Tag Archives: Atlanta

My end of 2014 homework

This is the fifth time I’ve wrapped up the year with some homework, originally assigned by Jamey in 2010. This is my chance, as the year winds down, to reflect on the past and plot the future, to remind myself everything that’s happened and everything I’ve achieved. It’s become my favorite new year tradition.

The 14 Struggles and Successes of 2014

1. I re-read. This time last year, the Re-Reading Project was a scribbled note at the back of my journal. After deciding to re-read 12 influential titles (all originally read before the age of 16), I stuck with it and, throughout the year, I re-read 21 books and 10 friends joined me, writing essays about books that are important to them. I didn’t finish my planned book for December, the only title from the original 12 that wasn’t re-read this year. However, I consider the Project a smashing success because of all of the amazing experiences I’ve had re-reading and all of the tremendous guest essays. Plus, as I suspected, re-reading pushed me to read more. Last year, I read 67 books and this year, I’ve read over 100. And it looks like I’m going to continue it next year, with a different handful of titles.

2. I moved for the second time in six months. This time, I moved to a brand new part of town. I’d always said (and thought) that I hated Mid City, because I inevitably got lost around here and I have a great sense of direction. From day one living here, I stopped getting lost and started finding my way in multiple senses. I’ve made a cozy, impermanent, perfect little home here for myself and while I’ll probably have to move again soon, I know now that I absolutely love Mid City and it’s been an invaluable lesson.

3. I applied for writing residencies and submitted my work like it was a full time job. Because it was, for the first time, my main job. I even got all organized and efficient about it, too.  (I gave up my t.v. in this second move and hardly missed it, I was so busy reading and writing).

4. I ate and cooked healthier. This has been a slow process, several years in the making, but I had a few conversations last year with tango dancers about juicing and hypoglycemia that pretty much pulled everything together for me. I read a few books that blew my mind. And I started eliminating as much sugar and processed food from my diet as I could on a limited budget and without the energy and time to change everything completely. It started with small changes (no sugar in coffee, especially the sugary iced coffees I love) that grew into bigger changes (lots more veggies, mindful of “sugary” fruits, more nuts and grains). I’m now a regular at the closest farmer’s market to my house, I make most of my meals at home and I’ve noticed that cutting down my sugar intake has made me taste and enjoy food so much more. So when I do eat some sugar, it’s a real treat. Sometimes, it’s hard and I really have to make sure I eat small meals/snacks regularly or I crash badly (but this was always true, I just didn’t know how to manage it). The end result is I’m healthier than I’ve maybe ever been and I’m still working to be healthier.

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5. I read the first chapter of my memoir at Peauxdunque’s  second Yeah, You Write, alongside amazing writers.

6. I assisted with the organizing of the New Orleans Tango Festival, which was an exceptional, educational, entertaining experience. I got to meet, dance with and just hang out with so many incredibly talented dancers. Next year’s festival is already gearing up and I am so excited, even though it’s still six months away! Opportunities like this one really helped make me a better dancer this year.

7. I traveled a lot this year. I went twice to D.C. and got to dance at two different milongas. I spent more time in Atlanta and got to take lessons with teachers there. I danced in Philadelphia and in the middle of nowhere on a airfield. I even spent more time in Baton Rouge. While all of the trips weren’t necessarily motivated by tango, I managed to dance wherever I went. All of this travel, while related to the turmoil of this year in many ways, reminded me how much I really love visiting different cities, the openness it brings to my life. I want to make travel a priority in the future. Until D.C., I hadn’t flown in a few years and I haven’t been out of the country since 2007, so I think that’s gotta change soon.

8. I attended an artists residency, Soaring Gardens. I wrote about this quite a bit on the blog, so I’ll keep this one short. Except to say that my month staying at Soaring Gardens with the artist Anne Canfield was everything I needed and utterly transformative.

