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.