An Education, in Words & Music

I learned lots of important stuff last weekend at the 2015 Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Words & Music Literary Feast in New Orleans. A few of the highlights:

Marshall McLuhan 101: Shari Stauch of Faulkner panel
Where Writers Win led a panel on selling,
publishing and promoting books with, among
others, Bruce T. Jones and me. The biggest
applause lines? When Shari presented our book
trailers. Who knew you have to make a movie to sell a book? (And thanks, Joe Maulucci of
WBBZ-TV for the Thanksgiving trailer!)
Also on the panel was former New Orleans Saints defensive cornerback Reggie Jones. The target Faulkner Jones
audience for Reggie’s football guide is clued in
by his title: Stilettos on the Gridiron.



Journalism 201, the Digital Age:

MollysEven if you no longer work in New
Orleans media, there’s always
somebody around on Thursday
press night at  Molly’s at the Market
to give you the inside scoop.




Music Appreciation: Tim McNally of thetimmcnally
Dine Wine and Spirits Show on WGSO
AM Radio has the best taste
in ‘60s and ‘70s music. And California


Introduction to Economics, Supply and Demand:
When it’s pouring down raining at 7 p.m. on
Halloween in New Orleans, United Cab’s
phone number will be busy. Now, however, there
is Uber–for 1.5 times the standard fare. But at
10:30 on Halloween night in the
wall-to-wall-costumed-people French Quarter,
even surge pricing doesn’t work. There are still some
things that money can’t buy.

Thanksgiving Book Events Begin in Time for Halloween!

coverI’m excited to be in New Orleans this week for some pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving events, including two live panel appearances and The Dine, Wine and Spirits show!

  • My novel Thanksgiving will debut, a month ahead of its official publication date on Nov. 26, at the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s 2015 Words & Music Literary Arts Festival at the Hotel Monteleone. I’ll be on two panels– “New Orleans Mon Amour: New Fiction” at 9 a.m. Thursday Oct. 29, and “21st Century Selling, Publishing and Promotion” at 8:30 a.m. Saturday Oct. 31.hotel-monteleonejpg-19633ca3ad6a99c1
  • At 10 a.m. Thursday, I’ll be signing copies of Thanksgiving at the Festival’s book mart, Royal Suite A at the Hotel Monteleone. Please come by and say hello.
  • Back when I was at the Times-Picayune, I enjoyed many a glass of wine with Tim McNally and his wife Brenda Maitland. Tim has invited me to talk about Dine-Wine-BannerThanksgiving on The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show on WGSO Radio, 990 AM, from 3-5 p.m. Friday. It’ll be fun to catch up and talk about the wining and dining in the novel. I hope you’ll tune in.

Coming of Age Stories

Coming of age, rite of passage, whatever you want to call it, it’s a legitimate literary genre. My novel Thanksgiving, which will be published by Koehler Books on (wait for it) Nov. 26, 2015, has been classified as “Fiction/Coming of Age” in the listings of the all-important Ingram book supplier.

“Coming of age” wasn’t what I aimed for as I wrote Thanksgiving, but that’s how it turned out. For the record, Thanksgiving began in the middle, in a short story about Emmaline’s brother Harry titled “A Fork in the Road.” When that story had some success, I started building the novel. Where did Harry come from? What was his background? How did he become the likable, low-level grifter that he is? Well, along comes Harry’s sister Emmaline, and her childhood friend Peg, and Peg’s college friend Mimi, and before you know it, they’ve taken over the book. And since Thanksgiving is now about where they all came from, well, that brings us back to where we started.

I guess it’s fitting that Thanksgiving is classified “coming of age,” because when I think about some of my favorite books, that’s what they are. In no particular order, some great coming of age stories:

Canada by Richard Ford. “First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” That, truly, belongs in the annals of the greatest opening lines of all times. I think it rivals “Call Me Ishmael.”

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. For me, this book proved the value of book clubs. It’s huge and dense, and to call its synopsis noncompelling is to flatter it. But a book club I’d wanted to join was reading it that month, so, oh well, I’ll give them a tryout with this Continue reading

The Peanut Line

Spring came late to the bike path this year, but by Memorial Day it was here in full swing. All of the regulars were out:

–The serious bikers, with helmets, and the dilettantes, without—though most of the dilettantes with pint-sized companions at least made sure the children were serious.

