Reading_between_the_wines_fdl_post Sas_fest_2014_new

31 Mar

Deviant Author Interview - Dixon Hearne

Welcome to our author interview series, Deviant Author Interviews! In this series, you'll get to know the deviant minds behind some of New Orleans's most talented writers through five rapid fire questions that are sure to bring out their idiosyncrasies. Get ready, because this isn't your ordinary interview!

This interview is with Dixon Hearne. Dixon teaches and writes in the American South. Much of his writing draws greatly from the rich images in his daily life growing up along the graceful river traces and bayous in West Monroe, Louisiana. After many years of university teaching and writing for research journals, his interests turned toward fiction and poetry—and the challenge of writing in a different voice. He is the author several recent books, including Native Voices, Native Landsand  Plantatia: High-toned and Lowdown Stories of the South, nominee for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award and winner of the Creative Spirit Award-Platinum for best general fiction book. His work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has received numerous other honors. He is editor of several recent anthologies, including A Quilt of Holidays and Thanksgiving to Christmas: A Patchwork of Stories. His work can be found widely in magazines, journals, and anthologies, including New Orleans Review, Louisiana Literature, Big Muddy, Cream City Review,Wisconsin Review, Post Road, New Plains Review, Weber-Contemporary West, Mature Living, Woodstock Revisited, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Louisiana, and elsewhere.Dixon is currently at work on a novel, new short story and poetry collections, and a series of interviews with American writers. He is a frequent presenter and an invited speaker at the Louisiana Book Festival and other events.

Check out Dixon's website!

We caught up with Dixon about what scares him the most, the hardest thing he's ever had to write, topics he refuses to write about, and his muse.

What do you think is the most overrated classic book and why?

I know I'll get grief for this. Even though it was the first "best book" I ever read (and I still love the story), I think The Catcher in the Rye has been overrated as a literary work. It connects with every young generation because youth relate so easily to disaffection and disappointment with the adult world, the world that holds power of it -- a truth portrayed so vividly in the protagonist Holden Caulfield. The story does not employ a lot of clever literary devices or intricate and difficult plot turns. It tells a singular story, a snapshot of a brief time and set of experiences -- a tragicomedy. It captures the hearts and the angst of readers in a way no book before it had managed to do. It makes me question what criteria should differentiate "classic" from bestseller. That said, I've re-read it several times myself. 

What scares you the most?

A tough question. Today, I would say that the decline of human kindness to one another is a serious concern. I sometimes think technology has simply invented new ways for humans to be rude to one another. Who hasn't had a moment when he/she wished someone's cell phone would explode?  or that those caffeine-induced road ragers who cut you off would flip their car? Is it just me, or does anyone else see a correlation between the incidence of road rage and the rise of Starbucks? Oh, the price of happy comforts.

If your muse was a real person, what would it look like/be like?

What an amusing thing to ponder. I suppose he/she would look rather like Janus, able to help me clearly see and muse upon what is past, where I've been -- and upon what lies ahead, what possibilities are out there, what I want. Naturally the faces would be strikingly beautiful or handsome, and the muse a truly benevolent, articulate and wise being. I dream in ideals!

What's the hardest thing you've had to write and why?

My doctoral dissertation was a pretty rigorous workout, but at times a strangely euphoric experience. Next to that would be the bluebooks so prevalent in my undergraduate classes. It's tough to contrive decent filler once you've answered a question five different ways -- just to prove you know a thing or two. Same goes for research papers instructors weighed for a grade. As for "literary" things, sonnets are still a struggle for me -- give me free verse and a glass of wine any day!

Name a topic you refuse to write about and why.

Pornography and politics -- both negotiable terms. One parades as a necessary evil, the other subsists on pleasing the people -- you decide which is which. Besides, there's a crowded field of writers out there already. I'm sure I'd just be an annoyance. 

Have ideas for deviant questions? Let us know! We want your suggestions. E-mail us at If your question gets selected, you just might uncover a special surprise!

21 Mar

Tennessee Williams Festival Day One: Learning from the Masters

“Don’t you just love these long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour – but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands – and who knows what to do with it?” ~ A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Me, excited, in my festive t-shirt

I knew what to do with mine. The plan: learn from the masters. The 28th Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival kicked off on Thursday, March 20, 2014 with Master Classes spanning subjects from copyrighting to dialogue and voice to social media. In my festive t-shirt donning those famous words from Tennessee Williams we’re all familiar with – “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” – I practically skipped to the Historic New Orleans Collection. I began the festival, and the first day of spring, in this gorgeous venue, sunlight pouring through the open windows, elaborate chandelier hanging over my head, and surrounded by beautiful paintings. First up: Marie Breaux, intellectual property attorney, to discuss copywriting for writers.

