Tag Archives: 225 Magazine

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

2013 Q1 Reading Report

Another year, another batch of books. Already, 2013’s reading has been spectacular.

January

Long After Midnight At the Nino Bien, Brian Winter – This one was recommended to me by a tango friend last year. I struggled to get interested in it for the first section or so, but once I did, it was a really quick read, amusing and informative. It’s the story of Winter’s time in Buenos Aires, learning tango and getting enmeshed in community there, and has a lot of political and tango music history. Sadly, I just heard through my own tango community that the Nino Bien may have closed recently.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green – I’ve loved John Green since I read An Abundance of Katherines in 2007. I’ll admit I was a bit put off by the grim subject matter of this book, but I knew it would be lovely in his hands. And it was. He writes about misfits so wonderfully and it makes sense that he’s so embraced in a world of Glee and It Gets Better because he’s been a voice telling teens to let their freak flags fly for a long time. I was already adult-ish when I first read him and I still appreciated the message. Anyways, this is one of those books that sticks with you long after you read it and you find yourself recalling it at odd, perfect moments.

Visions of Sugar Plums and Eleven on Top, Janet Evanovich – These books do not stick with you after you read them. I’d be hard pressed to tell you any specific thoughts about them a few hours after I finish them, but they are entertaining and distracting as you read. Evanovich has created a fun character, which is no mean feat, but the rest is fluff.

The Lost Heir, E.G. Foley – I won a signed copy of one of Gaelen Foley’s books, so I asked her to send me this one, a middle readers book she wrote with her husband. I already had a copy, which I gave to a friend’s son and we read the book together, talking frequently about the characters and the story. It was a really fun experience and we both loved the characters and the twists the story took. It’s a steampunk adventure in Victorian England, complete with magic and fantasy creatures and demented villains. Fans of the Dave Barry/Ridley Pearson Peter books will love this series, which continues with Jake and the Giant.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn – I mostly picked this one up out of curiosity, to see what all the hype was about and then I was just sucked breathlessly under the surface of the story and I didn’t come up again till I was done. I’ve rarely read such a brave, smart book that messed with my head as much. Maybe never. It was a phenomenal exercise in perspective and psychology.

February

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin – Okay, okay, I’m sure you’re tired of me reading books because I like their t.v./movie counterparts, but it’s not something that’s gonna stop anytime soon. Friends of mine have been telling me to read these books for more than a decade, but I just never thought I’d get into them. Same with the HBO show. I must’ve checked the first season out from the library three times before I finally watched it. But then I was obsessed with seeing every minute of the second season, counting down to the third and reading all the books. Talk about an exercise in perspective. Epic is the only word and it hardly seems enough. I read the first book in about a week and would’ve read it faster if I hadn’t had to sleep or work.

I Saw You…Comics Inspired by Real Life Missed Connections, ed. Julia Wertz – This book has comic artists illustrating selected missed connections ads. I saw through a Goodreads update that a friend was reading it and was intrigued. It’s a mixed bag. Some of them are very poignant and well-executed and some are less so, but the book is definitely worth checking out.

Twelve Sharp and Plum Lovin’, Janet Evanovich – I think I’m only reading these books at this point because I hate leaving stories unfinished. I like to know what happens. Plus, I had a loan request for the next Song of Ice and Fire book and then ordered it online and it was taking forever for me to get a copy, for some reason. Had to read something.

A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin – Finally! I got my hands on this book. One of the things that most impresses me about the series is how well-developed the characters are, how thrilling it is to see the story from so many varied and contradictory perspectives. Everyone’s a villain and everyone’s a hero. The political intrigue and maneuvering is absolutely incredible. This one took me only about a week to consume as well.

