Another “Yeah, You Write” in the books

The second installment in the “Yeah, You Write” word rebellion series let loose at Cafe Istanbul last night. Many people came together to fill the room and make the night a success, with readings and remarks from John M. BarryCassie Pruynjewel bushBenjamin PercyJoseph BoydenEmilie Staat, and Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly. Emcee Nick Fox moved the night along, regaling the audience with the exploits of the readers, while the photographs of L. Kasimu Harris and the innovative turntable work of DJ Seppe punctuated every point of the show.

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Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly came bearing gifts of moonshine, and read from the dramatic inundation scene from The Tilted World. Ben Percy’s dynamic reading from Red Moon was preceded appropriately enough by his horror-rendition of a line from the childhood classic, Good Night, Moon. Joseph Boyden came in from far travels and despite illness to utterly transfix the room with a chapter from his soon-to-be-released-in-the-U.S.-novel, The Orenda. jewel bush punched the lights out with her boxing-themed, coming-of-age-in-a-rough-world short story. And Peauxdunque’s own Emilie Staat and Cassie Pruyn brought intense and passionate memoir and poetry to the stage.

Leading them all off was John Barry and his reading from Rising Tide, followed by his remarks on the attempts of the oil and gas industry to rise above the law in Louisiana’s fight to protect itself from the increased storm risks caused by the industry’s destruction of wetlands (everyone, that message for the legislators was “Don’t let politics kill the flood authority’s independence,” and “Let the courts decide the fate of the levees lawsuit, not the legislature, because no one should be above the law,” and those legislators were Raymond Garofalo, Christopher Leopold, Neil Abramson, and Nick Lorusso).

A huge shout-out to the folks at Cafe Istanbul, without whom the night would not have been a success. Cafe Istanbul is clearly a vital heartbeat in the revival of New Orleans’ many communities, including its artists and writers. Also, many thanks to the good folks at Garden District Book Shop, who came through on short notice with the books that sold to the enthusiastic audience, making the night a further success.


Can you believe it? Tonight. The Second coming of the original “Yeah, You Write!” event. It’s more than a reading, more than a photo exhibit, more than a dance party, more than a night out on the most incredible town this side of the moon. It’s all of that.

It started as a vision, something slightly more than a whim. One night in late summer in 2011, Maurice and Emilie and Terri and I sat around and talked about it, put it into words: To put great writers on great stages, put them on the pedestals on which we put our musicians and other artists, take them out of the usual context, fete them. When it first translated into something real two and a half years ago, I was a bit in disbelief we pulled it off. And now we have the audacity to do it a second time, with the help and guidance of a host of new Peauxdunquians (April, Denise, Sabrina, and Kasimu) with another slate of amazing writers and artists. I’m still flabbergasted, and extremely grateful that all these great folks said “Yes,” then and now. These are my literary heroes, and many of them I feel lucky to call my friends now, too. We’re so happy to share them with you. Beth Ann Fennelly,Tom Franklin, John BarryJoseph Boyden, Ben Percyjewel bushEmilie StaatCassie Pruyn. Photos by the always amazing L Kasimu Harris. Tunes by the gifted DJ Seppe. Emcee’d by the extraordinary Nick Fox. We’ll see you tonight. 7:00 at Cafe Istanbul.

peauxdunque postcard final

The return of ‘Yeah, You Write!’

We’re excited to announce that our original event series, Yeah, You Write,” is back! Last time we billed it as a “literary concert”; this time it’s a full-on “word rebellion.” Back in October 2011, Peauxdunque launched its series of putting top writers on top stages, with our original event at Tipitina’s. This time around, on the night of April 18, 2014, we’ll feature writers, images, and music on the stage at Cafe Istanbul, at 2372 St. Claude Avenue.

MC Nick Fox, with Amanda Boyden, Gian Smith, Terri Stoor, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Mat Johnson, and Bill Loehfelm, October 2011

MC Nick Fox, with Amanda Boyden, Gian Smith, Terri Stoor, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Mat Johnson, and Bill Loehfelm, October 2011

This year’s slate of writers includes best-selling and prize-winning authors Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin, who will be reading from their new collaborative work, The Tilted World; Joseph Boyden, winner of the Giller Prize, whose new novel, The Orenda, has already been winning awards and praise in Canada and which will be released in the United States in May; John Barry, whose seminal work on the great 1927 flood, Rising Tide, informed much of The Tilted World, and who is currently front and center in a fight to stop a new great flood as southeast Louisiana washes away; Benjamin Percy, whose most recent novel, Red Moon, was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, IndieNext Pick, Amazon “Top Ten Best Books of May,” CNN’s Top Ten Books of May, iBookstore Editor’s Choice, and an Entertainment Weekly “Must List” selection; insightful local essayist and writer jewel bush, founder of the MelaNated Writers Collective; Emilie Staat, winner of the 2012 Faulkner-Wisdom Gold Medal for the essay; and stellar local poet Cassie Pruyn, finalist in the most recent Indiana Review 1/2K Prize.

