaning, my cell phone was in my bag or turned screen-down when I was hanging out or taking a meeting. I left the phone in the other room a lot. I gave myself permission not to answer if I was writing or decompressing. But I also returned calls more regularly and enjoyed Skype sessions with folks I love who are far away. I was thoughtful about how I spent my time, and with whom. And I was lucky enough to witness so many of my friends and colleagues achieve wonderful success this year, to be fully present when it happened.

7) I traveled even more this year. A 36-hour whirlwind of a trip to Portland for ValenTango (where I also got to visit with my brother). Atlanta for work and for dancing. Then, New York kept coming up (Anne and Hiro’s joint gallery show, their NYC debut!, a new tango friend who offered to host me). I haven’t been for years and in the past, I would’ve been practical and skipped it, but this year, I gave myself a trip to NYC as a present. I had an amazing time dancing and catching up with Anne and basically living at Google’s offices for the first day and a half (the cafeteria exceeds every legend you might’ve heard). I made new friends while I was there and had a random adventure going to see Karl Ove Knausgard at The Strand with one of them. I longed to go to NYC, so I made it happen. And it was fantastic.

8) (cont’d) Travel Pt II. I made a pilgrimage to a Tennessee mountaintop with Peauxdunque and on the way, stopped by Memphis to catch up with Jamey.

And then another whirlwind tango trip – this one 23 hours in Dallas to dance, catch up with great friends and celebrate the holidays.

9) Speaking of tango. For the second year, I assisted with the New Orleans Tango Festival, which has become, for me personally, a tango family reunion every year. More and more, I appreciate catching up with friends I might not get to see but once a year (if that) and to measure my growth against the last time we danced together. Check out this recap video (you can even see me about 27 seconds in):

And this year was even more special because of the time I got to spend with the ladies of La Bailonga Tango (+ Giovanni Parra), a Colombian tango band that came to Nola for the Festival. We had so much behind-the-scenes fun: getting them to their radio and tv appearances and trying to communicate in both English and Spanish (and oddly, French, which kept popping out when I tried to speak Spanish). I will treasure the experience!

We started working on 2016 very soon after this year’s festival was finished and I’m excited to do it again.

10) I threw myself into a new job, a new career. One that I really, really love. No matter how exhausting and challenging the day is, I end each one entirely satisfied by the opportunity to use my exceptionally diverse job history and my creativity while learning new things, every day. This job is bringing me balance and stability, but even so it’s also forcing me to face my struggle with change head-on. What is this job, you ask? I work at the library. It kinda seems like the obvious path for me, in hindsight.

11) (cont’d – this is worth 2 spots) So obvious that I was probably running from it. I realized that I was afraid of at least two things: a stable 9-5 career and also doing something I loved for a living. What if working at the library ruined what has always been my safe haven, my happy place? (This is the “don’t work at your favorite restaurant” theory). And, the biggie, what if career satisfaction removed all of my motivation to write? Luckily…

12) I wrote with more dedication and playfulness than ever before. For most of the year, I woke up a few hours early in order to write before work! I’d estimate that 2/3rds of the year, I went out of my way and made time for writing. Thanks to several months playing around with a novel about zombies (during the miserable job) and once again to NaNoWriMo in November, I looked forward to my writing sessions. I was light-hearted in a way I haven’t been in a long, long time.

13) I published. A short short story in Like a Girl pre-show supplement. A short piece of advice. More author profiles and book pieces for 225 Magazine. Several small business profiles for Gambit Weekly. An essay in the Scars Anthology. This last one is closely tied to #14 below…

14) I “appeared” more times this year than in the previous three years combined. I hadn’t read my work publicly for about 5 years before that, so this was huge.

A lot of the opportunities I had this year were because Maurice and I were promoting Scars locally. I’ve been so thrilled to share the experience with him and to be included in such a fabulous anthology. It was inspiring to get a tiny taste of what it’s like to publish and promote your work.

I got to have a book release at Garden District Bookshop, where I used to work, to share a stage with authors Jami Attenberg and MO Walsh at the Louisiana Book Festival and then to “work” at Octavia Books alongside authors Claudia Gray and Wayne Curtis for Small Business Saturday

After these experiences – I’m even more determined now.

15) I didn’t finish the novel by the end of the year, like I hoped I would. But I will finish it. After years of working on this novel and trying to put it aside and move on, I finally *know* that I will finish it, soon.

The best analogy I’ve ever heard about writing a novel is that it’s like building a boat in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight. I’ve spent more than 10 years with mirages of land or no hope of ever seeing it again. And now, there, not too far away, I see land ahead. I know where I’m going and that the journey is almost over.

