Category Archives: New Orleans Film Industry

My end of 2013 homework

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

Thirteen Amazing Things about 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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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My end of 2012 homework

In 2010, Jamey assigned me some homework, ordering me to reflect on everything that I accomplished that year. So, I did and I wrote a post about it. It was really helpful. So helpful that I did it again last year and I’ve been writing 2013’s homework in my head pretty much all year long.

The 12 Achievements of 2012:

1. I turned 30. I watched the Saints-Lions game at a neighborhood bar with a bunch of friends who decided the only way to make me feel 30 was to encourage me to drink like I was 21. The Saints won, I got to spend time with friends while celebrating the start of my thirties and everybody was happy. At least, we were all happy that night. Darker times were ahead for the Saints. But, thus far, my thirties are still going well.

2. I got my 5th tattoo and “finished” my birthday tattoo project, undertaken between the pivotal years of 25 and 30.

3. I attended a local premiere of 21 Jump Street with cast and crew, which was a really fun experience and the movie was hilarious. Then, I spent the first three-fourths of the year working on two more movies I’ve very proud to have been involved with (#1 and #2).

4. I went on a road trip with Mamma Mia!, after I evacuated for Hurricane Isaac and stayed with some friends. Since we visited both of my grandmothers in Columbus, Ohio and Chicago, I called it The Grandma Road Trip. Not only did we get to see a lot of family members we hadn’t seen in years since we’re all so spread out, but Mamma Mia! and I spent more time together than we had in probably a decade. And we both survived.

5. I wrote a skit for The NO Show, Helen Krieger‘s new-school old-fashioned radio show, then got to see it produced. Helen was looking for material, I said I might have have some and next thing I knew, we were writing a 5-minute version of my idea. Then, there was a table reading and a “punch-up” draft with the actors and other funny people. Then, one of our actors couldn’t make the re-scheduled recording and I had to step in and voice one of the characters! It was a rollercoaster ride, a fun one, and I hope it keeps going.

6. I freelanced for the last quarter of the year. It was really tough, but it was also one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I continued to write for 225 Magazine and also continued some editing work I’ve done for a while. I worked for a friend of my dad’s in the industry I grew up in (conventions and trade shows) and discovered I’d picked up a lot more as a kid than I’d realized. And I wrote. I freelanced on another movie and recently accepted some new work on a tv show, which I won’t be able to talk about for a long time.

My obsession with tango continued. There were a lot of firsts this year.

7. I bought my first pair of tango shoes. This coincided with me dancing as much as possible, at least once or twice a week, and sometimes more, so my dancing improved a lot.

8. I danced in new communities, in Atlanta (three times) and Chicago (once). I hope to go back and dance with them more in 2013, and also, I plan on checking out new places to dance as well.

9. I performed for the first time. I almost didn’t, then changed my mind at the last minute. It was a terrifying and utterly satisfying experience and I hope to do it more. I’m glad I made the decision to be bold and dance.

Photo by Shari Stauch

Photo by Shari Stauch.
Partner is Casey Mills.

10. I won NaNoWriMo. This year, it was easy. I was freelancing, so I had the time to commit. I had a great, fun story. I watched Saints games, tv shows, movies, went out with my friends. Even with voting, Thanksgiving, my shower exploding and getting sick, I still finished early.

11. I won my first major literary prize. My essay “Tango Face” won the essay category of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Literary Competition. In my “end of 2011 homework” post, I said I was submitting my work diligently and promised I would brag on myself when the submitting paid off. So, as promised, when it paid off, I bragged on myself.

12. I achieved better balance. Literally, with my dancing, I achieved better balance, working on my core and maintaining my own axis. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but I’ve come a long way. Figuratively, I sought out and achieved better balance in my life, between work and play, between paying the bills and passion. I fought for and found better balance within myself. I talked about balance in both my 2010 and 2011 end-of-the-year homework assignments, each time with more clarity and cohesion. I mentioned balance by accident in 2010, unaware of it’s importance. I knew I needed balance in 2011 and I was looking for it. In 2012, I achieved it for glorious patches of time, which convinces me that it’s attainable. It’s still the goal.

2012 was a banner year, not only because of my 12 personal achievements, but also because the world didn’t end. And since it didn’t end, I’m looking forward to all the experiences and achievements 2013 has to offer.

