WISHING YOU AND YOURS A SAFE AND HAPPY HOLIDAY!
See ya next year!
WISHING YOU AND YOURS A SAFE AND HAPPY HOLIDAY!
See ya next year!
I’ve read many books of poetry this year but none like “All Night It Is Morning” by Andy Young and published by Lavender Ink Press/Dialogos Books. The subjects of Ms Young’s poetry spans continents and cultures in a very personal voice including Egypt, Chile, Morocco, West Virginia, and New Orleans, among others. The book has a strong thread of disaster running through it; the struggle of life in the war torn Middle East, in the coal mines of West Virginia, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her voice clearly and bravely documents these events, the horror and the pain revealed with humility and grace. I particularly enjoyed her poems about West Virginia and the hard lives lived there in the coal mining community. The strength and purity of the people, her relatives, shone like a light of hope. I think my favorite poem in the book is Sower, written about her Grandmother. This passage in the poem just grabbed my heart:
She worked the earth through
drought and strike, through her
husband’s slow asphyxiation,
through childbirth and stillbirth
and bad blood even sassafras
can’t clean. When the trees were
chopped as easy as thieves necks
and the nearby mill flooded her field,
when she buried another daughter,
In fact, she writes a good deal about the struggles of women in war, in life, in love, in mothering. Her mentions of her own children are sweet and poignant and often shiver-inducing, such as this:
I study the flutter
of your breath, your arms
folded by your sides,
your ear that could fit in a thimble.
Your infant face is still
like glass as the children
of Qana are wiped of their dust.
New Orleanians and others who’ve lived in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will nod their heads, saying Yes! while reading her memories of that challenging time. Reading those poems brought back memories to me that I hadn’t thought of in a long time such as the sunflowers that sprouted all over the city in the inhospitable muck left behind. Remember how amazed we all were at the sight of those flowers? Her Katrina poems do not disappoint. Be prepared to find tears in your eyes.
While the mood of the book tends toward the dark side, Ms Young also gives us sunbeams as in the sweet (and another favorite) Meet Me in Morocco:
There are a thousand ways
to name the morning, morning
of jasmine, morning of lemon
blossom. Swallow my words
with your mouth. the earth springs
new beneath our feet.
Ms Young weaves the narrative of all these places and events throughout the book with a deft hand, sometimes intermingling them within a single piece which I found quite effective. This book was very satisfying to read and I find myself going back to reread many of the poems, finding even more layers each time.
Ms Young will be reading from this book Saturday, December 20 at Faubourg Wines, 2805 St. Claude Ave.
It’s Black Friday – the unofficial official first day of shopping for the holiday season for some people, but not all. If the thought of hordes of people pushing and shoving and grabbing for more and more stuff in malls and big box stores doesn’t appeal to you, you’ve come to the right place. You can watch all that drama later on YouTube and meanwhile make plans for a leisurely walk down Magazine Street or the smaller side streets of the Quarter or in a myriad of stress-free and friendly local shops around town tomorrow. In the spirit of encouraging New Orleanians to shop local, I’ve asked a few local women to tell us about their favorite shopping spot and/or favorite go-to gift. There are some great recommendations here and I’ve already visited a couple of them myself. Opt for a more friendly and civilized shopping experience this year – locally!
“For special occasions and Christmas, I often give my fiancé something from Perlis (he has a penchant for bow ties). He’s from Colombia and moved here a couple of years ago, so he’s building his collection of NOLA things! And, he wears scrubs everyday for work, so he likes to dress up every now and then.”
I’m a quilter, as are the other women in my family. My favorite place to shop for them is Mes Amis Quilt Shop, off Robert E. Lee on Spanish Ft. Blvd. Great modern fabrics and owner Denise Taylor has the best service ever.
—Judy Walker, Food Editor at The Times-Picayune
Fleurty Girl is my favorite place to shop for gifts because there’s something for everyone and the sales associates are knowledgeable and honest. There are books, housewares, high-end gifts, inexpensive trinkets, shirts, presents for babies, gifts for people you don’t know well, and the list goes on. The associates — from Lauren “Fleurty Girl” LeBlanc herself on down — try their best to help customers, whether that means pulling merchandise down, calling other stores, taking suggestions for new products, or anything else. I never leave Fleurty Girl empty handed.
As someone who never seems to know exactly what to get folks for Christmas, along with the fact that I hate getting things I simply can’t use, and know others do as well, I often do “homemade” gifts. Cookies, pies, fudge, candy, mixes and more!!