A friend posted today about “done lists,” vs. “to-do lists.” I like that idea a lot. It immediately resonated. I think that’s what I’ve been doing these last few years. A list to remind myself of everything I’ve done, since it can be so easy to forget the sea of never-ending to-dos.

Can you see why I’m satisfied with 2015? It’s been pretty amazing. 2016 is gonna be even more so, I can feel it. Happy New Year, y’all.

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Filed under art, book news, Community Events & Forums, freelance work, Friends, Louisiana, Media, music, musing, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, tango, writing updates

The Re-Reading Project Guest Post: Children’s and Household Tales

The wolf thought to himself, “What a tender young creature! what a nice plump mouthful—she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act carefully, so as to catch both.” So he walked for a short time by the side of Little Red-Cap, and then he said, “See, Little Red-Cap, how pretty the flowers are about here—why do you not look round? I believe, too, that you do not hear how sweetly the little birds are singing; you walk gravely along as if you were going to school, while everything else out here in the wood is merry.”

Little Red-Cap raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing everywhere, she thought, “Suppose I take grandmother a fresh nosegay; that would please her too. It is so early in the day that I shall still get there in good time!” and so she ran from the path into the wood to look for flowers. And whenever she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a still prettier one farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and deeper into the wood.

When I was a girl, the tales my mother told at bedtime weren’t fictions. They were the lens through which I saw the world, the overlay I superimposed over my experience. I dropped bread crumbs in the deep dark woods behind my house. I told my little brother and sister about the witch who lived in our rotting barn. I heard her cackle, a high wheezing sound like the wind during hurricane season. At night, when I looked out of my window at the dizzy moon, I heard the howl of the wolf.

I can still hear my mother’s voice, telling the tales she told me when I was little. I loved those stories, and I was thrilled when my father gave me a beautiful edition of the Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales – collected with Aesop’s Fables and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen –to read by myself. At six or seven, I stayed up, late at night, reading and rereading those stories.

Mary and Grimm

When I had my own daughter, three years ago, I looked forward to telling her the tales of the Brothers Grimm. But when I picked up my book to reread them, I had an altogether different experience than the one I had as a girl. The awe and wonder I once felt for these tales quickly faded as I noticed their underlying assumptions about gender: Why does Little Red Riding Hood fall for the wolf’s scam?, I wondered. Is her head filled with nothing but flowers and sunbeams? And how convenient that the huntsman happens to pass by just in time to save her from the belly of the wolf.

Another of my childhood favorites, “Rapunzel,” was similarly disappointing, this read, especially the moment when the title character accidentally reveals her affair with the prince. Apparently lacking the intellectual capacity to deceive her captor, Rapunzel slips up while the enchantress climbs her hair, saying: “Tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young King’s son—he is with me in a moment.”

Scattered throughout the book are a few stronger heroines. There is Grethel from “Hansel and Grethel,” who pushes the “godless witch” from the gingerbread-house into the oven. There is the miller’s daughter in “Rumplestiltskin,” who despite weeping a great deal in the beginning takes a semi-active role in defeating the little man at the end. (Both my daughter and I take great pleasure in the moment when she guesses his name, and he cries out miserably, “The devil told you that! the devil told you that!”) And there is the heroic sister in “Seven Ravens” who travels “to the very end of the world,” where the sun and moon try and fail to devour her on her way to save her seven brothers. But by and large, the magic and simple beauty of these tales is marred by the overabundance of wicked old women and foolish damsels in distress.

So how did these tales, which likely began as stories told by women to women and children, become so problematic? When I finished rereading Children’s and Household Tales, I decided to find out. It turns out Little Red Riding Hood – titled “Little Red-Cap” in my translation after the German “Rotkäppchen” – is first referenced as a 10th century oral French story folklorists call “The Story of Grandmother.” In this early incarnation, instead of needing rescue, Red cleverly escapes the wolf on her own by telling him she has to relieve herself. But in the first version of the tale to appear in print, “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” (1697), male author Charles Perrault includes no such happy ending: Red strips for the Wolf, gets into bed with him, and is eaten. In a moralizing message at the end of the tale, Perrault uses a double entendre likening “gentle wolves” to predatory gentlemen “following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes.” The Brothers Grimm, it seems, added the now-popular ending of a heroic huntsman cutting Red and her grandmother from the belly of the wolf in their first edition of Children’s and Household Tales (1812).