Music for the event will be provided by DJ Sep, and the event will feature the projected images of writer/photographer L. Kasimu Harris. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., with the words set to start flowing at 7:30. $5 cover charge at the door.

Our take on The Tilted World

Tilted World

This is an unauthorized account of the history of Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly in the development of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. And this is also to tell the rest of you why you must go out and buy The Tilted Worldthe novel collaboratively written by Tom and Beth Ann that goes on sale on October 1. First, the review. Then, an explanation – a history, if you will – of why we’re devoting space to The Tilted World on the website of the PWA. Following that, some important dates.

The Tilted World

Tom (SmonkHell at the BreechPoachers, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) and Beth Ann (Great With Child: Letters to a Young MotherTender HooksUnmentionables, and A Different Kind of Hunger) have teamed up for that rarest of artistic collaborations: the successful collaboratively written novel. The Tilted World is the result of that project, seamlessly melding Tom’s travels in the violent and yearning heart of raw characters with Beth Ann’s gift for the lyrical and precise exploration of fierce human experience.

The Tilted World takes place primarily in and around the fictional Mississippi town of Hobnob, at the time of the great flood of 1927. The book traces the path of Dixie Clay into her marriage to moonshiner-extraordinaire Jesse Swan Holliver, an initially passionate relationship that diminished into a hard-fought business proposition after the loss of their only child. Jesse sold the shine, while Dixie distilled the most highly sought-after spirits in the region (the descriptions of Dixie’s craft might make the driest reader thirst for a nip of her goods). At the same time, Tilted World traces another path, that of revenue agent Ingersoll, dispatched with his partner Ham to the area of Hobnob, first to investigate the disappearance of two other revenue agents and then to investigate rumors of a plan to blow the levee to take pressure off downriver New Orleans. When Ingersoll comes across a crying infant at the bloody scene of a violent armed robbery, his own past as an unwanted orphan drives him to find a welcoming home for the baby, leading him to Dixie’s front porch. From that point (at the business end of Dixie’s rifle), Ingersoll’s and Dixie’s paths are inextricably linked, swirling around each other in tighter and tighter concentrices until they are bound to intersect in a place where the world is upside-down and mostly drowned.

Along the way, Tom and Beth Ann take us through a world where moonshine whiskey flows as fast as the swollen river, where no one can tell the difference between those who’ll do anything to save their town from those who have been corrupted by money and drink to sell the town down the river, a real world with strong women, crooked men, camaraderie, betrayal, and love. The book travels through taverns, general stores, the front lines of the first Great War, explosions, deluges, inundations, orphanages, Chicago blues joints, Alabama backwoods, Mississippi hard-scrabble cropland and backswamp. No line is delivered in tired or expected prose. No words are wasted.

It’s a fast and beautiful ride. Buy it. Read it.

Tom, Beth Ann, and Peauxdunque

Early, before there was a Peauxdunque, I first met Tom at the Words and Music Conference in New Orleans right after his novel Smonk came out. Smonk is a violent carnival of a word-ride (or a word carnival of a violent ride), a mind-blower. But it was a great introduction for me to a writer who grew up and wrote about the places near and around where I grew up, both of us from similar podunks in the central Alabama woods and riverplains.

A couple years later, not long after Peauxdunque was born, Peauxdunque denizen Maurice Carlos Ruffin was a finalist in the short story category of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom competition, which Tom was judging. After he picked someone else as the winner and Maurice as the first runner-up, I accosted Tom in the middle of Royal Street late one morning during the Words and Music conference. I’d intended it as a joking, friendly thing, but I’d had a couple bloody maries, and I could tell from the look in Tom’s eyes that my intentions weren’t being served and that it was possible I was a crazy person. When Beth Ann judged the final round of the essay category the next year, where I had a terrible essay as a finalist, I did not repeat the performance when the piece didn’t place. (I also don’t intend to repeat the performance at this year’s conference, where Beth Ann judged the final round of the poetry category and a beautiful poem by Peauxdunquian Cassie Pruyn was chosen second-runner-up and Peauxdunque’s J.Ed. Marston also had a finalist piece.)

A couple years after the incident on Royal Street, as the PWA really started to grow up, P’dunque’s Terri StoorJ.Ed., and I were in Tom’s workshop at the Oxford American Summit for Ambitious Writers in Petit Jean, Arkansas, where we met soon-to-be members Emily Choate and Susan Bennett Vallee. A couple years after that, TerriJ.Ed.MauriceEmily, and I were in a workshop led by Beth Ann at the Yokshop Conference in Oxford, Mississippi. Seemingly at every step in the development of Peauxdunque, Tom, Beth Ann, or both, were there.