There is an amazing shop in the French Quarter that I simply LOVE. The Spice & Tea Exchange of New Orleans at 521 St. Louis Ave. The fact that I can go in there, and choose how much or how little of a spice I want rocks! And don’t even get me started on the teas!! So many to mix and match…tea bags, tea leaves, and everything you need to make the perfect cup of tea. Bags of spices that I use for everything from sachet’s to Apple Pie!
Making a small basket of natural spices in the raw, along with with recipes, and mixes and giving them at Christmas, I know will be a welcome gift every time, even if it’s just for the scent alone.
— Dawn Carl age 51 resident of NOLA for almost 25 years…. Pro Photographer, Professional Genealogist, Mother of one.
My favorite holiday gift is always going to be vinyl records – for ME. Just kidding! I love to give the gift of music, and concert tickets, record store gift certificates, or even a biography or autobiography about an interesting musician are some easy and fun ways to do it. I love to help people get music for themselves and for others, so every year I throw a little party called The Holiday Crate Dig at one of my favorite local record stores, Domino Sound Record Shack. This year, it’s the 8th annual event, and it’s on Sunday, December 14 from 3-5pm. Everyone’s invited!
Soul Sister ~ WWOZ show programmer, award-winning live DJ artist, music aficionado
There are so many local favorites but my go to that gets the job done is Aunt Sally’s Pralines shop because I love sharing anything food related from here.
I love pralines and so do relatives and friends out of town. I pick up pralines and many of the other great goodies the store carries. Wish I could send them a sample of all of our great local foods but this is a good sampler to get them coming back for more.
— Liz Reyes, Award-winning TV News Anchor/Reporter, WVUE Fox 8 News
Click here for 2013’s holiday picks.
The theme that emerged from this edition of Hot Reads is women who know who they are and are unapologetic. I love that. I love a woman who doesn’t follow the crowd, who goes her own way. Women like New Orleanian Dawn DeDeaux, actor Frances McDormand, and the iconic Janis Joplin.
From the New York Times: A Star Who Has No Time for Vanity
Tagline: Frances McDormand, True to Herself in HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’
Favorite quote: “We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species,” she said. “There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal.”
Note: I like this woman’s attitude; she’s fierce and definitely her own woman. Her acting skills belong in an elite league of strong women actors that, for me, include Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, and Lupita Nyong’o. If you haven’t seen Laurel Canyon, you must!
From Flavorwire: The Shocking True Story of My Life With a Flip Phone
Favorite quote: “And ultimately, not everybody has a smartphone. For one thing: they’re really expensive. I’ve been looking into it, and the initial expenditure is shocking to me. How do people afford and/or justify it? Then, regarding Apple products, it’s a lose-lose situation of predetermined obsolescence and keeping up with the Joneses, every year.” and “I find the addictive qualities of the smartphone, and how they’ve changed the way that people are present in public in cities to be somewhat disconcerting.” and…….THE WHOLE ENTIRE ARTICLE.
Note: I really liked this piece because I now know there are other anti-iPhone people like me out there. And, of course, I love that this young woman feels absolutely no peer pressure to have the latest technology.
And speaking of phone addictions…..
From HuffPo: 7 Reasons to Banish Your Phone From the Bedroom
Favorite quote: “A study published in the journal Nature last summer by Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D., revealed how the artificial blue light emitted from electronic devices like cell phones, smartphones and tablets activates arousing neurons within the brain, preventing us from feeling sleepy.”
Note: I love my iPad mini and I often take it to bed with me at night and read. There’s no doubt in my mind that the longer I read the less I feel like sleeping. Lately, I’ve been choosing to read a real paper and ink book instead because I don’t want to become addicted to my iPad anymore than I want to be addicted to a phone. Plus, reading a real book at bedtime always makes me sleepy.
You really have to make a conscious decision to step away from the glowing screen.
From The New York Times: Between Apocalypses (Interview with New Orleanian Dawn DeDeaux about her Prospect .3 installation, Mothership)
Favorite quote: “At 15, Ms. DeDeaux considered herself an old master; by her early 20s, she was making installations out of telephone booths hooked up to CB radio channels. She was also part of the group that founded the Contemporary Arts Center here in 1976, she said, a year after she won the demolition derby in the Superdome.”
Note: This interview was so interesting and really sparked my interest to see Mothership. Yet another unique, independent woman!
The featured Book List is from Book Riot: Peek Over Our Shoulders: What Rioters Are Reading
When I saw Bird Box on this list it gave me the extra push to download and read it. What they said about it: “Bird Box by Josh Malerman: When a bunch of Rioters say a book is so scary that you have to put it in the freezer, you buy the book and gird your girdable parts.” What I say about it: I slept with a light on. If you like apocalyptic stories, this one is for you.