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Be the brag

This post is shamefully overdue. Not only is this merely my third post of 2012, I haven’t bragged on anybody (in any sort of official way) since December. My friends haven’t stopped being bragworthy, not in the least. If anything, they’ve made it impossible to keep up – which is my clumsy way of apologizing if I’ve left anything out between ‘Tis the Bragging Season and this, my latest brag post.

What reminded me of all the bragging that needed to be done was a delightful event on Thursday – the folks from The Oxford American were in town to commemorate their new issue, announce the Louisiana Music Issue and to celebrate L. Kasimu Harris and his fashion blog Parish Chic. In addition to being a friend to me, Kasimu is a phenomenal photographer and writer – and he happens to be pretty fashionable. An event like the Parish Chic party is like Christmas for a bragger like me because I got to see so many astoundingly talented people (old friends and new friends alike) coming together to brag on Kasimu. Plus, the Parish Chic cocktails were pretty tasty and it was nice to soak in all the style.

Maurice‘s streak of being bragged on in all of these posts continues – his story “Winter Lion” was named a Finalist in the Tennessee Williams Festival’s Fiction Contest, judged by Amy Hempel and since my last post, several of his stories have been selected for publication. Tad Bartlett, who has himself been accepted into UNO’s Master of Fine Arts program (whoo hooo!) has plagiarized my bragging-on concept by announcing the plethora of Peauxdunque achievements. But, I gotta hand it to him, he broke the news about Joselyn Takacs‘s story “Flares of Little Warning” being Narrative’s Story of the Week, so I guess I’ll let him get away with it.

Max Segal, who I met working on Now You See Me, has co-directed In the Shadow of the Mountain, a film about the mountain climbing mentality.

Charlotte Hamrick of NolaFemmes has a few poems at Metazen and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

James Claffey has been giving Maurice a serious run for his money in the publication race the last few months. That gent publishes something just about every day. He has work at Thrice Fiction and an audio story at The Drum Literary Magazine. These are just two of many, many recent publications and you can keep up with him at The Wrong Corner of the Sky.  In addition to being prolific, he’s had some extremely brag-worthy personal news since my last brag post, which I won’t divulge here, but I will congratulate him on. 🙂 The LSU English News and Notes pages does a pretty good job of keeping track of James’ publications as well, not to mention lots of other talented people.

Coming full circle, while catching up with friends at Kasimu’s celebration Thursday,  DaVida Chanel told me that she is appearing in Dillard University Theater’s performance of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.” The last performance is tomorrow (almost today) at 3 p.m., so check it out.

I will do my best to be both more prolific in my posts and more diligent in my bragging, cause these folks are not slowing down any time soon. Thank goodness!

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My end of 2011 homework

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

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

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

And now, 11 Things About 2011:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reading in Q2 – April

Last month, I started a new tradition here on my blog. Quarterly reporting of my reading. I enjoyed doing the post so much AND I “read” so many audio books in April that I decided to go ahead and report on April’s reading.

The interesting thing about this month’s reading and the very reason I was able to “read” so many audio books was I took a job as a film courier. If you follow my Tweets, you might’ve noticed me referring to the “Great Louisiana Tour,” and this job is what I was talking about. What it boiled down to is that I was driving between New Orleans and Shreveport and back every weekday, about 11-12 hours of driving. So I could listen to one or sometimes two audio books each day/trip.

This month’s edition of the reading quarterly report will essentially be a review of audio books. I only actually read two physical books this month, in fact, and all the rest were audio books I listened to while on this epic journey. Epic is the right word because I drove just over 11,000 miles in just over three weeks.

With no further ado, the reviews…

Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz and read by John Bedford Lloyd – I’ve been reading Dean Koontz since I was 10, though I’ve missed out on some of his newer books. Since I’m so familiar with his writing voice, but hadn’t read this book, it seemed like the perfect audio book to start with. And it was. It was really charming, sometimes hokey, and thoroughly listenable.

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks and read by Holter Graham – I’ve never read any Nicholas Sparks before, but this book was recommended to me and I was so desperate for entertainment during my drives that it seemed like a good way to get introduced. I was intrigued that the book is told more from the male character’s perspective since the movie is mainly from the female character’s perspective. However, I really hated the character of Savannah and I don’t think it helped that Holter Graham made her sound like Peggy Hill.