March

Girl Land, Caitlin Flanagan – This is a hard book to define. A treatise (with an agenda) on the nebulous period of time between girlhood and womanhood, with research about proms and diaries of old, as well as pop culture references (but none past 1980), and a bit of a memoir aspect as Flanagan relates her own experiences. The book was fascinating, though I thought it was less successful when Flanagan started preaching to parents of modern girls at the end, making some good points, but very deluded about modern social communication and how to help girls kids interact with it. Also, she blithely says she’s the mother of boys and doesn’t have to worry about much of the danger she’s outlined, missing the significant point that parents have as much to teach boys about Girl Land, this period of female development she’s defined, as they do girls. Boys need to learn the lessons of respect for others and critical thought as much as girls do. What will change if we teach half our population something that we neglect to teach the other half? This is the same basic point Caitlin Moran missed when she defined ‘feminist’ in How to Be a Woman and left out men in her definition. Still, I’ve referenced both books constantly in conversation since I’ve read them. Here’s one review that says a lot of what I think better.

A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin – One of my friends, a huge GRRM fan, called this the “WTF?” book when I told her I’d started it and that is pretty much the best summary I can imagine. This book is wild and everything you assume will happen doesn’t and things you’d never imagine happening do. This is also the book that the current HBO season is based on, so I’m excited about what’s to come, while dreading a bunch of it as well.

The Devil in Her Way, Bill Loehfelm – My review of this one will be forthcoming, is out in 225 Magazine. Meanwhile, you can buy a copy and get the author to sign it at Garden District Book Shop April 30th, at Maple Street Book Shop May 14th and at Octavia Books May 21st.

This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz – Junot’s brilliant. These stories were quick little literary snacks, evocative and powerful and weird. But they ring true, as everything I’ve ever read by him does, and they feel so personal you have to call him “Junot,” as if you know him, like you’ve just had a really long conversation with him.

Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys – I read a bunch of write-ups about this one, especially in Entertainment Weekly, and despite the glowing review, I was thinking it was going to seriously suck. There’s a something about seedy historical New Orleans that intrigues people, so much so that it becomes almost fetishized. But I was pre-judging the book based on two things: the author doesn’t live in New Orleans and the title refers to the city as “the Easy.” The book, in reality, is wonderful. I love that it’s a YA title, but talks frankly about sex and crime in its historical setting. I’m not promoting gratuitous sex and violence in any medium or setting, but I absolutely appreciated that the book doesn’t condescend to its readers or cater to the group of YA-censors who do condescend to teen readers. Sepetys had a story to tell and she told it. Pretty freaking well.

Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel – A member of my writing group recommended Bechdel’s Fun Home, which is called a tragicomic and blew my mind when I read it last year. So, I was completely on board when I heard she had a new book out, this one a comic drama about her mother and psychotherapy. On paper, Bechdel and I have completely different biographies, yet I felt like she had already written my memoir. If that makes sense. Or, at least, she’d already done the psychology research for my memoir. But perhaps that’s the power of her narrative ability, matched with her visual artist instincts. Her books make you live in them until they are your stories, too.

Requiem, Lauren Oliver – This is the last book in the Delirium series, which I’ve been eagerly anticipating. Or is it the last book? It really didn’t feel like it. I liked that the book alternated between perspectives, between Lena and Hana, and I liked that we got a bit of Alex’s perspective in a separate short story. But. But, the story did not feel complete when the book was finished. I ran out of text, but I still had so many questions. I don’t need everything resolved and I didn’t even necessarily [SPOILER! STOP! SPOILER!] need the romance to be resolved cleanly, but Oliver has built this world and has given us no idea where it’s going after she stops writing about it. We need another book.

So I know my reviews aren’t strictly reviews in the traditional sense. They’re random thoughts about why I decide to read books and what I think of them after I’ve read them. Sometimes, I’m grumpy when I write them and maybe a bit rude (sorry, Janet Evanovich and Iris Johansen) and sometimes I’m still a little euphoric and obsessed (too many examples to name one). But, I think they say something about the person reading them, where I’m at at a given time or moment and the world around me as I’m reading. I hope you find that interesting. I love talking books, so feel free to share your thoughts too, even–especially–if you disagree with me. I find that interesting.