Featured poem is by Dorianne Laux whose work I’ve become somewhat obsessed with over the summer. I’m a Janis Joplin fan so when I read her poem “Pearl” from her book, Smoke, I immediately emailed and asked permission to post it here. She graciously agreed. This poem is so good it makes me shiver. Reading this, I feel like I’m right there in the audience at Monterey in 1967. When a poem, or any piece of writing, can transport you to a different place and time so easily and so convincingly, well, you know it’s exceptional.
Here is an MP3 of Dorianne reading “Pearl” and talking about the writing of the poem. Enjoy!
She was a headlong assault, a hysterical
an act of total extermination.
–Myra Friedma, Buried Alive:
The Biography of Janis Joplin
She was nothing much, this plain-faced girl from Texas,
this moonfaced child who opened her mouth
to the gravel pit churning in her belly, acne-faced
daughter of Leadbelly, Bessie, Otis, and the booze-
filled moon, child of the honky-tonk bar-talk crowd
who cackled like a bird of prey, velvet cape blown
open in the Monterey wind, ringed fingers fisted
at her throat, howling the slagheap up and out
into the sawdusted air. Barefaced, mouth warped
and wailing like giving birth, like being eaten alive
from the inside, or crooning like the first child
abandoned by God, trying to woo him back,
down on her knees and pleading for a second chance.
When she sang she danced a stand-in-place dance,
one foot stamping at that fire, that bed of coals;
one leg locked at the knee and quivering, the other
pumping its oil-rig rhythm, her bony hip jigging
so the beaded belt slapped her thigh.
Didn’t she give it to us? So loud so hard so furious,
hurling heat-seeking balls of lightning
down the long human aisles, her voice crashing
into us-sonic booms to the heart-this little white girl
who showed us what it was like to die
for love, to jump right up and die for it night after
drumbeaten night, going down shrieking – hair
feathered, frayed, eyes glazed, addicted to the song –
a one-woman let me show you how it’s done, how it is,
where it goes when you can’t hold it in anymore.
Child of everything gone wrong, gone bad, gone down,
gone. Girl with the girlish breasts and woman hips,
thick-necked, sweat misting her upper lip, hooded eyes
raining a wild blue light, hands reaching out
to the ocean we made, all that anguish and longing
swelling and rising at her feet. Didn’t she burn
herself up for us, shaking us alive? That child,
that girl, that rawboned woman, stranded
in a storm on a blackened stage like a house
Damn, that’s good!
Don’t forget to follow our Hot Reads board on Pinterest and have a great reading week!
If someone had told me a few months ago that I’d get some of the best writing advice of my life at a hotel out by the airport, I’d have been suitably skeptical. It’s just that when one imagines a scene filled with award-winning authors, aspiring wordsmiths, and a sizeable contingent of steampunks and Chewbacchanalians, the Hilton on Airline Highway is probably not going to be the first place she thinks of. Not that the Hilton isn’t a great hotel, of course – just that it’s not that high in the list of wretched hives of scum and villainy. That fact notwithstanding, it turns out that the organizers couldn’t have picked a better spot to house the odd and amazing convergence known as CONtraflow.
Now in its fourth year, CONtraflow is a fan-organized, volunteer-run convention that focuses on science fiction and fantasy in literature and art. It’s a small convention (for right now, at least), but a robust one. This year the gathering boasted 100+ educational panels, parties, and concerts, featuring over 55 well-known names in the sci-fi and fantasy community. The gathering attracts writers, artists, vendors and fans (and everything in between), who mingle and bond over a shared love of geekdom.
At 32, until very recently it was a necessity to keep my geeky interests a secret, lest I be branded a weirdo. Even though pop culture has thoroughly embraced gaming, comic book heroes, and various sci-fi franchises over the last decade, if you’re my age (and especially if you’re female) you probably remember a time when it was just not possible to admit that you read fantasy novels and knew a smattering of Klingon without being ostracized. It’s only within the last couple of years that I started meeting geeks who were proud to share their interests with others, and started to realize that it was OK to be geeky. Meanwhile though, old habits die hard, and I’m still getting used to not being ashamed to buy comic books or profess my love for Settlers of Catan.