9. I “lost” NaNoWriMo. This year’s novel was a silly and fun murder mystery that came to me while I was in Pennsylvania. I was excited to write it, but it never came together. I only wrote a few thousand words on that project, but I’ll never consider this NaNoWriMo (or any other) a failure. I always learn something trying to write 50,000 words in a single month. This is why I totally won this year: during November, I started waking up at 6 or 6:30 a.m. to write for a half hour, 40 minutes, an hour, before work. I wrote over 10,000 new words on the memoir. I kicked ass during those early morning writing sessions, getting more done in an hour than I’ve gotten done in whole days set aside to write. What’s even better is that I’m still writing for an hour most mornings.

10. I finally got meditation. Meditation has always been something I understand would be good for me, but it’s been a recipe to fail in the past. I meditated a little, though not formally, while at the residency. Mostly, I journaled like crazy and spent a lot of time in my own head, sitting still outside. In November, while I was *not writing* my murder mystery for NaNoWriMo, I also completed a meditation challenge. It finally clicked for me this go-round and I had a breakthrough about what meditation looks/feels like and how it can help me.

11. I worked on my novel again and while it’s still unfinished (those pesky last 30 pages of the third draft are killer), it’s in very good shape. Meanwhile, I’ve made some great progress with the memoir this year. I blogged more than I have in a long time and published a few reviews and interviews. And, a short essay I wrote will be published in an anthology. I’m looking forward to seeing all of my work in a tangible form that can be shared.

12. I asked for help. I’m not good at this or, I haven’t been in the past. It was very, very hard, but when it looked like I wouldn’t be able to go to the residency, instead of giving up, I launched a GoFundMe campaign. I was utterly blown away by the generosity and support I received. Even when people couldn’t donate anything or much, their notes of encouragement bolstered me. Beyond the fundraising campaign, I’ve received so much help this year (financial, emotional, physical) and after I decided to stop being a basket case about it, I started to accept it as graciously as I could, because everything this year would have been harder or impossible without the help I received.

13. I survived. Historically, I have not managed change well. 2014 was full of transitions, a constantly shifting field. Most of it was positive. Several changes were incredibly sad. Good, bad, positive, sad, it was a lot. I moved for the second time in six months and spent the whole year uncertain how long I’d stay, not just in my apartment, but in New Orleans itself. I fell in love and while the relationship didn’t work out, it changed everything. I wrote my first poem in almost a decade and started journaling hardcore again. I attended two funerals, the first of my life, and I worked hard to support people I cared about through their grief. I freelanced and took on a new role as a salesperson, but I didn’t work on a single movie, though I considered positions on two huge films. My sister’s second son was born, as were the children of friends in the tango community. Three of my friends’ 12 year old sons are now taller than me (no matter how much I grow as a person, I’m just not physically getting any taller). Friends graduated, got married, changed jobs, left town. This year, I struggled to survive all of the changes. Next year, I look forward to thriving. I have ideas and dreams and I’m working on making them plans and realities.

14. I put my writing first. While I’ve never actually given up my writing or stopped completely, I’ve let jobs, relationships, living situations, etc. structure my life and then I fit my writing in between whatever else seemed like a bigger priority at the time. This was the year, for better or for worse, that I decided that my writing, my own goals and plans, had to establish the structure of my life and everything else needs to support my writing. It was really messy and difficult, but I know it was a lesson worth learning. Where I live, who I love and spend time with, what I do to make money, none of this can change who I am: a writer. So all my decisions from now on are going to be made with that in the forefront.

2013 was a rough year and 2014 was, if anything, even rougher. But in the midst of the struggle, as Maurice recently reminded me, is the sublime. I’m ending 2014 stronger than I started it, confident and determined. I’m ready to let go of 2014 and very excited for 2015.

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Filed under Atlanta, Baton Rouge, family, food, freelance work, Friends, musing, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, tango, The Re-Reading Project, The Residency Road Trip, travel

The Re-Reading Project: Practical Magic

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town. If a damp spring arrived, if cows in the pasture gave milk that was runny with blood, if a colt died of colic or a baby was born with a red birthmark stamped onto his cheek, everyone believed that fate must have been twisted, at least a little, by those women over on Magnolia Street. It didn’t matter what the problem was–lightning, or locusts, or a death by drowning. It didn’t matter if the situation could be explained by logic, or science, or plain bad luck. As soon as there was a hint of trouble or the slightest misfortune, people began pointing their fingers and placing blame.