–The runners, joggers and walkers in singles, twos and threes, huffing, sweating, pumping arms, moving to their own rhythms or those coming from the wires dangling from ears to biceps.

–The moms pushing jogging strollers three abreast, chatting away, annoyed at having to drop back to allow others to pass.

So far, I have yet to see some of my favorites, though—the elderly couple whose slow progress seems less the product of frailty than of Zen-like peace and enjoyment of each other’s company; the thirty-something with his man-purse, lassoed by the leash of his

Continue reading

Top 10 Reasons why New Orleans ain’t what it used to be

(Or, why the Big Easy is becoming Small and Difficult.)

10. No Times-Picayune. And don’t tell me that three-day-a-week thing is what I go to a daily newspaper for.

9. No streetcars? What’s up with that? How long have you been “working on the tracks?” Where are the pleasant undercurrent of vibration along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street and the clicking crescendo of an approaching car?

8. The younger Newhouses’ spit in the eye to the proud journalism that their forebears nourished.

7. Hand-lettered “ON VAC” sign on the door of the tin soldier store in the French Quarter. (Otherwise known as the Sword & Pen, it’s a fantasy Continue reading

Thank you, Steve Newhouse

It’s been a week since the jazz funeral for The New Orleans Times-Picayune. For the most part, the “noise” that briefly filtered up to New York and New Jersey from those people down there has quieted down. At the Friday night wake at Rock ‘n’ Bowl, those who were moving on to the Picayune’s digital incarnation; those who either didn’t make the cut or spurned it; and people like me who left the newspaper decades ago reminisced and mourned. The funeral Saturday (fittingly, at Warehouse District music hall The Howlin’ Wolf) included an auction that raised thousands of dollars (final tally not yet in) to benefit the reporters, editors, artists, clerks and news carriers who lost their jobs. On Sunday morning, a few of us sat together at St. Louis Cathedral to hear the archbishop pray for our paper and our city.

Probably no catalyst short of the Picayune catastrophe could have accomplished all that. So thank you, Steve Newhouse.

The Picayune, 175, died after it was an unwilling participant in a medical trial, a lab rat for its owner’s experiments with a new drug, Digital-us. Still, any Continue reading

Warren & Annette & Arianna & Me

Click here for the Los Angeles Times Op Ed that ran Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012.

I love those articles that run in magazines following celebrities around and giving quantitative information about them: What time they wake up, leave home, take meetings; how many iPhones, BlackBerries, e-mails, clothing changes, personal assistants, crusades launched before lunch. There was one recently in the Wall Street Journal magazine about my friend Arianna Huffington. I don’t mean to be a namedropper here, but I honestly think of her as a friend even though I haven’t spoken to her in person for almost a decade.

At one point, when our lives crossed in Los Angeles in the ‘90s and oughts, we saw quite a lot of each other. When I was pregnant with my now 13-year-old twin sons, we even had a “date” to a screening of “Bulworth.” Those were the days before Arianna drove and before I had a cell phone and at one point, while I was trying to navigate my Jeep Cherokee to a parking space wherever this event was, she handed me her cell and instructed me to talk to one of her daughters to prove that Mom, just divorced, wasn’t out with a man…”  Continue reading

Seven Stages of Me

All a woman’s names are a stage,
Of all the men and women players in her life.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one woman in her time plays many parts,
Her acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. [1]
And then the confirmation candidate, with her white
And red shining robe, vowing to be a
Brave warrior like Joan of Arc.[2] And then the lover, Continue reading

Chronicle of a Death Foresold

In the 1990s, when I first worked there, the Los Angeles Times was at the end of its legendary “Velvet Coffin” era for reporters and editors: unlimited time to work on stories (the years-long investigation of Scientology became a newsroom joke); first-class travel (at least for longer flights); salaries that, if they weren’t in the same ballpark as television reporters’, were at least in the same zip code. But then the Chandlers’ benevolent monarchy was overthrown by a series of moneygrubbers, in and out of the family. As one of my editors put it to an outraged reporter who threatened to appeal some decision by the bean counters, “Otis has gone surfing, and he’s not coming back.”

And so it went: buyout offer, layoffs, next buyout offer, more layoffs, voluntary severance, involuntary severance. Each round deliberately Continue reading