More news than I can keep up with

Peauxdunque has become a big and busy place. We may have to have long, serious discussions about gentrification soon. But in the meantime I’ll scatter here a few of the bits of good news that I can, knowing that there is so much more that I can’t contain it all–and therefore neither can this website. My apologies, but also my happiness to share the following:

Always more news on the way, so stay tuned …

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Catching up with Peauxdunque: News on Zach, Maurice, Cassie, Nordette, and Tad, plus Words for Terri Sue

It’s been far too long since we last updated with goings-on in the land of Peauxdunque, and it’s been a long, busy summer. Even though I’m sure to leave something off, here’s at least a sample of all the news from our corner of Writer-Land:

Zach Bartlett’s book, Northern Dandy, has been released, and an official release party will be held on August 16, at Mimi’s in the Marigny (2601 Royal Street, New Orleans). Northern Dandy collects Zach’s humorous short prose and verse, originally performed with the popular reading series Esoterotica in New Orleans and his one-man stage show as part of 2015’s FringePVD in Rhode Island. His body of bawdy work ranges from multiple-choice misadventures and passive-aggressive etiquette advice to frisky formal poetry experiments, all undertaken with tongue firmly in cheek. Find out more about the release party here.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin has been busy this summer polishing his novel-in-progress. He also attended the VONA Workshop as a fellow in June, and is currently in Vermont on a “waiter-ship” at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Also, Maurice was invited to read his piece, “Grandma’s Books,” at the Bring Your Own storytelling series, which was captured and broadcast by WWNO. Finally, Maurice’s craft piece, “Stanislavski in the Ghetto,” about inhabiting characters and modulating dialect, was published by AGNI.

Cassie Pruyn, always busy with her Bayou St. John historical documentation series over at NolaVie, has also had a few more poems published. CutBank recently published three of Cassie’s poems, “Talk,” “The Week Before Christmas,” and “The Last Time I Saw Her.” Beautiful work, which you must go read.

Nordette Adams has also been busy on the poetry front, with her incredibly moving poem, “digital anthropologists find our hashtags,” published by Rattle. Written in the immediate wake of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, Nordette’s poem captures the sorrow and the struggle against resignation that this never-ending tragedy cycle engenders.

Tad Bartlett‘s novella, Marchers’ Season, was the subject of an interview by Susan Larson on WWNO’s The Reading Life. Also, Tad’s short story, “Riding in Cars at Night,” has been picked up by Eunoia Review, and is slated to run in late August. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for a link when it goes live.

Finally, as many of you know, founding Peauxdunquian Terri Sue Shrum has been diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer. She is undergoing treatment at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, and we are running a GoFundMe effort to help Terri cover her extensive out-of-pocket treatment-related expenses; there are a number of our writing friends who have donated signed copies of books as donation incentives, and we encourage you to go check it out (and then go back again as many times as you can–we’re closing in on $8,000 raised for Terri). Also, on August 30, 2016 (7-9 p.m.), we are hosting “Words for Terri Sue,” a benefit reading at the 3 Keys at the Ace Hotel, featuring readings by M.O. Walsh, Bill Loehfelm, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Nick Mainieri, Gian Francisco Smith, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Admission will be free, but donations will be accepted at all amounts, with a minimum suggested donation of $10. More details will be posted soon!

Upcoming Peauxdunque publications, and competition placings

As usual, Peauxdunque’s been a busy place, with plenty new publication and competition news.

Some excellent upcoming publications are in line already for 2016!

Check out our Facebook page for links to Peauxdunque work as it appears.

In addition, Peauxdunque again placed highly in the various categories of the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom writing competition, put on by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society in conjunction with its annual Words & Music Conference. Tad Bartlett and J.Ed. Marston‘s collaborative novel, The Truth Project, made the Short List for the prize in the novel category; Tad‘s novella, “Marchers’ Season,” was on the Short List for the prize in the novella category; J.Ed.‘s stories, “Search for Missing Girl Continues” and “Saying No,” were a Finalist and a Semi-Finalist, respectively, in the short story category; and J.Ed.‘s poem, “Ulysses on the Stoop,” was a Finalist in the poetry category.

Look out for news regarding Peauxdunquian readings during this year’s Words & Music Conference, October 29-November 1.

The Writing Process Blog Tour: Tad Bartlett

And now for Tad Bartlett‘s stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour’s four questions:

What am I working on right now?