Marie Breaux's master class on copywrighting

I’ve seen Marie’s presentation before, and as always, she was informative and engaging. She took the audience through the history of copyright law and discussed laws and cases that have impacted the literary world. Breaux called copyright law our “steampunk law…full of Rube Goldberg contraptions.” She went on to discuss how the digital movement is affecting copyright law, going so far as to suggest that copyright is killing books. Hard fact: it’s easier to find a book from 1880 than from 1980 due to the fact that when books fall out of print, getting rights clearances discourages other publishers from reissuing the title. Breaux thinks it’s time for a new law (and so does the Registrar). She talked about “Creative Common” license, which is what allows folks the right to publish things on the Internet (Wikipedia, for example). My favorite quote? Her final PowerPoint slide asked “Can we put the toothpaste back in the tube?” Breaux’s answer? No. The current copyright law isn’t appropriate for the time we live in.

Zachary Lazar teaching a master class on dialogue

Up next was Zachary Lazar, graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and author of three books: Sway, Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder, and I Pity the Poor Immigrant (coming in April!), discussing dialogue. He broke down Ernest Hemingway’s
Hills Like White Elephants passage by passage, meticulously dissecting Hemingway’s genius use of dialogue. “Don’t give the conflict away right off,” Lazar said. “Build it up, let the reader sense it beneath the surface.” He also advised not to start a story with dialogue because the reader doesn’t know who that person is yet, and it can seem contrived. He suggested setting the scene first. Lazar also gave his three golden rules to writing dialogue: use subtext, use body language, and include small details that readers will remember. He called Hills Like White Elephants “the perfect story,” and he encouraged the audience to take risks and push the envelope of what’s realistic like Hemingway did with this story. “A scene is much better if it’s not the first time the characters are having the conversation,” Lazar said. “Let the conflict simmer a bit.”

After three hours of lively discussion and learning from masters of law and dialogue, it was time for lunch. Strolling around the French Quarter on such a lovely day was invigorating. Musicians lined Royal Street, and several standing near each other formed bands. Tourists and locals alike mixed company along the boulevards, drinking Antoine’s Annex coffee and strolling in and out of boutique shops and art galleries. New Orleans is the only place where, on any given Thursday at 12:30 p.m., it feels like vacation. Making friends with strangers is easy here, and I found some fellow festival goers who were also looking for lunch to share the time with. We ambled our way back to the Historic New Orleans Collection anticipating what Laura Lippman’s session on voice would be like.

Laura Lippman signing books after her master class on voice

Laura Lippman, creator of the award-winning Tess Monaghan P.I. series, discussed voice and point of view in fiction. Although she writes crime fiction, she focused on fiction in general, stating that all fiction writers can learn lessons from crime fiction. Her first piece of advice was to ignore the old adage “write what you know,” saying, “‘Write what you know’ led me to the start of sixteen novels about a young girl in her 20s that nothing ever happened to.” She said the advice wasn’t incorrect, only ill worded, and she suggested writing what you CAN know and what interests you. Lippman also asserted that crime fiction is only good in its entirety, and the reader should always want more. “If someone can read the first 40 pages of your crime novel and be satisfied, you’ve failed,” she said. She brought the audience through explanations of different points of view, including first, second, and third person, focusing the most on third person limited. Lippman explained that this point of view gets inside the character’s head while allowing some distance to remain more objective than first person point of view. “Think of third person limited as the gargoyle on the shoulder,” she said. “It knows what you’re thinking, what you’re doing, but it has just a small bit of distance from you.” She also stated that writing from different characters’ points of view within the same story actually solves pacing problems and recommended several books, including John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction and James Woods’s How Fiction Works.

Alicia Anstead before her master class on micro narrative

Alicia Anstead, editor-in-chief of The Writer magazine, presented the last master class of the day titled Going Micro with Narrative. In this class, Anstead explored narrative technique as it applies to social media, focusing on Twitter. She encouraged the audience to live tweet during the presentation and to get on Facebook. She began by stating the benefits of writers being on social media, which included reporting and asking questions. “If you’re writing about the Appalachian Mountains, get on Twitter and ask questions about them. You’ll be surprised at how many people out there have information,” she said. She also said to be careful about the information on social media, as “not everyone on Twitter has the ethics or the experience of professional reporters. Watch who you follow.” Anstead gave five tips to Twitter:

Be authentic

2.      Be generous
3.      Trust your story
4.      Tell your story
5.      Don’t sell

She suggested taking quotes from books in progress or discussing the subject of the book instead of tweeting “buy my book.” She also suggested jumping into the social media conversation about the subject of your writing as soon as possible. Be a part of the story, a part of the conversation. “A well told story is better than marketing,” she said. Anstead ended her presentation by saying that you can definitely be happy and successful without social media, but it does add an additional dimension to your narrative. She mentioned Teju Cole, the author that made waves last week when he took Twitter to a whole new level by releasing “A Piece of the Wall,” which was a 4,000 word essay on immigration told in approximately 250 tweets. Cole showed the world that Twitter can be much more meaningful than what you ate for lunch today, and Anstead encouraged the audience to use social media in the same way.