Anytime I set rules or guidelines for myself, I always have to break them at some point. October is the month in which either the whole Re-Reading Project would derail, or I’d throw pretty much all the rules out of the window. It wasn’t supposed to be Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman this month. In fact, Practical Magic doesn’t technically fall within the parameters of the Re-Reading Project (books that have influenced me, which I originally read before the age of 16). I didn’t read Practical Magic till I was 17, so it breaks a crucial rule there, yet it was one of the *first* books that got added to my list, when I conceived the project last year. I just didn’t think about the fact that it didn’t obey the rule that I used to select *every other book* in the project. When I outlined the books I’d read, I slated Practical Magic for December, last, because I’m re-reading the books in roughly the order I originally read them, a nod to the fact I was ignoring (that this book didn’t follow my rules). Then, I considered swapping it for October, but I thought that was a little too cheesy. I mean, it’s a book about witches during October? I can do better than that, right?

Normally, I start reading each month’s book on the 1st, to give myself plenty of time for re-reading and reflection, no matter what may come as the month goes by. Some months, I’ve really needed all the time I could get. On October 1st, I was leaving Philadelphia and driving to Georgia and my copy of the book I was “supposed” to read in October was in storage. Why I didn’t bring this book along with all of the other books I hauled 3,000+ miles, when I knew I was “supposed” to read it, I’m not entirely sure. But, I know it wasn’t an accident. Even as I was packing for the residency in August, I was unconvinced that the book I was “supposed” to read in October was the right one. So I didn’t think about it and left it in storage.

As soon as I got back to New Orleans, I snagged the last three books for the Re-Reading Project from storage, including the book I was “supposed” to read this month. Looking at them all side-by-side, I was tempted to read the book for November (because it’s the shortest and I was overwhelmed getting back to my real life), but I decided to leave it for the craziness of next month (NaNoWriMo season). And I looked at Practical Magic and thought, “hmmm, I’d really love to read that right now.” But I reminded myself that it was too “on the nose” for October and I started reading the book I was “supposed” to read.

Now, I love this book. It’s a great book. I own several copies because it’s somewhat rare and it’s so special to me. There are even a couple of cool parallels between the book I was “supposed” to read in October and my experience at the residency. But, because I started late and I was slammed as soon as I got back to town, and for reasons I didn’t want to face, I was only 46 pages into this 400+ book by the time October was two-thirds gone. I started to think I wasn’t going to be able to finish the book and the re-reading review on time. And then, finally, I threw the rules and the “supposed tos” out the window and I started re-reading Practical Magic.

That’s a very long intro, without having actually talked about the book itself. Well, here we go.

Like the book mentioned above, I have had several copies of Practical Magic. First a battered blue paperback with a black cat on the cover. Later, a pretty trade paperback copy. Fairly recently, I bought this gorgeous hardback copy and this is the one I read this time around.

Practical Magic I saw the movie first, in the theater when it came out in 1998 (I was 16). It came out, appropriately enough, in October. My family had just moved to Louisiana in July and I was miserable. I hated Louisiana, I was angry that my parents moved me halfway through high school and I’d had to leave all of my friends behind. My heart was broken because I didn’t know when I’d ever see the boy I thought I loved again. And I was channeling all of these feelings into a novel about a teenage witch (my first finished novel, which will probably never see the light of day). So, as you might imagine, Practical Magic was a movie that felt very much for me. It’s a movie I still love, a perfect storm of amazing actors, music from Stevie Nicks and a zeitgeisty moment.

