2014 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition: Ruffin gets gold medal, Choate places, and other Peauxdunque finalists

The final results in all categories of the 2014 William Faulkner-William Wisdom writing competition (run in conjunction with the excellent Words and Music writers’ conference) have been announced, and Peauxdunque is proud to be the home of a new gold medalist: Maurice Carlos Ruffin has won the gold medal in the novel-in-progress category for his work, All of the Lights! (Peauxdunque’s previous gold medalists areTerri Shrum Stoor in the short story category in 2011, and Emilie Staat in the essay category in 2012). Of All of the Lights, category final judge M.O. Walsh observed:

All of the Lights is more than a novel in progress. It is an absolute gift. The story of a black lawyer in an all-white firm, battling personal demons and marital challenges, racism and the complications of ambition, this is a novel with every level of conflict you could ask for: internal, external, familial, racial, social, immediate, and looming. Yet, in spite of this, All of the Lights also manages to be quickly paced and funny. It feels heartfelt and true because the author is the real deal and his characters—BL, Penny, and Nigel—are the benefactors of his skill. So, of course, are we. This is a novel to fly through once for pleasure and then return to savor the little things you may have missed; all the gems scattered about in the author’s clear prose and insight. Ruffin seems to know what makes us human, what makes us interesting, and a book like All of the Lights, the promise of it, is the reason I read. I’ll be shocked if we don’t see this one on bookshelves soon.

Competition coordinator Rosemary James added that, in the novel-in-progress category, “All preliminary round judges selected one entry as the standout, as their first choice. … [A]ll of them sent back words to the effect: ‘All of the Lights is the clear winner.'”

Maurice also won second place in the essay category, with his essay, “A History in Motion.” Final round judge Jane Satterfield wrote, “The vivid and resonant prose of A History in Motion reveals a writer’s fierce ambition to survive and transcend a parent’s suffering, as well as heartfelt tenderness and hope despite the disquieting signs surrounding him.” The essay is already slated for publication in an upcoming Cicada magazine.

In the short story category, Peauxdunquian Emily Choate won third place for her story, “Sky Fire Shrine Machine”! Final round judge Patrick Samway commented:

This story dramatically relates how Nadine comes to terms with the previous amorous relationships of her co-worker Brant, as they sell fireworks whose names provide a wonderful description of their increasingly tense relationship: Incoming!, Napalm Rampage, Exploding Night Arsenal, and Last Chance. Such explosive pyrotechnic devices provide a wonderful comment on the structure of this story.

Other Peauxdunque finalists in the short story category were Tad Bartlett for his story, “Flock Apart,” and Maurice, with his story, “The Boy Who Would Be Oloye.” Emily‘s story, “Eufala,” was on the short list for finalists in the category, along with Tad‘s story, “Superpowerless.”

In the novel category, Peauxdunque’s J.Ed. Marston and Tad Bartlett were finalists with their collaborative novel, The Truth Project.

J.Ed. was also a finalist in the poetry category, for his piece, “Saturday Stops.” Peauxdunque’s Cassie Pruyn, the second-runner-up in the category in 2013, had another finalist poem this year with her piece, “Lost Love Lounge.”

The announcement with full results is here: 2014_Winners

The Writing Process Blog Tour: Emily Choate

Ganked from her personal blog over at emilychoate.com (with her gracious permission, of course), here are Peauxdunque’s Emily Choate‘s excellent answers to the Writing Process Blog Tour queries:

What am I working on?

The novel I’m currently writing is, at its core, a tussle between mother and daughter. I see them locked in prideful conflict, wrestling with what they’ve inherited, how far from their origins they’re willing to stray, and what forgiveness ought to look like. I’ll go light on the plot details just now, as I’m in full-bore composing mode (aiming to have it in shareable form by year’s end). Things can change quickly once the characters really let you in. That said, I’ll share that the book takes place in the late 80’s, set largely on a South Georgia catfish farm and in the Smokies of East Tennessee.

