Category Archives: music

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.

Advertisements

5 Comments

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: The Princess

Key West, Florida – 1942

J.T. Montgomery stretched his long legs out in the motorboat, resting his injured calf against one of the crates in the bottom of the boat. He was the remarkably handsome product of generations of remarkably handsome people. His dark hair had been cut too short by the navy but that did not detract from his good looks: brilliant blue eyes, lips that could be as cold as marble or as soft and sweet as the balmy air surrounding him, a slight cleft in his chin, and a nose that on a smaller man would have been too large. His mother called it the Montgomery nose and said it was God’s attempt to protect their faces from all the fists aimed by people who didn’t like the Montgomery hardheadedness.

This is the post in which I confess my early addiction to romance novels. It was the summer of 1996 and I was 14 years old. We lived in a suburb of Atlanta called Marietta. Everybody was going crazy finishing the preparations for the summer Olympics. I was bored and had read all of my books several times, so I snuck an inappropriate book off my mother’s bookshelf. That book was Jude Deveraux‘s The Princess, published in 1987 (when I was 5). Each day, I read for a few hours, memorized the page number and then slipped the book back on the shelf before my mom came home. It took me longer to read than normal because I had to be sneaky, since I thought I wasn’t supposed to be reading it. My mother never seemed particularly interested in censoring my reading (I read my first Dean Koontz at age 10!), but it didn’t seem like the kind of book I should carry around the house for all to see.

The Princess cover

In fact, I was so scared and later embarrassed to be seen reading romance that I later stuck the book into a slipcover, where it has remained, on my bookshelf, ever since.

It wasn’t my first romance novel, not quite. Once, while staying with my grandmother and aunt in Ohio, I discovered a shelf of Harlequin romance novels, all published around 1986 to maybe 1989. They all featured strong, career-minded women (in bold 80s power suits) falling in love with intractable men, often in exotic locales. They were, almost without exception, between 186 and 187 pages long, so I could easily read 2 a day, even though they already felt ridiculously dated just a few years after they were published. Because they were the same size as a lot of the books I was already reading (Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersly Cusick, Lurlene McDaniel and L.J. Smith) and because there wasn’t really any sex in them, the Harlequins didn’t seem inappropriate. My aunt even shipped her whole set of 1980s Harlequins to me after my visit and I must’ve re-read each of them several times before I bought new ones at the used bookstore (10 cents each, even in 1996).

There’s actually not a lot of sex in The Princess, either. More suggestions of sex. But when you’re a precocious bookworm of a 14 year old in 1996, a little sex seems like lurid stuff. I remember thinking this book was very romantic, a cross between Roman Holiday and Candleshoe, with some Anastasia thrown in. I have read lots and lots of romance novels since I was 14 (and I still read every Gaelen Foley book pretty much the second it’s published), but I’ve never re-read my first until now. In many ways, it has stood alone among all other romance novels in my imagination over the years – partly because it was my first “real” romance novel, partly because I don’t think I’ve ever read any others set during World War I and partly because while it is named The Princess, it is more J.T.’s story in many ways.

The fact that we start with him is a bit unusual (not exactly rare, but not typical, as romance novels are usually weighted more toward the female character, in my experience). The Princess (Aria) doesn’t appear until page 9 and doesn’t speak until page 11. We don’t get her perspective until Chapter Two (page 13). They’re both relatively stock types (I might be the only person on the planet who judges romance novels for their characters), but on the re-read, now, as a 32-year-old with lots more experience (with romance novels and in life), I just didn’t like either one of them. J.T. is autocratic and passionate, but I sometimes suspect he has a personality disorder. Aria is a shallow flake whose intelligence is really inconsistent, even taking into consideration she’s been kidnapped while on foreign soil and doesn’t understand a lot of what’s around her. They’re both incredibly mean and then randomly (and unbelievably) open and warm. I don’t buy that they’re falling for each other or that either one of them is learning or changing as an individual person (which are the things that characters usually do in romance novels). I was really disappointed.

