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Odd Words: Words & Music Special December 4, 2013

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, memoir, New Orleans, NOLA, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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The Words & Music Festival, sponsored by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society, is officially underway. The theme for this year is “Faith and the Search for Meaning as Inspiration for the Arts.” You can get all the details here: http://www.wordsandmusic.org/Schedule.html. All events except Wednesday evening’s are by admission.  Here are some highlights:

  • Wednesday’s opening event of the Words & Music Festival at 4:00 p.m. at The Presbytere at Jackson Square, Corner St. Ann & Chartres Streets, featuring author Rodger Kamenetz along with Terri Stoor, who won the Society’s gold medal for Best Short Story in 2011 and has been a finalist several times in both the short story and essay categories of the Faulkner – Wisdom Competition; Tad Bartlett, J. Ed Martston, Maurice Ruffin,and Emily Choate, all of whom have placed in the Society’s competition. Caroline Rash, Associate Editor of the Double Dealer will be reading new poetry, and Geoff Munstermann. A Screening of Walker Percy, the documentary film, follows at 6:15 pm.
  • Friday the annual New Orleans, Mon Amour session, after the famous essay by the late National Book Award winner Walker Percy,features a program Thursday which includes a discussion about his work by his distinguished biographer the Rev. Patrick Samway, SJ. We start New Orleans, Mon Amour, 2013 with a book appropriate to this year’s theme: Faith and the Search for Meaning as Inspiration for the Arts.
  • Also on Thursday There will also be session on writing about architecture and food (two beloved New Orleans topics) featuring authors Deborah Burst and Elizabeth M. Williams ; a paper presentation by Dr. Nancy Dixon on Faith in Early New Orleans Literature, examining the role of Catholicism and alternate religions in early New Orleans literature beginning with some of the city’s earliest works up to the 20th century; the keynote talk will be delivered by the Rev. Patrick Samway, S.J., distinguished biographer of National Book Award winner the late Walker Percy; a set of fiction panels featuring authors Christine Sneed, T. Geronimo Johnson and David Armand; a paper presentation The Walker Percy I remember presented by Garic “Nikki” Barranger, an affectionate appreciation of Walker and Bunt Percy will be at the center of Nikki Barranger’s presentation, which deals with the frictions attendant on Walker Percy’s philosophy by one of the founders of the Society and a close friend of the Percys.
  • Literature and Lunch will feature will feature Michael Sartisky, left above, President of The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and author of A Unique Slant of Light: The Bicentennial History of Louisiana Art, who will discuss the ways the visual arts have been influenced by not only the Gulf light but by the arts, notably music and storytelling, historically in Louisiana. Joséphine Sacabo and Dalt Wonk, who recently created a new press specifically for creating beautiful books devoted to the arts, produced a remarkable book, Nocturnes, feature Joséphine’s images and Dalt’s poetry. The new company, Luna Press, also produced a collector’s limited edition of Dalt’s French Quarter Fables, combining his fables with his illustrations. They will be joined by bestselling poet and non-fiction author Rodger Kamenetz, whose new collection of poetry inspired a stunning collection of abstract expressionist art by his friend, The art images are reproduced in Rodger’s new book of poetry, To Die Next to You.
  • Thursday’s afternoon sessions will feature Shari Stauch, creator of Where Writers Win. Shari has been involved in publishing, marketing and PR for 30 years; LITERARY ROLE MODELS …And the Agents Who Help Them Achieve Their Dreams Against All Odds! featuring author David Menache of New Orleans, introduced by his agent, Brandi Bowles, who worked with David to complete an inspiring memoir and then sold it; 21st Century Publishing Alternatives introduced by Shari Stauch of Where Writers Win and a member of the Faulkner Society’s Advisory Council, will feature April Eberhardt, who owns the April Eberhardt Literary Agency and is expert in alternative options, including successful formats and planning for self-publishing. Ms. Eberhardt will be joined by William Coles, who has been a finalist multiple times in multiple categories of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.
  • Thursday ends with Music in the Mood of the Season
    The Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society is Co-Sponsoring with the French Quarter Festival and St. Louis Cathedral, the kick-off concert for the annual Christmas concert series at the Cathedral. The concert will feature the fabulously entertaining jazz band,
    Harmonouche, led by French guitarist and harmonica player Rafaël Bas.

WHEW. That’s just Thursday.

