Peauxdunquian Maurice Carlos Ruffin will join a stellar line-up of writers at the Stark Nature reading on October 3rd. Maurice joins extraordinary poet Carrie Chappell, as well as Margaret Wrinkle, Chloe Lee, Chris Lawson, and Daniel Lang. They’ll be at the Marigny Opera House, 725 St. Ferdinand Street, NOLA, beginning at 7 p.m. A $15 fee is the suggested cover.
At the annual awards banquet for UNO’s Creative Writing Workshop, Peauxdunquian Maurice Carlos Ruffin was presented with the Joanna Leake Prize for Fiction Thesis, awarded to the best fiction collection by a graduating MFA student, for his collection, It’s Good to See You’re Awake. In addition, great friend of Peauxdunque Che Yeun received the Ernest Svenson Fiction Award for her fantastic story, “Yuna.”
This weekend also held the third in the month-long series of Sunday Shorts short story readings at the Red Star Galerie at 2513 Bayou Road, featuring readings by members of the MelaNated Writers Collective and Peauxdunque. Terri Shrum Stoor and Jeri Hilt both read captivating stories to a standing-room-only audience. The last in the series is this Sunday, May 19, at 8 p.m., featuring readings by MelaNated’s Danielle Gilyot and Peauxdunque’s Tad Bartlett.
Peauxdunquian Tad Bartlett will be reading from his fiction at the next Gold Room reading on April 18, part of the UNO MFA program’s Creative Writing Workshop. Also reading will be Neil Ranu (fiction), Alex Reisner (non-fiction), and Nordette Adams (poetry). The Gold Room happens at Handsome Willie’s, 218 South Robertson Street, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Free admission.
Peauxdunquian Maurice Carlos Ruffin will be featured with others at three readings in the next two weeks.
First up, this Thursday, March 21, Maurice will be reading fiction at the UNO Gold Room at Handsome Willie’s, 218 South Robertson Street, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Also reading at the Gold Room will be Stephanie Doyle (fiction), Laura McKnight (non-fiction), and Ben Sines (poetry). Free admission.
Maurice will next be reading on Friday, March 22, at the Melanated Writers Collective’s Literary Jook Joint, at the M. Francis Gallery, 604 Julia Street, beginning at 8 p.m. Maurice will be part of a stellar line-up, including Yeah You Write alums Kelly Harris DeBerry and Gian Smith, and fellow Melanated Writers Dr. Gee Love and Mary Webb. $15 admission for a great night of words, food and drinks included ($10 with student ID), in conjunction with the Tennessee Williams Festival.
Finally, Maurice will be reading at the next installment of the 17 Poets! series on Thursday, March 28, with Katarina Boudreaux. The series occurs weekly at the Gold Mine Saloon, at 701 Dauphine Street, with readings beginning at 8 p.m.
Another month, another set of publications and other writing recognition for the fine folks of Peauxdunque and their good friends …
Terri Stoor and Maurice Ruffin have had work selected for the upcoming New Orleans By New Orleans book project, which should come out at the end of this month. Joselyn Takacs, currently in Baltimore working on her MFA at Johns Hopkins, has the Story of the Week at Narrative, “Flares of Little Warning.” Also, Arion Berger and Tom Carson both have stories in the latest issue of Black Clock. Tad Bartlett has been admitted to the MFA program in fiction at UNO’s Creative Writing Workshop, where he will begin this fall.
A Conversation with Amanda Boyden
Maurice Carlos Ruffin: Where does a story/novel begin for you?
Amanda Boyden: If I’m in the nascent stages of a novel, I’ve usually decided on my characters. I know who they are and how they’ll respond to most anything. The characters help me write the rest. Seriously. I tend to determine a handful of plot points, maybe a dozen or so, and let my characters lead the way from one to the next. I love how my peeps occasionally surprise me.
I don’t write stories that often any more, but when I do, they usually spring from something small, an observation or glimpse of a slice of life that’s odd or unusual. I watched a kid kick a dying pigeon down the length of a street gutter once, twenty years ago, and knew I had to write about it. A shirtless man falling off his bike. A neighbor running out of her bright blue house paint before she’s reached the roof. Those sorts of moments.
MCR: What balance do you try to achieve between characterization and plot?
AB: All readers have particular tastes. I know a number of current graduate students who are perfectly content to read a story where very little happens. I, on the other hand, have a pretty good-sized appetite for plot. I like stuff to actually happen in a story or novel. But that said, if I can’t inhabit the protagonist’s brain and body, I’m not at all interested in what’s happening, plot-wise. I need to know a character through-and-through. So, I suppose I try my damnedest to balance both elements, to weight them as equally as I’m able.
MCR: Do your characters choose their actions or do you?
AB: I usually attempt to set up the obstacle course for the characters, but invariably they jump through the hoops and leap over the walls in a different order or bypass some rope swing altogether. The characters themselves regularly change their paths.
MCR: What do you do when you’re having a difficult time with a patch of writing?
AB: When I hit a section that isn’t simply flowing with the usual genius ease that I’m so used to–I’m joking!–I’ll double-back and reread/edit. A little like clicking on the refresh icon, I suppose. It helps put me in the character’s headspace, if nothing else. I do write from beginning to end without skipping forward, so my process can resemble sewing by hand, not liking a line of stitches and pulling them out, trying them again with more care.
MCR: What’s the best bit of writing advice you’ve gotten?
AB: Hmm. I like to think we all have little people perched on our shoulders as we write, keeping us in line, in check. Fortunately a good number of excellent writers (my husband Joseph Boyden being one of them) have told me in ridiculous harmony–I have a full choir standing on my shoulders–to not let my writing get too precious. I’m utterly in love with the word, so I have to guard against my line writing usurping character or plot. I’m always cutting away sentences or full paragraphs that my little shoulder people would call “too Too.”
MCR: What has been the most surprising thing about the professional writing life?
AB: Really? That I can live it. How many people get to live out their deepest, most heartfelt dreams? I’m living the life I imagined as a kid. Life is so beautiful and rich, and I get to write about it for a living.
Amanda will be reading new work at Yeah, You Write, next week at Tipitina’s.