Maybe this is where my odd preference comes from, to watch the movie first if I know a book is being adapted. To this day, I find it fairly easy to love a movie and a book as separate creations, but only if I watch the movie first (with rare exceptions). Because, as much love as I have for the movie Practical Magic, it has very little in common with the book. The book has been changed in the ways Hollywood loves to change original material (i.e., in some smart ways, but mostly for flash). I’d probably hate it if I’d read and loved the book first. It would be very hard not to.

The book is subtle, lean and incredibly detailed at the same time. It can cover years in a few pages. Sally Owens’ first husband Michael is only in the book for 6 pages, but he feels very real, a fleshed-out character. It’s a book about the certainty of “old wives” cures and the uncertainty of love. While the movie may take delight in depicting the Owens women as witches, in the book, they are only ever referred to that way by other people and not really directly. They are women who know things and who can do and make things, using inherited knowledge of human behavior, anatomy, botany and husbandry. And while we so commonly understand these traits to be associated with witches, Hoffman never makes any of the magic in the book flashy or outlandish. It’s all possible, it’s all real, it’s all practical. The subtly is one of the best things about the book and that is almost entirely lost in the movie. I will say this, there is at least one aspect of the movie that I always think about whenever I think about the story – I’d forgotten it wasn’t in the book at all till now! Because the 1998 movie is such a product of its own time and it veered so far from the source material, I think it’s entirely possible for a the book to be adapted into a movie again, into a more faithful version that could be a good film in its own right. If I wanted to make more comparisons between the book and the movie, I could, but I’m going to focus on the book (and me) for the rest of this.

When I first read Practical Magic, I latched onto the young Sally and Gillian, and was bewildered when they were suddenly middle-aged women. I could no longer identify with Sally once she was the mother of two daughters, but instead, I transferred my feelings of kinship to the daughters, Antonia and Kylie. I thought I’d been in love when I first read this book, though my first love wouldn’t come for a few more years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing that first emotion because I was young, but I choose to redefine it now that I understand more about what love feels like and what it can do. Which brings me to now, re-reading Practical Magic and realizing that I am only a few years younger than the adult Sally and Gillian are in the book. Suddenly, their younger selves and Sally’s teen daughters resonate with me only in a nostalgic way and the characters who come alive to me are the middle-aged women, worn out by grief and love, as they each learn new things about themselves and find love again. The wounds and scars that love inflicts and heals is the subtext of the book that I can translate now, as an adult woman who is suffering grief over lost love. When I first read the book, I could only identify with the characters whose phases I had undergone (the maidens) and re-reading it now, in the mother phase, I felt like I have been, at some time in my life, every woman in this book.

Except the Aunts (the crones). These are the most truly witch-like characters, the women who raise Sally and Gillian and who are ancient by the time the main action of the story takes place. Their names aren’t revealed until the very end of the book, which I loved noting this time around. Throughout the rest of the book, they are only mentioned in plural, together, sisters whose identities can’t be separated. Until they are revealed to us, separate. In fact, each of the three generations of Owens women in this book (main characters) are brought to us in sister pairs, one dark and one light, the moon and the sun. While they always remain true to themselves, we get to see each of them them wax and wane, reverse roles, set and rise.

More than the personal discoveries I made as I re-read, I was startled to (re)discover connections between Practical Magic and my decade-in-the-making novel, The Winter Circus. Because Practical Magic came along, for me, at such a seminal period of my personal and writerly growth, I absorbed it into my being and then promptly forgot that the roots of my work are buried in this book. I read Alice Hoffman books all the time and she’s at the top of my “favorite authors” list, so I’ve never forgotten that her style has influenced me as a writer, but I did forget how very concrete the connection is, from her writing to mine, especially with this book.

I last read Practical Magic fourteen years ago — Kylie is younger than the number of years since I last read it. Re-reading it now is like looking at old photographs of myself and thinking, “oh, if only you knew, one day…”

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The Residency Road Trip Leg Two: Atlanta and the road to Soaring Gardens

So, at the end of the Leg One post, I had just arrived in Atlanta and was anticipating my time there, catching up with family, old friends and the ATL tango community. And just as I suspected (and hoped), it was a very full week.