  • Friday morning’s events features Faith and Literature: Robert Hicks, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Widow of the South , which will feature Naomi Benaron, Bellwether Prize winner for her novel, Running the Rift, will lead this session, a discussion of how faith or a search for it or even a lack of it can inform your writing. Joining them will be Leslie Lehr, who won the Faulkner Society’s gold medal for Novella in 1998 and whose new novel, What A Mother Knows, is a retelling of the Old Testament story, the Judgement of Solomon; and Pamela Binnings Ewen (at left) nominated for the Christy Award for her work and whose new novel, The Accidental Life, is a compelling story of the consequences of a live birth during an abortion; PAN AMERICAN CONNECTIONS: FICTION Make it Real, Inject Black and Blue Humor
    Steve Striffler, Ph.D., who holds the Doris Stone Chair of Latin American Studies at the University of New Orleans, will set the stage for this session featuring our special Pan American Connections guest of honor, Horacio Castellenos Moya, who is a master of black humor in the face of horror. Castellanos Moya is author of Senselessness and other novels, as well as an impressive body of work as a journalist in both Latin America and the United States. Currently, in exile from his country, El Salvador, he teaches in the MFA Program in Spanish at the University of Iowa. His novel Senselessness is both a study in a revolution gone wrong and the search for meaning in the midst of horror. Daniel Castro, a New Orleans native whose heritage is Cuban and El Salvadoran, is invited to interview Castellanos Moya for this session. Daniel won our 2012 gold medal for his incredibly imaginative novella Inspection.
  • Friday’s Literature and Lunch features Cuba, My Beloved: Writing from the Heart about Tough Political Issues. This session will center on the appeal to readers of literature inspired by passion. Featuring George Fowler (left) author of the new book My Cuba Libre: Bringing Fidel Castro to Justice, and Humberto Fontova, bestselling author of the new book, his fifth, The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. They will be introduced by Raúl Fonte of the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation, who is a professional engineer and patent attorney.. Prior to their presentation, Latina poet Melinda Palacio will read a new poem in tribute to the Pulitzer Prize Cuban American novelist Oscar Hijuelos, who passed away while playing tennis on October 12, 2012
  • Friday afternoon brings THE AESTHETICS OF LITERATURE What’s in a Name? A Literary Field Full of Daisies, introduced by novelist George Bishop, author of the new Night of the Comet, this session will be led by Lee Froehlich, the Managing Editor of Playboy Magazine, an excellent writer himself, has spent much of his adult life on the job editing some of the most exciting writers of our time. Beyond that he is a incurable addict of serious literature consumed voraciously in his leisure time. He will lead off this session discussing the importance of selecting memorable names in creating successful characters for fiction, using the Daisies of literature, such as Daisy Miller, as his focus. Joining him will be internationally noted poet Gordon Walmsley, editor of the Copenhagen Review, who has now turned his hand to fiction with his first novel, Daisy, The Alchemical Adventures of a New Orleans Hermaphrodite; and GQ Magazine critic Tom Carson, author of the new novel Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter and other events.
  • Saturday morning brings three master classes that each deserve their own bullet: MASTER CLASS: NARRATIVE NON-FICTION What Works and Why. This session will be led by literary agent Jeff Kleinman, left, of Folio Literary Management, who judged the Narrative Non-Fiction category of the Faulkner – Wisdom Competition this year. The program will begin with a reading by best-selling non-fiction writer Gary Krist, author of City of Scoundrels, The masterfully told story of 12 volatile days in the life of Chicago, when an aviation disaster, a race riot, a crippling transit strike, and a sensational child murder roiled a city already on the brink of collapse. Other featured authors are the men and women he selected to place: Alex Sheshunoff of Ojai,CA, Misplaced Paradise, Winner; Sybil Morial of New Orleans, Witness to Change, Leah Lax of Houston, TX, Uncovered, and the Rev. Patrick Samway, S.J., “I am Properly Back Where I Started From”: Flannery O’Connor to Her Editor Robert Giroux, all runners-up;
  • MASTER CLASS: FICTION What is this Thing Called Novella? Novellas are really hot with publishers right now. Why? Lots of people write what they think are novellas but are really either longish short stories or short novels. So how do you write a real novella. Featuring Lisa Zeidner (left), author of bestselling novels Layover and Love Bomb and founder and director of the MFA program at Rutgers, and Moira Crone, (at right), winner of the Robert Penn Warren Award for her fiction, including her collection What Gets Into Us, former director of the MFA program at LSU, and author of the new novel, The Not Yet. They will explain for writers what a novella is and how to achieve it; and,
  • MASTER CLASS: FICTION The Evil of the World Inspires Quests for Meaning…and…Compelling Literature Featuring Horacio Castellanos Moya, left, born in Honduras and raised in El Salvador, and whose work centers on horrific consequences during revolutions in El Savador and Guatemala. Also featuring Ron Rash, a native of the Carolinas whose work has focused on Appalachia, and Tom Franklin, a native of Alabama who writes in the dark, southern Gothic tradition. Castellanos Moya is author of Senselessness, and 11 other novels, along with short fiction collections. He also has had a dramatic career as a political journalist in countries where it has been dangerous to be political at all. One of Latin America’s most important authors, his work only recently has begun to appear in English translations. His novels are born out out of rage over inhumanity and injustice. Ron Rash, center, a master short fiction writer and poet, as well as a critically acclaimed novelist, is author of the novel Serena, a portrait of evil personified, which has been adapted for a feature film starring Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence scheduled for release this winter. Like Castellanos Moya, Rash looks around his world and is appalled by the evil he sees and is inspired to capture that evil in his stories and their characters. Tom Franklin, like Rash, is a master of the short story form, and his books have included Poachers, which won the Edgar Award and other honors. Many of his characters are reminiscent of Faulkner’s unattractive family of Snopes and the degenerate Popeye of Sanctuary. Most recently, he co-authored a novel, The Tilted World, with his wife, the renowned poet and essayist, Beth Ann Fennelly. Invited to appear with them is Barnes Carr, selected by Ron Rash as winner of the Faulkner Society’s gold medal for Best Short Story for his dark story, The Needle Man.
  • LITERATURE & LUNCH brings Jesus Christ, Superstar! featuring Reza Aslan, religious studies superstar, author of the international bestselling new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as his previous bestsellers, No God But God and How To Win A Cosmic War, all works that have been translated in more than a dozen languages.
  • Saturday afternoon offers PAPER PRESENTATION The Moral Implications of the Time-Space Continuum presented by Gregory Freidlander, who will discuss the Einstein Hologram Universe theory of fundamental physics, not from a standpoint of the math but from the standpoint of logic and the moral underpinnings. “In order to understand the theory first I have to convince you that dimension is a function of time and doesn’t exist independently, and I will do that, says Mr. Friedlander! His paper revolves around the concept that that the existence of the universe derives from you, that your individual morality affects the universe, and that you can and should act with as much integrity and courage as your situation allows; THE HOLLY WOOD EXPERIENCE–WORKSHOPS, NTRODUCTION
    Workshop No. 1 feeatures Leslie Lehr a produced screenwriter, who currently is adapting her new novel, What a Mother Knows, for the screen—will introduce and participate in Hollywood Experience; and, Workshop No. 2 brings Writing a Screenplay to Sell on Spec featuring Mark Evan Schwartz, this session will zero in on a dynamic opening and lead characters. In theprofessional world of spec feature film screenwriting, the first ten 15 pages of a screenplay can make it or break it. If the set up through inciting incident and characters don’t immediately captivate, propelling the story and its leading characters forward in a way that compels the reader to keep turning the page, the agent, manager, development exec, and/or producer will pass. The Hollywood theme continues after these workshops with HOLLYWOOD EXPERIENCE PART TWO–Developing Authors: How to Improve Your Chances of Selling your Novel to Hollywood studios, Television, or Major Publishing Houses. Presented by Marilyn Atlas, an award-winning film, television, and stage producer and talent manager of actresses, actors, and authors.