A similar pattern of the heroine gradually weakening over time can be seen in the history of the Rapunzel tale. In all versions of the story, the basic pattern is the same: a mother craves a plant while pregnant, eats it, and the owner of the garden takes the child as payment. Then the child is placed in a magical tower, where a prince falls in love with her and climbs up her hair. In the first version to be published in print, “Petrosinella,” by Giambattista Basile (1634), a gossip tattles on the maiden’s nighttime activities with the prince, rather than the maiden betraying herself, and the maiden plots her own escape using three magical nuts. In the next known variant, Persinette (1698), Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force has the maiden betray her own affair with the prince by complaining to her captor that her dress is getting tighter, but adds the bit about the power of the maiden’s tears to heal the prince’s blindness at the end. The Grimms’ version (1812) has the weakest heroine,  with “Rapunzel” making the foolish mistake of admitting that the prince has been “with her” and only being reunited with the prince when he stumbles blindly upon her in the wilderness.

The gradual weakening of the heroines of these tales –from the stronger girls of earlier variants to the “tender young creature[s]” of the Brothers Grimm – makes me wonder what has been lost, over the centuries, as these stories have been told and retold in print. What details might we reclaim from the past, or add for the future, so that our children will see more than tender young creatures, wicked witches, and wolves in the world?

***Mary McMyne Wolf Skin

Mary McMyne is the author of Wolf Skin (Dancing Girl Press, 2014)a chapbook of poems that retell European folktales from alternate perspectives, such as the huntsman from Little Red Riding Hood, the witch from Rapunzel, and the woodcutter’s wife from Hansel and Gretel. She teaches at Lake Superior State University, where she is co-editor of the journal Border Crossing. Her stories and poems have appeared in Word Riot, Pedestal Magazine, Painted Bride Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Apex Magazine, New Myths, New Delta Review, Poetry International, and many other publications. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award. Her criticism has appeared in American Book Review. A recipient of the Faulkner Prize for a Novel-in-Progress and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Promise Award for her fiction, she is currently at work on a novel set in 12th century Germany, which speculates about the historical roots of several well-known fairy tales.

 

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Filed under book news, books, bragging on, The Re-Reading Project, what I'm reading

Everybody Brag Now

This bragging on post might be my most overdue yet! Many folks have had multiple successes since I last bragged, so as always, this is always just a tiny sampling. I can’t keep up with these exciting movers and shakers. Still, I try…

As 2014 started and the Oscar nominations were announced, many films shot in New Orleans were included. Robin Mathews (makeup) and Adruitha Lee (hair) won for their work on Dallas Buyers Club. Not only did Twelve Years a Slave win best picture (!), but the amazing production design/set decoration teams and stellar costume department were recognized with nominations. It was so exciting to see the effect Lupita Nyong’o had even before she won the best supporting actress category. It was a great start to the year.

Lavender Ink and Nancy Dixon published N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature, which includes work by folks like Moira Crone, Andrei Codrescu and John Biguenet, alongside Faulkner, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.

After a year of amazing interviews for Hothouse, Karin C. Davidson has compiled an Anniversary Album, putting together more questions and answers from her interview subjects, as well as a playlist of music they’ve each picked. Karin’s “Something for Nothing” was a finalist in Bayou Magazine‘s fiction contest, judged by Lucy Bledsoe.

Studio delle Sorelle’s first art opening at Bev Coates’ Guest House featured a painting by Judy Kahn.

Judy Kahn's painting

Suparno Banerjee has published a paper, “Melodrama, mimicry and menace: Revinenting Hollywood in Indian science fiction films” in Volume 12, issue 1 of South Asian Popular Culture.

Near Valentine’s Day, Danielle Gilyot wrote a love letter to her younger self.

Jeff Roedel has directed the music video for England in 1819’s song “Sirens.”

jewel bush, Justin Torres and Mat Johnson all have stories in Dismantle, the VONA Anthology (with an introduction by Junot Diaz).

Contemplative Man by Brock Guthrie was published in March. Here’s a great review.

Joseph Boyden‘s The Orenda is the 2014 winner of Canada Reads. The Orenda will be published in the U.S. in May.

Jamie Amos has been busy, with new stories at Cold Mountain Review (“Defensive Wounds”) and at storySouth (“Spit”).

M.O. Walsh‘s book My Sunshine Away (due out next January) was announced as one of five Buzz Books and will be showcased at the BEA Conference in May.

Kaledioscope, a magazine for LSU’s Humanities and Social Sciences Departments, features quite a bit of great news in its Fall 2013 issue, including a feature on service learning courses on page 11, a feature on filmmaker Zack Godshall on page 13, a story about Associate Dean Malcolm Richardson on page 16, and a feature on the Creative Writing Department (plus two books I mention later in this brag) on page 18.