Sitting in the front row, Tennessee Williams t-shirt and bag in hand, I certainly learned from the masters. Follow me on Twitter and Vine @nolafleurdelit as I live tweet my #TWF14 experience! You can also follow the hashtag #TWF14 and @TWFestNOLA, @deepsouthmag, and @odd_words for more festival fun.

19 Mar

Deviant Author Interview - Rebecca Snedeker

Welcome to our author interview series, Deviant Author Interviews! In this series, you'll get to know the deviant minds behind some of New Orleans's most talented writers through five rapid fire questions that are sure to bring out their idiosyncrasies. Get ready, because this isn't your ordinary interview!

This interview is with Rebecca Snedeker, whom you can meet at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival this weekend! Check out the festival program here. Rebecca will be moderating a panel on Friday at 11:30 a.m. in the Queen Ann Ballroom at the Hotel Monteleone about her project Unfathomable City, which also happens to be (in our opinion) THE book about New Orleans that everyone should have in their collection.

Rebecca is an Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker and writer whose work supports human rights, creative expression, and her native city, New Orleans. She has most recently collaborated with Rebecca Solnit to create Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas and serves as a consulting producer on Shell Shocked, a film about youth and gun violence. Her directorial debut, By Invitation Only (2006), premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and screened at festivals, conferences, and PBS stations nationwide. More recently, Snedeker produced Land of Opportunity (ARTE France, 2010), Siskel/Jacobs Productions’ Witness: Katrina (National Geographic Channel, 2010) and Choices, featuring Terence Blanchard and Dr. Cornel West (Concord Records, 2009). As Archival Researcher and/or Associate Producer, she has contributed to numerous documentaries, including A Village Called Versailles (Independent Lens, 2010), Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (National PBS Broadcast, 2007), and Desire: The Teenage Girls Documentary Project (Free Speech TV, 2007). Snedeker serves on the board of Video Veracity, a fiscal agent for independent media projects, and is an active member of New Day Films, the 40-year-old filmmaker-owned distribution company. Formerly, she served on the boards of the New Orleans Film Society and Patois: the New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival. Snedeker received her B.A. in Fine Arts from Wesleyan University.

We caught up with Rebecca about her secret author crush, the one culturally taboo thing she wish would be accepted, and the one book that she reads over and over again.

Reveal your "secret" author crush and why.

Jennifer Egan. I read A Visit from the Goon Squad last November and then Look at Me in February. Consider her extraordinary command of structure, how she brings plots and subplots that cross time periods and continents to a crescendo. She plays storylines like a master celloist plays strings. And within her songs, the phrasing! Surprising descriptions of common human behaviors and sentiment grace every page. Like this detail of how someone was touched by a piece of art [italics mine]: “What moved Ted, mashed some delicate glassware in his chest, was the…” Right? I didn’t know I had glassware in my chest, but I do. Crush.

If you could only have one book that you read over and over again, what book would that be?

City and Soul. This compilation of post-Jungian psychologist James Hillman’s “talks and papers on the city,” edited by Robert Leaver, is invaluable. Hillman (1926-2011) was known for thinking outside the box and bringing the concept of “soul” back into modern consciousness. He rejected 20th century dead-end pathology-oriented thinking and inspired wonder about our souls and the soul of our surroundings. I was deeply fortunate to meet him, thanks to the writer and philanthropist Randy Fertel, and his work inspires me—or, as he might say: “in-spirits” me—over and over again. 

Imagine you are the center of a cliche' paranormal love triangle. Do you pick the classy yet bloodthirsty vampire or the testosterone driven wolf man?

I have no idea—depends what they’re up to! I like teeth and body hair.  

Name one culturally "taboo" thing you wish would be accepted.

Toddler outbursts.

What book are you ashamed to have read and why?

I can’t think of any book that I’m ashamed to have read, but I do blush when I think about the Danielle Steel book that was given to me while I was in high school, along with Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus, in a box of otherwise unforgettable books. The box came from an older woman who knew I loved to read and had been spring-cleaning. She may—or may not?—have realized what she was getting me into. I read them both, of course, and tracked down The Diary of Anais Nin. A fork appeared in my path, with Nin and Steel’s divergent versions of erotic ahead. I enjoyed Delta of Venus until it (further) fell apart in floodwaters, but I had somehow dumped the Danielle Steel long before. I’ve written off Danielle Steele since then and had quietly assumed that all of her work (and therefore she) was kind of trashy and shallow. Surely there’s much more to her, and holding that long-term assumption I made as a teenager may be the only thing here that warrants shame. 

Meet Rebecca Snedeker at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival on Friday, March 21 at 11:30 a.m. at the Unfathomable City salon in the Hotel Monteleone Queen Ann Ballroom. You must purchase a panel pass to the festival to see the panel discussion. Get your tickets here!

Have ideas for deviant questions? Let us know! We want your suggestions. E-mail us at If your question gets selected, you just might uncover a special surprise!