How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot and read by Kate Reinders –  This was a cute young adult book and it was perfectly read. I feel like this was one of the best examples of the right reader really bringing a character and a story alive in this format. The premise was ridiculous, of course, but it was hard not to invest anyway.

50 Harbor Street by Debbie Macomber and read by Sandra Burr – I used to read Debbie Macomber books years ago, but haven’t for a long time. I picked this one up at random and quickly realized it’s in the middle of a series. There were so many characters, so I have to give the reader props for bringing them all to life, but it was hard to really care about what was going on. By the time I plugged into a story line (one among many) that interested me, the book was over. None of the rest of the series was available on audio at my library, so I moved on.

My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman and read by Mia Barron – This one is a great example of the perfect reader bringing a great book so completely to life. I was only sorry I couldn’t get more Elinor Lipman books on audio through my library because I would’ve listened to all of her books after finishing this one. I loved the story and characters so much I didn’t want to leave the world of the story.

Which Brings Me to You by Steve Almond and Juliana Baggott read by Kirby Heyborne and Renee Raudman – This is a “novel in confessions,” going back and forth between a male and a female character. I think the audio would have been done a great disservice if it hadn’t been read by both a man and a woman. And they were both good, as were the separate writing styles of Almond and Baggott. I was so entertained and moved by the “confessions,” yet was dying to know what would happen. While I’m not sure the end is quite as strong as I would’ve liked, this is an audio I’m glad I listened to and would read the old-fashioned way: myself and a book.

Big Boned by Meg Cabot and read by Justine Eyre – Pretty quickly, I realized I wasn’t listening to a standalone or the first book in a series. It’s actually the third in a series. But I decided to listen anyway because I was enjoying it so much and if the others were available on audio, I decided I’d listen to them backwards. This one was just great fun. Silly sometimes, but in the best possible way. Heather Wells as portrayed by Justine Eyre was good company on my drive.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and read by Jeff Woodman – This was one of my favorite audio book experiences during the whole road trip/audio book experiment. It was like an old-fashioned radio play with French flare mixed with the feel of classic fairy tales. There were sound effects and the reader was amazing. Plus, the story was brilliant. This one, too, is a story I want to read for myself – partly because I suspect there were illustrations I was missing out on. I almost cried at the end and immediately started making a list of the kids I know who are getting this audio for Christmas.

Julie + Julia  written and read by Julie Powell – This was a book I was curious about, especially after seeing the movie, but wasn’t sure I wanted to invest my time reading. So, the audio seemed perfect because I was desperate for entertainment. But the audio ended up being perfect because Julie Powell does an amazing job narrating her experience. It was so vivid! I went through everything with her. There was even a little interview segment at the end, which I enjoyed.

True Grit by Charles Portis – This was one of the two books I read this month the old-fashioned way. It’s a slim, fast read but I took my time with it since I didn’t have a ton of time to read and I was already inundated with story. The character of Mattie Ross is so compelling. Annoying and amusing, charming and heartbreaking. I loved her. I wanted to be her. I never wanted to be her, ever. I quoted her and talked about her. And this was a revelation after growing up with the John Wayne movie version and liking the more recent one when I saw it with my parents. But the book… oh, the book… In the midst of my phenomenal audio story experience, I’m glad this was the one I held in my hands and curled up around.

Eat, Pray, Love written and read by Elizabeth Gilbert – I could almost duplicate my review of Julie + Julia here, except I was really just as reluctant to read this one as I was intrigued. It seemed so shallow and self-absorbed from the hooplah around it and yes, from the movie, which I liked alright. But nothing can compare to Elizabeth Gilbert reading her own story, consciously investigating selfishness and self. I think I might’ve misunderstood her or disliked her if I’d read the book myself. But it was impossible for me not to identify with her when she was telling me her own story in her own voice. The depths and the heights. The colors and the foods. This book was much more of a spiritual study than I’d expected, or maybe that’s what I took from it. I think about it all the time since I’ve finished listening to the story.