Montana Miller reports “After three marathon days of training in Eloy with the USPA Chief Judges, my brain is leaking out my ears and my eyes falling from their sockets, but my heart is leaping with joy and gratitude: I am a newly-rated National Judge for formation skydiving!”

Tad Bartlett‘s story “Hung Over” was published by Rappahannock Review.

Judge Claire Messud selected Summer Wood‘s story “Boomerang” for the 2013 Indiana Review Fiction Prize. Mary McMyne‘s story “Camille” was also a finalist.

Speaking of Mary McMyne, her story “Reading His Own Obituary” was published by Narrative Northeast in January. Faerie Magazine will publish Mary’s poem “Rapunzel Tucks the Twins into Bed,” in the next issue. Her poem “Irene Joliot-Curie” published in Painted Bride Quarterly No. 86 was nominated for a Rhysling.

Penelope Dane reviewed This Assignment Is So Gay, an anthology edited by Megan Volpert, in the March issue of Bitch Magazine.

Cara Jones has written an essay called “Taking the Woman Out of Women’s Health,” published at Nursing Clio.

First, the cover and title page of the Long Hidden anthology were revealed. Then, there was a wonderful review that specifically mentions Jamey Hatley‘s story:

“…“Collected Likenesses” is thought-provoking, with fascinating magic and heart-rendingly real characters.”

And most recently, Jamey’s interview with Roxane Gay was published at Press Street’s Room 220. Roxane has just announced she’ll be joining the MFA Program at Purdue University in the fall, as an associate professor.

Here’s a great review of James Claffey‘s Blood a Cold Blue. James is also editing the Ireland and the Irish themed issue of Literary Orphans, due out at Easter.

Literary Orphans

Maurice Ruffin has been very busy, as always. “Catch What You Can” will be published in Redivider Journal‘s issue 11.2 in May. “Heathen” will appear in issue 2 of  The Knicknackery. “Motion Picture Making” will appear in issue 2 of Writing Tomorrow in June.  “Heroes and Villains,” will be published in an upcoming issue of 94 Creations. To top it all off, he’s been accepted to Tin House’s Writers Workshop.

Cara Blue Adams interviewed David James Poissant for Tin House.

Melinda Palacio‘s book of poetry How Fire Is a Story, Waiting was a finalist in the 2013 Paterson Poetry Prize. She just traveled to New York for the awards reading.

June Pulliam‘s Encyclopedia of the Zombie will be available in June.

Andrew Lam‘s Birds of Paradise Lost is a finalist for the California Book Awards. The results will be announced in June.

Rachel Hebert performed “Just What I Need” for the Birmingham Sessions.

Helen Krieger has also had a busy couple of months. She was accepted to study at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and Least Favorite Love Songs, the webseries she made with her husband and band of Nola cohorts, is nominated for a Webby. To celebrate the nomination, a special episode from the series will premiere this Sunday at 10 p.m. at the new theater Indywood.

The second book in Ronlyn Domingue‘s Keeper of the Tales trilogy, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, will be published next month. Here’s an interview with her.

Charlotte Hemrick is interviewing local female poets at NolaFemmes for Poetry Month. First up was Kelly Harris and most recently is Cassie Pruyn. There will be a new interview posted on Friday.

Also happening on Friday at 7 p.m. at Cafe Istanbul is the second installment of Yeah, You Write, which will feature Cassie and myself. Kelly read at the first installment of Yeah, You Write. This year’s lineup is simply incredible John BarryJoseph Boyden, jewel bush, Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin, Benjamin Percy, Cassie and myself, with DJ Sep, images by L. Kasimu Harris and the whole shebang will be MC’d by Nick Fox. All for a $5 cover – you can’t beat that. Here’s the poster for the details:

Yeah, You Write 2014

I hope you enjoyed this attempt of mine to keep up with this phenoms. Moreso, I hope that you check out the links and come by Yeah, You Write on Friday. I can’t promise that I’ll be better at keeping up with these folks, but I can guarantee that they’ll be doing amazing things in the coming months.

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Filed under book news, bragging on, Friends

Re-Reading in the World: Harriet the Spy in EW

I considered re-reading Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy last month for the Re-Reading Project, but ran out of time (I ended up re-reading twice as many books in January as I’d originally planned). Reading through my Entertainment Weekly yesterday, as I religiously do, I saw a great book essay by Hillary Busis about Harriet the Spy (as well as Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) turning 50 this year.