I spent a lot of time with my parents, including the evening of their anniversary. Since I don’t have a t.v. in New Orleans, visiting my folks always includes lots of t.v. watching: my favorites like Falling Skies and So You Think You Can Dance, shows my parents love like Rizzoli and Isles and Who Do You Think You Are?, as well as new shows we checked out, like Legends. It was a lot of t.v., but we also prepped for my journey to Soaring Gardens. It almost felt like they were sending me off to camp, at times. When I was home, I also worked on a freelance story, wrapping that up and a few other tasks, before I left for the residency.

And I read. Fahrenheit 451 for the Re-Reading Project, which scarred me for a few days. It was hard not to look at everything around me through that lens. And when I was done, I picked up an ARC of a fat fantasy novel that doesn’t come out till next April. I thought, because it was such a dense story, that I’d sip at it slowly throughout my residency month. Instead, I gulped it down in about 36 hours, reading the first 100 pages in maybe about 24 hours and 300+ in less than 8 hours. It was so good – look for it in the 3rd Quarter Reading Report next month.

You're free, Rocco!

You’re free, Rocco!

I caught up with an old friend I hadn’t seen for ten years at one of my favorite hometown restaurants. He wanted to know all about the residency and the memoir and it was very cool talking about it with a friend from my young adulthood. I celebrated the 12th birthday of one of my oldest friend’s sons, to whom I’m bit of an auntie or godmother. I spoiled his dinner with ice cream, helped him set his pet turtle free at the neighborhood park, had dinner with his family and took him to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a blast from my own past. It was quite a day.

And I tango’d three nights with the ATL community. When I first arrived, I saw that the *only* milonga during my stay was on my last night, which I’d planned to spend with my parents, so I reached out to folks I knew and got the skinny on classes and a house party, hosted by a friend who used to live in Baton Rouge. So I had the opportunity to take classes with two different sets of ATL instructors (Clint y Shelley on Monday and Angel y April on Wednesday), which was a phenomenal experience. And then I enjoyed a relaxed tango house party on Friday. It’s too bad I missed the milonga on Sunday, but I loved my week of ATL tango.

I set out for the next leg of my trip early in the morning on Labor Day, so early it was pretty much still night. Even so, it took me so long to get to Philadelphia! I had fine weather, but I stopped a lot and drove slowly most of the way, listening to a long audio book as I went. I’ve made this drive before, or at least most of it (I’ve gone as far as D.C., years ago), and it was pretty terrain, wildly different than my usual drives.

No rest stop adventures this time around, but I had a nice stop at a Cracker Barrel in Virginia for a late lunch and a long, good talk with a friend while I ate. And then I arrived at the home of my residency housemate, the artist Anne Canfield. This sweet lady and her husband fed me and put me up for the evening in their gorgeous home. I was swooning over the art and the books and the house itself most of the time I was there (even in my sleep). I could’ve stayed there a month!

The next day, Anne and I ran a few errands and set off for Soaring Gardens, a few hours from Philadelphia. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a super efficient and bizarre (to me) cross between a rest stop and convenience mall right off the highway. Where I had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich for lunch. I’d almost forgotten!

Yum!

Yum!

This last few hours of the journey felt a bit like a roller coaster, what with all the curvaceous, mountainous highway and all the other drivers going 15-20 miles over the speed limit and my super heavy car. It was some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen, so that almost made up for the constant fear of driving off the road down the side of a mountain.

And then we were in farmland, traversing narrow drives through acres of corn and fruit trees and small ponds by the road. Until suddenly, we turned onto a drive and there was Soaring Gardens.

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The Residency Road Trip Leg One: New Orleans to Atlanta

My last night in New OrLast night in Nola 8.23.14leans, I watched the Saints play the Colts at Pelican Bay with a few members of Peauxdunque. It was a great way to say goodbye (for now).

In the morning, I began the first leg of what I’ve decided to call the Residency Road Trip (like my Grandma Road Trip from a few years ago). I haven’t seen my family for more than 6 months, so I decided to head to Atlanta first and IMG_3548spend a few days.