Among the swirl of things that currently appear in the book: naturally-occurring salt licks, solar eclipses, neglected orchards, blasphemy, your first microwave oven, homemade halter tops, Pigeon Forge pancake houses, catfish harvesting, what comes after you torch your life, scar tissue troubles, Minor Prophets, bobcats, and Purple Rain.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This looks to be a question about point of view. I tend to write stories that concern southerners making mischief under the nose of religion or the natural world, or both. I always want the voice to take on some flavor of the characters’ physicality, to build tension and conflict through that physicality.

Asked to draw distinctions between my work and others I’ve read, I would say that I never want my stories to read like intellectual exercises or demonstrations of the author’s cleverness. That bores me. Obediently cool fiction bores me. I want readers to develop loyalty to my characters, which is a visceral process, not an intellectual one. I agree with Flannery O’Connor that we convince through the senses.

Furthermore, I try to account for the life of the spirit in my fiction—for the possibilities of transcendence. But I want to achieve that through the physical world. For now, anyway, I’m only intrigued by writing fiction set in our world, rather than ventures into magical realism. Our actual world is wondrous and terrifying enough.

I’m still working to uncover whatever may be unique to my voice. That’s a life’s work.

Why do I write what I do?

I write the stories that show up at my kitchen door. What I mean is that the origins are not always clear and not always my business.

I have an ornery streak, to be sure. That part of my nature informs the work. I want stories that have some fight in them, that will misbehave a bit. For me, this is how the surprises are shaken loose. I don’t trust that I have a real draft until it’s got at least one good surprise—some element that jostles my approach.

Sometimes my nature gets into conflict with the fiction’s nature. So I try to keep a healthy respect for the works themselves. I try to shift the emphasis away from me and my bullish ego, so that I can see what the materials need. When I remember that I’m not the point, then the stories energize me. The privilege of spending time with this fiction is reason enough to keep writing it.

As to why I write at all (as opposed to, say, doctoring or competitive bass fishing), I don’t have a true answer, or even a noble-sounding pretentious answer. (I still tried coming up with one. Trust me, it was insufferable.) Writing is my most natural activity, and I cannot imagine myself otherwise. The Why is bigger than my ability to perceive it.

How does my writing process work?

Speaking of perceiving, one of my biggest concerns as a writer is figuring out how to stay open and receptive. A crucial aspect of the work is keeping my imagination alert. I always want to be willing to enlarge or redefine my vision, to be more awake to possibilities. That’s the long-haul process.

I’ve kept a journal for most of my life—sifting and shaping observations into sentences is now second nature. The journals also taught me to prioritize making time for the writing. Internalizing those matters long ago has made the discipline easier. I didn’t start the journal for those purposes (I suspect that, back then, I was preserving a space where my imagination wouldn’t get evicted once the social pressures of adolescence kicked in). But that training was invaluable and continues to be so.

Now, to take the piss out of my high-mindedness self. (See? Ornery.) At the desk, what I trust is good old fashioned trial and error, emphasis on the “error.” I find I get the best results when I’m the most willing to fail. I make a lot of notes, fill a lot of yellow legal pad pages, hoist it all up into a messy typed draft, and then revise, over and over. It’s an unruly process, but when it’s cooking, there’s nothing in the world I’d rather do.

2014 Faulkner-Wisdom lists are out, with some Peauxdunque representation

Once again, it’s the time of year when the lists of finalists, short-list for finalists, and semi-finalists are released for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition, held in conjunction with the annual Words & Music Conference put on by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society. And once again, there is heavy Peauxdunque representation on the lists.

Five Peauxdunquians are responsible for eight different finalist pieces in five different categories. Tad Bartlett and J.Ed. Marston have a collaboratively written manuscript named a finalist in the novel category. Maurice Ruffin has a manuscript finalist in the novel-in-progress category, and another piece that’s a finalist in the essay category. Emily Choate, Tad, and Maurice each have stories that are finalists in the short story category. And Cassie Pruyn and J.Ed. both have pieces that are finalists in the poetry category (Cassie was second runner-up in that category in 2013).