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Filed under books, Quarterly Reading Report, what I'm reading

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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Filed under book news, bragging on, freelance work, Friends, movies, New Orleans, New Orleans Film Industry, pop culture

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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Filed under Atlanta, bragging on, coolness, family, freelance work, Friends, musing, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, New Orleans Film Industry, random rant, tango, The Grandma Road Trip

The Grandma Road Trip – Leg One

Leg One: New Orleans to Baton Rouge, 80.1 miles

Sunday, August 26th: Becks and I met for dinner, catching up. During dinner, I got a call from my boss, confirming that the office would only be open for a few hours the next day so that we could prepare it for Hurricane Isaac. This was meant to be our last week and now the office would be closed for at least two days. Also, she said, I should fill up my gas tank, because gas stations were already running out. Becks and I finished dinner, grabbed some hurricane supplies and looked for gas. One station we passed had a line for several blocks and two others were sold out. As we separated, Becks said, “You might want to pack the car in case you have to leave straight from work.” So, I stayed up late Hurricane-“proofing” the house, packing for both the Grandma Road Trip and for evacuation. Have you ever had to pack as if you’ll be gone for just 14 days and also maybe indefinitely at the same time? It’s pretty hard.

Monday, August 27th: Monday should’ve started our last week in the office and instead, we had to get it ready to face the storm, as well as a bit of business as usual. As the hours passed, it became clear I was going to Baton Rouge. Several people were encouraging (begging, in some cases) me to leave. I was grouchy. This had happened a few years ago for Gustav and I ended up trapped in Baton Rouge for a week. But, I knew they were right, so I headed to Baton Rouge. I ran a few errands and stopped by to see my editors at the 225 offices. Then, I went to stay with friends who are like family to me. We hadn’t gotten to see much of each other lately, so between that and the BBQ dinner, it felt more like vacation than evacuation that first night.

Tuesday, August 28th – Thursday, August 30th: We had power the entire time I was with my friends, which made them call me their lucky charm. It was so comfortable to be there, but I was still restless. I knew everybody was safe back in Nola, that my house still had power (amazingly, it didn’t go out once), but I didn’t know when or if I would be able to go back to Nola. I knew I’d done the right thing by leaving when I-10 was flooded at LaPlace, making it extremely difficult to get back into the city. It would’ve been difficult to leave on our trip from Nola, had I stayed. As it was, the office had a bit of flooding and we wouldn’t be able to reopen to the following week, so after four days in Baton Rouge, I left a day early for the the Grandma Road Trip.

I texted Mums: On my way home tomorrow.

She texted me back: New Orleans home, or here?

That question of home was a better one than either of us realized, and would echo throughout the trip.

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Filed under Baton Rouge, family, musing, New Orleans, The Grandma Road Trip, travel

Brag and the city

I’m late in bragging on this essay I wrote for 225 Magazine about LSU Press. I interviewed a lot of amazing people for this one and it was a joy to write a positive piece about all the good work being done in publishing, since we all read a lot of negativity about the way the industry is failing.

 

Ronlyn Domingue has an essay in the anthology, The Beautiful Anthology, work collected from The Nervous Breakdown, where she’s been publishing nonfiction for a while. Also, she has a publication date for her second novel, The Mapmaker’s War, which will be released February 19th, 2013. The sequel will be published in the spring of 2014.

 

Here’s the latest update from James Claffey, who has a plethora of recently published work (I especially love his signature – one day I will have a signature like his):

Nice words at the Review Review that mention my three short stories at Thrice Magazine: “Within the journal, my favorite illustrations were the ones that accompanied James Claffey’s trio of stories near the beginning of the issue,” and, “James Claffey’s trio of short pieces about life in Ireland may be succinct, but they explode with powerful descriptions that float off the page and flood the reader’s senses.”
New work at Press 1: Mad Dogs & Irishmen; Tampa Review Online: Hard Freeze; and Orion Headless: Cut Short
If you can, buy a copy of Scissor & Spackle containing two of my short fictions: Counting Holes in my Shoes & Ghost Watch
 —

 

Jamey (Hatley) interviewed the Ernest J. Gaines award winner, Dinaw Mengestu, for 225 and was herself interviewed, along with Chef Chris DeBarr by Tad Bartlett for his new Oxford American column Food and Writing.

