Tag Archives: The Winter Circus

The 2017 Reading Project – January

This year’s reading project is pretty ambitious. So, first, I decided that I wanted to focus on books that I’ve always meant to read. Several books came immediately to mind. I own copies of a lot of them because in a strange bit of irony, I tend to ignore books I own in favor of library books. It’s not something I do consciously, though I am aware that I do it. Something about due dates just keeps me honest.

So. The plan was to read books I’ve always meant to read (and “always” means different things in each case). And I *am* doing that, but I’ve added layers to the 2017 Reading Project. More on that when I write about February’s reading.

For now, some highlights of my January reading:

The Winter Circus, me – The first book I read this year was my own. I finished a cover-to-cover re-read. It’s pretty good, in my very biased opinion. 


between-the-world-and-meBetween the World and Me
, Ta-Nehisi Coates – I’ve been wanting to read this book, a letter from Coates to his son, since it was published in 2015 and I decided that I would listen to the audio, which Coates narrates. I’m a big fan of audiobooks, especially when it comes to non-fiction, because there’s nothing like hearing someone tell you their story in their own voice, as if it was just the two of you having a conversation and you’re listening with everything you’ve got. Then, Tubby and Coo’s Book Shop selected Between the World and Me as the first read in the Brave New World Book Club, so I knew this was the right time. The book is slim, and it’s powerful. It’s a 3-hour listen and there’s no excuse not to read or listen to this book. If you don’t understand what people are talking about when the issues of police violence, microaggressions and systemic racism come up, you owe it to yourself, and to our shared world, to listen with everything you’ve got. If you do already know what’s up, I still recommend you listen to Coates’ academic, personal, rational and passionate letter to his son because there’s always something to be gained from hearing someone tell you their story in their own voice.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – This book’s been on my list since it was published, but what really cinched it for me was when several friends raved about the audio book, which is read by Wil Wheaton. As I mentioned, I’ve come to really love audio books over the years (since a job in 2011 where I drove 12 hours a day for a few weeks). The best ones are like old-school radio plays, and this one is very good. The book itself is really intricate and detail-heavy, with callbacks galore, which doesn’t usually make for good audio listening. However, it was such an immersive story and Wil Wheaton did a tremendous job with the narration. For a couple weeks, listening to this audio book made my daily commute go so much better. Plus, there’s a cameo where Wil Wheaton narrates a sly reference to a fictional version of himself and that was a treat for an 80’s girl to hear.

Revival Volumes 1-7, Tim Seeley and Mike Norton – I’ve been obsessed with zombies for a while and I came across this comic book series that is not about zombies, but a more mysterious version of what would happen if some people didn’t die when they died. It’s pretty bizarre and fascinating. The art is gorgeous, even though I found it confusing sometimes (two of the main characters are sisters and it was sometimes hard to tell them apart, as well as some of the other [mostly female] characters). I decided to chalk this up to my being a comic neophyte and I just trusted that I’d figure it out and I always did.

Feedback, Mira Grant – I’m a big fan of the original Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant (which *is* about zombies, well, as much as any zombie story is ever really about zombies). This is the fourth book in the series, but it follows different characters and a parallel story to the original trilogy. It was fun to return to this world and to see the protagonists of the original series and their journey from a different perspective, mostly as characters waaaay in the background. Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead-style.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger – I read Junger’s essay “The Bonds of Battle” last November, in The Best American Essays of 2016 and I was really moved and obsessed with the ideas raised. Couldn’t stop thinking about the essay, which was the seed for this book, so I had to read it. It’s another slim title, but like a lot of short and focused books, it’s pretty devastating and captivating. I refer to it all the time in conversation because it covers a lot of ground. But really, the subtitle tells you everything – this is Junger’s extended mediation (with research) on why people need each other, need to belong to units (families, communities, etc.) in order to thrive. That humans are communal beings is information that is more important for us to recognize and reconcile than ever before.

