Tag Archives: Mary McMyne

The Re-Reading Project: The Book I Couldn’t Re-Read

This time last year, I had a small sheet of paper taped into the back of my journal with a list of twelve books jotted out. My plan was to re-read one of these twelve books each month in 2014 and write about the experience, what I remembered from my original readings and what I discovered reading them now. I’d first read almost all of these books before I was 16 (when I moved to Louisiana) and while I’d read most of them only one time, I counted them all as favorite, influential books.

In January, I quickly fell in love with the project and read 9 kids’ books. I was in the middle of moving for the second time in six months, so I think I was a little nostalgic for childhood and a semblance of stability. It was a lot of fun, in the middle of chaos.

February found me in my new home and brought me company in the project: my friend Maurice re-read an influential book of his own and wrote a guest post. I re-read a Japanese fantasy translated into English.

March brought a guest post from my sister Aimee, re-reading an author she introduced me to and who I would re-read later in the year, as well as a post of my own about re-reading a speculative anthropological romance novel.

As April opened, I re-read a gothic romance while on a train to visit my new love and my friend Missy re-read a philosophical horror novel I’d never read by an author who also wrote a series of books I almost re-read this year.

In May, I confessed to my history as a reader of romance novels and I re-read my first “real” romance novel, by a writer I’ve never read again, and then re-read a romance by a writer whose mysteries I still read, conflicted though I may be about enjoying them.

June saw me at my love’s house, re-reading a young adult trilogy by an author who disappeared for ten years and then became wildly popular again as two of her series were made into t.v. shows. My friend Mary re-read folk tales right around the same time her book of poetry inspired by folk tales was published.

July brought me heartache, but I pushed on and re-read a horror novel by the author my sister introduced me to at age ten and my friend Noel re-read another horror novel by a more famous horror novelist.

August took me back to school, re-reading three books I was assigned as a student, one of which I hated and one of which I loved, and I got on the road for the Residency Road Trip. Blogger Lisa re-read another canonical tome that impacted her.

September was an oasis of calm, of thinking, reading and writing and I re-read a speculative science thriller and my friend James re-read a magical realistic family saga by an author who died this year.

In October, I returned to “real life” and New Orleans, wrapping up the Residency Road Trip and settling back in. I struggled to re-read the book I’d originally scheduled for October and at the last minute changed it to a magical realistic romantic tale as my Peauxdunque cohort Emily re-read a romantic Civil War saga.

During November, I conducted my own private NaNoWriMo and happily re-read an adventure tale based on an ancient Iraqi folktale while another Peauxdunque cohort, Joi, re-read a gothic horror novel about suburbia and family (not written by Gillian Flynn).

December finds me in a familiar place – swimming through chaos and uncertainty. My friend Rachel re-read a satirical science fiction novel and I struggled, once more, to re-read the book I’d originally scheduled for October: a fantasy novel published in 1992 by an author who has switched to writing mysteries. (If you can guess what the book is from that description, let me know.) I’ve always remembered this book as one of my favorites, though I might’ve only read it once (it’s recorded in 1996, when I was 14, but I find it hard to believe I only read it one time). I was excited to re-read this book all year long – it was one of the first titles that went on my list. Several times, as I read other books, I thought of this book. There’s an artist protagonist, so I thought it would be perfect after living with an artist for a month at the residency. But, as I dove in, the book never really caught my attention. I was fifty pages in when I started again this month, so I had a head start and I still couldn’t get invested. It finally got a bit more interesting when I passed the 100 page mark last night, but I’m a firm believer that there is a time for every book in a person’s life. And I finally had to admit that I’m just not meant to re-read this book this year. Maybe next year.

This year, I re-read and wrote about 21 books (rather than the 12 I’d originally intended) and my friends wrote 10 fabulous guest essays about books they re-read. Interesting stats: of the ten guests, eight are women and two are men. Even more interesting: I’ve only read 2.5 of the 10 books my guests re-read (the .5 is for Mary’s folk takes because while I didn’t read her edition, I’ve probably read most of the stories), though I have started reading, but never finished, half of them. I didn’t assign any of the titles my guests picked, though we did discuss them in advance and I sometimes scheduled them according to what I was re-reading (Noel in July most notably).

It turns out that the Re-Reading Project is going to continue, with a new slate of books and in a different form. Let me know if you’re interested in re-reading and writing about your experience and stay tuned. In the meantime, you can use this post as an index (or scavenger hunt, if you prefer) for all of the essays for the 2014 Re-Reading Project. 