Ready for more?

  • Sunday starts off with the MASTER CLASS: POETRY: This session will be introduced by poet Caroline Rash, a finalist in the 2013 Faulkner — Wisdom Competition and Associate Editor of The Double Dealer and led by the widely published, critically acclaimed poet Beth Ann Fennelly. Appearing with them will be Gail Waldstein, who was selected by Beth Ann for the Faulkner Society’s 2013 Gold Medal for Poetry. Joining them will be Geoff Munsterman, Associate Editor of The Double Dealer, whose new collection, just published by Lavender Ink Press, is: Because the Stars Shine Through It.
  • Sundayu morning also brings: Presentation of a paper Sherwood Anderson’s Search for a New Faith presented by Don De Grazia. De Grazia is author of the novel, American Skin (Scribner/Jonathan Cape) and an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. His work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Reader, New City, TriQuarterly, The Outlaw Bible of American Literature, The Italian American Reader, Rumpus, The Great Lakes Review, Make Magazine, and other publications. He also a screenwriter in the Writers Guild of America (east) and co-founder/co-host of Come Home Chicago, a live event series dedicated to celebrating the Chicago storytelling tradition in all its forms; The Year of Flannery O’ Connor featuring the Rev. Patrick Samway, S.J. and W.Kenneth Holditch, scholar in the literature of the South; and, THE POLITICS OF RELIGION
    What you need to know about State Religions in Modern World, The Study of Other Faiths and How Such Studies Can Point You Back to Your Own Faith and to the Creation of Compelling Literature. This session will feature Reza Aslan, a Muslim who converted to Christianity and then returned to Islam and author of Zealot: the Life & Times of Jesus Of Nazareth, and Rodger Kamenetz (at right), critically acclaimed poet and bestselling non-fiction author of The Jew in the Lotus, a memoir about his studies of Buddhism and meetings with the Dali Llamma.
  • The festival will conclude with Sunday’s Literature and Lunch featuring: The Quests for Meaning of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner featuring Williams and Faulkner scholar W. Kenneth Holditch, who is co-founder of both the Tennessee Williams Festival and the Faulkner Society.