Busis writes about how influential Harriet was for her, growing up 30 years after the book’s 1960s setting:

…I identified so fully with Harriet–her emotions, fear of change, frustration, and loneliness–that she instantly felt like an old friend. Inspired by her, I even started keeping a journal in which I carefully wrote mean things about my friends. During a fateful fifth-grade camping trip, that choice came back to bite me…hard. (P.S. Katy, Julia, Whitney, Kate–I’m still sorry.)

Despite that episode, Harriet wasn’t a bad influence. My bond with her was so strong precisely because her faults and virtues mirrored my own.

It occurs to me that troublesome female characters like Harriet (and Gilly Hopkins and Sammy Keyes) are especially important for young girls, who so often absorb society’s message that their job is to please others, which usually means not pleasing themselves. They’re not supposed to be nosy, or stubborn, or rambunctious, but they often are these things, or feel these things, and they need heroines who show them that it’s okay to be however they are, to ask questions and accept no one’s answers but the ones they find for themselves.

Have no fear, there will be a Re-Reading post for February–I’m working on it now. And I’ll have a guest post from my sister soon (together, she and I were little girls much like Harriet, Gilly and Sammy and we remain partners in crime today). If you’ve been enjoying theses posts, I hope you’ll consider re-reading an influential book and writing about it, like Maurice has done and Aimee is doing.

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Filed under book news, books, family, Friends, musing, pop culture, review, The Re-Reading Project, what I'm reading

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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NaNoWriMo 2013 Days 4 and 5

Yesterday was a good day – but I completely forgot to update. I finished a new chapter that I’ve been realizing is necessary but which had been a rough sketch previously, only a page or so. It all came together yesterday and I wove together a lot of new words with some I’d written at various times. The whole chapter is 1,868, most of them new. Enough that I’m counting all of them. It was about three hours of writing/editing.

Today was a busy day with work. Then, I went over to Octavia Books to see Maurice, Rebecca Snedeker, Eve Abrams and Billy Sothern read from their parts of Unfathomable City. It’s a really cool book. I guess this counts as a brag, in the middle of NaNoWriMo, no less.

I did get write 423 words tonight. It’s about all I can manage at the moment.

Total so far: 2,851 words.

 

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All Things Brag

Forgive me, it has been two months since my last brag. More than two months. This post is long overdue. The good news when it takes me a while to post is that there’s more to talk about. But that’s also the challenge, too, keeping track of everything.

Shortly after my last bragging post, my interview with Ronlyn Domingue for 225 went live. Ronlyn and I talked for over an hour and pretty much every word out of her mouth was quotable. It was a great problem to have and a wonderful challenge to shape the interview.

Fellow tango dancer, also aerialist and circus performer, Elise Duran was featured in DIG, a Baton Rouge magazine. It’s a great piece and has phenomenal photos of Elise performing.

Brent Newsom has a poem up at PANK Magazine, “Smyrna.” He also tweets. Check him out.

Solimar Otero has a book out, Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World.

In the Mind of the Maker is a documentary by C.E. Richard, a fabulous filmmaker who I was lucky enough to study with at LSU. The film will debut internationally next year. Keep an eye on the website and check out the trailer.

Chicago tango dancer Katya Kulik has a short story called “Verify Your Humanity” on The Newer York’s Electric Encyclopedia of Experimental Fiction.

Karin C. Davidson’s two-part interview with Andrew Lam is up at Hothouse and it’s a must-read. Also, his Huffington Post essays.

One of my tango instructors, Ector Gutierrez appeared on Good Morning New Orleans with Katarina Boudreaux as his partner.

Joselyn Takacs is a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s Winter 2013 contest for her story “The New River.”

Lindsay Rae Spurlock has a new single on iTunes called “You, Baby.”

Missy Wilkinson received an award from the Council of Drug and Alcohol Abuse for a Gambit article she wrote on addiction as a brain disease. She also has an essay about being a in a cult over at xojane.com.

Mary McMyne has three poems over at Painted Bride Quarterly, two poems at Waccamaw, and one poem in The Way North, an anthology from Wayne State University.

Montana Miller has become an accomplished skydiver over the last few years and recently participated in some big-way formations, including the 125-way Perris Flower formation. In her message, she said, “On our second jump, though, when I had almost given up hope that we would ever manage to get everyone to perform their best at the same time, we actually did it! And not only that, we held it for SEVEN SECONDS, which is amazing.” Because of her consistent and stellar performance in formations like these, she was invited to participate in the Arizona Challenge, which I’m told is the most elite and selective skydiving event.

Maureen Foley’s book Women Float is available now.

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Kelly Harris has this great “What Are You Reading” post on Bayou Magazine‘s blog. Ted O’Brien from Garden District Book Shop has a “What Are you Reading” the next month. I love this series.