Princess Princess Ever After, Katie O’Neill – This is a cute, quick juvenile graphic novel that matter-of-factly tells a fairy tale about two princesses being themselves exactly as they are, adventuring and falling in love, which is pretty cool. It reminded me a bit of the Princeless series (and I’m not the only one, from the Goodreads reviews), but this is a much simpler and streamlined story for younger readers, perhaps, which is cool. It also reminded me a bit about the lovely Three Thieves series, which I read last year (along with Princeless). I should also mention that I read Cleopatra in Space Books 1-3 by Mike Maihack this month, too, and it’s a pretty great companion series to the others mentioned in this paragraph (a time-traveling Cleopatra is teleported into space! makes friends and has adventures!). And Compass South, the first book in a new series about twins in 1860 who adventure (with a pit stop in New Orleans), by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock, which I also read this month. As far as I’m concerned, there can never be too many comic books about adventuring girls who are entirely themselves.

handmaids-tale-audible_The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood – When I initially conceived of the “always meant to  read” project, this was one of the first books that came to mind. I have been meaning to read this one for years, long before the new tv show and American politics took a sharp right turn toward the Republic of Gilead. But, once again, the time was finally right. I listened to Claire Danes’ narration of the book on my commute to and from work and I was entirely engrossed and enraged by the story. However, while I really enjoyed the way Claire Danes read the story, part of me wished I’d read a physical copy first because the structure of the book is intricate and there’s a lot of word play and subtly in the language that I think would’ve had more impact if I’d seen it on the page. So, I’m thinking about re-reading the book almost immediately. Like maybe next month, in March.

The Dark, Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen – True story, my co-workers and I are all fans of Jon Klassen’s “Hat Trilogy” of picture books, which are darkly funny and sly. So when I stumbled upon this one, I insisted one of my co-workers read it out loud to some of us and he did an amazing job without ever having read it before. He did wonderful voices for both Lazlo (the little boy) and The Dark.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero, Isabel Greenberg – This graphic novel is stunning. In the vein of (responding to?) A Thousand and One Nights and set in the world of her earlier book The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, this book is a story within a story within a story, so very meta. While looking up the book in Goodreads, I found this amazing quote from reader Chihoe Ho: “The moral of this story is: Tell stories to get out of dangerous situations. But not just any stories. Smart stories. Stories about brave women who don’t take shit from anyone.” That pretty much says it all. I was so moved reading this book.

awesome-9781781083246_hr  The Awesome, Eva Darrow – A friend and co-worker recommended this book last year and it sounded, well, awesome. The premise: a teenage girl is an apprentice to her monster hunter mother, but can’t get her journeyman license (particularly for vampire cases) until she loses her virginity. But I didn’t pick it up right away, for some reason. Once I did, I adored Darrow’s incredible sense of her world and characters. Maggie and her mother’s relationships is one of the best in fiction, and Maggie’s sense of her self (as well as her doubts) felt very real and very special to me. I wish I’d had this book at 16, but I’m glad it’s in the world now. Also, I should say that the book is very striking – the cover art, the black-tipped pages, the cover material, the size of the book, all of this made the book feel good in your hands and also very unique.

The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George (translated by Simon Pare) – Another great audio book, this time read by three people – Steve West for the bulk of the story, as well as Emma Bering and Cassandra Campbell. Something about the multiple readers added to the radio play feeling. I’m always fascinated by books in translation (this was originally published in German), especially when there’s so much emotional nuance, like there is in this story. It’s hard not to love a story that features a “book apothecary” on a boat and a querulous bookseller who refuses to sell books people want to read, insisting they buy the books they need to read. But then the story becomes an adventure tale, as the lonely main character goes on a journey and ends up forming a family of sorts from strays and lost causes he meets along his journey. This book had so many unexpected layers.

Rejected Princesses, Jason Porath – This is one of the coolest books I’ve ever read – a heavy encyclopedia of animated princess-like illustrations to accompany biographic entries about kick ass women through history. It took me about two months to read, because I read it at work and purposefully let people “catch” me reading, so I could tell them about it. It started so many conversations and a lot of folks of all genders and ages wanted to read this after I told them about it. The book started as a website and gets updated every Wednesday, so there’s side stories about the badasses in the first volume and articles about current amazing women. It’s the best. Can’t wait for Volume Two.