I set off fairly early after filling up the car with everything I might need for the next month+. I’ve made this drive a few times over the years and usually it’s a headlong rush to get there. This time, I felt a lot more leisurely and some pretty cool things happened along the way.

First, in Mississippi, I made a new friend at a rest stop along the way. In the women’s restroom, of all places. Some of you may know that I’m not the biggest fan of birds (I saw Hitchcock’s The Birds waaay too young, plus relatives have had some as pets over the years). This first picture will give you an idea of how the Mississippi Restroom Incident began:

Just a handy reminder in case you forget where you are. Plus...

Just a handy reminder in case you forget where you are. Plus…

A lady had brought her pet bird into her stall, but he followed me around the bathroom. It was exactly like a scene from Jurassic Park, except an unseen lady inside a bathroom stall was reassuring me the bird wouldn’t peck me. I asked her if I could take a picture and she told me she’d take one of me with the bird.

I was thinking, “Um, no thank you…” and yet, this happened:New friend? 

“I’m glad you’re not afraid of birds,” the lady said. “I actually kinda am,” I told her. But you wouldn’t know it from this picture. Maybe this has cured me of my ornithophobia.

 

 

Later, in Alabama, I stopped for lunch at a place called The SThe Shrimp Baskethrimp Basket. I couldn’t resist the advertised “jambalya bites.” I’m usually pretty skeptical of any Louisiana foods ofjambalaya bitesfered elsewhere, but I was too curious to pass it up. I would’ve thought that if it could be deep fried, we’d have it in New Orleans, yet, I’ve never heard of such a thing. The waitress said she doesn’t eat spicy things, so she couldn’t tell me how they were. I didn’t find them terribly spicy, myself.

After lunch, I stopped in and saw Sis and her two boys, which was really good. I spent a few hours with them before getting back on the road to Atlanta. I’m excited to be here – looks like I’ll get to catch up with some old friends and dance tango while I’m here. I’ll let you know in the next Residency Road Trip post.

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Filed under Atlanta, coolness, family, New Orleans, The Residency Road Trip, travel, Uncategorized, weirdness

NaNoWriMo 2013 Days 19-21

No words! However, I woke this morning with a new certainty about my main character, a piece of her story. I haven’t dreamed about her and that world for a long time, though I used to all the time. I woke up this morning feeling like I had a key to wrapping up the first section of the book. So, that’s impossible to quantify for a project like NaNoWriMo, but it’s worth everything. And something about NaNoWriMo, the heady, reckless pace, lets me slip back into that frame of mind where anything is possible, once more, for this overwritten book. Anything, like maybe being finished.

I’m going out of town for a few days, to celebrate Thanksgiving early with my family and to dance with tangueros in Atlanta. I probably won’t update again until I’m back, but who knows what I’ll have to say then?

Good luck to all of you writing, whether it’s for NaNoWriMo or not.

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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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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 Two

Leg One: Baton Rouge to Acworth, 552.7 miles

Friday, August 31st: And as I made the decision to leave, I was hearing about a dam in Mississippi that was likely to fail. It was on my route, which meant this might be my last chance to get out for a while. I took my chances, nervous through the long journey from Baton Rouge to Slidell and into Mississippi. I didn’t relax until I was in Alabama, which is ironic because it’s usually my least favorite portion of the trip. But I was going north, getting away from the coast and that was good news. I’ve made this trip 3-4 times a year since 2000, so that’s about 50 times. Whenever I can, I stop in Auburn to see my sister Aimee and her son. This time, I picked them up and took them with me. We had a blast  together in the car, even if it was pretty late by the time we got into Acworth. The best was listening to Aimee read my nephew his bedtime portion of Peter Pan from her iPad. The juxtaposition of past, present and future represented by an old story on an iPad, my sister reading a bedtime story to her son, and the deeply dark night pressing against the car windows, will probably always be one of my favorite memories.