Speaking of Bayou’s blog, they also have a great review of the Sunday Shorts series co-hosted by MelaNated Writers Collective and Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. Over at the Peauxdunque blog, Tad was, as he always is with Peauxdunque news, very good at covering this series, which matched a MelaNated writer with a Peauxdunque writer each week for a month.  I’ll include some of my pictures from the series here.

Now You See Me, a film that consumed a lot of my time in 2011 and 2012, is out in theaters now. I met so many awesome folks on that show and have lots of great memories. Among my takeaways: several decks of cards and the ability to do a one-handed cut, which the magic consultant, David Kwong, taught me. At a friend’s bridal shower, I won a joke deck of cards, so what did I do? I proceeded to teach everyone at the shower the one-handed cut (and they all learned more quickly than I did). The multiple trailers leading up to NYSM’s release drove me crazy till I could finally see it, with a co-worker from the movie, the bride from the aforementioned shower and her now-husband. We had a lot of fun watching it together. Check out one of the trailers:

My aunt, Ruth Staat, completed her first 5K run/walk (in 18 minutes)!

James Claffey‘s latest publications include: fled the tightening rope at the For Every Year Project, green their dead eyes at Blue Fifth Review.

Lee Ware has a story up at Connotation Press.

Quite a few folks graduated or started school recently, which is really exciting. At UNO’s awards banquet, both Che Yeun (Ernest and Shirley Svenson Fiction Award for her story “Yuna”) and Maurice Ruffin (Joanna Leake Prize for Fiction Thesis for his collection It’s Good to See You’re Awake) were honored. Che is also the Stanley Elkin Scholarship recipient for the 2013 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Maurice also has an essay about New Orleans East
over at New Orleans & Me.

The UNO MFA students and WWOZ have teamed up for UNO Storyville, recordings of the students’ true-life experiences in New Orleans. They ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, so check it out.

Speaking of successful Kickstarter campaigns, let me tell you about three more. Mark Landry, a cohort from the Cinema Club (waaay back in my LSU years) and friends launched a campaign to put out a graphic novel called Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water. This is a truly fascinating project and I love that Mark lays out how it came together on the Kickstarter campaign page.

Summer Literary Seminars, which brought me to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2007, launched a campaign to publish LitVak, a collection of writing and photography from SLS faculty and students. They made their goal, so look for the anthology.

And last, Helen Krieger’s Kickstarter campaign for the second season of Least Favorite Love Songs is wrapping up in 37 hours. They’ve already met their minimum goal and then some ($7,000+ at last check) and they’re aiming for $10,000 so they can pay their crew a nominal amount. They have major swag at low contributor levels, so it pays to back them. You can watch all of season one for free here.

Whew! That’ll teach me to wait so long between brags!

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For the Love of Brag

These bragging on posts just might be coming more frequently because the folks I know are certainly not slowing down their achievements. While I wait to post one brag, most of these folks double-up with a second achievement. I just have to keep up!

Since last I bragged:

One of my 225 Magazine editors (and long-time friend and co-conspirator), Jeff Roedel, has a new(ish) Tumblr blog.

Terri Shrum Stoor’s essay “Bird Dog” has been published by Quarterly West as the nonfiction winner of their Writers@Work contest.

Tad Bartlett wears many hats (among them, Oxford American columnist), yet still manages to update regularly about the achievements and events of Peauxdunque members and Friends of Peauxdunque.

Among them is the news that the first season of Denise Moore’s Neutral Grounds is available now on YouTube.

Maureen Foley wrote a great blog post about motherhood and creativity, about her soon-to-be-born book.

Her husband James Claffey’s book of short fiction, blood a cold blue, will be published by Press53 in the fall. He also has stories published at: Matterpress, The Nervous Breakdown, the Molotov Cocktail, Bartleby Snopes and Pithead Chapel.

Following up a fantastic Tulane reading, Ben Morris wrote a hysterical essay for The Oxford American about his experience krewing this recent Mardi Gras.

Nick Fox has a great series of blog posts about his recent travels in South America.

Ronlyn signing a ton of books and hiding bookmarks inside!

Ronlyn Domingue recently promoted her new novel The Mapmaker’s War at Garden District Books. She gave out bookmarks that she made with Kathryn Hunter of Blackbird Letterpress, who created the illustrations in the book. The bookmarks are signed and numbered and I was lucky enough to get #1 of the set, which happens to be my favorite illustration! I think this is a unique way to celebrate the publication of the book. Yes, I’m a fangirl, of Ronlyn and Kathryn and letterpress art.