Welcome to Deadland, Zachary Tyler Linville – I read this book in about 10 hours. I picked it up and read the first page on a whim and just didn’t stop reading. I basically got no sleep that night. It’s a zombie book that follows two sets of characters both before and after an illness starts infecting people. Like a lot of zombie books, it’s not really about zombies, but more about people, how they form groups and survive, but also what they suffer *before* the apocalyptic event. There were a few engrossing mysteries to keep me reading obsessively, but it wasn’t very gory.

Full disclosure: I read 33 books this month (well, one of those “books” was an issue of a comic book and another was a script, but still). Also, “read” is used whether I listened or read. But, the point is that I haven’t written about everything that I read in January.

I seem to be reading a lot of books about princesses and zombies. Or, I should say “princesses” and “zombies.” But basically, kick ass women (both fictional and real), as well as monsters. Plus, some very timely, long-awaited reads.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017 Reading Project, books, Quarterly Reading Report

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Atlanta, family, food, musing, NaNoWriMo, tango, writing updates

NaNoWriMo 2013 Days 12-15

Work and tango on Day 12, no words. More work, lots of work, on Day 13. Managed a scant 562 during two word wars with Sis at the end of the night. However, since I’m not just counting words, I’ll say I’m happy with the character insights and sketches I gained.

Day 14 was the third installment of Tango X, which required a bit of setup and errand running and then, lots and lots of dancing. I got to assist during the class beforehand, which was so much fun. Overall, I spent about 7 hours at the venue and was wrecked when I finally got home. Wrote a whole 189 words, though. Count ’em and weep! Here’s a cool picture from Tango X:

Dancers at Tango X

Today, Day 15, I word warred with RedStickRedHead for a half an hour. At first, I was distracted and didn’t know what to write about, so I “wasted” the first few minutes. Then, in about 25 minutes, I cranked out 888 words and a pretty cool scene. I’m up to 9,323 words total so far.

My goal was to “finish” new words on The Winter Circus by today and move on to Tango Face for the rest of the month. I’m not finished with TWC, so I haven’t decided whether I’ll push on or if I’ll write new words for Tango Face in the remaining two weeks. What do y’all think?

2 Comments

Filed under musing, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, tango, writing updates

NaNoWriMo 2013 Day 11

Feeling a mostly better today, I ventured out to the coffeeshop, warred with RedStickRedHead and wrote 667 words. The cool thing about working on a project I’ve been writing off and on for ten years during NaNoWriMo is that the spirit of NaNoWriMo gives me permission to not just edit but rewrite a scene that’s been “done” for years. Something that feels locked in stone (though that seems crazy) now has fluidity. So while I’m only managing about 600 words a day, sometimes I’m completely reinventing whole scenes and sections, discovering new emotions and motivations in characters I’ve known for a long time. It’s pretty cool.

Leave a comment

Filed under Friends, NaNoWriMo, writing updates

NaNoWriMo 2013 Days 4 and 5

Yesterday was a good day – but I completely forgot to update. I finished a new chapter that I’ve been realizing is necessary but which had been a rough sketch previously, only a page or so. It all came together yesterday and I wove together a lot of new words with some I’d written at various times. The whole chapter is 1,868, most of them new. Enough that I’m counting all of them. It was about three hours of writing/editing.

Today was a busy day with work. Then, I went over to Octavia Books to see Maurice, Rebecca Snedeker, Eve Abrams and Billy Sothern read from their parts of Unfathomable City. It’s a really cool book. I guess this counts as a brag, in the middle of NaNoWriMo, no less.

I did get write 423 words tonight. It’s about all I can manage at the moment.

Total so far: 2,851 words.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under book news, bragging on, Friends, literature, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, writing updates

NaNoWriMo 2013 Days 1-3

I know you’ve all been asking yourselves, “Will Emilie do NaNoWriMo this year?” And the answer is yes. But she’s… um I’m, breaking all of the rules. Which, in the past, has meant that I won’t “win” by achieving 50,000 words, but I’ll win in other ways. I think of it as continuing a game of pool after you’ve lost the game by sinking the eight too early.

