End-of-year plaudits roll in for Friends of Peauxdunque

Here in Peauxdunque, we are not just a bunch of navel-gazing narcissists (though we do not deny the charge), but we also want to celebrate the great fortune of our friends (hereafter “Friends of Peauxdunque” or “FOPs”)! The end of 2011 brought much in the way of good news for our various friends, auxiliaries, benefactors, etc. (NOT hereafter “FABFEs”).

Tom Carson‘s novel, Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter, was named to the Washington Post‘s “Notable Fiction of 2011” list; and was also included in a Vanity Fair article discussing trends in genre-bending.

Mat Johnson‘s Pym also appeared on the WPNotable Fiction of 2011” list, as well as Salon.com’s Best Fiction of 2011 list. It was also featured in Vanity Fair’s list of “The Best Books of 2011 You Haven’t Read” (which listing might be a mixed blessing, come to think of it). Actually, it might be easier to try to compile a list of the “Best of 2011” lists that Pym isn’t on. A small sampling of additional lists includes The Houston Chronicle, The A.V. Club, and Library Thing. Recall that Mat, winner of the 2011 Dos Passos Literature Prize, came and read at Peauxdunque’s Yeah You Write literary concert at Tipitina’s this past fall.

Tom Franklin, in whose workshop several Peauxdunqians landed during last summer’s Oxford American Summit for Ambitious Writers, has garnered a passel of awards for his novel, Crooked Letter Crooked Letter, including toward the end of 2011 the Crime Writers Association’s Golden Dagger.

Great work, folks. Peauxdunque’s glad to know you, and hopes 2012 brings even more of the same!

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Quick Peauxcrunque recap

There will be a proper debriefing and a full posting of gratitude and wonderment in the next few days, complete with the brilliant pictures taken by our many friends last night, but for now these quick thoughts on Yeah, You Write 

Terri spun golden morphine threads; and Kelly made us all dance uncontrollably and exclaim involuntarily and think unfetteredly; and Bill put us right there on a Staten Island street at four in the morning, where we were angry at the audacity of evil; and Amanda hung us in a tree, afraid of a washing machine, perfectly one with tornado-green clouds; and Gian made us the poets with him, and us of this city with him, and he created this “us” out of this crowd of “I”s; and then Mat “Poison in My Cock” Johnson — well, what more can you say — except there was joy and fear and intensity of a level even higher than any all night when Mat took the stage.

And then there was excellent Mr. Nick Fox, an emcee like no other (who you must employ for your next show, whatever it is, because you simply will not believe how he turns a mere event into a Spectacle)! And, of course, without DJ Seppe spinning the tunes before and during and after the everything, it could have been just another reading in just another room.

But this wasn’t just another room. This was Tipitina’s, the Temple of ‘Fess. We had writers on stage at Tipitina’s, goddamnit, and it felt right and it felt good. Thank you, Tip’s. Thank you, Terri and Kelly and Bill and Amanda and Gian and Mat. Thank you, Faulkner House Books for being there to sell our performers’ books. Thank you, Emilie Staat for making it all happen.

And that was the brief recap.

Yeah, You Write! Get PeauxCrunque with Peauxdunque …

Peauxdunque is one day away from the first Yeah, You Write event, a literary concert and DJ dance party (ya’ heard?) at Tipitina’s on October 13th! Doors open at 7 p.m. and show starts at 7:30. New Orleans poet and Emcee-extraordinaire Nick Fox will be presiding. Tickets are available online and are already starting to go; get yours now! Want to hear more about Yeah, You Write? Listen to this interview of Peauxdunquian Emilie Staat and featured performer Amanda Boyden by WYLD’s Hal Clark.

Our featured performers have been busy in the lead-up to Yeah, You Write, sharing their insights on writing and living in interviews by Peauxdunquians Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Emilie Staat, and Tad Bartlett. Check out the interviews with Mat Johnson, Amanda Boyden, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Bill Loehfelm, Gian Smith, and Terri Stoor, then get ready for some great, one-of-a-kind wordage and a Peaux-Funquey dance party at Tip’s, tomorrow!

