Tag Archives: Maurice Ruffin

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: 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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Filed under books, Friends, musing, New Orleans, The Re-Reading Project, The Residency Road Trip, travel, what I'm reading

Re-Reading in the World: Harriet the Spy in EW

I considered re-reading Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy last month for the Re-Reading Project, but ran out of time (I ended up re-reading twice as many books in January as I’d originally planned). Reading through my Entertainment Weekly yesterday, as I religiously do, I saw a great book essay by Hillary Busis about Harriet the Spy (as well as Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) turning 50 this year.

Busis writes about how influential Harriet was for her, growing up 30 years after the book’s 1960s setting:

…I identified so fully with Harriet–her emotions, fear of change, frustration, and loneliness–that she instantly felt like an old friend. Inspired by her, I even started keeping a journal in which I carefully wrote mean things about my friends. During a fateful fifth-grade camping trip, that choice came back to bite me…hard. (P.S. Katy, Julia, Whitney, Kate–I’m still sorry.)

Despite that episode, Harriet wasn’t a bad influence. My bond with her was so strong precisely because her faults and virtues mirrored my own.

It occurs to me that troublesome female characters like Harriet (and Gilly Hopkins and Sammy Keyes) are especially important for young girls, who so often absorb society’s message that their job is to please others, which usually means not pleasing themselves. They’re not supposed to be nosy, or stubborn, or rambunctious, but they often are these things, or feel these things, and they need heroines who show them that it’s okay to be however they are, to ask questions and accept no one’s answers but the ones they find for themselves.

Have no fear, there will be a Re-Reading post for February–I’m working on it now. And I’ll have a guest post from my sister soon (together, she and I were little girls much like Harriet, Gilly and Sammy and we remain partners in crime today). If you’ve been enjoying theses posts, I hope you’ll consider re-reading an influential book and writing about it, like Maurice has done and Aimee is doing.

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

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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Giving thanks for the brag

I am thankful that the people in my life are achieving success with the projects they are passionate about. And that goes for me, too. I am grateful and thrilled that the passions I have toiled at and for,when it seemed fruitless and silly, are now beginning to come to fruition. It just so happens that it’s Black Friday and I am providing you with a plethora of great gift suggestions. With no further ado, the brag…

Mary McMyne’s “Wolf Skin” will appear in the Los Angeles Review and “Old Woman Gothel” in Pedestal. You can read “Old Woman Gothel” online and also, hear Mary read it!

Daniel Morales has a story called “How to Fly First Class for Free” in the Expats Blog Writing Contest.

Jamey Hatley read from her novel at the fall installment of NOCCA’s Creative Writing Series, along with Brad Richard. The rather large room was crowded with an attentive audience, many of them students at NOCCA who are studying writing. Their response to Jamey and Brad was pretty awesome to witness.

Montana Miller’s Playing Dead: Mock Trauma and Folk Drama in High School Drunk Driving Tragedies has just been published. I first met Montana a few years ago when I interviewed her as background research for my novel and we became friends. In addition to being a professor in the Popular Culture Department at Bowling Green, she’s a professional flying trapeze artist, high diver and now, sky diver. I love this bit from her bio on Amazon: “she researches perceptions of risk and attitudes toward death, particularly among groups that are often stereotyped and misunderstood.” She was just in town at the American Folklore Society’s Annual Meeting, to give a paper called “Death and the Drop Zone: The Esoteric and Exoteric Folklore of Skydiving.”

Tad Bartlett has another great column up at Oxford American, called Food and Recovery: Reclaiming After the Storm.

Also over at OA, Kasimu Harris has lots of amazing new fashion columns up, featuring his stunning photos of fashionable New Orleanians, as well as his essays.

Christopher Shipman’s new chapbook I Carved  Your Name is available from Imaginary Friend Press.

Skip Horack’s story “The Cryptozoologist” is in the newest issue of Narrative Magazine.

Recently, Summer Wood gave a phenomenal reading from her book Raising Wrecker at the gorgeous Garden District Books. The novel has just been released in paperback, so check it out. As well as these pictures from the event, which I’ve borrowed from Ross Peter Nelson.

Emily Choate’s gorgeous story “Thunder Sometimes, Never Bells” will be published in The Florida Review.

While going to The Florida Review site to get the above link, I saw that Randolph Thomas won their Editor’s Award Competition in Fiction for his story, “Dispensations.” His story will appear in the Winter 2012 issue.

Two Fictions by James Claffey will be hosted at FWRICTION: REVIEW until November 28th, so go check them out. James is one of the most prolific publishers I know. “We Sunk My Mother’s Mother” is over at Necessary Fiction. His story “Spreading from the False Fly” is available in the Real issue of Pure Slush. Anyway, if you really want to keep up with everything James is doing, you have to go here: James Claffey.com.

Helen Krieger recently traveled to Amsterdam, where Flood Streets was screened at the Film By the Sea Festival. The movie just screened in Portland and Seattle and will be available on DVD November 27th. You can put it in your Netflix queue now.

Maurice Ruffin’s short story “Pie Man” has been published in the current issue of The South Carolina Review. Maurice will be reading his work, along with Niyi Osundare, Carolyn Hembree, Geoff Munsterman, Nasimiyu, and Michael Allen Zell at the Staple Goods Collective/Gallery on Sunday, December 2nd at 2 p.m.

But, before that, Maurice will also be reading at the Words & Music Writers Alliance reading at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 28th, one of the first events of the conference. The event takes place in the Black Box Room on the 2nd Floor of the US Mint and will also feature Terri Shrum Stoor, Sara Paul, Matt Robinson, J.Ed. Marston, Tad Bartlett and yours truly. I will be reading a short version of my winning essay, “Tango Face,” which is about learning to tango, of course, but also describes the experience of sitting for a portrait by the artist Gersin, who I interviewed earlier this year.  I’ll include the portrait below, since it’s not online (it is in the print version of the magazine).

This post has been in the works a long time! It’s impossible to keep up with ALL of the achievements and events of my talented friends, but I do my best. I hope you’ll consider checking out the work of all of these folks and attending the upcoming readings!

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NaNoWriMo 2012 Day 3

I met Maurice for breakfast at Slim Goodie’s this morning, under the condition that he had to word war with me, even though he’s not participating in NaNoWriMo. Since he’s going into thesis crunch time right about now, I think I’ll let him off the hook. After we placed our orders, we each wrote furiously in our notebooks. In the 15 minutes before the food arrived, I managed 402 words. It looked like Maurice wrote a smidge less than me, but he swears my handwriting is bigger than his.

After breakfast, I volunteered at the library book sale and ran some errands, then went home and finished the book I’ve been reading, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.

Jessica and I texted each other and decided to war for 20 minutes. I wrote a further 845 and I swear the last words I typed felt like the end of a chapter. I don’t usually organize my frantic NaNo writings into chapters, but it just felt natural.

Day 3 word count (so far): 1,247

Total word count (so far): 5,674

[11:43 p.m. update]

I had a half hour writing session, trying to get just a little bit further ahead, and added 555 more words. So far, this story is incredibly easy to write. It’s just a matter of setting aside some time. Hopefully, that’ll remain true through the rest of the month.

Total Day 3 word count: 1,802

Total word count (so far): 6,229

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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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Be the brag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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