Also, Emily and Tad each had additional short stories that were named to the short list for finalists in that category. Final winners and runners-up among the finalists in all categories are scheduled to be named on or around September 25, Faulkner’s birthday, so stay tuned!

More publications, conferences, and another win

Emily Choate and Terri Shrum Stoor have been selected to attend the 2014 Sewanee Writers’ Conference! Emily, along with Maurice Carlos Ruffin and Dana Glass, has also been selected to attend the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop. Other Peauxdunque travels to summer workshops include Terri, J.Ed. Marston, and Susan Bennett Vallee attending the Yokshop Writers’ Workshop in Oxford, Mississippi.

On the publications front, Emily has two recent reviews out on Chapter 16.org: one of Tupelo Honey Cafe: New Southern Flavors from the Blue Ridge Mountains; and one of Southern Sin: True Stories of the Sultry South and Women Behaving Badly, an essay anthology edited by Beth Ann Fennelly.

Also, the wonderful book, Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, containing Maurice‘s excellent essay on the St. Claude Avenue corridor, has been selected as the book for the 2014 One Book One New Orleans project.

Among recent competition wins and awards by Peauxdunquians lately, Tad Bartlett‘s story, “Superpowerless,” received the Svenson Award for Fiction, awarded annually by the UNO Creative Writing Workshop. We also have news of another incredible competition win by a Peauxdunque denizen, but have to hold our huzzahs until that competition makes its official announcement; but when it comes, we’ll share a behind-the-scenes story of how it came to be. Stay tuned!

More good news from Peauxdunque …

As Peauxdunquians head down to the appropriately named Hopedale for their annual Writers’ Camp, we have a few bits of good news to report.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin has learned of three new publications! He will have his story, “Heathen,” published in Issue 2 of The Knicknackery; his story, “Motion Picture Making,” will appear in Writing Tomorrow; and his story, “Heroes and Villains,” will appear in an upcoming issue of 94 Creations.

Meanwhile, both Maurice and Emily Choate have been informed they’ve been selected to attend the Tin House Writers’ Workshop this summer!

More good news soon. Always …

A busy start to 2014 in Peauxdunque

There’ve been lots of doings in the land of Peauxdunque to begin 2014.

Susan Kagan has inked a book deal with Left Hand Press for her book, Avoiding a Perilous Path: Basic Wiccan Ethics, a book examining every mundane aspect of ethical behavior in a Wiccan’s life, from birth to death and all the epiphanies and drudgeries in between. Publication will be no later than early 2015.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin has learned that his short story, “Catch What You Can,” will be published this May in issue 11.2 of Redivider.

New Peauxdunquian Geoff Munsterman has been all over the place, presenting readings from his new collection, Because the Stars Shine Through It, including at the AllWays Lounge, at the “Meet the Authors of Lavender Ink” event at Faulkner House Books, and as a featured author, along with Maurice, at the upcoming Pine Street Salon hosted by Rodger Kamenetz and Moira Crone.

Tad Bartlett learned in January that his short story, “Superpowerless,” received an Honorable Mention designation in the November 2013 Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers.

Emily Choate continued her great series with Chapter 16, posting a review of Charles McNair’s Pickett’s Charge, his first book since his Pulitzer-nominated Land O’ Goshen nineteen years ago.

Tom Carson continues to write his insightful film and cultural criticism for The American Prospect and GQ, including his touching obituary in GQ for Philip Seymour Hoffman.

And L. Kasimu Harris had a successful solo exhibition of his photography at the Bellocq lounge, titled “Dreams Do Come True.” Proving the truth of that title, Kasimu also emcee’d the “Haute & Handmade” event, a showcase of Southern costume couture, at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on January 24.

MORE TO COME!