 

Arion Berger, a super talented Peauxdunque member, has self-published (as Lyra Byrnes) the first of three paranormal romances set in New Orleans.

 

Daniel Handler selected  Kiki Whang‘s story “Cucarachero” as the 2012 fiction winner of the Enizagam Literary Awards. Her story is published in Issue 6, so mosey on over and buy it. Here’s what Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) has to say about Kiki’s story:

‘Cucarachero’ is one of those stories that works like a trap. I wandered into the first paragraphs, charmed and intrigued, and then, curiouser and curiouser, fell deeper and deeper in, and not until the story was over did I have a real appreciation for how smart the thing is, how wise about people so unwise, how careful and yet how instinctually the whole thing is put together. This is the kind of thing I always want to read.”

 

The MelaNated Writers Collective has had three successful events in their Summer Reading Series. Check out L. Kasimu Harris‘s teaser for the second event event:

Video and photos from the events are available on MelaNated’s website. Here’s a great essay about why the Collective is so vital for its members and for New Orleans.

Some members of MelaNated Writers Collective

 

Tad’s done an amazing job keeping track of events and publications at the Peauxdunque website. There are a plethora of brag-worthy achievements in between my posts, so book your browsers accordingly. He’s beat me to the punch in listing the Peauxdunque finalists in the Faulkner-Wisdom Literary Awards, but I’m still gonna brag.

Keep in mind, the finalists who are still in the running are listed by title only, so there may be additional bragging later. I’m going to mention the folks I know who are finalists, but not list the titles of their work, since it’s a blind reading process.

In the novel category, Tad Bartlett and J.Ed Marston are on the short list of finalists for their novel Flying Kites. My friend and former teacher Rick Blackwood is the author of the semi-finalist novel <Ô!>. Peauxdunque member Susan Kagan ‘s novel Ruxandra is also a semi-finalist.

In the novel-in-progress category, Eloise Holland (Be My Thrill), Elsie Michie (Broken Ornaments) and Susan Kirby-Smith (Canyon Relics) are all semi-finalists.

In the short story category, Maurice still has a story in the running, and also has one on the short list for finalists, “The Winter Lion.” Also on the short list is Tad (“Hawks”), Craig Brandhorst (“No Air Holes Anywhere”), and Emily Choate (“Thunder Sometimes, Never Bells”). Emily is also a semi-finalist with “The Falling Down Side,” as are Jamie Amos (“A Good Dog Buries Its Bone”), Kiki Whang (“Keepers”), and Jenn Nunes (“Nothing That Couldn’t Just Float Away”).

In the essay category, Terri Shrum Stoor and yours truly are both still in the running.

I’ll add folks as the rest of the lists go up, as names are revealed and in case I’ve missed anyone. Congrats to all!

 

In other news, my friend Arvid Cristina is teaching a Final Cut Pro/After Effects class for NOVAC called Gimme Credits, later this month.

 

I’m so lucky to have the friendship of such talented people. I hope you’ll join me in supporting them all.

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2012 Q1 Reading Report

I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogger duties this year. But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading. Here is the first of 2012’s Quarterly Reading Reports.

January

Royal Street, Suzanne Johnson – Read my 225 review here.

Then Came You, Jennifer Weiner – I decided last year to catch up on all the JennWein books I’d gotten behind on and this was my last book on that mission. I begin every one of her books with the same incredulous thought: this seems like a needlessly complicated and melodramatic plot. But, it doesn’t matter, I quickly get sucked in anyway. Her characters are so full and dimensional and really, isn’t life (needlessly…) complicated and melodramatic? Anyway, I love her books and this one was no different. Several different characters, a lot going on, surprisingly fulfilling. I’ve gotta stop being surprised.

