Hot Reads 11/9/14

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.

Enjoy!

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!

Photo via Flavorwire

Photo via Flavorwire

 

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.

Photo by Paul Costello for The New York Times

Dawn DeDeaux by Paul Costello for The New York Times

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!
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Pearl

She was a headlong assault, a hysterical
discharge,
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
on fire.

_________________________________

Damn, that’s good!

Don’t forget to follow our Hot Reads board on Pinterest and have a great reading week!

CONtraflow: New Orleans’ Own Taste of the Geek Life by Anna Harris

IMG_1807-0If 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?
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Anna Harris is a New Orleans-based marketing consultant and blogger. You can find her online at Compass & Quill and The Camino Plan.

All Saints Day

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.

~via nolacemetaries.com

I put together a few photos from my New Orleans Churches and Cemeteries album on Flickr in honor of All Saints Day.

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Hot Reads 10/5/14

Today’s Hot Reads is being brought to you without commentary because I haven’t had time this week to build the post as I usually do. My cat, Fluff, died Thursday after 3 weeks of a strange, debilitating neurological illness that caused paralysis of his back legs. We spent a lot of time at the vet office and a lot of time caring for him. He was the sweetest, most affectionate cat I ever had and he was only two years old. It’s very sad.

Anyway, I did do some late night reading the past week that I want to pass along. Here’s the list:

From NPR: First Listen: Lucinda Williams, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

From Rebecca F.: Why You Should Care That Lady Gaga’s Sueing Me For 1.4 Million

From Women’s Voices For Change: Jasmine Tridevil’s Tale

From Gambit: I’m a Seventh Generation New Orleanian

banksyFrom The Independent: Offensive Banksy immigration mural in Clacton scrubbed off wall by council

From The Atlantic: Confronting My Cyberbully 13 Years Later

From The Toast: “A Witch!”: On Women’s Intuition and Men Behaving Badly

And for a funny tongue-in-check (not really. yes, really. well, maybe) from Buzzfeed: 25 Things That Happen When You Talk About Feminism on the Internet

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No book list this week and the poem of the week is actually five by the wonderful poet Luisa Igloria via The Poetry Storehouse. The link includes audio of the poems as well as text. A favorite snippet:

And in the dream

I am always though no longer
a girl before the world
had its way with me,

always the one listening
for the sounds of hidden things.

______________________________

Beginning with today’s post, Hot Reads will be published every other Sunday instead of every Sunday. Have a great reading week, y’all!

 

Hot Reads 9/28/14

Today’s line up of Hot Reads begins with three New Orleans stories featuring the good, the not-so-good, and the really, really horrible.
Then a few pieces I enjoyed about and by women writers and one about a man. The man. Anthony Bourdain. (sigh)

Enjoy!

From Invade: 13 Live Shows in New Orleans You Don’t Want To Miss This Fall
Well, that title says it all. Go read!

From The New Orleans Advocate: Experts ask if New Orleans’ “Exceptionalism” masks grimmer reality
Tagline: Skeptics say exceptionalism masks many problems
Favorite quote: “When Reed hears his hometown described as exceptional, he said, the speaker generally goes on to cite a litany of cultural images that Reed sees as over-used: Mardi Gras krewes, St. Charles streetcars under a canopy of live oaks, brass bands, Creole cuisine and the Saints.

Often unmentioned are the things that can make life in New Orleans more difficult and more like life in any other struggling city: a low-wage service economy, rising rents, sky-high incarceration rates and gaping income and educational disparities.”
Note: Good piece.

From NOLA.com: Billing for rape: Louisiana sex assault victims often face hefty bills for medical care
Tagline: In Louisiana, victims of sex crimes often are billed for forensic medical exams and related care even though state and federal guidelines require many of these services be provided at no cost to the victim. An advocate and victim spoke with the Times Picayune l NOLA.com about this issue.
No favorite quote. This piece is sickening and disgraceful.

3036090-inline-i-2-190-bourdain-we-wil-have-what-he-is-havingFrom Fast Company: Anthony Bourdain Has Become The Future Of Cable News, And He Couldn’t Care Less
Tagline: The host of CNN’s Parts Unknown (starting again on Sunday) wants to make a great show–and challenge some cultural assumptions.
Favorite quote: “I’m not looking to rule the world,” he says. “I’m not looking to create a permanent brand. It’s a quality-of-life issue with me. Am I having fun? Am I surrounded by people I like? Are we proud of what we’re doing? Do we have anything to regret when we look in the mirror tomorrow? Those things are huge to me.”
Note: I loved this piece. Full confession: In a parallel universe I am the ultimate Tony Bourdain groupie.

From The Economist: Fare Ladies
Tagline: A new car service offers lifts for women, from women
Favorite quote: “A study in 2010 found that 80% of crashes in New York City that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve male drivers. Women drivers are simply better.”
Note: I think this is a super idea. I always feel uneasy in a cab alone with a male driver.

From The Rumpus: The Rumpus Interview with Jane Rosenberg LaForge
Favorite quote: “There’s just a lot of different scenes here. I mean, when I lived in Los Angeles, there were also a lot of literary scenes, and I wasn’t part of any of them, I just sort of watched. It’s sort of the same thing here. There are a lot of different literary scenes, and I just sort of watch them.”
Note: I love that quote because I could say the same thing. All of her answers were so honest and, sometimes, endearingly awkward that it made me feel an affinity with her. Her answers – way more than the routine questions she was asked – make me want to read her book. Thanks, Rumpus, for introducing this writer to me.

The Fall Issue of Olentangy Review is out and it is just great with some really great flash fiction and poetry. I especially enjoyed Susan Tepper’s three pieces: A Tree in My Sink, White to Blue, and Lake Trees which are all parts of a series of micro-fictions under the heading “Dear Petrov”, set in 18th century Russia. A tidbit: “My skin dry to the touch has dampness between its layers that no amount of petticoats or fires can warm.” AND, I have a little poem in there too. I am very excited to be in OR for the second time and to be included with such talented writers. In the next few weeks an audio version will be up in their Virtual Reading Room. This will be my first mp3 and I’m a bit nervous about it as I don’t much like my voice but…it is what it is. Sometimes it’s good to do things that make you uncomfortable, no? Please do click over and enjoy the wonderful variety that is Olentangy Review.

dollbaby-bookImgBook list of the week is the 2014 Summer Okra Picks: Great Southern Books Fresh Off the Vine from SIBA

Poem of the week is one of my favorites and it’s beautifully illustrated on YouTube. Diving Into the Wreck by Adrianne Rich.

Have a great reading week and don’t forget to check out our Hot Reads Pinterest board!