I’m working on a linked collection of novella and stories tentatively called Joe Stories. What Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is to the movie and to Texas, Joe Stories aims to be to the novel and to Alabama. Joe Stories chronicles the maturation of Joe Alsobrook, from an 11-year-old malcontent fantasizing about escape above and out of his small, racially troubled Alabama town in the story “Tree Houses,” through a 25-year-old young man, not long married, calming into a love that overcomes a turbulent past. Each of the short stories picks up events as Joe grows up, snapshots in time and relationships. The short stories use Joe as the POV character, whether in first person, faux second person, or close third, while the novella (Marchers’ Season) tells the turning point event in Joe’s life–a series of protests during his senior year of high school–through the close third-person POV of Gray Alsobrook, Joe’s dad. I’ve been working on some of the stories in the collection since 2006, and hope to finish the novella and the collection by the end of 2014. (And I damn well better, because it’s my MFA thesis, as well, which I’m due to turn in by the beginning of January 2015).

How does the work differ from others in its genre?

Hard to say, because it definitely comes from a tradition, though maybe it differs in that it comes out of several traditions. I try to honor the lyricism and controlled abandon of the Beats, while paying close attention to the societal and intergenerational debt themes of the work of folks like Lewis Nordan and Barry Hannah and the other “grit lit” writers. At the same time, I hope the stories’ calling up of place is reminiscent of Tom Franklin’s work, among others. But really, how it’s different or distinguishes itself is a judgment to be made by readers, not me. I can only write what I write.

Why do I write what I do?

Because these are the rhythms and pictures that come to me. Because I hope through translating those rhythms and pictures into words, maybe I can understand myself better and how I fit in with the people around me, and maybe the same can happen for others who come in contact with the work. Also, because it’s fun.

How does your writing process work?

I think about a piece for a long time, trying to figure out how an initial picture can evolve and justify a full story, who a character in that picture is, where they come from, where they might get to in the story, what unique element or difficulty can pop up in the story. I do that figuring and thinking for many weeks, usually, between the pop of the initial idea and the sitting down to write it, walking around with it in my head, folding into it things I walk past on the street or articles I read or snippets of conversation I hear. But then I steal time from wherever and whatever I can, from job or from sleep, and capture it as quickly as possible, in a couple days at most. Then I let a couple very trusted and reliable readers tear at the draft. Then I straighten things up for a week or so. Then I let it sit. Then I revise it and wonder about completeness. Sometimes that’s it. Sometimes I revisit and revise and tear up and rewrite over the course of multiple years, with new pictures and stories working in the meantime that may or may not influence how I think about the pieces that are still in process.

The Writing Process Blog Tour: Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Over at his blog, Lower American Son, Peauxdunquian Maurice Carlos Ruffin has posted his response to the Writing Process Blog Tour questions; we repeat them below, in all their awesomeness!

1) What are you working on?

Quite a few things. I think I get more done when I have too much on my plate, so I tend to take on as many writing assignments as possible. I just wrote two essays, by request, one for a lit mag and the other for an anthology a colleague is putting together. I always have a short story in the oven because I love the smell of it when I come home.

But the real thing is the novel. I started the book about a year ago. It’s a majestic and terrifying beast. It’ll be a blast to ride when I manage to bring it to heel.

Writing a novel is like being a safe cracker trying to escape an underground prison that’s quickly filling up with water. Every ten feet there’s a new foot-thick, iron door that you have to find a way through. But there’s no better feeling than hearing those tumblers fall into place and breaking into the next room. Every time I push into an untapped section of the novel, I fairly float around town for the next week or so.

What’s it about? The novel is what would happen if Ralph Ellison and Vladimir Nabokov got into a fist fight in heaven and then made up and had a lovechild. I hope.

2) How does the work differ from others of its genre?

I guess we have to define the genre first, huh? I think of genre in terms of teams. There’s Team Thriller, Team Hogwarts, Team Quiet Family Novel. I like to think I’m on the same team as people like Mat Johnson, Victor Lavalle, Danielle Evans, Tayari Jones, Colson Whitehead, and T. Geronimo Johnson, although I’m probably the water boy, for now. Maybe Percival Everett is the coach. Who knows?

All of these contemporary writers make some seriously off-the-chain literature. It’s a golden age. The obvious similarity among us is that we’re all African-American, but everyone has a distinct style and world view. A Mat Johnson book and a Danielle Evans book have different key signatures, but they’re all great reads.

Of course, we’re all descendants of Charles Chesnutt, Richard Wright, Ellison, Baldwin, Octavia Butler, and Toni Morrison. I like to think that my work is different enough that if Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin were still alive they would come upon each other in an airport lounge and have this exchange:

Ellison claps Baldwin’s shoulder.

“I read the craziest book on the flight up, Jimmy.” Ellison searches for a vacant table. Not seeing one, he heads to the bar. Baldwin sits, too. The bartender wonders aloud if the men are semi-famous jazz musicians. They ignore him.

“Don’t tell me, brother,” Baldwin says. “The one by that Ruffin cat, am I right?” The men share a look of recognition. On the concourse, a golf cart full of elderly passengers rolls by, whirring, beeping. Ellison and Baldwin laugh and then laugh some more. Baldwin downs a shot of whiskey. Ellison glances at the overhead television and decides he doesn’t give a damn about the latest iWidget.