February

Eight Days to Live, Iris Johansen – I also set myself the mission of catching up with all of Iris Johansen’s books, even though she’s a very different writer than JennWein. While I’m reading her books, I know they’re each pretty much the same book, but they’re comforting in a way. Like bad t.v. left on in the background. I don’t really have to pay attention to absorb the story. Anyway, since I read Blood Game last year, I’ve seen a marked improvement in the books. This one focuses on Eve Duncan’s adopted daughter and it also is a bit better, more like how Johansen’s books felt when I started reading them.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy, Alison Bechdel – A friend from Peauxdunque loaned this graphic novel memoir to me and I ate it up in about a day, though it’s pretty hefty (don’t let the pictures fool you). It was really funny and really moving, just as the subtitle “tragicomedy” implies. I’m consistently impressed with the narrative options available when visual art is mixed with words.

Chasing the Night, Iris Johansen – This book introduces a new character, Catherine Ling, that Johansen is clearly going to continue to write about. Another woman obsessed with a missing/taken child, Catherine seeks out Eve Duncan’s help. Since Eve Duncan is the character of Johansen’s I like the least, it was interesting to see her in interaction with another character who has so much in common with her, but is a foil to her. The books have definitely gotten a lot better – so much so than I’ve begun to wonder if they aren’t ghostwritten, maybe even by one of the reclusive author’s children (her daughter is a researcher for her and her son has co-written several books with her). Well, regardless, I think the collaboration with her kids has probably given her fiction a whole new lease.

Eve / Quinn / Bonnie, Iris Johansen – So, I’ve acknowledged a few times that Eve Duncan isn’t my favorite character, yet I gobbled up each of these books in just a few days, lured by the promise of finally knowing what happened to Eve’s daughter Bonnie – after more than a dozen books. The “truth” of what happened was really sad and haunted me for a few days. Yes, I’ll admit it. I was haunted. I’ve finally caught up on all of her books (except for the ones written with her son, Roy). Or, so I thought. A new one featuring Catherine Ling is coming out in a few days.

March

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson – Even though I only finished two books in January, I was also reading this behemoth all year, which I started last year. I put it aside a few times and picked it back up, reading the last half pretty quickly.  One interesting result of the book’s heft is that I felt like I was living with this odd, brilliant man for quite a while. It seemed to me that this book was both an inspiring call to arms and a cautionary tale. At times, I was quite horrified as I read, or amused, or fascinated. I was always impressed with Isaacson’s writing, his ability to be pretty impartial considering how hard it must’ve been not to either glorify or vilify Jobs.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling – Pretty much the opposite of the Jobs biography in every way, but just as good. I started reading it right after I finished Steve Jobs and I finished it within 24 hours. It is such a quick, witty, brilliant snack of a book. If I didn’t already love Mindy Kaling, reading this book would pretty much finish me off. She needs to write like 10 more books.

Tango Zen: Walking Dance Meditation, Chan Park – Also a quick read, this book is pretty much a series of quotes about tango (or zen meditations, however you want to look at it).  I refer to it a lot, especially when thinking about my proclivity to close my eyes while in close hold with some partners. It’s given me a different lens through which to understand tango, and also an exercise for centering myself when my anxiety/overthinking threatens to trip me up while dancing.

Wither, Lauren DeStefano – Another dystopian teen book. I’m really loving this subgenre and the different permutations creative authors are making of it. This one was pretty horrific and fascinating. Think Stepford Wives with a healthy dose of Handmaid’s Tale. I don’t like the cover of the second book, but I am excited to read it.

Hunger Games / Catching FireSuzanne Collins – I loaned my copies of the series to a librarian friend (all of the library’s copies were requested) and when I got them back, I re-read the first two books before seeing the movie with her. This is the third time I’ve read the books and they are still amazing each time, maybe even more so as I appreciate just how multifaceted they are more each time I read them.

I think one thing that particularly impresses and excites me about dystopian lit in general and this book in particular is how mature the subject matter is. This is a dire world in which the teen characters, often girls, can either succomb or fight. It seems to indicate that teens can take a great responsibility for their universe than we’ve previously attributed to them. So, in a word: empowering. While Hunger Games might’ve begun the newest wave of dystopian, helped identify the subgenre, it reminds me most of a series of books published almost 20 years ago.