PWA Interviews Mat Johnson

Mat Johnson, winner of the Dos Passos Prize for Literature for his novel Pym, will be reading at the literary concert Yeah, You Write this Thursday at Tipitina’s. Recently, Peauxdunquian Maurice Carlos Ruffin asked Mat some questions.

A Conversation with Mat Johnson

MCR: Where does a story begin for you?

MJ: To me, it’s more about what it ends. I look at story as the ride towards epiphany. Something important is realized, either by the characters or the reader. What comes before that is the facts that lead up to that point.

MCR: What balance do you try to achieve between characterization and plot?

MJ: Characters have to be real enough that you care what happens to them, and there has to be enough plot that we don’t get bored just looking at them. The rest is defined by whatever story you have to tell. If the story demands more action, it will make less time for character development. If the story is an internal journey, that makes less time for demanding plot devices. The key is to figure out what kind of story you are trying to tell and then feed it what it needs.

MCR: Do your characters choose their actions or do you?

MJ: I sit there typing and try not to bore myself. So I write myself into moments even I didn’t expect. Enough of those, and the characters start looking like people I didn’t consciously intend for them to be. From there, I consciously try and build on those traits. So it’s a trade off. The art is knowing when to control the page and when to let it run wild.

MCR: What do you do when you’re having a difficult time with a story?

MJ: I walk away from the page. I talk it out with friends. Usually, it’s going rough on the page because there is something I missed, something I’m not understanding, because now I’m reading it and going, “Naw, something’s off.” When I can come up with a way to rethink what I’m working on, then I come back to it.

MCR: What is the best bit of writing advice you’ve gotten?

MJ: “This reads like I’m stuck next to some guy on a plane and forced to listen to his life story. But I’m not stuck. And I can just put it down and walk away.” Michael Cunningham told me that about a book I was writing. It was great advice, because it got through my thick head that my book was not interesting. It gave me the strength to walk away from it and try to write a book that was actually engaging. That ended up being Drop, my first published novel.

MCR: What has been the most surprising thing about the professional writing life?

MJ: That it doesn’t pay shit. I thought I’d be living on a boat by now.

The last two questions were offered by Evelyn Alfred, who is hosting a Pym discussion group on Twitter.

EA: Is there a specific reason why you didn’t discuss the experience on Tsalal?

MJ: Yes. I don’t like to go into breakdowns of my work, I like it to be digested by the reader without my extra-guide, but the ending mirrors Poe’s original ending. Much of Pym is referenced from moments in the original material, but I have my own meanings for them.

EA: What happened to “White Folks” the dog?

MJ: I refuse to talk about White Folks! That would be racist!

Mat Johnson will read at Yeah, You Write, Thursday at Tipitina’s.

Yeah, You Write: Tickets on sale online

You can now purchase tickets online for the Yeah, You Write event, right now! Get yours ahead of time, before the room fills up.

Mat Johnson, Amanda Boyden, Bill Loehfelm, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Gian Smith, and Terri Stoor! Emcee’d by Nick Fox! Dance party following, with DJ Sep spinning the tunes! Drinks served up by Tip’s!

Yeah, You Write!

A year ago, the Peauxdunquians had a vision, a collective vision of a city with vast cultural resources — artists and musicians and writers and chefs, all striving for funky and ultimate soulful expression, celebrated not just by their peers but by ecstatic audiences, too. And then we realized that vision was the place where we live, right here in New Orleans. We flock to restaurants to share the creations of our artistic chefs; we jam our clubs to listen to bands who play our music. And now it’s time to step it up for another group of our artists, the nationally acclaimed writers of our city and our region.

New Orleans and the South have always been a city and a region of incredible writers. They can be as much our rock stars as our musicians are, and now they are coming together in one of our grand temples: Tipitina’s uptown, the altar of ‘Fess himself, will be hosting the first Yeah, You Write event, on October 13, 2011, from 7:00 until the celebration ends. Six great writers, emcee’d by local poet 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.