Saints and Sinners

I haven't had a moment to blog until now. It's been a busy, but fun weekend at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. 

Yesterday, I sat in on workshops given by Michelle Tea and Dorothy Allison. Both were excellent. One of the common threads in both talks was that traditional publishers are falling by the way side thanks to print on demand, small and micro presses. Traditional publishing houses are passing on books they would have published just a few years ago as they desperately try to find what will be the next bestseller. Dorothy said none of the publishers really have any idea what will catch on, and they aren't willing to spend the money to find out. Michelle had her last book picked up by Harcourt and they did zero publicity. None. No ads, no tour, no sending the book out for reviews. Michelle said she was forced to do all her own marketing and continues to hold fundraisers so she and members of the Sister Spit collective in San Francisco can go out on tours. "Print your own books, set up a website, get out in the literary community and sell the books yourself," was Michelle's message.

Dorothy read a poem dedicated to her recently deceased aunt, and it was one of the most moving pieces I've ever heard in ages. Her talk was dirty (She's a bottom dyke who likes to pick up rough trade, butch girls at bus stations) and frank (she couldn't write a word for three years and she's been working on a new novel for 10 and it's still not ready) and encouraging to all the writers to find any means necessary to get their work before an audience. 

Before the workshops, Megan, Mindy, their friend Tandy and I walked up Bourbon Street to the Clover Grill, a fixture in the Quarter since 1939. They make one of the best burgers in the whole world, cooked on a big grill under a hubcap and served with hashbrowns. Last night, the girls went bar hopping and I went out for a walk, picked up a po'boy and came back to the hotel where I wound up writing first drafts of three new poems. 

This morning, Megan and I did our reading and there was a small, attentive audience. The reading started at 11:30 a.m., which is a bit early for a reading if you ask me, but we made the most of it. I gave out lots of postcards for After the Poison and most of my reading time was devoted to poems from the chapbook. 

After the reading, we went out to Jefferson Parish for a house party being held by some of Megan's friends from LSU. It was a leisurely afternoon of talking, eating good food and hearing stories about what happened during and after Katrina. After the party, we came back into the city and stopped at Camelia Grill in Uptown for dessert. Camelia is in a big old house and everyone has to sit at a zig-zaggy counter that faces the grill. I had a slice of chocolate pie that was so good I wanted to snap into the fetal position. We then came back down into the Garden District and went to the old Prytania Theatre to see Iron Man, which is giddy, geeky fun with an amazing performance from Robert Downy Jr. and amazing special effects. The Prytania is a New Orleans landmark. It's the only single-screen theatre in Louisiana and has been in operation since 1915. It's been renovated, but retains that old charm including a balcony. It was a treat to just be inside the cinema. 

Driving back to the Quarter, it was 100 percent clear that the CBD and the Vieux Carre are back in a big way. Traffic was gridlocked, people were strolling, sitting on sidewalks and galleries eating dinner, music was pumping from clubs. The vibe this city gave me back in the 90s and inspired me to write is still here. Wind and water can't take that away. New Orleans is one of the greatest cities in the world. If you haven't been here since Katrina -- or if you've never been at all -- pack your bags and get down here. 

Comments

Lisa Allender said…
Wow--sounds like you've had a great time, and a fulfilling read. How interesting, what the featured authors spoke about...huh. looks like you, dear Collin, have been "spot-on" regarding the publishing world, for quite some time now(you've been saying publishing WON'T stay "traditional" for long!).
Cheers!
Peter said…
Yes, sounds like great fun, and it is good to hear from you (and Premium T) that New Orleans is coming back.

Can hardly wait to see the new chap.
Pris said…
I was glad to get the feedback about New Orleans, too. Encouraging. Curious about the talk. Were they referring to poetry books or all creative writing, ie novels, too? My co-author and I have five novels in a series written now and can't even get an agent to sniff our smoke. Don't even mention publishing houses. In the eighties they still took 'over the transom'. No more. Has to be agented, so the agents are getting the bum's rush and sending queries back as soon as they get them. Now to hear that the publishing houses don't even promote? That's their whole point.

And hey, enjoy your stay. Thanks for reporting in.
KATE EVANS said…
Wowee, Collin, I can't wait to talk to you!!

When I met Dorothy last year she talked about the devastating loss of her aunt, who was like a mother to her. I'm glad she's writing poetry about her. Dorothy is a no-holds barred powerful writer and person.
Collin said…
Pris, yes all publishing across the board. It's a sad state of affairs for the big publishing houses, but could be a boon for small, micro or co-op presses.
Robin said…
So, you like my hometown! We used to be the bad kids in the balcony at the Prytania. That was my teenage hangout. Love Clover Grill, Camellia Grill. Yes, tourism in the Quarter has been back for som time--as it should be--but as most tourists rarely venture outside of the Quarter (or worse, the first six blocks of Bourbon), they don't see the real ongoing damage that their maids, waiters, cooks, cabbies, etc. continue to deal with three years on. As Ray says, "Sinn Fein, motherfuckers!"

Do let's get coffee. I want the deep inside shit.

R.
poetwithadayjob said…
So glad you are having a good time. Sounds like you a got mighty fine taste of SF Bay Area lesbo writing! I am unfortunately not a fan of Michelle Tea - she's WAY overexposed in the Bay Area - and Dorothy Allison. Well, I have some stories - one being how she grabbed my ass one day back in '99. I think the bottoming is new: she used to be a femme top looking for butch boy bottoms.

IRON MAN ROCKED! I heart Robby D Jr.
Collin said…
I guess Dorothy is exploring her options. And you could have been one of them. ;-)
Liz said…
Collin, great rundown. Got to make it to New Orleans sometime soon - thanks for making it all come alive!

cheers
Liz

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