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The Re-Reading Project Guest Post: Children’s and Household Tales

The wolf thought to himself, “What a tender young creature! what a nice plump mouthful—she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act carefully, so as to catch both.” So he walked for a short time by the side of Little Red-Cap, and then he said, “See, Little Red-Cap, how pretty the flowers are about here—why do you not look round? I believe, too, that you do not hear how sweetly the little birds are singing; you walk gravely along as if you were going to school, while everything else out here in the wood is merry.”

Little Red-Cap raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing everywhere, she thought, “Suppose I take grandmother a fresh nosegay; that would please her too. It is so early in the day that I shall still get there in good time!” and so she ran from the path into the wood to look for flowers. And whenever she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a still prettier one farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and deeper into the wood.

When I was a girl, the tales my mother told at bedtime weren’t fictions. They were the lens through which I saw the world, the overlay I superimposed over my experience. I dropped bread crumbs in the deep dark woods behind my house. I told my little brother and sister about the witch who lived in our rotting barn. I heard her cackle, a high wheezing sound like the wind during hurricane season. At night, when I looked out of my window at the dizzy moon, I heard the howl of the wolf.

I can still hear my mother’s voice, telling the tales she told me when I was little. I loved those stories, and I was thrilled when my father gave me a beautiful edition of the Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales – collected with Aesop’s Fables and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen –to read by myself. At six or seven, I stayed up, late at night, reading and rereading those stories.

Mary and Grimm

When I had my own daughter, three years ago, I looked forward to telling her the tales of the Brothers Grimm. But when I picked up my book to reread them, I had an altogether different experience than the one I had as a girl. The awe and wonder I once felt for these tales quickly faded as I noticed their underlying assumptions about gender: Why does Little Red Riding Hood fall for the wolf’s scam?, I wondered. Is her head filled with nothing but flowers and sunbeams? And how convenient that the huntsman happens to pass by just in time to save her from the belly of the wolf.

Another of my childhood favorites, “Rapunzel,” was similarly disappointing, this read, especially the moment when the title character accidentally reveals her affair with the prince. Apparently lacking the intellectual capacity to deceive her captor, Rapunzel slips up while the enchantress climbs her hair, saying: “Tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happens that you are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young King’s son—he is with me in a moment.”

Scattered throughout the book are a few stronger heroines. There is Grethel from “Hansel and Grethel,” who pushes the “godless witch” from the gingerbread-house into the oven. There is the miller’s daughter in “Rumplestiltskin,” who despite weeping a great deal in the beginning takes a semi-active role in defeating the little man at the end. (Both my daughter and I take great pleasure in the moment when she guesses his name, and he cries out miserably, “The devil told you that! the devil told you that!”) And there is the heroic sister in “Seven Ravens” who travels “to the very end of the world,” where the sun and moon try and fail to devour her on her way to save her seven brothers. But by and large, the magic and simple beauty of these tales is marred by the overabundance of wicked old women and foolish damsels in distress.

So how did these tales, which likely began as stories told by women to women and children, become so problematic? When I finished rereading Children’s and Household Tales, I decided to find out. It turns out Little Red Riding Hood – titled “Little Red-Cap” in my translation after the German “Rotkäppchen” – is first referenced as a 10th century oral French story folklorists call “The Story of Grandmother.” In this early incarnation, instead of needing rescue, Red cleverly escapes the wolf on her own by telling him she has to relieve herself. But in the first version of the tale to appear in print, “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge” (1697), male author Charles Perrault includes no such happy ending: Red strips for the Wolf, gets into bed with him, and is eaten. In a moralizing message at the end of the tale, Perrault uses a double entendre likening “gentle wolves” to predatory gentlemen “following the young maids in the streets, even into their homes.” The Brothers Grimm, it seems, added the now-popular ending of a heroic huntsman cutting Red and her grandmother from the belly of the wolf in their first edition of Children’s and Household Tales (1812).

A similar pattern of the heroine gradually weakening over time can be seen in the history of the Rapunzel tale. In all versions of the story, the basic pattern is the same: a mother craves a plant while pregnant, eats it, and the owner of the garden takes the child as payment. Then the child is placed in a magical tower, where a prince falls in love with her and climbs up her hair. In the first version to be published in print, “Petrosinella,” by Giambattista Basile (1634), a gossip tattles on the maiden’s nighttime activities with the prince, rather than the maiden betraying herself, and the maiden plots her own escape using three magical nuts. In the next known variant, Persinette (1698), Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force has the maiden betray her own affair with the prince by complaining to her captor that her dress is getting tighter, but adds the bit about the power of the maiden’s tears to heal the prince’s blindness at the end. The Grimms’ version (1812) has the weakest heroine,  with “Rapunzel” making the foolish mistake of admitting that the prince has been “with her” and only being reunited with the prince when he stumbles blindly upon her in the wilderness.

