Long live the Queen, Terri Sue

1459799_10152807263765907_2858705993901463190_nEarly 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-tattooTerri 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.)

Bird Dog” was subsequently published in QuarterlyWest. Here is a video of her reading “Bird Dog.”

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Words for Terri Sue: Wrap-up and photos

After the show: Nick Fox, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Terri Shrum, Tad Bartlett, Kelly Harris, Nicholas Mainieri, and April Blevins Pejic. Photo by L. Kasimu Harris.

After the show: Nick Fox, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Terri Shrum, Tad Bartlett, Kelly Harris, Nicholas Mainieri, and April Blevins Pejic. Photo by L. Kasimu Harris.

Peauxdunque shared a beautiful evening of love and generosity and art (so much wonderful art) with its founding member, Terri Sue Shrum, and with a large cross-section of the New Orleans writing and reading community on August 30, at Three Keys at the Ace Hotel. The event was our “Words for Terri Sue” benefit reading, to raise funds for Terri’s out-of-pocket cancer treatment expenses, and featured DJ’ing by DJ Sep (Giuseppe Catania); the New Orleans premier of Gian Smith‘s award-winning short film, “The Adulterer”; brilliant, touching, thought-provoking, and energetic readings by best-selling and award-winning writers M.O. Walsh, Kelly Harris, Bill Loehfelm, Nicholas Mainieri, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin; with the emcee duties handled with great spirit and skill by Nick Fox. The stage was also graced by Terri herself, with a tribute to all those who came out to make the night possible. We raised approximately $2,000 on the night, bringing our total fundraising for Terri over $11,000 in the past three months! And we’re not done, yet. Please visit our gofundme page for Terri, and keep your eye out for another fundraising effort in conjunction with the Words & Music Conference in November.

If you couldn’t make it (and even if you did), here’s a slideshow of photos taken by Peauxdunquian writer/photographer/renaissance-man, L. Kasimu Harris:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Words for Terri Sue: Featuring Terri herself!

Terri side by sideTomorrow night, August 30, at Three Keys (Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet, 7 to 9 p.m.)! We’ll have music by DJ Sep, emcee’ing by Nick Fox, and readings by a star-studded writer cast of M.O. WalshKelly Harris-DeBerryBill LoehfelmGian SmithNicholas Mainieri, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin. And now I can announce it officially that Terri Sue Shrum will be with us, too! She made a flight down from Atlanta, where she’s been undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and will join us for the benefit reading as we raise funds to assist with her out-of-pocket treatment expenses. Come early, stay late, and donate whatever you can. She’s a fantastic writer and fantastic friend, and tomorrow will be a good night. Three Keys asks that people RSVP here if they’re thinking of coming, so click that link and come join us!

Words for Terri Sue: Meet the writers, part 6

This Tuesday, August 30, a special coming together of the writing tribes (and those who love them, or at least dig them) will occur at Three Keys (at the Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, NOLA), as six best-selling and award-winning writers will present work at a benefit reading for Peauxdunque founding member Terri Sue Shrum. In May, Terri was diagnosed with inoperable stage-4 pancreatic cancer. Since then, Terri has begun chemotherapy treatments at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, and writers nationwide have come together to help with an active fund-raising campaign to help Terri with her out-of-pocket treatment-related expenses. From 7 to 9 p.m. on August 30, we’ll continue that, with tunes spun by DJ Sep (Giuseppe Catania) and an evening emcee’d by Nick Fox. Admission is free, and donations will be accepted at the door and throughout the evening; RSVP here.

Our sixth featured writer is M.O. (“Neal”) Walsh. M.O. Walsh was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is the author of the story collection, The Prospect of Magic, and the novel, My Sunshine Away, which was a New York Times bestseller and won the Pat Conroy Book Award for Fiction. His stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Oxford American, The Southern Review, and others. He currently directs the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans. Many thanks to Neal for joining our line-up Tuesday, along with Maurice Carlos RuffinBill LoehfelmKelly Harris-DeBerryNick Mainieri, and Gian Smith.

