The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival will be happening this weekend, March 22-26. Two of Peauxdunque’s own will be among the star-studded cast of writers among the Festival’s packed list of panels. At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 25, Maurice Carlos Ruffin will moderate “A Conversation About Race: Finding Strength for the Struggle in Great Writing,” a panel featuring Jericho Brown, Kiese Laymon, Bernice McFadden, and Kalamu ya Salaam. At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 24, Maurice and Tad Bartlett will join Kia Groom, Bill Loehfelm, and Trisha Rezende on the panel, “Can You Imagine a Better Place to Write? The Artistic Allure of New Orleans,” moderated by Carolyn Hembree, part of the UNO Panel Series at the Festival.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin‘s debut novel, We Cast a Shadow, has been acquired at auction by Victory Matsui at One World, Chris Jackson‘s imprint at Random House. Maurice was represented in the deal by P.J. Mark, of Janklow & Nesbit. We Cast a Shadow, set in a near-future Southern city, follows a black father who, desperate to save his bi-racial son from a world bent on erasing him, becomes obsessed with an experimental medical procedure to turn his son white. We Cast a Shadow is a family story that shines a million-watt light onto the American psyche and questions how far we will go to protect the ones we love.
Chris Jackson, formerly an executive editor at Spiegel & Grau, has also edited works by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Edwidge Danticat, Jay-Z, and Beyonce, among many other luminaries. We Cast a Shadow is tentatively scheduled for publication in 2019.
Early in the morning on February 15, 2017, Terri Sue Shrum, fiercely loving mother of three, strong and protective friend, and incredible voice and writer of the lives of the realest people among us, passed away in her sleep from the effects of pancreatic cancer. She was at the home of her brother, Jude, who with Terri’s family was tireless in his care of Terri. Terri’s family were like her friends, and she held her friends close like family. And, for our purposes, here, it is worth noting that she was the undisputed Queen of Peauxdunque, and always will be. Long live the Queen.
Terri Sue was among the founding members of Peauxdunque, gathered initially together in a French Quarter alley by Amy Serrano in November (some say it was October–regardless, it was cold) 2007. Terri has been a constant. Writers’ groups typically have a life span much shorter than ten years, but it was Terri who pushed us to realize what we could be, who underscored our importance to each other. And when things could have fallen apart at one of the many speed bumps along the way, it was Terri who got the tattoo. And who can let a group die once someone has permanently marked themselves with it? Not us.
Terri was no happy-go-lucky friend and writing comrade, but she demanded nothing but the deepest dedication on both fronts, and offered nothing but the truest loyalty on both fronts as well. And as a writer she was beautiful and muscular and visceral and smart and tender. In 2011, Terri’s story, “Bellyful of Sparrow,” won the gold medal in the short story category of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom writing competition. Judging the short story category was Harper Collins editor Michael Signorelli, who said of Terri’s story:
“A Bellyful of Sparrow” balances the horror of life with the humor. The mute, immobile, terminally ill narrator wryly observes the life around him, while also inspiring unexpected attention from friends and family. But what could be a dirge is instead quietly mirthful. The story upends expectation and strikes for the elusive territory between bemusement and solemnity. And carried by the strength of its naturally engaging prose-voice, it succeeds.
“Bellyful of Sparrow” was subsequently published in Missouri Review. Terri was also the first Peauxdunque member to be featured along with other notable writers in our semi-annual Yeah, You Write reading series; here is an interview we ran with her then.
In 2012, Terri’s essay, “Bird Dog,” was the winner of the Writers@Work essay competition. Contest judge Steve Almond had this to say about Terri’s work:
The prose is lyric, graceful, and fearless. And the evocation of place and character is astonishing. The events in question happened years ago, and the author brings her wisdom to bear, but never sentimentalizes herself or her father. (I held off on choosing this as the winner for a long time, simply because it’s only 1000 words, and I felt like I could have spent another 5000 with this author.)
Out of all of her publications and prizes, though, and there were others, my favorite–and I know one of the ones she was proudest of, was a quiet small little essay she wrote and had published in the Tampa Bay Times Sunday Journal, “Easier to Share Tradition than Words of Wisdom.” It was an essay about being a mother to her children, the thing she was most invested in, and about which I’ll most remember her.
Here are a ton of pictures of Terri in her role as Queen of Peauxdunque, with love:
Three more great bits of news from Peauxdunque. Foremost, peaux-et Cassie Pruyn has had her poem, “Traveler’s Monologue,” selected as one of only fourteen poems in the 2016 Best of the Net! “Traveler’s Monologue” originally appeared in Issue 5 of Border Crossing. Many congratulations to Cassie.