“And in this corner”–The Big 6 v Digital Cage Match November 13, 2011

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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Another Odd Words Special entry in this weekend’s Dispatches from the Back from the annual Words & Music Festival in New Orleans.

Will Murphy, executive editor at Random House was the nominal moderator until the fist chair flew. It was billed as “New Designs in Publishing in the Digital Age, just another equanimous panel discussion at the staid Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s annual Words & Music Festival, until e-publisher John Oakes came off ropes like a glory-hungry luchador going for the title belt.

Oakes, a graduate of the Bix Six before he started alternative e-publisher OR Books, started softly. “I don’t think [e-publishing} is going to be the only way, but it’s going to be one way.” His tag team partner Julie Smith, Edgar-winning mystery novelist turned e-publisher of BooksBnimble, started out equally calm. “I was published by Big Six publishers for a long time but it became something very different for fiction writers.”

Things continued calmly for almost 20 minutes with Oakes and Smith talking about their decision to enter the e-publishing field, and a long lecture by Chris Ruen, author of a forthcoming book on the digital music area titled Freeloading, on the lessons of the perils and opportunities of e-publishing he took from his study of the music industry.

That’s when Murphy, as politely as possible, inadvertently opened a can of whoop ass. “I’m afraid the two esteemed panelists to my right are going to have to answer for what they said. I’d like both of you to say what’s wrong with traditional publishing and why are you the solution and what’s in it for writers.”

“First of all, let me correct what I said,” Oakes answer prompting scattered nervous laughter in the audience. “I don’t think traditional publishing is breaking down. I think it’s broken and has been for a number of years, in tatters and a smoking ruin.”

Oakes outlined the traditional process of agent, editor, editorial board and sales force proceeded to outline outlined the current publishing paradigm he described as “guesswork on top of guesswork on top of guesswork. “Let’s say everything’s gone well, you have have some great blurbs. You didn’t plagiarize the the book. People are really excited about it. You have good advance orders. The stores pack it all across the country, they pack stacks of the book in. Such a tiny percentage actually sell through. A reasonable return rate for a front list book is 40 to 60 percent. So these books come streaming back. The stores hurt because all this shelf space has been taken up by a book that didn’t sell. The environment, which I think is worth mentioning, [is hurt] because all these books were printed and have to be transported back to warehouse. The publisher has to pay for all these books. Its a disastrous, antiquated system that does not benefit [anyone].”

Smith challenged Murphy in return. “One of the things that always bothered me, the reason I named my company Books Be Nimble, is I don’t feel that big pub is very nimble. Say you brought that you bring a 40 page meditation book [published as an e-book by Books Be Nimble] to a publisher in New York, they might very well say: you know what, there’s no way you can sell this book. My answer is, why don’t you figure it out. You know it was always just book stores and not to much willingness to go outside that to find other ways to make that work.

“There’s a lot more to the question, Will, but I’d like to give you a chance to defend big pub,” Smith

“I’m the last person you want defending big publishing. Traditionally the alternative to big publishing is self publishing,” he answered, starting the real battle royal. “I think there is a pretty heinous process in getting a book to market traditionally. There are a lot of steps, but I don’t know they’re the wrong steps.”

“But we’re not self publishers,” Smith quickly retorted. “Yeah,” Oakes chimed in before she finished her sentence

“The question for you guys is what differentiates you from self publishers,” Murphy offered, trying to get back on a civil track.

“I can’t say I don’t publish my own books because I intend to publish my own back list. I’d be crazy not to. And I publish people who are not me, for openers. Here is how I operate. We don’t offer an advance. I offer a 50% royalty and what I do for the50% royalty I do what Random House does, and I hope as well : I edit the book, I have the cover designed, I market the book.”

The temperature rose another notch when Oakes suggested that the major publishers are charging authors to promote their books by encouraging them to hire independent publicists. “If you are a new author at a major house you can confirm this. The publisher and editor say: how are we going to market this book. In my opinion its the publisher’s job to market the book, but I don’t expect an author to hire a publisher so I could make very good case that major publishers are indirectly charging authors because {suggesting an author hire their own publicist] is a standard way to work with people–unless your name is Steven King–and I’ve always understood and I have heard this from friends who have contracts with major publishers, that you are expected to hire your own publicist.

“This is wrong,” Murphy answered heatedly. “We have a fully staffed publicity department. We never encourage this, the hiring of independent publicists…”

“Maybe Random House is the exception,” Oakes offered.

“Because we have people who are paid to do that job,” Murphy continued, “and in every case when an author of mine has gone outside and brought an independent publicist in to the team, that independent publicist has done nothing that we wouldn’t have done ourselves.

“That wasn’t my experience at Random House,” Smith said.

Well, you didn’t work with me,” Murphy said. “It’s certainty not the status quo.”