Until about page 200, almost near the end of the book. Once they return to Aria’s homeland, I actually start caring a bit about them. It made me wish that the American misadventure of the first 200 pages had been collapsed down to about 50 pages, so we could get to the good stuff sooner. And then, of course, the nefarious plot to assassinate Aria (hardly the main point of the book, though it is the plot) is wrapped up in about a page and J.T. and Aria end up happily ever after in a surprise twist. That’s sarcasm, but not really, because it is surprising that two unlikable stock characters do end up somewhat convincingly in love with each other at the end.

I’m being a little harsh, because I’m grumpy that The Princess doesn’t stand the test of time for me. The same way I was getting grumpy reading the Stephanie Plumb books and the Sookie Stackhouse series. Once you read something that feels new, you really want it to follow through, and not resort to swiftly wrapped up plots and stock characters or easy tropes. Which reminds me of an author who makes me the grumpiest – Iris Johansen. I thought her early thrillers and romance novels were wonderful, but that annoying Eve Duncan character just kept popping up and suddenly all of Johansen’s books seemed like a 300-page cookie cutters with the names replaced. I’m afraid to re-read her romance novels, honestly, though I’ve considered trying in light of this project. But essentially, the grumpiness comes after the thrill of discovering a new author or character, of falling a little in love and being disappointed down the road. And, it’s got to be hard to write something that feels new every time, especially when you’re writing as much and as fast as romance writers generally do.

Jude Deveraux was already a well-established author when she published The Princess (the copyright is held by Deveraux Inc.) and as many romance novelists do, she wrote several books about the Montgomery/Taggert families, characters related to J.T. I was surprised to read, while researching the post, she lost $20 million when she was victimized by a ring of con artists posing as psychics after the death of her young son. Not only did she participate in the indictment of the matriarch of the con artists, but she used her experience as inspiration for her book Scarlet Nights.

And while I never read another Jude Deveraux book after The Princess, I was fully hooked on romance for a while. I could say that I’ve wasted a lot of time reading what are usually only mediocre books, but I think that it was an education. Because, in a genre that relies so heavily on format, stereotypes and tropes, a genre that is generally disregarded, you have to be inventive and inspired to rise even an inch above mediocre. If  you’ve written twenty romance novels and they each have four to eight sex scenes in them, you have to get pretty creative when you’re writing a new sex scene, mostly by writing as if it’s your first sex scene. There are several sex scenes in my novel The Winter Circus and I’ve been told that I’m very good at writing them. I probably owe a lot of that to my history as a romance novel reader. Beyond this obvious takeaway, I think they’ve taught me not to disregard the power of sentiment. How can romance novels (or romantic comedy movies) make us invest, even if we feel like they are silly and unrealistic? Because they’re grounded in very real sentiments that we all feel and they’re unafraid of dealing with sentiment nakedly, as if it is something new.

I’ve considered writing romance novels, of course, but I think what might have inspired me to write them was not so much any romance novel I’ve read or what I know about the genre and industry, but the fantasy inspired by Romancing the Stone (which is still one of my all-time comfort movies and face it, basically a romance novel come to life):

1 Comment

Filed under books, music, musing, The Re-Reading Project, what I'm reading

The Re-Reading Project Guest Post: Lolita

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.

During my twenties (1997-2007 R.I.P., my twenties), I was looking for the greatest books ever written and found a few that I would come to cherish.

In 2004, I came to Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita with some trepidation. A Russian who wrote a poetic exploration of the soul through the vessel of a story about a pedophile? Hurray! Sign me up. I expected the book to be icky, filled with choppy English and twenty-page long scenes wherein the author described waves crashing upon craggy seashores all while ignoring the dark issue at the center of the book.

Of course, I was wrong.

I bought the annotated edition because I heard that Nabokov wrote allusively like James Joyce or the writers of The Simpsons TV show. In other words, Nabokov had no problem quoting (and remixing!) obscure 17th Century poems while ripping the pop singers and movie idols who were popular with teenagers at the time. This sounded like fun to me because it’s the way my mind works. You mention Nelly the rapper and I might quickly think of Nellee Hooper, the movie Starship Troopers, WWII fascists, and the Greek warriors who died at Thermopylae (those guys in the movie 300) …but I digress.