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham and read by Richard Thomas – I loved Encyclopedia Brown and suspected this would be in the same vein. It was, a little bit. It was charming in it’s complete old-fashioned and unrealistic quality, but it was also a bit hopeless. I found a disturbing casual sexism – the family eats out a lot because the mother (who is also a lawyer, like the father) can’t be bothered to cook – and racial stereotypes. I think the cover look far darker and more exciting than the book was, especially read by wholesome John-Boy Walton. This is Perry Mason for the Hannah Montana set and could be far more interesting.

Coraline written and read by Neil Gaiman – I liked this audio better than the movie, which was good. But far and away the best thing was listening to Neil Gaiman read his own work. He sounded a bit like David Bowie as Jareth in Labyrinth. A little. I think he’s the only fiction writer in my experiment who reads his own work.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and read by Cherry Jones – It is an ok story. I think the best thing about it is the voice of the character, India Opal and Cherry Jones really brought her to life. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Cherry Jones reads Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Size Fourteen is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot and read by Kristen Kairos – It was weird to read this after having read the third. I knew what would happen in the next book, yet I was still surprised by a thing or two. Only, I didn’t like Kristen Kairos’s version of Heather Wells as much as the woman who reads her for Big Boned.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames written and read by David Sedaris – I’ve read a lot of David Sedaris. Some parts of this were boring, some parts I’d heard before. And as always, there was a gorgeous nugget I hadn’t ever heard or read. But there were some parts scattered throughout, especially the audio from live performances, complete with audience reactions, that are just brilliant.

Odd Hours by Dean Koontz and read by David Aaron Baker – I didn’t consciously start or end the experiment with Dean Koontz, but he somehow bookended my experience. He was my favorite writer for a long time, but I got woefully behind on his books. I’ve listened to all the Odd Thomas books on audio and I think they’re all read by David Aaron Baker, so it’s nice to have a consistent voice for the character. It was reassuring, in a way, to come back around to the voices I know so well.

Besides the people I saw everyday, what I miss most now that I’ve switched to a new gig is the opportunity to listen to so many fabulous books. My numbers are probably going to be a lot lower this month! I hope you enjoy reading these mini reviews of the audio books that made my epic journey survivable.

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The Chaperone Trailer

A friend of mine just told me that the trailer for The Chaperone, the third-released WWE Studios movie, is out. This was the second WWE movie I worked on from start to end. It looks really cute. Check it out below.

Like the other two WWE Studios movies that have been released so far, it will have a short theater run starting February 18th before being available on DVD at WalMart and Blockbuster.

P.S. I don’t think I ever posted the trailer for Knucklehead. It’s hilarious, so you should definitely check it out.

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The Curious Case…

The other evening, I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I enjoyed a lot. Somehow, in everything I read about the movie (and one of my friends from FD4 worked on it), I never found out that Katrina features in it. That’s not necessarily a spoiler. But I will say, the way Katrina happened in Benjamin Button is similar to how I want it to take place in my book. I was fascinated by the locations of the movie and was pretty convinced that Queenie’s retirement house was (at least in part) the “wedding cake house” on St. Charles. Well, I went and read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story and yes, they’re nothing alike. Nothing. They pretty much just have a title in common. I prefer the movie, but then I’ve never been a big F. Scott fan, so I may be prejudiced. It is fascinating to me how a roughly 20-page short story written at the beginning of one century can be the genesis of a film so evocative of the beginning of the next century. Check this out if you want to read a discussion of the short story and movie.

From wordsmith’s word of the day today: “There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.” –Salvador Dali [Word of the Day]

And to recycle some stuff from Christmas Eve that I never posted:

My horoscope (Tarot.com): Your imagination cannot be contained by traditional rituals and safe family activities. No matter what’s happening on the surface, you have a metaphysical ticket to ride as the Moon moves through your 12th House of Spirituality. Make a commitment to be present for holiday festivities, while also keeping an eye on your inner journey.

Adem’s 208 best songs of 2008 was my Christmas present to myself. It helped me discover some bands I’d never even heard of. Check it out, it has links to the songs on YouTube, MySpace, etc. Here’s some music I’ve been liking (from the list and also recommended when I watched the links).

Crying Blood, VV Brown (Adem’s #1, not as scary as it sounds, really fun and up-tempo)

No Can Do, Sugababes

A hysterical parody of Britney’s Womanizer.

A bit scattered, but hope you enjoy.

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