So that’s what I’ve been reading in the first quarter of 2012. I’m looking forward to a strong second quarter in reading.

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Bragging on the river

Rolling on the River was one of my favorite songs growing up. They played it every Friday on the radio station that Mamma Mia! and I listened to when she drove me to school. So, I couldn’t resist the pun. Please forgive me! 🙂

This bragging on post is packed with events everybody can attend, so get out your calendars.

First, as I hinted at in my last bragging post, Peauxdunque is hosting a huge, spectacular event. Yeah, You Write is a series of biannual literary concerts that the PWA will host. The first event takes place at Tipitina’s Thursday, October 13th. That’s a week from tomorrow. Our lineup is incredible: Amanda Boyden, Bill Loehfelm, Gian Smith, Kelly Harris-Deberry, Mat Johnson and Terri Stoor. Check out the flyer for the event:

In related news, Peauxdunque member Maurice Carlos Ruffin‘s essay “Cheating the Muse,” will be published in Apalachee Review next year.

Kelly Kathleen Ferguson‘s memoir/travelogue/social commentary My Life as Laura has been published by Press 53. The subtitle says it all: “How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself.”

Engine Books will be publishing Echolocation by Myfanwy Collins, Consulting Editor for Narrative Magazine, in March 2012.

Charlotte Hamrick of NOLAFemmes and Traveling Mermaid has had her poem “Milk for Free” published in Mad Swirl.  Three of her poems will be published in the Feb. issue of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

Don’t forget to nab tickets for the New Orleans premiere of Flood Streets at the New Orleans Film Festival and featuring Harry Shearer, who will be at the premiere to answer questions afterwards with Helen Krieger and Joseph Meissner. I’ve had a chance to see an earlier incarnation of the film, so I know you’ll enjoy it.

I have two stories in the October issue of 225 Magazine. One of them is about the return of the Louisiana Book Festival, which is itself an enormously brag-worthy event. Not only is it back, it’s bigger and better than ever this year, featuring many of the writers I’ve bragged on and reviewed for 225. The Festival takes place on October 29th and it’s a free event where you can hear many of your favorite authors read, buy their books and get them signed. It’s one of the highlights of my year every year and I am so glad it’s just in a few weeks. Check out the site for information about the WordShops and the Author Party, which take place the day before the Festival. It’s basically the best weekend to be in Baton Rouge all year long. Guaranteed. I’ll see you all there.

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Brag your heart out

The Words and Music Faulkner-Wisdom Award finalist and semi-finalist lists are up! There are some awesome Peauxdunque placements and many friends have been recognized. There may be additions to this later as those still in the running are listed only by title at the moment.

Novel category finalists (short and long list) include:

Helen Krieger‘s Don’t Cry Little Monster

Sabrina Canfield‘s Birds of Paradise

Tad Bartlett & J.Ed Marston‘s Kites, Quite Tall

Mark Spitzer‘s Monstropocalypse

Novel-in-Progress finalists include:

Missy Wilkinson‘s Life During the Plague Years

James Claffey‘s Motion of Souls

Sabrina Canfield‘s To The Place Where They Go

Susan Kirby-Smith‘s Desert Humidity

Short story finalists include:

Helen Krieger‘s Okay, So You Talk

Jennifer Nunes‘s Buy One, Get One

J.Ed Marston‘s No Accidental Fall

Tad Bartlett‘s The Non-Artists

*Maurice Ruffin‘s Ten Stories and Terri Stoor‘s A Bellyful of Sorrow are both still in the running.

Essay finalists:

Sabrina Canfield‘s Spring Sparks Sure Shot

Nefertiti Austin‘s Barack Obama Made a Liar Out of Me

*Terri Stoor‘s Bird Dog is still in the running.

Poetry finalists include:

Claire Dixon‘s The Deep End

Jenn Marie Nunes‘s Only Daughter

*Tad Bartlet‘s new century/old century, three acts and J.Ed Marston‘s Voyage of the Limit Perfected Fish are both still in the running.

