Tag Archives: Yeah You Write

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

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.

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

‘Tis the Bragging Season

This bragging posts follows up on a few items mentioned in my last bragging post – Bragging on the River.

First, I really should brag on the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. We put on a stellar first event in our new series of literary concerts, Yeah, You Write. It was an unforgettable evening, made even more so by the participation of our exceptional performers (Amanda Boyden, Bill Loehfelm, Gian Smith, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Mat Johnson, Terri Stoor), as well as MC Nick Fox, DJ Sep and Lee Ware from Faulkner House Books. We’ve begun work on the next event in the series.

I’d like to brag on the folks at the State Library of Louisiana, who orchestrated yet another fabulous Book Festival. My only complaint is that I hope we’ll finally get a 2-day festival because there were too many incredible authors and events competing for my attention at the same time! They always pick the one day of the year guaranteed to be beautiful in Louisiana. I don’t know how it works out that way every year, but it’s always a good time to visit Baton Rouge.

Two weeks after the Louisiana Book Festival, Words & Music went down and one of the biggest highlights for me was the Awards Banquet on Friday. For someone like me, who lives to brag on my friends, the banquet was a feast of bragging. So many of our number were recognized, as well as new friends, and it was really thrilling and inspirational. But Rosemary and Joe of Faulkner House Books deserve a grand brag for all of their work on the conference, which is always an amazing experience and a lot of fun.

Flood Streets (a feature film by Peauxdunquian Helen Krieger and her husband Joseph Meissner) had an encore screening at the New Orleans Film Festival in October and they’re now offering gift packages to raise money for the next round of their festival tour. They’ve almost reached their goal – less than $500 to go!

I think Maurice Ruffin has made it a personal goal to be bragged about in all of my “bragging on” posts because he has yet another bit of publication news. His short short story “Mr. Face” will be published in Stephen F. Austin University’s Regarding Arts and Letters Magazine in April 2012.

Christopher Shipman‘s book of poetry Human-Carrying Flight Technology was published last month by BlazeVOX.

Hal Clark (also known as Harold Ellis Clark) of WYLD’s Sunday Journal has been named a semi-finalist in Organization of Black Screenwriters‘ 2011 Original Script Contest for his feature script, Chummy’s Spirit.

Ronlyn Domingue has signed a 2-book deal with Atria Books, the publisher of her first novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, for The Mapmaker’s War (Spring 2013) and Lead Us Whole, Beautiful Child (Spring 2014). Ronlyn’s been working hard on these two interconnected novels for the past five years and they’re highly anticipated!

DaVida Chanel‘s play Hip Hop Is Alive was performed last month at the New Orleans Fringe Fest.

Long-distance Peauxdunquian (while she’s studying writing at Johns Hopkins, that is) Joselyn Takacs is a finalist in Narrative’s 30Below Fiction Contest for her short story “Flares of Little Warning.”

Congrats to everybody and may the rest of the year be filled with good news to brag about!

 

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Filed under books, bragging on, movies, New Orleans

Yeah, You Write

WYLD FM aired an interview that Hal Clark conducted with Amanda Boyden and myself this past Sunday. So, even though I cringe at the sound of my own recorded voice, I’m including it here because this is going to be an amazing event on Thursday and I don’t want anyone to miss it!

Check it out:

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Filed under books, bragging on, Friends, literature, music, New Orleans, poetry, pop culture

Bragging on the river

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Baton Rouge, book news, bragging on, Friends, movies, New Orleans

Peauxdunque Writers Alliance Presents Yeah, You Write

In 2007, a group of writers came together under the auspices of the Faulkner Society and the Words and Music Conference and formed Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. The crazy name came about because each and every one of the writers felt like they’d arrived in New Orleans from their own private podunks.

And now, the PWA has created a series of literary concerts called “Yeah, You Write.” The first event takes place at Tipitina’s on Thursday, October 13th at 7:30 p.m. Six writers will grace us with their words and the event will be emcee’d by writer/poet/MC/tour guide Nick Fox and followed by the dance visions of D.J. Sep. All for only a $5 cover.

Come hear Mat Johnson (author of “Pym,” winner of the Dos Passos Prize for Literature), Kelly Harris-DeBerry (local poet and literary activist, and founder of the Literary Lab), Amanda Boyden (author most recently of “Babylon Rolling”), Bill Loehfelm (past Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award winner, author most recently of “The Devil She Knows”), Gian Smith (spoken word artist, author of “O Beautiful Storm,” featured in Treme Season 2 trailer), and Terri Stoor (PWA member and winner of the 2011 William Faulkner-William Wisdom short story competition).

These are the words of our time, our city, our region, and our Peauxdunque. We hope to see you there!!

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October 3, 2011 · 5:59 pm