“I’ve not heard that said about you, Will,” Oakes offered, trying to take the increasingly testy tone down a bit.

“We disagree,” Murphy answered sharply, trying to bring the scuffle to a close.

Ruen jumped in, pointing out that the difference between the self-publishing and the emerging digital publishers are editing and marketing. But on top of that, any publisher, even if its a small digital publisher, is providing a platform for an author. “Editing?” Ruen asked, “if you’re self-publishing, who’s editing the thing?”

Then he brought in Amazon’s move to change its vanity press operation into a larger model of the upstart short run digital and e-pub houses.. “One of the huge things for self publishing, Amazon announced their venture to release their own books and pay small advances.”

“They’re playing with the big boys,” Murphy agreed.

“That puts the burden of proof right on traditional publishers, emerging digital publishers, all of them, because it comes down to the question of what is the value of editing,” Ruen said.

“What I tell people who are thinking of publishing with Amazon is: go for it. And time will tell if traditional publishers know anything. I do know that the environment that I’ve worked in is a cultivating and cultivated one and I’d been surprised if within two years if Amazon were producing prize winners or best sellers.”

“What do you mean by best sellers?” Smith asked. “Amazon is publishing best sellers every day.”

“What do you mean by best sellers?,” Oakes asked.

“I mean on Amazon,” she said

“Amazon is an eco-system. What percentage of your e-sales are on Amazon and are tabulated to Amazon best seller list? Amazon is a very powerful retailers, probably the most powerful one in American today. They want to publish books. What they really want to do is sell. Their focus in the consumer, not the creator. They remain first and foremost a retailer, not a publisher.”

Smith tried to take the discussion off the playground and back into the ballroom “I think Random House is terrific and we haven’t really talked about the parallel universes that exist today. I think that we sound a little adversarial but we all exist together. I really don’t understand the hostility to e-books. I don’t actually see any sign at all that paper books will go away.” Conference organizer Rosemary James of the locally iconic Faulkner House Bookstore and a founder of the society had started out introducing the panel by expressing her abhorrence for e-books.

Oakes disagreed. “Here’s a statistic from the pages of Publisher’s Weekly.”

“Oh, the bible,” Murphy quipped drily.

“It’s a bible…still the industry newsletter. It came out a couple of months ago, but it compared a significant portion of this year 2011 to last year f 2010, and the sale of adult trade paperbacks was down 65%. That’s not a decline. That’s a precipitous drop. Now e-books, and that number I don’t remember, but they are shooting up like this. That said, paperbacks are starting at such a higher level and e-books are just starting. There’s no point to discussing whether e-books are a good thing or a bad thing. They are happening.

“I actually now agree with you both. Yeah, paperback sales have declined because e-books are simultaneously published simultaneous with the hard cover edition,” Murphy pointed out. “They are the low price alternative.”

Having gotten his moderator’s groove back on and brought things back on an even keel, Murphy took a question from the back of the hall, but bringing the audience in just raised the temperature in the room as the audience’s own prejudices on e-books and dire prophecies of the collapse of the traditional publishing model re-ignited the atmosphere.

‘It’s not paperback versus e-book. We already know people like their electronica. I fight is quality control versus free for all, and how do they decide that?” a woman in the back asked. “We have sort have glossed over the fact that newspapers and magazines are in decline. That’s a bigger thing than all that stuff you’re talking about. If you care about literary fiction, where do you think we find out what to read? That to me is a bigger problem that what you’re talking about. I read the New York Times Review. The Washington Post has folded their separate publication. What’s going to happen when the newspapers cut their editors. These are the arbiters of taste that we all rely upon.”

“Not all of us,” Oakes interrupted. “I stopped reading the Times Book Review years ago. I think that’s something you have to decide for yourself. Do you have to rely on the Book Review to tell you what to read?”

“Well then tell me how you decide what to read,” the woman interjected over Oakes’ answer.

“I read things like N+1, The Millions, Rumpus. [There are] online literary journals. How books come to me they always have when I ran a traditional press. They come from agents, they come from authors.

“I think you’re talking about, what are the filters,” Murphy offered to

“I don’t know who those people are,” the questioner answered.

“For the point of the Times, I published a great little book, a biography of H.G.Wells. The Times Sunday Book Review does this little square of a little nasty review. I had never heard of the person before. I found the person who wrote this review–and me being semi-crazy because I thought this book was fantastic–I found this person and called him up. The guy was either a sophmore or a junior in college. The arbiters of taste are not so infalible.”

“The bottom line is: somebody has to be out there, with the plethora of books, saying you have to read this book,” the questioner asserted.

Another audience member jumped in, any pretense of going around the room by raised hands lost in the heat of the moment. “We think we have choices in the market and we don’t. We have just a very slim piece of the pie. We have all these small presses that we don’t talk about [at the festival} that are still doing regular books. When you talk about best sellers when you have a rare exception [like the Tinkers”, they’ll never make that mistake again because it created all this hostility.