Please let me know if I’ve forgotten or missed anyone!

Congrats to everybody and good luck to those still in the running!

In other news, Ronlyn Domingue has finished the first of two books that developed from one epic novel that she’s been writing. They are “independent but wholly interconnected,” Ronlyn says. She continues writing the second.

I have three pieces in this month’s 225 Magazine. One is a profile of Jeanne Leiby and her book of short stories. One is a review of the Baton Rouge One Book One Community selection CRAZY. And one is a review of Chris Tusa’s Dirty Little Angels. Also, I reviewed Hollywood Car Wash over at NOLAFemmes.

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Reading in Q2 – May and June

This year, I’ve started writing a quarterly report of my reading. Now that the second quarter has come to a close, it’s time for a new post. April’s installment included a ton of audio books, so I went ahead and blogged those mini-reviews. As always, I’m not including books that I’ve read for review elsewhere, namely 225, unless the review has already been published. This list represents my leisure reading and as such, it’s fairly short this go-round because I got caught up in another movie job the last few months. Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game in any case.

May

Dirtdobber Blues by Cyril Vetter – My review was published this month in 225 Magazine.

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke and read by Brendan Fraser – I was listening to this extremely long audio book when I abruptly switched gears from The Great Louisiana Tour to my latest movie job, so I kept listening to it whenever I happened to be in the car. Since I had liked Inkheart, but found it an enormously slow read, I initially thought listening to the audio would be faster. It wasn’t faster since I listened to it in small chunks, but it was vastly entertaining because it was read by the extremely talented Brendan Fraser, who played the Mo in the movie version of Inkheart. He was such a good reader for this book and completely made the experience for me. I tried to find the last book, Inkdeath, on audio but my library only has the digital download version of it and I don’t know how I’m going to listen to it in the car. Anyway, I find these books very dense and slow, but they tend to pick up so dramatically at the end that you can’t help but continue in the series.

Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, Pete Earley – Read the 225 review here.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – This is a series that is not at all slow. I’ve been intrigued by all the casting news for the movie, so I decided to re-read the series. I originally read each of the books in less than 8 hours (overnight, before having to go to work on no sleep) the first time and without that first-time-read urgency, I still found the story compelling. The first in the series, The Hunger Games, sets the tone for an incredible, life-changing read. I’m not kidding. These books are infectious. It’s hard not to think about them even when you’ve put the book down.

June

Downriver, Jeanne M. Leiby – I wrote about Jeanne and Downriver for 225.

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – In this second “less urgent” reading of the series, I still read each of the books in 2 or 3 days. I didn’t know how she was going to match the first book, but she ups the ante with each one and they’re just as interesting upon a second read. They are absolutely brutal (though not gratuitously), beautiful books. I’ve so rarely experienced a character so vivid and real as Katniss, so absolutely herself at all times. I highly recommend Suzanne Collins’s younger reader series Gregor the Overlander, which I was already a fan of when The Hunger Games came out. Collins is an incredible, unique writer and I think her book have the breathless pace that they do because of her t.v./movie writing experience.

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel – I’ve been reading Auel’s Earth’s Children series most of my life. There was a movie of the first book, Clan of the Cave Bear, which came out when I was 4 and I think we later watched it in school. These books are 600+ novels about prehistoric people and there has been a larger time gap between the publications of the last few books. Auel does an enormous amount of research for each book and it really shows. Never more so than this last one, where I think the research overshadowed the story. There was so much repetition in this 757-page book (for example, every time Ayla meets someone new, which she does a lot in this book, they notice her accent, plus they usually have to exchange several sentences of names and ties, including the characters we already know). I don’t remember the other books being quite this stilted and overburdened with repetition and research, but I’ve been a different person and reader each time I’ve read one (it was 2003 when I read the last one) and they’re so long that I haven’t re-read any of the books in a long time. I’m glad I read it and I may re-read the earlier books at some point, but I was largely disappointed with this last book in the series.

My movie job has ended and I’m looking forward to reading a lot more, so check in for the next quarterly reading report. 🙂

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