Some important dates

Catch up with Tom and Beth Ann on their book tour this fall:

Tuesday, October 1st
The Powerhouse Community Arts Center
“Tilted and Pickled” Book Release Party
with John Currence
413 S. 14th Street
Oxford, MS

Wednesday, October 2nd
Lemuria Books
4465 I-55 N
Jackson, MS

Thursday, October 3rd
Turnrow Book Company
304 Howard Street
Greenwood, MS

Friday, October 4th
Burke’s Book Store
936 S. Cooper Street
Memphis, TN

Tuesday, October 8th
The Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway

New York, NY
*Joint signing with Bill Cheng,

Wednesday, October 9th
Dekalb County Public Library
Georgia Center for the Book
215 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA

Thursday, October 10th
Quail Ridge Books & Music
3522 Wade Avenue
Raleigh, NC

Friday, October 11th – Saturday, October 12th
Southern Festival of the Books
Tennessee Humanities Council
301 6th Avenue North
Nashville, TN

Wednesday, October 16th
Alabama Booksmith
2926 19th Place S
Birmingham, AL

Thursday, October 17th
South on Main
(Reading, Performance & Signing)
1304 Main Street
Little Rock, AR

Friday, October 18th
Seven Chimneys Farm
145 Delta Avenue
Clarksdale, MS

Saturday, October 19th
The Weatherbee House
Signing during the “Hot Tamale Festival”
509 Washington Avenue
Greenville, MS

Tuesday, October 22nd
The Book Cellar
4736-38 N Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL

Wednesday, October 23rd
Highland Park Public Library
494 Laurel Avenue
Highland Park, IL

Thursday, October 24th
Boswell Book Company
2559 N Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI

Wednesday, October 30th
Jesse Yance Memorial Library
314 N. Newburger Avenue
Bruce, MS

Friday November 1st – Saturday, November 2nd
Louisiana Book Festival
701 N. 4th Street
Baton Rouge, LA

Thursday, November 21st
The Century Club
7 West 43rd Street
New York, NY
*Concert & Reading*

Friday, November 22nd
Capitol Books & News
1140 E. Fairview Avenue
Montgomery, AL

Sunday, November 24
Ben May Main Library
Bernheim Hall 701 Government Street
Mobile, AL

Saturday, November 23rd
The Gift Gallery
135 North Jackson Street
Grove Hill, AL

Tuesday, November 26th
Page & Palette
32 S. Section Street
Fairhope, AL

Friday, December 6th
Words & Music Festival
624 Pirate’s Alley
New Orleans, LA

Saturday, December 8th
Garden District Books
2727 Prytania Street

Cassie Pruyn second runner-up in Faulkner-Wisdom competition; and an interview

Peauxdunquian Cassie Pruyn’s beautiful poem, “Two Places,” was named second runner-up by judge Beth Ann Fennelly in the poetry category of the 2013 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Competition! Congratulations to Cassie! Also at the conclusion of judging, Peauxdunque’s J.Ed. Marston was a finalist in the poetry category with his piece, “Steel on Wood”; and Tad Bartlett was a finalist in the short story category with his story, “Riding in Cars at Night.”

Link to the full listing of competition winners and finalists.

Also, Peauxdunque’s Emilie Staat (last year’s gold medal winner in the essay category of the Faulkner-Wisdom Competition) was recently interviewed by Hothouse Magazine. You can read that great interview here.

Productions, books, and travels: A Peauxdunque update

We’ve been quiet on this site, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been quiet in real life.

Peauxdunquian Helen Krieger is busy with preparations for the production of Season 2 of Least Favorite Love Songs. The KickStarter campaign for the production has ten hours left. While you wait for Season 2, you can watch Season 1 here.

Peauxdunque founder Amy Serrano‘s latest poetry collection, Of Fiery Places and Sacred Spaces, is now available from Barnes & Noble. Amy has also learned that her twenty-page essay and photo project, From Punta to Chumba: Garifuna Music and Dance in New Orleans, on Garifuna women and culture, commissioned by the Louisiana Division of the Arts, will form part of a 5-10 year traveling exhibit on the diverse cultures and folkloric traditions that live within Louisiana.

Tom Carson, of course, continues to keep on top of things for The American Prospect and GQ, with his latest articles on HBO’s documentary, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, and on the Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing.

In traveling news, five Peauxdunquians attended this past weekend’s Yokshop Writers’ Conference in Oxford, Mississippi, workshopping with and learning from Beth Ann Fennelly, Josh Weil, Sean Ennis, Scott Morris, and M.O. Walsh, as well as drinking and hanging out with new friends alive and dead. Peauxdunquians in attendance were Terri Shrum Stoor, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Emily Choate, J.Ed. Marston, and Tad Bartlett.

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For another great slideshow of Peauxdunquians in action, head over to P’dunquian Emilie Staat‘s Jill of All Trades blog, where her latest “All Things Brag” post includes a collection of images from the Sunday Shorts Reading Series, featuring readers from both Peauxdunque and the Melanated Writers Collective.