Category Archives: Fess Up Friday

NaNoWriMo 2013 Days 22-29

Wow, I certainly haven’t updated in a while and NaNoWriMo will be wrapping up tomorrow, so it’s beyond time for me to tell you about the last week.

The last I updated, on Day 21, I was about to drive to GA to see my family, along with my friend, Nanci. Our reason for traveling before the holidays was to attend the last milonga at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, a beautiful venue I had danced at once before while visiting my family. It was a wonderful evening, filled with so many great dances with fabulous tangueros and tangueras. That was Day 22.

On Day 23, Mamma Mia! and I went to see Catching Fire, which we both enjoyed quite a lot. I felt like it was a very good adaptation of the book, faithful to the spirit, which is a hard thing to do, even in two and a half hours. I was immediately filled with impatience at the end, sad that I have to wait another year for the next installment. Time to re-read the books, then. We spent the rest of the day creating a Thanksgiving feast, together with Papa Bear and Nanci. We have our special family traditions and it was nice to see Nanci experience them. Even more, it was a reminder that all holidays are just social constructions. It doesn’t really matter if you celebrate Thanksgiving on the official day, or a week early, or a day late. If you can celebrate Thanksgiving any day, you can also celebrate it every day, which I think is a good goal to strive for. That evening, Nanci and I went to two step/line dance with my childhood friend J., at a cowboy dance hall. It was a fun night, but basically meant I was suffering from a distinct lack of sleep when we woke up early on Sunday to drive home.

Day 24 was spent on the road. Once we were back home, I decided to go to the monthly milonga at Galvez, despite the long drive and the lack of sleep over the previous few days. It was nice dancing with my home community after the time away.

Days 25-27 were a flurry of work and getting back from the trip. Day 28 was Thanksgiving proper and, at Nanci’s suggestion, I spent the morning volunteering at the Sheriff’s Dinner at the Convention Center. It was an experience like I’ve never had, spending a holiday serving dozens of people I might never otherwise encounter. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same and I really hope I won’t, because the feeling of being useful and of cherishing people stuck with me long after I left the Convention Center.

Which brings us to today, Day 29, and you may have noticed that I haven’t talked about words or writing yet in this update. This is what I’ve been doing this week: I’ve been reading my novel. I’ve thought for years that the first section was “done,” and it was the last two sections that needed the most work. Yet. Yet, this NaNoWriMo, all of the work I’ve done has been on that first section. As I was reading the later part of the novel, I was flying through it, instead of getting snagged on all the changes I needed to make. There’s still some work to be done, don’t get me wrong. But perhaps not as much as I thought.

I treasure NaNoWriMo for its spirit of reckless creation, for the feeling of community it instills, when it’s so easy to feel alone in these endeavors. I’m not going to “win” this year, but it’s been a valuable experience in dozens of unquantifiable ways. Plus, I’m a writer all year long and my work won’t be done at midnight tomorrow, just as it didn’t start on November 1st.

What about y’all? Are you going to “win”? Have you won in other ways? I’d love to know.

Expect a new bragging on post soon…

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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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NaNoWriMo 2011 Day 4

Behind. Not too worried because I’ve been here and done this before. And I have a plan.

This weekend: Ignore everything that can be ignored and write. Some things can’t be ignored – a friend is getting married, a few errands I have to run, the Saints game. Those are priorities. I’d like to get a bit ahead to pad myself for next week. But I’m not prepared, this year, at least not yet, to cut myself off as drastically as I’ll probably have to later this month. I’m feeling too restless and sociable. Plus, Aimee and I really need to have a conversation soon about those first few days of writing we’ve done.

Word count updates to come – if any words gets written. Aimee? You got updates?

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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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The writing habit – Fess Up Friday

I can’t count the number of times I’ve read/heard/thought different permutations of the same thought lately: If you write every day, if only for 10, 15, 30 minutes a day, it adds up. Certainly more than not writing at all. Mary reminded me in a comment on my last post. I reminded my sis Aimee last night in a phone conversation and I know, know, know with every fiber of my being that it’s true, but it takes a surprising amount of courage and willpower to make writing a habit.

But writing makes me happy, so I’m working on it. To that end, I’m resurrecting Fess Up Fridays, a borrowed idea that emphasizes accountability.