“We used to have adults in the playground,”another audience member suggested. “We used to have Alfred Kazin and [John W.] Aldritch and they were vilified then because we didn’t like them telling us what to think but at least they were thinkers telling us how to read,” another audience member offered. “There is no culture of criticism anymore. It’s not criticism. Its a lot of mutual back patting” in book criticism. “Without it we might as well all be self-published.”

“If you’re looking for an arbiter, read until you find someone [on the internet] you respect,” Oakes answered.

“We’re gatekeepers, too,” Smith said when asked what was the difference between small e-publishers and self-publishing. “The big difference is editorial,” Murphy chimed in. “And its the publisher’s job to bring the book to market,” Oakes added. “Its the job of your publisher to reach out to your readers and say, we’re interested in good writing and you should read this thing.”

Asked about whether e-publishers would become the logical home of literary fiction, Smith said “I think there’s a lot of room in e-publishing for manuscripts that cannot make it in Big Six publishing. I have a really nice memoir that ought to be published and Random House would not be able to sell it. It would sell six copies for them and I think I can sell it.”

Another audience member expressed a concern about the impact of e-publishing on independent bookstores.

“We made a decision not to deal with stores unless they come to us. And they come to us. Instead of buying ten or twenty copies they buy two or three, then they sell them and buy another two or three and sell it. But it’s true that when we have a front list title, it will not reach all the stores,” Oakes said. “I think this new model is good for authors, for publishers, the environment and readers, frankly I don’t think its good for independent stores. I agree with you: the independent stores is a beautiful thing and I don’t have the answer for that.”

“The giant chain store that banks on having everything is clearly threatened by the internet which has more than everything,” Ruen added.

“So let me tilt your answer toward what I think to be an interesting evolution of this conversation, that the independent side of table is envisioning the demise of the indie book store,” Murphy suggested.

“I’m not,” Ruen said. “One thing that the Internet cannot replace is the physical sense of community and only an independent bookstore can deliver that. And they’re selling books.”

“This has been a fascinating, exciting and fireworks filled panel,” Murphy closed out, ” and this is an artisan profession that is in transition. And great people such as the people to my right are tinkering and prematurely aged people like myself are done in, and that’s an exciting world to have.”

Here’s a complete podcast. I apologize for the variable volume but there was only one microphone for the panel and none for the audience. I also apologize for my occasional loud interjections. It was that kind of a panel discussion: PODCAST

Burning Down the House November 9, 2011

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An Odd Words special Dispatches from the Back from The Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society Words & Music Festival 2011.

“At UNO [in the Jazz Studies Program] we are at the edge of trying to create completely new things,” Irvin Mayfield told an audience largely of creative writing students from Lusher High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, explaining to the opening session of The Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s 2011 Words and Music Festival how his UNO colleague Victor Atkins came to compose a suite of music based on William Faulkner’s “The Barn Burning”.

Mayfield,  who composed another piece on commission from the society for a prior festival, explained the “ways music and literature can fit together, “how a word can mean something in literature and something completely different in music [in which] the word diminish means a certain sound but obviously in literature it means something else”; how a musical diminish can be used to illustrate how Faulkner used language to diminish the unsympathetic protagonist of “The Barn Burning.”

“I’ve worked on many projects, soundtracks, what you might call program music but I had never taken a work of literary art to music,” Atkins told the audience. Casting about for an approach, he used Ellington’s Shakespeare-inspired “Such Sweet Thunder” suite as inspiration and a model. He read numerous Faulkner stories over the summer and was fascinated in particular by the closing section of “The Barn Burning.  “I kept returning to it. I knew that was a source I could use as a theme.”

“I felt the passage at the end of the story needed some explanation so I worked on an introductory piece to sequence in and I kept going back and finding more things. I felt the sequence would make it more of a suite than a sequence of tunes, something that would tell the story. So I started at the end of the story and worked my way back.”

A professor at the University of New Orleans Jazz program, he also wanted “to create something that could be improvised on but could still tell a story.”

Atkins played two pieces, the first inspired by a line from the opening scene of the trial in a country store, how Snopes’ son, fearing he would be called to testify against this father, “he felt no floor beneath his feet”. Stymied by how to convert that to music, he took all the letters of the line that represented musical notes and “made a song from it. This is kind of fun like a puzzle.”

He used a lot of musical “neighbor tones” in a piece he composed for Snopes’ wife, to contrast with the wandering, neighbor-less life of a family of sharecroppers forced to move from place to place by the father’s compulsion to commit arson.

The first part of the festival’s program “For Teachers and Students” ended with Mayfield reading from his recent book A Love Letter to New Orleans and playing a related literary (and lovelorn) inspired piece “Romeo and Juliet”.