The gradual weakening of the heroines of these tales –from the stronger girls of earlier variants to the “tender young creature[s]” of the Brothers Grimm – makes me wonder what has been lost, over the centuries, as these stories have been told and retold in print. What details might we reclaim from the past, or add for the future, so that our children will see more than tender young creatures, wicked witches, and wolves in the world?

***Mary McMyne Wolf Skin

Mary McMyne is the author of Wolf Skin (Dancing Girl Press, 2014)a chapbook of poems that retell European folktales from alternate perspectives, such as the huntsman from Little Red Riding Hood, the witch from Rapunzel, and the woodcutter’s wife from Hansel and Gretel. She teaches at Lake Superior State University, where she is co-editor of the journal Border Crossing. Her stories and poems have appeared in Word Riot, Pedestal Magazine, Painted Bride Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Apex Magazine, New Myths, New Delta Review, Poetry International, and many other publications. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award. Her criticism has appeared in American Book Review. A recipient of the Faulkner Prize for a Novel-in-Progress and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Promise Award for her fiction, she is currently at work on a novel set in 12th century Germany, which speculates about the historical roots of several well-known fairy tales.

 

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Everybody Brag Now

This bragging on post might be my most overdue yet! Many folks have had multiple successes since I last bragged, so as always, this is always just a tiny sampling. I can’t keep up with these exciting movers and shakers. Still, I try…

As 2014 started and the Oscar nominations were announced, many films shot in New Orleans were included. Robin Mathews (makeup) and Adruitha Lee (hair) won for their work on Dallas Buyers Club. Not only did Twelve Years a Slave win best picture (!), but the amazing production design/set decoration teams and stellar costume department were recognized with nominations. It was so exciting to see the effect Lupita Nyong’o had even before she won the best supporting actress category. It was a great start to the year.

Lavender Ink and Nancy Dixon published N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature, which includes work by folks like Moira Crone, Andrei Codrescu and John Biguenet, alongside Faulkner, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.

After a year of amazing interviews for Hothouse, Karin C. Davidson has compiled an Anniversary Album, putting together more questions and answers from her interview subjects, as well as a playlist of music they’ve each picked. Karin’s “Something for Nothing” was a finalist in Bayou Magazine‘s fiction contest, judged by Lucy Bledsoe.

Studio delle Sorelle’s first art opening at Bev Coates’ Guest House featured a painting by Judy Kahn.

Judy Kahn's painting

Suparno Banerjee has published a paper, “Melodrama, mimicry and menace: Revinenting Hollywood in Indian science fiction films” in Volume 12, issue 1 of South Asian Popular Culture.

Near Valentine’s Day, Danielle Gilyot wrote a love letter to her younger self.

Jeff Roedel has directed the music video for England in 1819’s song “Sirens.”

jewel bush, Justin Torres and Mat Johnson all have stories in Dismantle, the VONA Anthology (with an introduction by Junot Diaz).

Contemplative Man by Brock Guthrie was published in March. Here’s a great review.

Joseph Boyden‘s The Orenda is the 2014 winner of Canada Reads. The Orenda will be published in the U.S. in May.

Jamie Amos has been busy, with new stories at Cold Mountain Review (“Defensive Wounds”) and at storySouth (“Spit”).

M.O. Walsh‘s book My Sunshine Away (due out next January) was announced as one of five Buzz Books and will be showcased at the BEA Conference in May.

Kaledioscope, a magazine for LSU’s Humanities and Social Sciences Departments, features quite a bit of great news in its Fall 2013 issue, including a feature on service learning courses on page 11, a feature on filmmaker Zack Godshall on page 13, a story about Associate Dean Malcolm Richardson on page 16, and a feature on the Creative Writing Department (plus two books I mention later in this brag) on page 18.

Montana Miller reports “After three marathon days of training in Eloy with the USPA Chief Judges, my brain is leaking out my ears and my eyes falling from their sockets, but my heart is leaping with joy and gratitude: I am a newly-rated National Judge for formation skydiving!”

Tad Bartlett‘s story “Hung Over” was published by Rappahannock Review.

Judge Claire Messud selected Summer Wood‘s story “Boomerang” for the 2013 Indiana Review Fiction Prize. Mary McMyne‘s story “Camille” was also a finalist.