More Peauxdunque readings on the horizon

Tomorrow night (Tuesday, December 3) at 7 p.m., Peauxdunque’s Cassie Pruyn and Benjamin Morris will be on the bill of the 5 Writers reading event at McKeown’s Books and Difficult Music (4737 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans). Also on the bill are Geoff Munsterman, Matt Roberts, and Katy Simpson Smith.

On Sunday, December 15, beginning at 6 p.m., Peauxdunquian Maurice Carlos Ruffin will be among contributors to NPR’s Storyville project who will be reading at Siberia Bar (2227 St. Calude, New Orleans). Also reading will be Robin Baudier, Adam Karlin, Laura Janelle McKnight, Jonathan Brown, Daniel Lawton, and Phyllis Dunham.

And don’t forget, this Wednesday at 4 p.m., Peauxdunquians Cassie, Maurice, Emily Choate, Terri StoorTad Bartlett, and J.Ed. Marston will be reading in the Presbytere (corner of Chartres and St. Ann) as part of the kick-off to the 2014 Words and Music Conference.

Peauxdunque at Words and Music

The Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s annual Words and Music conference will take place from December 4 through December 8, centered at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. In just two weeks, a fantastic line-up of writers and scholars will convene with top agents and editors to discuss writing, publishing, and this year’s conference theme, “Faith and the Search for Meaning as Inspiration for the Arts.”

At 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 4, six members of Peauxdunque have been invited to join in a reading of new works related to the conference theme. Terri Stoor, Emily Choate, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, J.Ed. Marston, Cassie Pruyn, and Tad Bartlett will present readings alongside award-winning poet and non-fiction author, Rodger Kamenetz, and the associate editors of the Double Dealer, Caroline Rash and Geoff Munsterman. The readings will be at the Presbytere, at the corner of St. Ann and Chartres. A cash bar and complimentary cocktail snacks will be available, and a showing of Walker Percy, a new documentary film by Win Riley, will follow.

J.Ed., Terri, Tad, Emily, and Maurice will be reading during the Faulkner Society's annual Words and Music Conference on December 4, 2013.

J.Ed., Terri, Tad, Emily, Maurice, and Cassie (not pictured) will be reading during the Faulkner Society’s annual Words and Music Conference on December 4, 2013.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

On a rise over a holler

Writers Camp is where Peauxdunque repairs at the beginning of every year, to reflect on the past year and recharge for the coming one. Usually an overnight to a place appropriately called Hopedale, 2013 saw us take a whole weekend instead. Gathering from all points Peauxdunquian, eating at a place (appropriately) called Dreamland on the way up, taking roads northward pointing, dwindling steadily in lanes and traffic until it was dark, twenty degrees, on a one-lane, moss-covered track at the bottom of a holler, next to a brook, icy water over rocks, and the GPS saying, “You’ve come as close to your destination as you can travel by car. You must now exit the car and walk.” Up a rise that felt like a mountain but surely wasn’t, until all the travelers were together. Susan Kagan, who had secured the hilltop retreat from a good soul; Emily Choate over from Nashville; J.Ed. Marston over from Chattanooga-way; Janis Turk flown all the way up from San Antonio; and Denise MooreTerri StoorMaurice Ruffin, and Tad Bartlett the long drive up from New Orleans. At a place not near any other places, nameless, now called, appropriately, Peauxdunque, Tennessee.

Late into the night, twice, a whole day in the middle, and a far-too-short morning on the end, plus the long hours of driving up and back, there was solid talk about writing and reading and words. There were plans discussed, theses, novels, stories, essays. We took time to be silent and to write, to wander the hillside over fresh snow and under old stars. Below is a slideshow of some photos from our time, taken by Terri, Maurice, Emily, and Tad. We invite all to share; but I particularly invite Peauxdunquians to come back and view them and remember the times in Tennessee over the next year, when you’re feeling momentarily adrift. One more year, then we’ll do it all again.