Saturday, September 1st: Mums and I ran errands to get ready for the trip. We’d planned to leave on Labor Day originally, but I suggested we begin on Sunday to avoid bad traffic, since I was already there a day early. Our most notable errand might have been going to the library for audio books. This is the library I grew up with, still called the “new library” after it was moved to a new location when I was in elementary school.

Me and Jessie – yet another picture with my eyes shut.

Me and Jessie’s son “Jack.”

We also had lunch with my best friend since 2nd grade and her son.

Then, there was a round of laundry and re-packing. Now, the focus of my packing was purely on The Grandma Road Trip and while I did have to include some work documents since I would be finishing my work on the movie long distance, I was also able to lighten my load a bit.

But to really prepare, it was necessary that I tango. So, I drove down to the city and had a fabulous couple of hours with the tangueros there. This is my second time dancing in Atlanta, but the people I’d met before weren’t there and one dancer who had moved from BR to Atlanta was out of town. So, I had to brave an unfamiliar group all over again, but the Atlanta dancers were so welcoming and talented.

Mums hadn’t wanted me to go considering we were getting an early start in the morning, but I think she saw that it was worth it when I returned. I hadn’t danced in more than a week and when I came home, I was so much more relaxed and happy. I was bound to be a much better travel partner in the morning.

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From Cheers with love

So it’s been a while, my digital friends. Where have I been, what have I been doing?

Firstly, I should say that before I left Nola to go to Atlanta, I was lucky enough to catch a free New Orleans Bingo! Show at Tipitina’s. Whewwwweeee! This was *just* what I needed, doncha know? Despite the fact that it was P-A-C-K-E-D and I’m extremely claustrophobic (does claustrophobic mean dislikes strange drunk people touching her?), it was an amazing show. Loud and chaotic, filled with personality and phenomenal music. So many, many people have been telling me that I have to see the New Orleans Bingo! Show over the past few years, but it hadn’t happened yet. I’m glad this was my first show, their first show at Tips, it turns out. Who cares if I was set to leave for Atlanta SUPER early in the morning — I was out swaying and sweating with hundreds of folks to their delicious tunes.

The trip to Atlanta started a few hours later than I’d planned and except for a tiny bit ‘o rain (aka buckets and buckets, but only for about 2 minutes at a time) was uneventful. Here’s the rub – the job I’d been hoping for in Atl was not to be, though I hung out for a week to see if the tides would turn. Got to spend some time with my parents and work on the novel (or attempt to work on the novel, Butt In Chair, as they say). At the end of the week, the owner of my Atl Cheers knew me by name and was sad to see me go. I did not make it out to the Claremont Lounge (“Where whores go to die”) as recommended by somebody or other, but it was still a good trip.

And let me tell you, while I was happy to be with my parents and in a new environment, I was so homesick for Nola that my whole body hurt! It was a relief to get back, physically and emotionally. It would’ve been different if I’d been busy working, I think, rather than ruminating, but everything happens for a reason.

Spent a bunch of time with somebody or other upon my return, sent out resumes to more film jobs and even managed a quick jaunt to BR and dinner with bestest buddy while I was there.

And you know what I did this Friday night past? I went out and extra’d for the movie Mardi Gras, dressed up for a “Maxim party” that felt rather more like a lock-in and met a few fun folks there, most in the same boat.

Got to catch up with my buddy Clarence on Saturday – go check out his link because dude’s got some fabulous books out.

Good news is that I’m doing a bit of freelance, which makes me happy and doing alright on TCB. Also, the new roomie is fantastic thus far. He held the fort while I was gone and nothing seems too badly singed. Bad news…I’m determined that there is none. Everything has a silver lining!

So some stuff I’ve been thinking about.