On Monday, I finished a short story called The New Heart. I let it sit for a few days, then re-read and edited today. Then, just a little while ago, I sent the story to my first-read committee.

All week, I made attainable goals to tackle my freelance work. I usually met my goals each day, but more importantly, I got a lot of work done. While working on some freelance yesterday,  I couldn’t shake the weirdest thought and that suddenly became an idea for a book. I texted sis Aimee, knowing immediately that this was something for the two of us to write together, and she was taken by the idea as well. We might’ve just stumbled upon our NaNoWriMo 2011 project, with plenty of time to outline, create characters and world-build. Wild.

I am not nervous at all about collaborating with Aimee. We used to write together as kids and we’ve been reading each other’s individual work for years, so we know each other’s voices and strengths. In fact, I’m the opposite of nervous. I’m excited. I can’t wait for NaNoWriMo, though I know our idea is such a big one that we’re going to need all this time to do the groundwork and be ready to write.

One of my biggest challenges is follow-through. I get tons of ideas (usually in a bunch of different genres) and rarely see something through to completion. Some version of completion, yes. True completion, not usually. So, my goal is to write every day so I can tackle all these different ideas and genres, to see things through. Because it feels really good to finish a project and it’s important for my soul, as well as my success.

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NaNoWriMo Day 26 (Fess Up Friday)

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been updating. I’ve noticed. Mostly, it was because I wasn’t writing. I was so tired most days after work, it was all I could do to keep regularly scheduled programming going, let alone write 2,000 words. It didn’t help that I lost any connection I might’ve had to my characters and story. I didn’t look forward to visiting them. They were boring and whiny and disappointing. That’s probably what happens when I write from an “idea,” rather than from character and genuine story. A lesson for the future.

But then, quietly, I started hand writing something entirely different than Story 1 or Story 2. It was a fictionalized version of something that happened to me. Something intensely personal that I feel desperate to write about, but haven’t because I know I’ll likely never do anything — i.e. publish — with the work. But you know, why not just write it now, for me? Why not write something that I need to write without caring that it’s “unproductive”?

And the reason I started writing again this NaNoWriMo season, the reason I started writing this intensely personal unpublishable story is because a friend started asking me questions while a bunch of us were out drinking during Words and Music last weekend. And I realized, as I answered his questions, that I had a lot to say. And it needed to be said whether it was published, whether anyone read it, whether anyone listened.

So maybe that’s what NaNoWriMo is really about, at least for me. Sometimes you just have to write. Stop thinking about the end game and the process and the ramifications of success and failure and just write.

I’d kind of given up on “winning” NaNoWriMo. I was too far behind and only writing in 700-800 increments before falling asleep. Which is something, but isn’t winning material. I didn’t think about it because it made me sad. And tired. Plenty tired. But, once more, a friend said something that got my wheels turning. Another friend, J. wrote on my Facebook page:

“Memories. Going to do some NaNo writing at Perks tomorrow. Thought about last Black Friday when I met you there and you helped spur a 5,000 word day that put me over 50K.  Thanks again and I hope you’re having a great holiday.”

And talk about sad!! Not only did I remember *exactly* the day he was talking about, I wrote about it here on the blog. J. helped me get over the hurdle last year and he was the first person I word warred with. And, I realized right then and there (last night) that I was winning NaNoWriMo 2010, come hell or high water. If only so that I would no longer invest in the idea of an “even year curse,” for future NaNoWriMo years. If only to prove to myself that I could write 50,000 without a great story or awesome characters. If only to prove to myself what I can do.

That being said, my word count went from 24,916 words going into this new motivation to 31,532 words today. I wrote 6,351 words today. And I spent time with my parents. And cleaned the kitchen.

My parents and I watched Knucklehead, the first of  the six WWE movies filmed in New Orleans in the last year (three of which I worked on). At first, my parents were like a lot of people and assumed they wouldn’t enjoy the WWE movies. Mamma Mia! said, “I’m not much into wrestling movies.” I assured them the movies aren’t what anybody expects them to be. They often include wrestling and wrestlers, but they’re funny and entertaining and well-acted. My parents were laughing all through Knucklehead and really invested. It was great to share with them. As it was great to share Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 with them this evening. I’m such a sap. I almost started crying not even five minutes into the movie. But the books and the movies have been a huge part of my life, so I guess that’s to be expected.