Speaking of Mary McMyne, her story “Reading His Own Obituary” was published by Narrative Northeast in January. Faerie Magazine will publish Mary’s poem “Rapunzel Tucks the Twins into Bed,” in the next issue. Her poem “Irene Joliot-Curie” published in Painted Bride Quarterly No. 86 was nominated for a Rhysling.

Penelope Dane reviewed This Assignment Is So Gay, an anthology edited by Megan Volpert, in the March issue of Bitch Magazine.

Cara Jones has written an essay called “Taking the Woman Out of Women’s Health,” published at Nursing Clio.

First, the cover and title page of the Long Hidden anthology were revealed. Then, there was a wonderful review that specifically mentions Jamey Hatley‘s story:

“…“Collected Likenesses” is thought-provoking, with fascinating magic and heart-rendingly real characters.”

And most recently, Jamey’s interview with Roxane Gay was published at Press Street’s Room 220. Roxane has just announced she’ll be joining the MFA Program at Purdue University in the fall, as an associate professor.

Here’s a great review of James Claffey‘s Blood a Cold Blue. James is also editing the Ireland and the Irish themed issue of Literary Orphans, due out at Easter.

Literary Orphans

Maurice Ruffin has been very busy, as always. “Catch What You Can” will be published in Redivider Journal‘s issue 11.2 in May. “Heathen” will appear in issue 2 of  The Knicknackery. “Motion Picture Making” will appear in issue 2 of Writing Tomorrow in June.  “Heroes and Villains,” will be published in an upcoming issue of 94 Creations. To top it all off, he’s been accepted to Tin House’s Writers Workshop.

Cara Blue Adams interviewed David James Poissant for Tin House.

Melinda Palacio‘s book of poetry How Fire Is a Story, Waiting was a finalist in the 2013 Paterson Poetry Prize. She just traveled to New York for the awards reading.

June Pulliam‘s Encyclopedia of the Zombie will be available in June.

Andrew Lam‘s Birds of Paradise Lost is a finalist for the California Book Awards. The results will be announced in June.

Rachel Hebert performed “Just What I Need” for the Birmingham Sessions.

Helen Krieger has also had a busy couple of months. She was accepted to study at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and Least Favorite Love Songs, the webseries she made with her husband and band of Nola cohorts, is nominated for a Webby. To celebrate the nomination, a special episode from the series will premiere this Sunday at 10 p.m. at the new theater Indywood.

The second book in Ronlyn Domingue‘s Keeper of the Tales trilogy, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, will be published next month. Here’s an interview with her.

Charlotte Hemrick is interviewing local female poets at NolaFemmes for Poetry Month. First up was Kelly Harris and most recently is Cassie Pruyn. There will be a new interview posted on Friday.

Also happening on Friday at 7 p.m. at Cafe Istanbul is the second installment of Yeah, You Write, which will feature Cassie and myself. Kelly read at the first installment of Yeah, You Write. This year’s lineup is simply incredible John BarryJoseph Boyden, jewel bush, Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin, Benjamin Percy, Cassie and myself, with DJ Sep, images by L. Kasimu Harris and the whole shebang will be MC’d by Nick Fox. All for a $5 cover – you can’t beat that. Here’s the poster for the details:

Yeah, You Write 2014

I hope you enjoyed this attempt of mine to keep up with this phenoms. Moreso, I hope that you check out the links and come by Yeah, You Write on Friday. I can’t promise that I’ll be better at keeping up with these folks, but I can guarantee that they’ll be doing amazing things in the coming months.

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Carol of the Brag

These aren’t late presents. These are the presents you get after Christmas when you’re going through present withdrawal. And these are presents you can easily re-gift, just by telling somebody about them. Instant recyclables, so they’re incredibly green and cost-effective. With no further ado, here’s the last (not-late) (green) (cost-effective) brag of 2013:

Rachel Marsh has an essay called On the Internet and On the Street No On Knows the Artist is a Dog in GENERATORprinthouse’s newsletter. Also, her story “The Yellow House” was published by Exegesis. When I was with Rachel in Scotland (in 2007), I visited the real Yellow House with her and sat in on her writing group’s meeting when everyone read what they’d written about the house. I even have my own version of “The Yellow House” somewhere. You should check out Rachel’s, and see what she wrote on her blog about publishing this piece in 2013, almost entirely unchanged since it was written in 2007.

Least Favorite Love Songs now has three episodes up from its second season. Check them out. This webseries is produced by a small, incredibly talented crew of locals, so I’m bragging on them collectively.