“But it was good, right?” Baldwin says. Ellison sighs.

“Hell, I wish I would have written it.”

3) Why do you write what you do?

Because it’s fun! Plus, I’m a writer who is lucky enough to live in one of the strangest cities ever. Today, I saw a man, his skin painted white, ride a tricycle past my office downtown. No one batted an eye. Last week, a guy took over a major intersection and played the bagpipes while wearing a kilt. People loved that guy.

I hope that long after I’m gone folks will read my work because they want to know what it felt like to live in a time and place where all of our national hangups were magnified by the third world, farcical, frontier quality of New Orleans. Most of America is troubled by racial tension, housing discrimination, economic inequality, vicious criminals, law breaking police, and governmental indifference. But down here we do it all backwards and in heels.

There’s simply no better place be a writer. If this city’s bizarre beauty doesn’t get your literary juices going, maybe take up gardening.

4) How does your writing process work?

I gorge on stories. I’m a story gourmand. I read a lot. I watch a lot of movies. I read fancy pants graphic novels and watch seventh-rate sci-fi shows. I talk to strangers in the line at the supermarket. I talk to strangers on airplanes. I talk to myself. I do all this to ensure that something is in there when I sit down to write. That something is voice. It’s kind of creepy actually. I write a few truly awful paragraphs and stop, sure that I’m a fraud. I come back the next day, erase most of it and then suddenly this other person is telling me what really happened. I become a glorified stenographer just trying to keep up. Later, I’ll go out for a jog and ask myself if I’m sure that I heard what I thought I heard. It’s during those jogs that the voice comes back and says, “listen up, bruh. You doing aight, but you jacked up the best part. This how it really went down.” That’s where the danger comes in.

I think a story is basically voice times danger squared. The voice must be so compelling that you would listen to it in a snow storm while wearing only underwear. And the danger must be so real that you get queasy and want to stop reading, but can’t.

Revision is what separates the girls from the women. Any writer can poop out better than average lines, but going back and thinking very particularly what you want the story to be—and then chiseling away until you have actually created what you envisioned: that’s dedication; that’s writing. Simply stated, writing is, like, 103% revision. Sorry, 107%. I forgot to adjust for inflation.

I wrap a story when I think I’ve nailed down a true voice telling a dangerous story. But really I have no idea whether what I wrote works until months or years later when some editor somewhere accepts it. Writing is a strange calling.

The Writing Process Blog Tour: Emilie Staat

Next Peauxdunquian up on the Writing Process Blog Tour is Emilie Staat!

What am I working on?
I’m finishing The Winter Circus, a novel I’ve been working on for about a decade, and a memoir about what Argentine tango is teaching me about my relationships and myself. The novel is in a much more “final” stage than the memoir, which is in the first, rough stage of its life.
 
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It’s too easy for me to get obsessed with this question and I think it’s healthier not to worry about it until the work is closer to being published. That being said, my work owes a lot to traditions that have come before, of course. I read a lot and very widely.
 
There have been a handful of “circus novels” that have been published in the decade since I started writing The Winter Circus. But each of those books is different—from each other and from my novel. They each deal with a different era or aspect of circus culture. The Winter Circus explores the tension between circus life and “normal” life, between family and identity, stories and lies.
 
As for the memoir, since it’s in the rough draft stage, I’m still learning a lot about it and genre is far down the road. I didn’t really allow myself to do any reading or academic research into tango for the first few years I was learning the dance. I love research! But, I needed to get out of my head with tango and stay in my body as long as possible. I’m only just now starting to read “tango memoirs” (they exist!) and other books about various aspects of tango.
 
Why do I write what I do?
How much time do you have? How many words do I have? I’m not sure there’s a way to answer this in a non-flippant manner, except to get really dark. I’m obsessed. All artists are. There are moments, thoughts, relationships, images and characters that rotate incessantly in our heads. Sometimes we can get them out through art, sometimes we just re-work the obsession in another project, another form. I’ve written fiction, poetry, screenplays, essays, tried to write short stories, so I write in whatever form I’m called to at any particular moment.
 
How does my writing process work?
I’ve always felt compelled to fit my writing around my day job, so my process has been a response to whatever was paying the bills at the moment. It involves a lot of journaling and jotting down notes here and there, stealing time in the evenings, on weekends and vacations to stretch the notes out into beefier work, to edit. That’s part of why the novel has taken ten years to get to this point. Also, I was teaching myself how to write during that time. I’m currently spending a month at a residency called Soaring Gardens and part of what I’m figuring out while I’m here is what my process is without the daily grind. We’ll see what I learn.
 
Emilie Staat’s novel, The Winter Circus, is about an aerialist who grows up in the circus, runs away to New Orleans and learns the value of falling. She is also currently writing Tango Face, a memoir about what learning Argentine tango is teaching her about personhood, gender dynamics and relationships.