 

Passages North has published Karin C. Davidson‘s Waasmode Prize-winning story “We Are Here Because of a Horse.” Karin has also started a new interview series with Newfound Journal’s Hothouse. The first interview is with Yolanda J. Franklin. The second interview will be with Andrew Lam.

Andrew Lam judged the prize that I won last year. He has a new book of stories out called Birds of Paradise Lost and has been touring extensively. You can hear Flashpoints Daily Newsmag’s interview with him while you’re waiting for Karin’s interview.

Eritria Pitts performed a one-woman show on Valentine’s Day and recently performed again during a RAW Artists event. Also exhibiting at the event was Alex Harvie, another old(school) LSU friend of mine (one of his gorgeous paintings graced the cover of the issue of Delta Undergraduate Journal I edited). The Honorable South performed and there were so many talented artists there, filling Eiffel Society with their raw energy (see what I did there, hmm?). Helen went with me to the event and I took a great photo of her and Eritria together.

Helen Krieger and Eritria Pitts at Eiffel Society

Helen Krieger and Eritria Pitts at Eiffel Society

Speaking of Helen Krieger, there’s going to be an encore screening of Flood Streets at Buffa’s March 31st, at 6:30 p.m.

Harold Ellis Clark (Hal of WYLD’s Sunday Journal) was celebrated in NYC as one of two finalists for the 2013 Stanley Drama Award for his play Tour Detour.

Maurice Ruffin has three upcoming readings in the next week. The first is tonight, UNO’S Gold Room starting at 7:30 p.m. at Handsome Willy’s and will include other UNO MFA students. The third one is next Thursday at 8 p.m., the 17 Poets series at Gold Mine Saloon. The middle reading is part of the Tennessee Williams Festival, which started yesterday. Maurice and other members of the Melanated Writers Collective will read tomorrow night at the Literary Jook Joint, 8 p.m. at the M. Francis Gallery.

Speaking of the Tennessee Williams Festival, I’m super excited about the speakers and panels this year, all of which look excellent. A few of my mentors and friends will be appearing, including Moira Crone, Ava Haymon and Susan Larson.

My newest 225 piece is up, a story about John Biguenet’s Rising Water play cycle being performed in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans this month. There’s a Tennessee Williams Fest connection here, too, because the New Orleans play, Mold, premiered this week at Southern Rep as part of the festival. The play will continue through April 14th. I’m looking forward to seeing it this weekend.

I really owe all of these people, all of my friends and mentors, a huge debt of gratitude. They actively make it difficult not to strive for excellence in what I do, because they are constantly achieving and succeeding and working.

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Brag-a-lag

Let’s lead with a terrific piece of news that I found out about while I was attending Words and Music. In August, I bragged that Kiki Whang’s “Cucarachero” was selected as the 2012 fiction winner of the Enizagam Literary Awards. Her story has since been nominated for a Pushcart Prize!! I’m sure I’ll be bragging on her some more in a few months.

James Claffey has been busy as always, with new stories at:   Thrice Fiction Magazine  Tuck Magazine  Red Fez  The View from Here  & Negative Suck and he’ll soon be working with Thrice Fiction to publish his novel! His wife Maureen Foley, also an extremely talented writer, has a novel called Women Float, which will be published in June. Check them out, if you haven’t already, for they are a family of literary powerhouses.

A fabulous tango dancer/instructor, Tomas Corbalan, is also a musician and he has a new video up on YouTube. Check it out:

MelaNated Writers’ Collective is hosting the Novel Challenge: Toni Morrison, the schedule is listed below. I think this is a fabulous idea.

The Bluest Eye is currently being facilitated by Vanessa DeGuia
Sula Feb 19-Mar 19 facilitated by Jewel Bush
Song of Solomon March 26-April 23 facilitated by Gian Smith
Tar Baby April 30-May 28 facilitated by Marla Chidron
Beloved June 4-July 2 facilitated by Davida Chanel
Jazz July 9-Aug 6 facilitated by Ambata Kazi Nance
Paradise  Aug 13-September 10 facilitated by Kristina Robinson
Love September 17-Oct 15 facilitated by Jeri Hilt
A Mercy October 22-November 19 facilitated by Geryll “Gee Love” Robinson
Home Nov 26-Dec 24 facilitated by Mary Webb

The first season of Helen Krieger’s new webseries Least Favorite Love Songs is available to watch in its entirety, for free. She was behind the camera for Flood Streets, but she’s acting in this one, so enjoy! Here’s the trailer:

Ronlyn Domingue‘s book release party for The Mapmaker’s War will be Sunday, March 17th at 4 p.m., at the Baton Rouge Gallery, a beautiful space. Local bookstore, Cottonwood Books will have copies available for purchase that I’m sure Ronlyn will be happy to sign. I’m already counting down till the sequel, The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

So many great books coming out this year, as well as music, events and now t.v. series, from my lovely and talented friends.