CavanKerry Press will be publishing Brent Newsom‘s book of poetry Love’s Labors.

After a successful fundraising campaign, DaVida Chanel‘s play “Hip Hop is Alive” traveled to the Atlanta and Chicago Fringe Fests this year. “Hip Hop is Alive” was performed at the New Orleans Fringe Fest in 2011.

Dub Lee and Chris Odinet‘s house was featured in The Advocate, also showcasing some of Dub’s gorgeous paintings.

Left Hand Press will publish Susan Kagan’s Basic Wiccan Ethics.

Here’s a great short documentary on Montana Miller and her aerial/acrobatic career.

In addition to his general awesomeness and lots of readings about town, Maurice Ruffin has an essay in the “cultural atlas” Unfathomable City (pg 133).  It’s a beautiful book, full of local folks, so check it out. Here’s a great review in the Chicago Tribune, which mentions Maurice’s essay.

Joselyn Takacs‘ story “Something Irrevocable” was finalist in the 2013 Narrative 30 Below contest. She was also a finalist in 2011 with her story “Flares of Little Warning,” available here.

Aaron Hogan of Eye Wander Photo won a “Fearless Award” for “Jamaican Bride,” one of the “most daring and extreme wedding photographs worldwide.”

Che Yeun‘s amazing essay “Saphir’s Room” is online at Trop Mag and she’s been nominated for her second Pushcart Prize for her story “One in Ten Fish Are Afraid of Water.”

“Dreams Do Come True,” a photo exhibit by L. Kasimu Harris is at Bellocq through January 19th.
L. Kasimu Harris photo exhibitMary McMyne‘s story “Lilith,” a retelling of how Lilith is cast out of Eden, will be published by NewMyth.com. Her chapbook Wolf Skin will be published by Dancing Girl Press and her novel-in-progress The Book of Gothel received a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant.

James Claffey, among many, many other achievements, has been interviewed here. Also, read his story “Prehistory” here. And a short story at Causeway/Cabhsair called “His Life a Pitted Table…”

Melissa Remark wrote the film Call Me Cappy, which just wrapped production.

Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Louisiana just named Mari Kornhauser the winner of its inaugural Iris Award for Outstanding Contributions to Women in Film & Television.

mari WIFTVeronica Brown‘s The Daughter of the Puppet King will be published next year.

She is Alex by Eritria Pitts has a new video called “Secret Santa.”

Jamie Amos has a story coming out in the Florida Review called “A Good Dog Buries Its Bone” and was just named Assistant Nonfiction Editor at the New Orleans Review.

Hila Ratzabi has a poem at Women Poets Wearing Sweatpants.
Spillway Magazine has published poetry by Alison Grifa Ismaili.

Jamey Hatley has just published an essay about the art of postcards at The Toast.

Many of my former and current brags are listed in Chris Waddington’s “Top 10 Books of 2013 for New Orleans readers” and there is a smorgasbord of brag-worthy writing in the newly released The Double Dealer. Work by Peauxdunquians Terri Stoor, Cassie Pruyn, Tad Bartlett, J.Ed Marston, Tom Carson and yours truly (pg 410), as well as Rodger Kamenetz, John Biguenet, T. Geronimo Johnson, Harold Ellis Clark, Jennifer Steil, Chris Tusa, Alison Grifa Ismaili and Elsie Michie, among many, many more. You could spend weeks reading the excellent writing in the 400+ issue of The Double Dealer and I hope you do.

That should see you into the next year. I’ll be posting my regular end-of-the-year posts over the next few days and the brag will be back in 2014, have no fear.

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All Things Brag

Forgive me, it has been two months since my last brag. More than two months. This post is long overdue. The good news when it takes me a while to post is that there’s more to talk about. But that’s also the challenge, too, keeping track of everything.

Shortly after my last bragging post, my interview with Ronlyn Domingue for 225 went live. Ronlyn and I talked for over an hour and pretty much every word out of her mouth was quotable. It was a great problem to have and a wonderful challenge to shape the interview.

Fellow tango dancer, also aerialist and circus performer, Elise Duran was featured in DIG, a Baton Rouge magazine. It’s a great piece and has phenomenal photos of Elise performing.

Brent Newsom has a poem up at PANK Magazine, “Smyrna.” He also tweets. Check him out.

Solimar Otero has a book out, Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World.

In the Mind of the Maker is a documentary by C.E. Richard, a fabulous filmmaker who I was lucky enough to study with at LSU. The film will debut internationally next year. Keep an eye on the website and check out the trailer.