Katherine Heigl withdrawing her name from Emmy consideration. Whoa. Personally, I am a HUGE Katherine Heigl fan and have been before probably anybody else (yes, even you folks who think you “discovered” her on Roswell), since I saw My Father the Hero waaaaay back when. Anybody who’s watched her career knows that she’s got moxie (for good or for better) and she doesn’t follow the tart of Hollywood playbook. She’s pulling ballsy moves more akin to male counterparts, making her moves publicly and loudly. But because she’s a woman, she gets called ungrateful and a bitch. She’s walking a fine line, the razor’s edge. I think she’ll be a winner in the end. I think now that she’s done a few smarter-than-your-average-still-box -office-gold rom-coms, she’s going to be getting better and better scripts and she’ll be choosing smarter and stronger roles (though, love her or hate her, most of her character selections have been *smart*). The article I linked to was just a random selection, but I love that a Grey’s “insider” decried her for her lack of loyalty to the same writers who made her a household name, the writers who accommodated her movie schedule, etc. Let’s look at this for a sec. Yeah, the role made her a household name, but part of that package is her own acting. And even before the Emmy nominations became public, folks were speculating whether the Grey’s writers were sabotaging her because they had to accommodate her movie roles by giving her stupid plotlines through the season till the end. AND let’s not forget that Heigl’s popularity due to Grey’s and her movie roles reflects back on Grey’s in a good light and keeps viewers loyal (I don’t watch the show, I should confess). I’m a writer, so I understand that writers are so essential but generally poorly respected in Hollywood. But I think Heigl should be given some props for speaking her mind. Love her or hate her, this is no blonde bimbo touting the company line. I suspect that she’s in danger of alienating some of the folks that have helped her with her best roles, but that her private relationships with these folks will likely win out. There’s still ONE role I’m dying to see her play. I’ll let you know if it happens, but no more on that for now.

This is from a while ago, but it’s still interesting. Haven’t heard much about the memoir, but hurrah for writers surviving over horrible people in their pasts!

And I continue to be fascinated by Emily Gould’s (mis)adventures and Gawker’s intriguing obsession with her. From GalleyCat, some speculation about a manuscript that’s doing the rounds and the potential fears of some editors/publishers in taking her on.

In the meantime, thank goodness for my neighborhood and my excellent neighbors. Also, my friends and mentors. What would I do without you people?

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Filed under Atlanta, Baton Rouge, books, family, freelance work, Friends, movies, music, musing, New Orleans, New Orleans Film Industry, pop culture, random rant, t.v., writing updates

Soooo tired, happy and excited, but also sad

Yeah, you try keeping up with all that emotion. 🙂 It’s tough.

The movie’s winding down. Tomorrow’s my last day. Trying to get everything wrapped up at work, new roommate getting settled AND about to rush over to Atlanta to try and get that short film job. So, best case scenario, I won’t be back for 3 weeks, so I have to pack accordingly. Today is my friend Jenn’s birthday and some friends of mine from BR are coming to Nola tomorrow and it’s probably my last chance to see one of them for a loooooong time. So, I’m a little emotional and crazy right now.

From Maud Newton’s blog via After the MFA:

“Recently I’ve been writing nonfiction about some of these experiences. Initially the essays felt like a distraction from the larger, far more urgent (pretend the last four words are encased in giant quotation marks) work of my book, not to mention uncomfortably revealing. But now I believe getting them out of my system is helping me focus on the story I’m really trying to tell.

The vast accumulation of crazy things I need to fictionalize and fit into my novel somehow had become the major impediment to finishing the book — the reason the story was so unwieldy and bloated. I’m guessing this is a common problem for first novelists.

Now I’m trying to stay mindful of Twain’s advice: “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”

Yeah, I think I needed to hear that today.

Then, through GalleyCat, I found out about this organization called the Girl Effect that has an amazingly touching and thought-provoking video that will pop up as soon as you go to the website here.

Also, the mystery of the huge memoir that Gawker and GalleyCat were so obsessed with has been solved. Here, via GalleyCat.

Who knows when I’ll write again. They’re demolishing the office I work in tomorrow morning, so probably no Internet and tomorrow evening will be hectic. Probably Sunday.

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Filed under Baton Rouge, musing, New Orleans Film Industry