So while a large contingent of my comic book-loving, RPG-playing, sci-fi movie quoting friends regularly attend huge and hallowed conventions like Dragoncon and San Diego Comic-Con International, the bulk of my con experience begins and ends with Star Trek conventions with my mother, circa 1990. As you can imagine, I hadn’t revealed my secret to any of my friends – how embarrassing to basically be a con virgin! I was hoping that CONtraflow would give me a decent taste of what it’s like to go to a convention, without the huge crowds and overstimulation. I figured I could work my way up to the crazy stuff if the basics seemed interesting enough.
Luckily, my expectations were right on the money. From the moment the Hilton’s automatic doors sluiced open, enveloping me in brightly printed carpet and the sweet, sweet caress of over-conditioned air, I knew I was home. Two steampunk pirate wenches and an excellent Maleficent walked in with me from the parking lot, and I followed them through the hotel to the registration desk.
I had hoped to attend all three days, but as it turned out, Sunday was my only opening to check out the panels. I explained this to the lovely volunteer at registration, and she gamely recommended the best panels that day, based on my interests. While we were talking, I explained that I was new to this whole “being vocal about being a geek” thing. Without missing a beat, she reassured me that there’s nothing like going to a con – in fact, she’d met her husband at one! I made a mental note to keep my eyes peeled, just in case Destiny happened to be cosplaying that day.
The first panel on my list was “How to Write a Great First Line”, with author and radio talk show host M. B. Weston. Weston’s specialties are fantasy, YA, steampunk and paranormal fiction, and her enthusiasm for her craft was immediately evident as the panel got underway. “Punch, and punch hard!” was the message of the day. During the hour-long open Q&A, Weston shared her experience in crafting first lines made to immediately reel a reader in, and keep them hungry for more. The author explained that first lines were a kind of bait, or a drug, if you will. Keep adjusting the formula as you get to know your readers more. Introducing sensory details, inciting curiosity, and creating a sense of urgency are all ways to get the reader hooked. Most importantly, don’t get caught up on the first line. Keep writing, and let that perfect introduction come to you as you build the rest of the story. You can always go back and edit.
Weston’s talk was so engaging that I found myself staying put through the break to chat with other members of the crowd who’d stuck around to talk about first lines. Before I knew it, the next panel was getting under way. During “How to Promote Yourself & Your Writing”, independent author Ben Herr and author/actor/publisher Allan Gilbreath encouraged the writers in the crowd to start thinking of themselves as brands, and to start getting their messaging out to the right target market. Herr, creator of YA fantasy series Alynia Sky, is a fascinating example of how to be your own best brand ambassador. He shared valuable lessons on what’s worked – and what hasn’t – for him as he’s made it his mission to see his stories travel the globe. Gilbreath’s advice was even more interesting, as he’s had the opportunity to view the process from the writer’s chair as well as from the publisher’s point of view. His tips on how to succeed (and avoid screwing up) were useful and frequently hilarious, including the best thing I heard all day: “Interns are an invaluable resource – and they compost well!”
Despite the great advice had in the first two panels, the next panel I attended was definitely my favorite. Authors J. L. Mulvihill, Rob Cerio, and Kimberly Daniels led a very engaged crowd through an active discussion on “Writing Good Villains”. Between the three panelists, they covered a diverse set of genres, including YA, steampunk, fantasy, sci-fi, and comedy, but also were able to reference villains and plot points from TV, movies, comic books, classic fiction and even non-fiction sources. This created a rich and very accepting conversation, where the crowd felt encouraged to bring up ideas and share their struggles and successes with writing villainous characters. We even talked about how societal norms change our concept of villainy, and how to build a story where the villain is the landscape, or the society, or even the protagonist. Best of all, during the panel, I felt a light bulb switch on in my mind, as a story character I’d been writing and rewriting for a couple of years now suddenly completely made sense.
Afterward the day of awesome panels, I realized that it was pointless to try avoiding the siren song of geeky baubles any longer. As I wound my way through the serpentine field of merch tables, exploring my options, I could almost hear my bank account groaning. Bags laden with new books, I wandered back out to the parking lot, mentally signing myself up for next year’s CONtraflow. Wonder if the Hilton takes Vulcans?
Anna Harris is a New Orleans-based marketing consultant and blogger. You can find her online at Compass & Quill and The Camino Plan.
In New Orleans, All Saints’ Day is as important as any other holiday including 4th of July, Memorial Day and New Years. During this day, the cemeteries come to life with hundreds of bodies passing through each cemetery, especially the Catholic ones. The relatives of the deceased will bring flowers to decorate the graves as well as paint them and clean them. Some families will bring food and have lunch with their deceased loved ones.
I put together a few photos from my New Orleans Churches and Cemeteries album on Flickr in honor of All Saints Day.