Thanks to the friend who asked me questions last weekend, J. for his friendly Facebook post and everyone who word warred and sprinted with me today. Thanks to my parents for giving me the time to write when I asked. Let’s see if we can do it all over again tomorrow. And the next day. And then for two more.

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NaNoWriMo Day 12

I seriously just wrote one sentence of 21 words so that my total word count would be 20,008. Why did I do this? Because it’s been a long day (filled with learning that my weekend will be jam packed with assignments) and I’m going to the Dresden Dolls concert. I bought those tickets months ago and decided it could be a big reward.

I’ve used up all my buffer, but I am officially 4 words over the word count you SHOULD be at by Day 12. Since I’m not behind and am, in fact, 4 words ahead, I have earned my big almost-midway-through-reward. 🙂

Anybody else got a big reward coming up?

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NaNoWriMo Day 5

No writing yet, but I thought I’d share something that I think is interesting. There’s a lovely, cheap book sale that happens here in Nola and I sometimes drop by when I’m doing other errands. I bought several Christmas presents for friends and two music-related novels for myself (Story #1). It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the interesting thing about the two books I bought for myself.

Confessions of a Backup Dancer is a young adult novel by Anonymous and Tucker Shaw. It was published in May of 2004 by Simon Pulse. Off the Record is by Jennifer O’Connell (who also writes YA). It was published in September of 2005 by New American Library. Their covers look completely different at first glance – one is silver and glossy and features a large female figure dancing, taking up the whole cover and the other is red, black and matte with a tiny female figure dancing on the record, which takes up a large portion of the cover. But the female figure is in the same pose, wearing the same clothes – it’s the same figure.

It happens all the time, actually. Can you think of any notable examples?

Yes, I will write and soon. Update coming later.

5:28 p.m. Update: I posted about Fess Up Friday over at Write Or Die, which developed into a great ongoing conversation and a challenge to word war. I did a half hour war and then an hour war with Aoife, which garnered 1,049 and 2,438 words respectively, bringing my daily total to 3,487 and my grand total to 12,949. And now for some Friday fun – I’ve earned it!

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Legendary, Halloween and NaNoWriMo

So, I bought a copy of the film Legendary, which was the first of the WWE movies I worked on. It was really good, though not what people expect when they think WWE. I think that’s cool. Plus, I have a lot of memories tied in to these movies. I was working on set for two days of Legendary, so my memories are all in the final, climatic sequence of the film. Any time you see a giant scoreboard with time ticking down, that’s my work. 🙂

Today is Halloween, which means many different things around here. For one, it means the end of Voodoo Music Festival and a suddenly empty house after the five people who’ve been staying in my roommate’s room suddenly leave. For another, it means a Saints game later tonight and, of course, handing out candy to kids while partying with my neighbors on my porch.

And last, it means that NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I’m pumped up and exhausted, at the same time. So, from that weird place, I wrote an essay that went up on Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die site today. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Fess Up Thursday – Performing Arts

So, thanks to the Peauxdunque folks, I had a baby epiphany about an early section of my book. Just a little insert, but I’m excited about it. It’s even more remarkable when you consider I’d gone straight to our meeting from a 13-hour work day and I was beat (sorry, y’all!).

I guess I should do my due diligence and inform everybody that I’m reading for the first time in forever, as part of the LSU Day Celebration. Not only am I not alone, I’m in super-excellent company. The official lineup is thus:

Jamey Hatley
Chris Shipman
Emilie Staat
Claire Dixon
Vincent Cellucci
Ben Lowenkron
Ronlyn Domingue
Kristin Sanders

When: Saturday, April 24, 2010

Time: 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Where: Allen Hall 102 (LSU Campus)

[5:20 p.m. edit: Oh, niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. Two seconds after I do my due diligence and blog about my up-coming reading, the whole freaking LSU Day gets postponed till fall because of bad weather. Of course it got canceled–er, postponed. I was actually prepared, for once. 🙂 I thought I was an all-growed-up writer person, knowing what I was going to read and all that jazz. Then, the universe decided to BLAM! some weather at my best-laid plans. Well. The people on the roster above still rock, just FYI. Check them out if and when you can.]

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