Chicago tango dancer Katya Kulik has a short story called “Verify Your Humanity” on The Newer York’s Electric Encyclopedia of Experimental Fiction.

Karin C. Davidson’s two-part interview with Andrew Lam is up at Hothouse and it’s a must-read. Also, his Huffington Post essays.

One of my tango instructors, Ector Gutierrez appeared on Good Morning New Orleans with Katarina Boudreaux as his partner.

Joselyn Takacs is a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s Winter 2013 contest for her story “The New River.”

Lindsay Rae Spurlock has a new single on iTunes called “You, Baby.”

Missy Wilkinson received an award from the Council of Drug and Alcohol Abuse for a Gambit article she wrote on addiction as a brain disease. She also has an essay about being a in a cult over at xojane.com.

Mary McMyne has three poems over at Painted Bride Quarterly, two poems at Waccamaw, and one poem in The Way North, an anthology from Wayne State University.

Montana Miller has become an accomplished skydiver over the last few years and recently participated in some big-way formations, including the 125-way Perris Flower formation. In her message, she said, “On our second jump, though, when I had almost given up hope that we would ever manage to get everyone to perform their best at the same time, we actually did it! And not only that, we held it for SEVEN SECONDS, which is amazing.” Because of her consistent and stellar performance in formations like these, she was invited to participate in the Arizona Challenge, which I’m told is the most elite and selective skydiving event.

Maureen Foley’s book Women Float is available now.

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Kelly Harris has this great “What Are You Reading” post on Bayou Magazine‘s blog. Ted O’Brien from Garden District Book Shop has a “What Are you Reading” the next month. I love this series.

Speaking of Bayou’s blog, they also have a great review of the Sunday Shorts series co-hosted by MelaNated Writers Collective and Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. Over at the Peauxdunque blog, Tad was, as he always is with Peauxdunque news, very good at covering this series, which matched a MelaNated writer with a Peauxdunque writer each week for a month.  I’ll include some of my pictures from the series here.

Now You See Me, a film that consumed a lot of my time in 2011 and 2012, is out in theaters now. I met so many awesome folks on that show and have lots of great memories. Among my takeaways: several decks of cards and the ability to do a one-handed cut, which the magic consultant, David Kwong, taught me. At a friend’s bridal shower, I won a joke deck of cards, so what did I do? I proceeded to teach everyone at the shower the one-handed cut (and they all learned more quickly than I did). The multiple trailers leading up to NYSM’s release drove me crazy till I could finally see it, with a co-worker from the movie, the bride from the aforementioned shower and her now-husband. We had a lot of fun watching it together. Check out one of the trailers:

My aunt, Ruth Staat, completed her first 5K run/walk (in 18 minutes)!

James Claffey‘s latest publications include: fled the tightening rope at the For Every Year Project, green their dead eyes at Blue Fifth Review.

Lee Ware has a story up at Connotation Press.

Quite a few folks graduated or started school recently, which is really exciting. At UNO’s awards banquet, both Che Yeun (Ernest and Shirley Svenson Fiction Award for her story “Yuna”) and Maurice Ruffin (Joanna Leake Prize for Fiction Thesis for his collection It’s Good to See You’re Awake) were honored. Che is also the Stanley Elkin Scholarship recipient for the 2013 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Maurice also has an essay about New Orleans East
over at New Orleans & Me.

The UNO MFA students and WWOZ have teamed up for UNO Storyville, recordings of the students’ true-life experiences in New Orleans. They ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, so check it out.

Speaking of successful Kickstarter campaigns, let me tell you about three more. Mark Landry, a cohort from the Cinema Club (waaay back in my LSU years) and friends launched a campaign to put out a graphic novel called Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water. This is a truly fascinating project and I love that Mark lays out how it came together on the Kickstarter campaign page.

Summer Literary Seminars, which brought me to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2007, launched a campaign to publish LitVak, a collection of writing and photography from SLS faculty and students. They made their goal, so look for the anthology.

And last, Helen Krieger’s Kickstarter campaign for the second season of Least Favorite Love Songs is wrapping up in 37 hours. They’ve already met their minimum goal and then some ($7,000+ at last check) and they’re aiming for $10,000 so they can pay their crew a nominal amount. They have major swag at low contributor levels, so it pays to back them. You can watch all of season one for free here.

Whew! That’ll teach me to wait so long between brags!