I’m working on The Winter Circus again, dusting it off from a bit of a sojourn on the top, hard-to-reach shelves. That doesn’t mean I’m not working on Tango Face, oh no. It just means that I had to give myself permission to write whatever I feel like. Which means I had to accept that I might not achieve 50,000 words, that whatever I do achieve this month is more important.

So, on Day 1 of NaNoWriMo, I drove up to Baton Rouge and hung out with a friend who’s doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, as RedStickRedHead. Then, I met up with Josh Hanagarne, author of The World’s Strongest Libriarian, and we went to the Louisiana Book Festival‘s author party. Where we met Lou Gossett, Jr. Check it out:

Josh, Lou and Emilie

Josh, Lou and Emilie at the author party

I squeezed in 189 words that evening before midnight, just so that I could get some words in on the first day.

Day 2 opened with me catching a bit of Ronlyn Domingue‘s panel before hustling over to the State Capitol to interview Josh. It was my first live interview, but it was so much fun that I forgot to be nervous and just enjoyed myself. Here’s a picture Maurice took:

Josh and Emilie in conversation

Josh and Emilie in conversation

Later in the day, I popped in on Mary Manhein and Susan Larson‘s panels before heading over to Peauxdunque‘s Panel on writing groups. Then we headed over to Barb Johnson, Summer Wood and T. Geronimo Johnson‘s panel together. We wrapped up our festival experience by taking this photo:

Peauxdunque at the Louisiana Book Festival

Peauxdunque (Tad Bartlett, Terri Shrum Stoor, me, Maurice Carlos Ruffin and Susan Kagan) at the Louisiana Book Festival

It was a long, enormously fun day, so I was exhausted by the time I got home from Baton Rouge. I wrote just to add to my words, but I only managed 280 words before passing out.

Today, Day 3, has been a recovery day for the most part. Though, I word warred with RedStickRedHead and eked out another 461 words. My friend, cupcake on the NaNoWriMo site, is also working on an ongoing book, so we met up at our NaNo headquarters and we talked about how we may have to count our NaNo in hours, as well as words, since we’re doing some editing as well as writing. We’ll see how it will all come together. We’ll be further along than we are now, even if we don’t “win.”

Total words so far: 930. Hours: maybe 1

 

1 Comment

Filed under Friends, literature, NaNoWriMo, travel, writing updates

The Grandma Road Trip – Leg Three

Leg Three: Acworth to Columbus, 536.6 miles

Sunday, September 2nd: Mums and I set off reasonably early. She drove the entire way to Columbus while we listened to a fluffy Janet Evanovich audio book and I played with my new iPhone, which I’d gotten the day before. Considering I live in New Orleans, which is so flat it’s sunk in, I was pretty enamored with the mountains of Tennessee. Case in point (and I took about a hundred of these):

I was looking for postcards along our way to send back home. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a postcard in Tennessee, especially on the Sunday before Labor Day when all the welcome centers are closed. It turns out that very few gas stations actually carry them anymore, which is kinda sad. I did manage to find some.

We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel, where I was amused by the “low carb” options on the menu. Maybe they are prepared pretty healthily, but none of these would occur to me as particularly low carb. Except maybe the trout.

As soon as we got to Columbus, we met my relatives at a Bob Evans. I was a bit exhausted (being out late finally caught up with me) and was feeling kinda cranky, but it was so nice to see them. It’s been a very long time since we’ve all been together. We laughed a lot, especially while my family tortured our extremely  good-natured waiter.

That evening, Grandma S. gave me a book called The Ringling Legacy and it occurred to me that she’s basically been doing research for The Winter Circus since before I was alive. A few years ago, she drove me to Bowling Green to interview Montana Miller, who I later became friends with, and Montana mentioned an old television special she’d been featured in and Grandma S. said, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” I thought she was just making it up, but she and Montana swapped details about the special. She has collected clowns my entire life, which is probably the reason they’re my least favorite part of the circus. But clearly, she has something to do with that seed of circus love that has always existed inside me.