The annotated edition was a good call because the scholar who added the notes had been a student of Nabokov’s in the 1950s and had complete access to the author. So much access that the annotations and scholarly essays take up about 200 pages. For a geek like me, this is better than free king cake.

Maurice and LolitaBut the centerpiece of Lolita for me during that first read was Nabokov’s skill as a writer. The topic was sensational and gut-wrenching, but I was more impressed by Nabokov’s way with words, his ability to create effects that are usually the province of master painters and opera composers. I was so stunned that I finished the book and let out a sigh of relief. The writing was so unquantifiably wicked that I could relax; I had no reason to even hope I could ever write half that well myself.

Also, I was taken by Humbert Humbert. He’s one of the most villainous characters in all of fiction, but by imbuing him with a (usually) honest eye and quick wit Nabokov reminds us that even monsters are human. Humbert’s evolution over the course of the novel is the reason I read fiction in the first place.

My second read certainly felt different. I found myself squirming during the first sections of the book. When Humbert abuses Lolita the way that he does, I was sick to my stomach. I wondered why. The book isn’t graphic. The words haven’t changed. However, I’m nine years older and wiser. I stumbled into the middle section of the book worried that my favorite novel of all time was no longer that. I was angry at Humbert, wanted to take him outside and pummel him. But then something strange happened. I realized that I was more angry at myself because on the first read I had been sucked into Humbert’s way of seeing the world. As such, Lolita was little more than a prop for me back then. But now that I could focus more of my attention on Lolita I saw the full horror of what she was going through. And then another odd thing happened. I forgave myself. With the new ability to see Lolita and Humbert in all their humanity, the novel took on a new dimension of pathos and complexity. And, can I tell you, it was good. In fact, it was better than the first read.

By the time I reached the last page, I was on the edge of tears. I felt a personal loss. I felt Humbert’s loss. Mostly, I felt Lolita’s loss. But even moreso, I felt more human than ever before.

***

Maurice Carlos Ruffin is a writer living in New Orleans. He most recently published an essay in Unfathomable City, A New Orleans Atlas. Maurice is writing a novel.

1 Comment

Filed under books, Friends, literature, movies, music, musing, pop culture, The Re-Reading Project

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.

1 Comment

Filed under book news, bragging on, Friends, literature, movies, music

NaNoWriMo 2013 Days 16-18

So, back on Day 15, after I posted my update, I went to a fantastic concert at House of Blues’s Parish Room (which is also where I saw Lissie’s phenomenal show a few years ago). I was looking forward to Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes for *weeks*, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to go till the day of the show. While waiting for my friends N. and M. outside, I saw a guy who looked vaguely familiar with a lady who didn’t look familiar at all. We had a pretty typical New Orleans conversation:

Me: “Hey, do you know where I know you from?”

Him: “No, but you sure do look familiar to me, too.”

Me (shrug): “Well, it’ll come up again some day, I’m sure.”

And then it took a turn for the surreal, which is still fairly typical of New Orleans conversations:

Her: “Hey, this guy just gave us two tickets to this show and we can’t stay for it. Do you want these tickets?”

Me: “Oh *hell* yeah!” (snatches tickets).

Still, no clue how I know him. Except now I know them both as concert ticket-bequeathing angels.

The Honorable South opened the show, which was exciting. I found out about them when my friends Adam Gambrel and Jax Baker directed and produced the music video for their song The Beast. Realized while grabbing links just now that more friends worked on it: Jil Szewski and Natalie Johnson. Adam’s just directed another video for their new song Saint Charles Parish.

Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes were everything I’d hope they’d be. N’s friend A. joined us and we totally danced a loopy awesome swing style dance in the midst of the packed crowd. It was probably totally obnoxious to everyone around us, but also totally awesome. It was just one of those nights. I hope you have one or two soon, yourself.

I worked on Day 16 and had another long, fantastic social evening. No words! Ditto with Day 17, except it (Sunday) included a performance of Waiting for Godot at Tulane, attending with a friend with friends in the cast. It was really funny and well-done. Afterwards, we had to sustain ourselves with steak. So, still no words.