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The writing habit – Fess Up Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Emilie’s 2010 Best List

I’ve been thinking about this post in the back of my head for the last few weeks. And now it’s come time to look back at my favorites of the year…

Books are pretty easy because I read fewer books this year than…ever. At least, any year since I’ve been keeping track and that’s a decade’s worth of reading. The last time I read fewer than 100 books in a year was my second year of grad school and I read considerably fewer than 100 books this year. So my quantity was down, but not the quality – a read quite a few books this year that I’d had on my to-read list a while.

1. Kai Meyer‘s The Dark Reflections Trilogy and most of The Wave Walkers Trilogy
2. Rebecca Cantrell‘s A Trace of Smoke
3. Audrey Niffennegger‘s The Time Traveler’s Wife
4. John Kennedy Toole‘s A Confederacy of Dunces
5. Alice Sebold‘s The Lovely Bones
6. David Madden‘s Abducted by Circumstance
7. Mary McMyne‘s Wait. (manuscript)
8. Suzanne Collins‘s last Hunger Games book Mockingjay
9. M.O. Walsh‘s The Prospect of Magic
10. Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium Trilogy (still working on the last, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest)

In the interests of full disclosure, I have some reservations about labeling some of these “best,” as I had some issues with a few of these books – notably Stieg Larsson’s books and The Lovely Bones – but they are unconditionally the ones that I invested the most time in, spent time thinking about. And there are some absolutely stellar BEST books on this list. And, of course, I read dozens of short stories through my work with Narrative, several of which I’d love to put on a best list, but can’t disclose. Interestingly, there’s no non-fiction on my list this year.

I actually saw quite a few movies in the theater this year, or maybe they stand out because I quite liked so many that I saw there. Rentals were often disappointing – slightly better than I’d expected or boring or not as good as I’d heard. So this is tough, but the movies I enjoyed the most this year:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (I have to do it, it was so good…)
2. Inception (I saw it 3.5 times in the theater)
3. Toy Story 3 (Pixar has always been really smart with these sequels)
4. Easy A (it was as funny and good as my favorite 80s comedies)
5. Red (it was like Sneakers jacked up, so of course I loved it)
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop (of course, it’s about Banksy)
7. Going the Distance, Get Him to the Greek (a tie)
8. Twilight: Eclipse and How to Train Your Dragon (a tie)
9. Nine (I love musicals)
10. The Kids are Alright

Honorable mentions: Last Station, Hereafter, Black Swan, True Grit, Despicable Me, The Ramen Girl, St. Trinian’s, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, The Young Victoria and Coco Before Chanel.

TV had to take a serious back burner this year because I never knew when I’d get home from work and had so much going on. This list is basically comprised of the shows that I kept up with in the chaos. Also, it should be said that I watched every episode of Law & Order SVU through Season 10 this year.

1. So You Think You Can Dance
2. Survivor
3. Castle
4. Glee
5. Raising Hope
6. Dancing with the Stars
7. United States of Tara
8. How I Met Your Mother
9. Bones
10. Fringe

My super notables:  The Tudors, In Plain Sight and 30 Rock.

I might go so far as to say that music was one of my biggest influences this year. I probably went to more concerts this year than I have every other year combined. Because my favorite songs are generally still my favorite songs from last year and the year before (with a few new exceptions), I’d much rather outline the best concerts of the year and the cds that I’ve been listening to obsessively.

CDs:

1. Lissie‘s Catching a Tiger, as well as her EP Why You Runnin’
2. Roisin Murphy‘s Ruby Blue
3. Mark Growden‘s Saint Judas
4. The Dresden Dolls‘s Yes, Virginia…
5. Black Gold‘s Rush

Shows:

1. Dresden Dolls at Tipitina’s in New Orleans
2. Black Gold at Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans
3. Citizen Cope at Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans
4. Simon Lott at Hi Ho Lounge in New Orleans
5. Mark Growden at Circle Bar in New Orleans

I think that just about covers the highlights of 2010, so all that’s left to say is Happy 2011!

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Filed under books, movies, music, New Orleans, pop culture, t.v., what I'm reading

Bragging on some friend redux

This is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overdue. No posts so far for all of September! Here’s why – new job, new season of volleyball, taking on more writing for PureSYTYCD, always with the freelance and some Novel meltdowns. Oh and you know, the social life thing. Cue manic laughter.