Next, J.Ed. Marston had his flash fiction piece, “His Face in the Light,” accepted for publication by the great Bayou literary magazine. This is J.Ed.’s print fiction debut, and it’s a wonderful piece; we’re looking forward to publication, which you can keep up with on our Facebook page.
Finally, Tad Bartlett will be one of two featured writers reading from their work in the Monday Nights anthology, along with Casey Lefante, this Thursday, February 9, at the main branch of the Jefferson Parish Public Library (4747 West Napoleon Avenue, Metairie). The reading will start at 7 p.m., featuring introductory comments by anthology editors Rick Barton and Joanna Leake, as well as appearances by other contributors to the anthology. Monday Nights will be available for sale.
There have been a ton of great developments for the writers in the land of Peauxdunque over the last couple months, so before we get too far behind, here’s the news:
Emily Choate‘s great short story, “Eufala,” has been accepted for publication by Shenandoah, the sixty-seven-year-old journal that has published the likes of e e cummings, Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, James Merrill, Ezra Pound, William Faulkner. and Flannery O’Connor. Emily’s work will fit right in!
Peauxdunque writers have also aimed their pens at the current political times, with topical publications by Kelly Harris (“Resistance Must be Personal,” on after i was dead); Maurice Carlos Ruffin (“Talking in New Orleans in the Age of Trump,” a podcast republication of Maurice’s LitHub essay from last November, on the Racist Sandwich blog; and “The Effects of White Supremacy Are Non-Transferable,” on LitHub); and Alex Johnson (“Election Elegy 2016: A Carpenter’s Prayer on a Walnut Bed in the Woods,” on Flagpole), in addition to Tom Carson‘s regular cultural and political insights, which have moved from his old post at GQ to his new digs at Playboy (see, for example, his most recent essay, “Alternative Facts Will Rule the White House: Let’s Not Take the Bait“).
In other publication news, Maurice’s gentrification essay, “Transition in New Orleans,” has been published by Room 220; and his new critical take on Confederacy of Dunces, his essay “Ignatius in the New New Orleans,” was published by Louisiana Cultural Vistas. Also, Cassie Pruyn had her essay, “Report From the Field: Speaking Into Silences,” published at VIDA Review.
In awards-season news, the slightly old but huge news is that Maurice’s short story, “The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You,” published in 2014 by The Iowa Review, made the list of 100 “Other Distinguished Short Stories” listed at the back of the 2016 Best American Short Stories, guest edited by Junot Diaz. Maurice also has two of his 2016 publications nominated for a Pushcart Prize, his short story “Children of New Orleans,” published in AGNI, and his essay, “Fine Dining in New Orleans.” His two Pushcart nominations join Tad Bartlett‘s nomination for his essay, “My Time With You,” published in 2016 by Chautauqua Literary Journal. AGNI also noted that Maurice’s essay, “Stanislavski in the Ghetto,” was one of its Top 5 blog posts for 2016. And, finally, L. Kasimu Harris‘s photography and writing work has been recognized with his naming as one of eight “Louisianians of the Year” by Louisiana Life.
Long one of our favorite poets (and now a member of Peauxdunque!), Kelly Harris will be featured by Larchmere Arts and the Nia Coffeehouse Poetry Series in Cleveland next Tuesday night, November 22. She will reunite with Vince Robinson & The Jazz Poets for a special show starting at 8 p.m.
Last week, LitHub ran a pre-election essay it commissioned from Maurice Carlos Ruffin, an incredible meditation on race, language, privilege, and political discourse, “Talking in New Orleans in the Age of Trump.”
Tad Bartlett learned over the weekend that his short story, “Anti-Heroically Yours,” will be published in January by Bird’s Thumb. He also found out that his non-fiction piece, “My Time With You,” which was published in June by Chautauqua Literary Journal, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. This is Tad’s second Pushcart nomination (his non-fiction piece, “Head Space,” was nominated last year by The Writing Disorder).
The writers and artists of Peauxdunque are dedicated to fighting, protecting, and expressing the strength of humanity, the love of our complex natures and collective worth, and the true freedoms of a people together. And we will never stop. With that …
We are all very excited to learn that Andrew Kooy will have his creative nonfiction piece, “Masochistic Tendencies,” published in Barely South Review in an upcoming issue! We will post a link on our Facebook page when the piece goes live.