The morning concluded with novelist and GQ critic Tom Carson, judge of the 2011 festival student writing contest, discussing the making of a winning manuscript. “This is a little intimidating,” he said, casting a glance back at the ornate, Italianate altar of St. Mary’s Italian Church in the old Ursuline Convent complex, then proceeded to neatly outline his advice to the creative writing students.

“My advice is only important if I am the judge every year,” he began modestly. “If I knew the formula I wouldn’t tell you because then you wouldn’t write like yourself.” That caveat out of the way, he advised the young writers, “the more you write for yourself and trust your imagination the more likely you are to reach readers  who are on the same wavelength and those are the readers you want. It’s not exactly writing what you know but what feels right to you.

“Trusting your imagination does not mean a lack of discipline,” he added. “Having an imagination is like getting a pony for Christmas: wonderful, but what are you going to do with it? You have to saddle it and get it to take you where you want to go.”

He said the winning story “Nerve Endings”, about a high school-aged pianist whose fingers unaccountably begin to grow longer and longer,”is completely  preposterous but the language is completely commonplace and ordinary and that makes it believable.”

His other advice included the typical caution for aspiring writers: get rid of what is unnecessary and think about where you are going to begin, how to turn the situation that inspired the story into compelling words on a page.

The morning ended with NOCCA creative writing student and Metairie resident Ruth Marie Landry reading an excerpt of “Nerve Endings” and as Carson suggested the Murakami-esque equanimity of the protagonist in confronting her bizarre condition carried the story beautifully.

“She’s the real expert on how to put together a winning story,” Carson said in closing. congratulations.

Odd Words: Getting Ready for Words & Music November 7, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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This week’s big event was too big to squeeze into last week’s Odd Words and can’t wait for Thursday: Faulkner House Books and the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society will host there annual Words & Music, a Literary Feast in New Orleans this Wednesday through Sunday at venues across the French Quarter with the Monteleone Hotel the festival headquarters. This year’s theme is Literature and Life in the Global Village.

This year’s festival will feature three Pulitzer Prize winners Oscar Hijuelos, Fiction; Nilo Cruz, Drama; and Robert Olen Butler, Fiction, along with the winner of France’s prestigious Goncourt Prize (equivalent of our National Book Award) for biography Anka Muhlstein. Daily events include master classes with prominent writers, editors and agents; a Literature and Lunch Series daily at Muriel’s featuring a different presentation daily; theatrical and musical performances; and several gala social events including the Faulkner for All Gala, Honoring All Great Writers Friday night.

Friday’s night’s black tie gala will featuring Armando Valladares, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations for Human Rights, and author of the international bestselling memoir, Against All Hope, which details his 22 years as a prisoner of conscience in Castro’s Cuba. 7:00 — 9:00 p. m. – Hotel Monteleone.

Words & Music is a literal feast for the book lover, with other notable presenters including Tom Carson, James P. Farwell, Julie Smith, George Rodrigue, Alex Beard, C. Robert Holloway, James Nolan, Justin Torres, Uriel Quesada, Randy Fertel, Lorie Marie Carlson, Andrew Lam, Robert Hicks, John Biguenet, Eric Liebetrau, Andrei Codrescu, Ted Mooney, Chris Ruen, Rodger Kamenetz, Joséphine Sacabo, Paula McLain, Michael Signorelli, Michael Signorelli, Robert Olen Butler, Signe Pike, Deborah Grosvernorm, Amy Serrano, Javier Olondo, George Bishop, Binnings Ewen, Mark Yakich, Elise Capron, Ken Wells, Roy Blount, Jr., Lee Papa, Elise Blackwell, and Leopoldo Tablante.

Guest editors will represent Kirkus Review, The New Orleans Review, Random House, and Harper-Collins, and numerous agents associated with the festival or presenting authors will also be on hand.

Details of the event including the schedule and cost of events, are available on the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society website. If you have checked the schedule before and already made your plans, check back because there have been some changes of schedule and venue.

Here’s a quick rundown of some stand-out events to carry us through to Thursday’s edition of Odd Words:

& Things will kick off Wednesday morning with an open Master Class featuring Irvin Mayfield and UNO Professor and musician/composer Victor Atkins, addressing the symbiotic relationships between the arts and the importance of these relationships as inspiration for the creation of new works of art. 10:30 am Our Lady of Victory Church, 1116 Chartres St.

& Tom Carson, Film critic for GQ Magazine and author two novels–Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter and Gilligan’s Wake, will discuss the elements of writing which make a good short story and introduce this year’s winner of the William Wisdom Creative writing competition, who will read a short excerpt from the winning manuscript. Noon in the Courtyard at Faulker House Books.