So I broke my no-word streak today. After a long day of work, I had an hour-long word war with Sis. At first, I didn’t know what to write. I started reading the next chapter of my book, looking for sections that could use shoring up or extra scenes. And I got inspired. As I was writing the scene, I realized that I may completely discard it, but that it was telling me something about how I felt the story had to go. By the end of the scene, I was fairly sure I’d keep the scene and change the rest of the book. The magic of NaNoWriMo.

I wrote 1,215 words, which brings my total so far this year to 10,538 words. I need more than 3,000 daily in order to hit 50,000 words by the 30th, so it’s increasingly unlikely I’ll “win” this year. But what an educational adventure it’s been. And at least I creeped over the 10K hurdle. In my worst year, I only wrote 6,827 words. So, I’ve already done better than my worst. It’s all gravy after that!

Leave a comment

Filed under art, bragging on, coolness, Friends, literature, music, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans Film Industry, writing updates

Tango X is the place to be

This post was originally written for and hosted at NolaFemmes.

The first installment of Tango X, an Argentine-tango influenced dance party, is happening this Wednesday the 17th at L’entrepôt, (527 Julia St.). A beginner-level tango class will start the evening at 7 p.m. (no partner or experience necessary) and the dancing will continue from 8 until 11 p.m. The cover is $10. During the event, Carmo is offering a special menu and there will be a bar with specialty cocktails.

Tango X is being hosted by myself and two friends of mine, all members of the local tango community. We’d love to see new faces who are curious about tango. So, if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to tango, or if you’d like to watch the dancing and enjoy a nice meal out, this is the event for you.

Tango X

Leave a comment

Filed under music, New Orleans Women

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

3 Comments

Filed under book news, bragging on, family, Friends, movies, music, New Orleans Film Industry, poetry, pop culture

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.

3 Comments

Filed under book news, bragging on, Friends, movies, music, New Orleans

Emilie’s 2012 Best List

I thought about not doing this post this year as I tend to dislike “best lists” lately. But, since I love to brag and my best list is all positive, it seemed a shame not to give the folks who created the following media, my best of 2012, a big ol’ shout-out. Still, if you particularly like this end-of-the-year tradition of mine, I hope you’ll say so.

Books:

These are roughly in the order I read them. I am not ranking them. That would be way too difficult and this is hard enough. Last year, almost half my list was nonfiction, which surprised me. This year the numbers are the same: 4 out of my best 10 titles were nonfiction.

1. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson (1st Quarter)

2. Delirium and Pandemonium, Lauren Oliver (both 2nd Quarter)

3. Zone One, Colson Whitehead (2nd Quarter)

4. Oyster, John Biguenet (3rd Quarter)

5. Tiny Beautiful Things, Dear Sugar/Cheryl Strayed (3rd Quarter)

6. The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan (3rd Quarter)

7. How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran (4th Quarter)

8. Wild, Cheryl Strayed (4th Quarter)

9. Torch, Cheryl Strayed (4th Quarter)

10. Reached, Ally Condie (4th Quarter)

Notables: Most of these would’ve been on my best list any other year, if they hadn’t been nudged out by my obsession with three books by the same author that I couldn’t legitimately count as one. The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Ed. Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling; Bayou Vol 1 and 2, Jeremy Love + Patrick Morgan; River Road, Suzanne Johnson; Wife 22, Melanie Gideon; The Mapmaker’s War, Ronlyn Domingue and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami.

Movies:

This list includes movies I saw in the theater (1-5) and watched at home (6-10), and is also not ranked but listed in the rough order that I watched them.

1. Hunger Games

2. The Five-Year Engagement

3. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

4. Pitch Perfect

5. Argo

6. Friends with Kids

7. First Position

8. Buck

9. Ruby Sparks

10. Your Sister’s Sister

I was really impressed with kids’ movies this year and I had the opportunity to see quite a few. This year, I really enjoyed: Brave, Madagascar 3, ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania, Wreck It Ralph and Rise of the Guardians.