Monday, Septempter 3rd – Wednesday, September 5th: Over the next few days, Mums and I did a lot of fun stuff with our Columbus relatives. We all got slaughtered in miniature golf by Grandma S. We cheered my aunt R.‘s over-40 soccer league game, where her team kicked ass and where, I have to admit, I snorted a bit rudely with a lady complained about the “humidity” on a cool, breezy evening. I *wanted* to say, “Really, lady, if you want to complain about humidity, go visit New Orleans where *any* day is going to be more humid than this pretty, breezy evening in September.” But, that would’ve been even ruder. We helped Grandma S. clean and organize her basement a little, though I wish we could’ve helped more. Three generations of book lovers visited a great, used bookstore in an old church, which was mighty dangerous. But probably my favorite moment is when we all watched So You Think You Can Dance together. Mums, my aunt R. and I are all huge fans and Grandma S. seemed to enjoy herself as well. We were loud and enthusiastic and it was so much fun.

Grandma S gloating over her putt putt victory (just a little).

And as for the home thing that Mums brought up before the second leg of the Grandma Road Trip – Mums grew up in Columbus and I was born there. While we moved to Georgia when I was very little, I do recognize a lot from other visits and there’s something a little primordial about being there. It’s the original home, maybe, even if I haven’t lived there in my own sentient memory. Each leg of this trip so far has been going backwards to an older version of home.

3 Comments

Filed under family, musing, The Grandma Road Trip, travel

My end of 2011 homework

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

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

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

And now, 11 Things About 2011:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Comment

Filed under book news, bragging on, musing, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, New Orleans Film Industry, writing updates

Fess Up Friday – The Mission Possible Edition

I really should’ve updated last Friday, because I had something amazing to write about. Though, I was probably too wiped out from the amazing thing to write about it so immediately.

I’ve been making a list for myself of contests I want to submit writing to, of residencies and grants I want to apply for. And their deadlines. I’ve been checking the list every day and since I just made it, some of the deadlines are coming up fast. You could say some of the deadlines are NOW.

So last Thursday, I had plans to watch the Saints game out with some friends and I canceled on them. I stayed home with the game on downstairs (my office is in a loft) and cranked out a 3,000 word story. from scratch. in three hours. And then submitted it to a fiction contest. While I’m not advocating reckless unprepardness, I’m proud of myself for refusing to let the deadline daunt me. Submitting is the thing. Winning would be nice, but submitting is the objective. Creating the work and putting it out in the universe instead of holding it back till its perfect. Perfect sounds like a great idea–and it is, in moderation–but for a perfectionist like me, who’s developed an unfortunate and chronic case of lily-liver, perfect is dangerous. I’m a good writer. And I’m a good editor. I can be good at those things forever and perfect a thing to death, never letting it see the light of day outside of a few readers. OR, I can be brave and put my work out in the world, let it have a test run and see how it looks when it returns.

The best part of this mad dash to write a story was that my sister and I did it together, counseling each other in phone conversations and via text. And we both submitted to the contest.

So that was last Thursday.

This Thursday, yesterday, had a sense of deja vu. The day followed an almost identical path. I had plans with friends to watch the Saints game. And I canceled. To stay home and put together my submission for another fiction contest. The friends were supportive last week and rather incredulous this week. And while it sucked to disappoint them and ground myself to the house, the postmark deadline is today and I have a busy day, so I had to prepare the submission last night if it was ever going to get done. And it had to get done. Or else.

This time, I took a different path. I submitted a discarded chapter from my novel The Winter Circus, a chapter which doesn’t belong in the novel anymore but I’ve always loved. The events still take place in the world of the novel, but the readers don’t get to see it in real-time action anymore. It might be referenced by characters in passing, but won’t be fleshed out. So, it’s perfect. The chapter was under the word limit and required very little tweaking, as it was already pretty strong as a stand-alone. And since the chapter no longer exists in the novel, publication in a magazine is a way it may potentially reach readers.

Again, my sister and I had a war council as we decided to beat the deadline and submit regardless of the obstacles. The last I heard, she had an idea and was rolling with it. So, submitting is the thing. As Jamey always says, you gotta play the literary lotto. If you wanna win, you gotta buy a ticket.