& Literature and Lunch on Wednesday will feature author James P. Farwell’s new book, The Pakistan Cauldron on the subject Love Thy Neighbor, or getting to know our neighbors as part of the festival theme Life & Literature in the Global Village. 12:45 pm at Muriel’s. Literature & Lunch events are $60.

& Why Do Animals Make Such Great Characters for Children’s Literature will include Julie Smith, George Rodrigue, Alex Beard, and C. Robert Holloway discussing about animals, even animals that ordinarily might be considered downright scary, such as tigers and lions, that make them so irresistible as characters for literature.

& Wednesday members of the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society will hold their annual meeting with readings and refreshments. Open to the public with admission. Lead this event and read from her own work is nationally noted poet Laura Mullen, a writer in residence at LSU. Others featured include poet and writing coach Rosemary Daniell; Brad Richard, author of the new collection Motion Studies; poet and fiction writer Tad Bartlett; poet and fiction writer J.Ed Marston; poet M’Bilia Meeker, author of the Spirit of Louis Congo, which won the Faulkner Society’s gold medal for best poem this year, fiction writer Maurice Ruffin; fiction writer Terri Stoor, winner of the 2011 Gold Medalfor her Short story, A Belly Full of Sparrow. This is open to the general public for $15. 4:30 pm at The Cabildo.

& Wednesday closes out with Victor Atkins will perform his new music inspired by the famous Faulkner short story, Barn Burning, and discuss the importance of the interplay between the arts to the creative process. Victor Atkins’ performance is a presentation of the Faulkner Society, the New Orleans Jazz Institute, and the Louisiana State Museum. 6:15 pm at The Cabildo.

& Thursday opens with a Welcome event New Orleans, Mon Amor
Featuring well known New Orleans poet, translator, and fiction writer, James Nolan, author of the new novel Higher Ground, a noir humor set in postdiluvian New Orleans, and a recentcollection of short fiction entitled Perpetual Care. He has been a Writer-in-Residence at Tulane University and currently directs the Loyola Writing Institute at Loyola University in New Orleans. Nolan, a New Orleans native, will speak about the unique elements of the humor of New Orleanians. 8:30 a. m. — Hotel Monteleone, Ground Floor, Royal Suites

& Next up The Hyphenated-American Experience As Inspiration for Literary Art featuring Justin Torres, author of the hot new novel, We The Animals, which has inspired a national chorus of praise from America’s leading newspapers and magazines. Torres will explore imagination versus reality in fiction, addressing the question of how to ground contemporary fiction in reality without grounding the imagination. Invited to introduce him and set the stage for the discussion is Uriel Quesada, Ph.D. Dr. Quesada directs the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Loyola University. 9:45 a. m. — Hotel Monteleone, Ground Floor, Royal Suites.

& Literature & Lunch will address the Impact of The Exile Experience on Life & Literature in the Global Village will also feature Torres; Oscar Hijuelos, winner of the Pulitzer for his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love; Lori Marie Carlson, who is a translator, editor, and author of award winning anthologies of work by Latino and Oriental-American artists in translation; and Andrew Lam, distinguished Vietnamese – American non-fiction author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora, which won the Pen American Beyond the Margins Award in 2006, and was short-listed for the Asian American Literature Award. 11:30 p. m. — Hotel Monteleone, Riverview Room, Roof Cash Bar Opens followed by Literature & Lunch at Noon.

& Following lunch The Art of Turning Your Passion into Perfect Pieces of Fiction features New York Times bestselling author Robert Hicks and his literary agent Jeff Kleinman. oining them will be Rosemary Daniell, one of the country’s best writing coaches, founder of the Zona Rosa writing workshops and author of such classics as Fatal Flowers and Sleeping with Soldiers. 2:00 p. m. — Hotel Monteleone, Ground Floor, Royal Suites.

& Thursday’s signature event will be An Afternoon with Oscar Hijuelos, Winner, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Lori Marie Carlson. Carlson will set the stage for Hijuelos, who will do a performance reading from his new, critically acclaimed memoir, Thoughts Without Cigarettes. After the performance he two authors will discuss the importance of identity in the work of hyphenated-American literary artists 3:15 p. m. — Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom.

& How to Read Faulkner and Love it, our traditional salute to our namesake, this year will be replaced by REMEMBERING THE FAULKNERS!, an old fashioned southern wake in memory of Dean Faulkner Wells, niece of Nobel Laureate William Faulkner. Ms. Wells died July 27 after being hospitalized for a collapsed lung. Ms. Wells was adopted and raised as a daughter by William Faulkner after her father Dean, Faulkner’s younger brother, was killed in an airplane crash. The evening will close with 8:30 p. m. — Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom.

This is just a summary of highlights for two days of the five day festival. For more events Wednesday through Sunday, or more details on these visit the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society website. Follow Odd Words here, on Facebook (click the Like! button) and Twitter (Odd_Words) for bulletins and links to coverage of the best of the festival.