M.O. Walsh

M.O. Walsh

Words for Terri Sue: Meet the writers, part 5

This Tuesday, August 30, a special coming together of the writing tribes (and those who love them, or at least dig them) will occur at Three Keys (at the Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, NOLA), as six best-selling and award-winning writers will present work at a benefit reading for Peauxdunque founding member Terri Sue Shrum. In May, Terri was diagnosed with inoperable stage-4 pancreatic cancer. Since then, Terri has begun chemotherapy treatments at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, and writers nationwide have come together to help with an active fund-raising campaign to help Terri with her out-of-pocket treatment-related expenses. From 7 to 9 p.m. on August 30, we’ll continue that, with tunes spun by DJ Sep (Giuseppe Catania) and an evening emcee’d by Nick Fox. Admission is free, and donations will be accepted at the door and throughout the evening; RSVP here.

Our fifth featured writer is Kelly Harris-DeBerry, poet, teacher, Artrepreneur, and founder of BrassyBrown.com. Most recently, her multi-media poetic essay, “Dear Naomi (and Black Girls Everywhere),” received national attention when it attracted more than 3,000 views. Kelly has poems in the current issue of Torch literary magazine and a podcast on About Place Journal‘s website on Congo Square: Sustaining the Sacred Post-Katrina. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Cave Canem. Kelly’s performance background and MFA degree in creative writing/arts therapy places her on the stage and page. Check her out next month at the Black Arts Movement Conference at Dillard University. Kelly will be joined onstage on August 30 by M.O. WalshBill LoehfelmGian SmithNick Mainieri, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin.

Kelly Harris-D

Words for Terri Sue: Meet the writers, part 4

Next Tuesday, August 30, a special coming together of the writing tribes (and those who love them, or at least dig them) will occur at Three Keys (at the Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, NOLA), as six best-selling and award-winning writers will present work at a benefit reading for Peauxdunque founding member Terri Sue Shrum. In May, Terri was diagnosed with inoperable stage-4 pancreatic cancer. Since then, Terri has begun chemotherapy treatments at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, and writers nationwide have come together to help with an active fund-raising campaign to help Terri with her out-of-pocket treatment-related expenses. From 7 to 9 p.m. on August 30, we’ll continue that, with tunes spun by DJ Sep (Giuseppe Catania) and an evening emcee’d by Nick Fox. Admission is free, and donations will be accepted at the door and throughout the evening; RSVP here.

Our fourth featured writer is Bill Loehfelm. Bill is the author of the New Orleans-set crime fiction series featuring rookie cop Maureen Coughlin. The latest book in the series, Let the Devil Out, was published this summer. His other novels include Doing the Devil’s WorkThe Devil in Her WayThe Devil She Knows, and the stand alone novels, Bloodroot and Fresh Kills. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, AC Lambeth, a writer and yoga instructor. He also plays drums in a rock-n-roll band. Bill will be joined Tuesday night by Kelly Harris-DeBerry, M.O. Walsh, Gian Smith, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, and Nick Mainieri. See you there!
Bill Loehfelm onstage at Tipitina's, at the first Peauxdunque Yeah You Write event in 2011

Bill Loehfelm onstage at Tipitina’s, at the first Peauxdunque Yeah You Write event in 2011

Words for Terri Sue: Meet the writers, part 3

Next week, on August 30, a special coming together of the writing tribes (and those who love them, or at least dig them) will occur at Three Keys (at the Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, NOLA), as six best-selling and award-winning writers will present work at a benefit reading for Peauxdunque founding member Terri Sue Shrum. In May, Terri was diagnosed with inoperable stage-4 pancreatic cancer. Since then, Terri has begun chemotherapy treatments at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, and writers nationwide have come together to help with an active fund-raising campaign to help Terri with her out-of-pocket treatment-related expenses. From 7 to 9 p.m. on August 30, we’ll continue that, with tunes spun by DJ Sep (Giuseppe Catania) and an evening emcee’d by Nick Fox. Admission is free, and donations will be accepted at the door and throughout the evening; RSVP here.

Our third featured writer is Gian Francisco Smith. Gian is an artist local to New Orleans. Although most notable as a poet due to his work with the second season of Treme, Gian is talented at many crafts. He is a promising film maker. His short film, “The Adulterer,” which is currently in development as a series, has been screened at almost a dozen film festivals including winning the prestigious Remi Award at Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival, a distinction shared with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ang Lee. Gian was featured at Peauxdunque’s first “Yeah You Write” event in 2011, and we’re grateful to have him back on the line-up next week, alongside M.O. Walsh, Bill Loehfelm, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Nick Mainieri, and Maurice Carlos Ruffin.

Gian "The G-Perspective" Smith, Oct. 2011

Gian “The G-Perspective” Smith, Oct. 2011