However, in the midst of all of that, I drove up to Baton Rouge with Jamey because she was asked to read in the EGSA Alumni Reading and I was asked to introduce another of the readers, Mary McMyne (who I’ve written about for 225 and here, as well). Honestly, even if Mary hadn’t asked that I introduce her, I would’ve totally have been there because the lineup was the literary equivalent to something like three of my favorite bands all headlining together. The third reader was the lovely and calm and talented Ronlyn Domingue, whose book The Mercy of Thin Air made quite a splash. So Mary did me a favor and gave me a great excuse to go to an event I would’ve paid really good (and really precious, right now) money for. These ladies are rock stars, though they generally blush when I say that.

And as I knew it would be, it was a fantastic evening. It reminded me, vividly, that I am a writer and what I want from my writing life. I want more evenings with writers like these, ladies I admire and adore. See picture for full definition the terms “writers,” “admire” and “adore”:

Emilie, Nolde Alexious, Mary McMyne, Ronlyn Domingue, Susan Kirby-Smith, Jamey Hatley

Emilie, Nolde Alexious, Mary McMyne, Ronlyn Domingue, Susan Kirby-Smith, Jamey Hatley

Haven’t talked about Ronlyn lately because she’s in the depths and the bowels of Book #2. But she’s going to be posting essays monthly on a site called The Nervous Breakdown. She read a phenomenal essay at the event that will be next month’s contribution. Check out the current essay now, called Fowl Freak-Out: A Vegetarian’s Tale. [9.14.09 I should say, Mary also writes for The Nervous Breakdown. Check out her first (hysterical and gross) piece here. Ronlyn’s newest is a must. ]

And this reminds me. I said that I would tell y’all when the 225 piece I wrote about Rheta and Poor Man’s Provence was available and it’s up now on the magazine’s website, here.

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Getting to brag on some friends

On Wednesday, I opened up my e-mail newsletter of Publisher’s Lunch and read a hysterical blurb for a recently-sold book, realizing that the recently-sold book is by one of my first fiction teachers at LSU! We’d caught up a few years ago at AWP and through Facebook, so I got to congratulate her the old fashioned personal way (if not old fashioned face-to-face) and now I’m congratulating her publicly and *commanding* all of you to write down the name of this book, cause you’re going to love it:

Robin Becker‘s BRAINS: a zombie memoir, the first-person account of a college professor-turned-zombie who retains his sentience and recruits others like him on a heroic quest to fend off the living while searching for the meaning of un-life, to Gabe Robinson at Harper, in a nice deal, for publication in Summer 2010, by Janet Reid at FinePrint Literary Management (NA).

Then, on Friday, it came to my attention that finalist results for the Faulkner-Wisdom awards were up on the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society website. Without further ado, congratulation shout-outs to:

Maurice Ruffin (short story finalist, still in the competition), Jenn Nunes (novel-in-progress finalist as well as short story semi-finalist), Jane Stubbs (novel-in-progress finalist), Susan Kirby-Smith (novel-in-progress finalist), Penelope Dane (novel-in-progress finalist), Mark Spitzer (novel finalist and husband to Robin Becker above), Missy Wilkinson and yours truly (finalists for the novel category).

In Maurice’s Facebook note “A Fine Time to Be a Teller of Tales,” he said something that really struck me:

…I think this news is proof that we have a strong community of writers in New Orleans. I also think that 100 years from now people will look back at the stuff we made and ask “what on Earth was going on in New Orleans?” “Jamey Hatley and Emilie Staat were coffeeshop mates?” “Maurice Ruffin knew Terri Stoor?” “Bartlett and Marston wrote a novel together…via the internet? That’s crazy.”

I’m so glad to be included in such a constellation of bright lights and so very proud of everybody, especially all those LSU folks. Jamey Hatley won the novel in progress award just a little while ago, as did my dear friend Mary McMyne, both of whose novels are *highly* anticipated. I can’t tell you how honored I’ve always been to be among such talented people, to get the chance to learn from them.

And then there’s Barb Johnson, who recently won the highly prestigious Gift of Freedom and whose book More of This World or Maybe Another is out in October. Write that title down as well.

And these are just a handful of the folks who have big, bright news about their writing at the moment. We have such a great community of incredible writers here in South Louisiana. I look forward to lots more news in the near and foreseeable future and I also anticipate seeing many of these folks at Words & Music and the Louisiana Book Festival, if not sooner. Can’t wait! Congratulations everybody!

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

Mary McMyne

I have been terribly, unforgivably and bizarrely remiss in neglecting to promote my piece on Mary McMyne in 225. She and I had a wonderful series of conversations last year about her novels, both of which are eagerly anticipated and will hopefully find good homes in the future – not just in their publication but on your bookshelves.

Check her website out here. Prepare to bookmark. 🙂

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