In between these two Deadline Thursdays, I applied for a residency. Don’t worry, I took a bit more time with that one and wasn’t quite as crunched against the deadline. And now, I’m armed with a list and building the battle plan. I’ll have my war council convene as needed. We are fierce and we’re already winning.

P.S. If you’ve sensed a new determined, even war-like, attitude from me about my writing lately, I’d have to say a lot of it probably comes from reading The War of Art, which is the best and the scariest and the truest writing book I’ve read yet.

6 Comments

Filed under Fess Up Friday, freelance work, Friends, New Orleans, writing updates

My end of 2010 homework

A short while back, Jamey gave me some homework. She said (a loose quote here), “I don’t think you realize how much you’ve done and accomplished this year. I’m assigning you homework. You have to make a list of everything you’ve done in 2010.”

So, finally, I’m doing my homework. Here it is, 10 things I accomplished in 2010:

1. I’ve worked on five movies

In January, I worked for 2 days on the set of Legendary (Brother’s Keeper) and then went on to work on three more WWE Studios movies, up till October. Currently, I’m working on So Undercover. That’s five and that’s a lot in one year, as I’m realizing.

2. I watched a lot of football

I’ve always been a Saints fan, at least in theory. I became a fan in practice during 2009, but in the aftermath of our Super Bowl win (that could be its own entry on the list – I witnessed the Saints winning the Super Bowl!) and now, in this new season, I’ve been watching a lot of football. I’ve only missed one Saints game this season.

3. I started a major revision of my novel

I haven’t finished, but I began (and progressed pretty far) with what I hope will be my final draft before I finally send this baby out into the world — to agents first and then to editors at publishing companies, and then to actual real people who read, complete with hardback gift wrapping.

4. I had major surgery

And came face-to-face with the realities of physical recovery. And asked for help. And forced myself to rest.

5. I had a public disagreement with OffBeat Magazine

I, and several others, publicly and loudly disagreed with the image on OffBeat Magazine‘s March cover. This brought me a great deal of stress and frustration, although there was a bit of a surge in traffic here on my blog and I was quoted in the Huffington Post.

6. I escaped from the Book Section

I had the chance to write a piece for 225 Magazine that started out being a review of The Dictionary of Louisiana French and ended up being about so much more, including the grim situation at LSU lately. Not only was it longer than most of my published pieces, it was in the front half of the magazine, which was a personal first.

7. I published more than ever

And there’s nothing wrong with the Book Section (at all!), as I had more pieces (mostly book reviews) published in 225 Magazine this year than all the previous years I’ve written for them – combined. I continue to be honored and challenged and inspired in my work with this phenomenal magazine. Additionally, my web presence was stronger than ever, between my growing blog, my continued work with PureSYTYCD and a few posts I did for Write or Die.

8. I hung out with rock stars

Halfway through the year, I got the chance to interview Eric Ronick, the lead singer of the new band Black Gold during their New Orleans concert, I danced a little bit with Brian Viglione of The Dresden Dolls after their show at Tipitina’s and more recently (though I haven’t blogged about it yet), I met Mark Growden when he invited me out (via Twitter) after I mistook the date of one of his New Orleans shows and went out in the cold, only to be disappointed. I also went to Jazz Fest for the first time.

9. I started reading for Narrative Magazine

That one probably speaks for itself. I started out as an intern earlier in the year and was promoted to assistant editor around September.

10. I won NaNoWriMo

I managed to write 50,000 words during the month of November – despite my crazy hectic job, despite Thanksgiving and my parents being in town, despite not having a solid story or characters I was passionate about or interested in, I won!

Somehow, throughout the crucible that was 2010, I managed to (mostly) strike a balance between my consuming work in the film industry and my identity as a freelance writer and everything that entails. I grew my blog and spent a lot of time bragging on my amazing friends and family, something that makes me extraordinarily proud.

The balance isn’t perfect, of course, and there are still quite a lot of things I’d like to finish (my novel!) work out (my finances!) and do (travel!), but Jamey was right that I needed to sit down and reflect on everything that I have achieved this year. I feel much more prepared to tackle 2011 now!

5 Comments

Filed under bragging on, family, freelance work, Friends, movies, music, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, pop culture, writing updates