TV:

This was a rough year for me and TV. Between work and dancing once or twice a week, not to mention other distractions, I largely abandoned my TV. When I did watch a show, I caught up on several episodes or an entire season all at once, either online or DVD. The shows below are the ones I stuck with the most loyally.

1. Falling Skies

2. Dancing with the Stars

3. So You Think You Can Dance

4. Castle

5. Downton Abbey

6. Survivor

7. Revenge

8. The New Girl

Notables include another sadly canceled show, favorites I can get into anytime and a new show that is much better than the commercials make it look: Breakout Kings, 30 Rock, Law & Order SVU, Leverage, Big Bang Theory, The Mindy Project.

Music:

It’s probably not an accident that you can tango to a lot of my favorite music this year. The first single listed was the song my partner and I performed to and most of them are highly danceable.

Albums –

1. Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel…

2. Danger Mouse & Daniele Lupi’s Rome (ft. Jack White and Norah Jones)

3. Jack White’s Blunderbuss

4. Norah Jone’s …Little Broken Hearts

5. Just Tell Me That You Want Me, a Fleetwood Mac tribute album

Singles (not from any of the above) –

1. Karen Choi’s “Tangled” (free download)

2. Guillermo Figueroa’s “Insula III – Las Indieras de Maricao: Andantino misterioso”

3. Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbin'”

4. Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up”

5. Emily Wells’ “Symphony #2 Click Clack Boom”

6. Alex Clare’s “Too Close”

7. Lianne la Havas “Is Your Love Big Enough?”

8. Clare Bowen + Sam Palladio “If I Didn’t Know Better” / The Civil Wars version

9. Gotye “Somebody I Used to Know”

10. Taylor Swift + The Civil Wars “Safe and Sound”

This list would be different if I created it at the beginning of the year, or the middle. I suspect I’ve forgotten about a lot of things that I really loved, though the Quarterly Reading Reports helps me be very “accurate” with my favorite books of the year. Regardless, everything on this list is quality media that I really, really obsessed over and enjoyed in 2012. Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under books, literature, movies, music, musing, pop culture, what I'm reading

NaNoWriMo 2012 Day 17

I woke up feeling not sick for the first time in a few days, which was awesome. Spent a few hours volunteering at the library sales, then went over to the NaNoWriMo Write-In at Cafe Luna. There were a few WriMos there for the write-in and we did two word sprints before I left. As everyone settled in to eat a late lunch and write, one of the WriMos joked that all of her characters were eating and I realized that mine were, too. In the scene I’d started last night before face-planting on my notebook, all of my characters sat down to eat gumbo together in a rather Thanksgiving-like meal. I was writing by hand, so I didn’t get a tally of my words till I typed them up later in the day. Between the two sprints, I wrote 965 words and then added 210 more while I was typing them up.

Just a bit ago, I word-warred with myself (guess that’s a sprint, not a war) for 40 minutes and wrote another 1,368 words. I’m still behind, but not nearly as behind as I was at the beginning of today.

A few of the WriMos at the write-in had talked about chapters in their novels,which I thought was interesting. I hadn’t actually broken down the novel into chapters, but I’d actively thought a few times, “Well, that’s a perfect ending to a chapter.” So, after my solo word war, I went back and broke what I have so far into chapters, based on those perfect chapter enders that I remembered. I must’ve been subconsciously working in chapters all along, because it was very easy to find the breaks. Each chapter is roughly 10 single-spaced pages (I always write my NaNoWriMo novels single-spaced for some reason, though I write everything else double-spaced) and each is around 6,000 words.

I’m going to dive back in and try to get more words before the night’s over, since I have a big treat planned for tomorrow and I want to earn it.

Day 17 (so far) word count: 2,543

Total word count (so far): 26,186.

11:05 p.m. update: Managed another 924 words in a half-hour sprint. I’m 1,229 words behind. Will have to catch up and store up some extra words tomorrow because I’m tapped out.

Day 17 total word count: 3,467

Total word count (so far): 27,110.

Leave a comment

Filed under food, music, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, writing updates