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Giving thanks for the brag

I am thankful that the people in my life are achieving success with the projects they are passionate about. And that goes for me, too. I am grateful and thrilled that the passions I have toiled at and for,when it seemed fruitless and silly, are now beginning to come to fruition. It just so happens that it’s Black Friday and I am providing you with a plethora of great gift suggestions. With no further ado, the brag…

Mary McMyne’s “Wolf Skin” will appear in the Los Angeles Review and “Old Woman Gothel” in Pedestal. You can read “Old Woman Gothel” online and also, hear Mary read it!

Daniel Morales has a story called “How to Fly First Class for Free” in the Expats Blog Writing Contest.

Jamey Hatley read from her novel at the fall installment of NOCCA’s Creative Writing Series, along with Brad Richard. The rather large room was crowded with an attentive audience, many of them students at NOCCA who are studying writing. Their response to Jamey and Brad was pretty awesome to witness.

Montana Miller’s Playing Dead: Mock Trauma and Folk Drama in High School Drunk Driving Tragedies has just been published. I first met Montana a few years ago when I interviewed her as background research for my novel and we became friends. In addition to being a professor in the Popular Culture Department at Bowling Green, she’s a professional flying trapeze artist, high diver and now, sky diver. I love this bit from her bio on Amazon: “she researches perceptions of risk and attitudes toward death, particularly among groups that are often stereotyped and misunderstood.” She was just in town at the American Folklore Society’s Annual Meeting, to give a paper called “Death and the Drop Zone: The Esoteric and Exoteric Folklore of Skydiving.”

Tad Bartlett has another great column up at Oxford American, called Food and Recovery: Reclaiming After the Storm.

Also over at OA, Kasimu Harris has lots of amazing new fashion columns up, featuring his stunning photos of fashionable New Orleanians, as well as his essays.

Christopher Shipman’s new chapbook I Carved  Your Name is available from Imaginary Friend Press.

Skip Horack’s story “The Cryptozoologist” is in the newest issue of Narrative Magazine.

Recently, Summer Wood gave a phenomenal reading from her book Raising Wrecker at the gorgeous Garden District Books. The novel has just been released in paperback, so check it out. As well as these pictures from the event, which I’ve borrowed from Ross Peter Nelson.

Emily Choate’s gorgeous story “Thunder Sometimes, Never Bells” will be published in The Florida Review.

While going to The Florida Review site to get the above link, I saw that Randolph Thomas won their Editor’s Award Competition in Fiction for his story, “Dispensations.” His story will appear in the Winter 2012 issue.

Two Fictions by James Claffey will be hosted at FWRICTION: REVIEW until November 28th, so go check them out. James is one of the most prolific publishers I know. “We Sunk My Mother’s Mother” is over at Necessary Fiction. His story “Spreading from the False Fly” is available in the Real issue of Pure Slush. Anyway, if you really want to keep up with everything James is doing, you have to go here: James Claffey.com.

Helen Krieger recently traveled to Amsterdam, where Flood Streets was screened at the Film By the Sea Festival. The movie just screened in Portland and Seattle and will be available on DVD November 27th. You can put it in your Netflix queue now.

Maurice Ruffin’s short story “Pie Man” has been published in the current issue of The South Carolina Review. Maurice will be reading his work, along with Niyi Osundare, Carolyn Hembree, Geoff Munsterman, Nasimiyu, and Michael Allen Zell at the Staple Goods Collective/Gallery on Sunday, December 2nd at 2 p.m.

But, before that, Maurice will also be reading at the Words & Music Writers Alliance reading at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 28th, one of the first events of the conference. The event takes place in the Black Box Room on the 2nd Floor of the US Mint and will also feature Terri Shrum Stoor, Sara Paul, Matt Robinson, J.Ed. Marston, Tad Bartlett and yours truly. I will be reading a short version of my winning essay, “Tango Face,” which is about learning to tango, of course, but also describes the experience of sitting for a portrait by the artist Gersin, who I interviewed earlier this year.  I’ll include the portrait below, since it’s not online (it is in the print version of the magazine).

This post has been in the works a long time! It’s impossible to keep up with ALL of the achievements and events of my talented friends, but I do my best. I hope you’ll consider checking out the work of all of these folks and attending the upcoming readings!

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