Monday, March 30, 2015

Dateline: New Orleans

The Big Easy, they call this fabulous city.  But it is certainly not easy to describe.  It is a place of paradox:  Musical, yet cacophonous.  Old, yet edgy.  Sunny and warm, but dark and eerie.  Exciting and lethargic.  Religious and at the same time debauched.  Bohemian AND touristy.  Exotic and familiar.  Seductive, but also off-putting.  An island of tolerance and openness, surrounded by some of the most intransigent small-mindedness imaginable.

I have walked around many places on this planet, and none of them is like New Orleans.  No place I know looks like it or feels like it.  It is American, but it possesses an Old Worldliness unparalleled anywhere else in the US.

It, and the state of Louisiana, used to be frequent destinations for me in what I used to call my career and what I now describe as my former day job.  Business took me here and along the Gulf Coast multiple times every year.  Louisiana has always proved the best state in the US for food, and I mean statewide.  Many American cities have great restaurants, but try to find anything but chains and drek outside the urban centers.  In Louisiana, the dining is great even in the small towns and just off the highways--some of the best anywhere.

My last visit to NOLA before this one was the year before Katrina.  I have wanted to come back but never had an excuse until my mystery writing buddy Greg Herren sent me a delightful invitation to present on a panel at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.

The Festival has been a delight.  This year for the first time it was held in conjunction with the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, the only LGBTQ festival in the country.  Attendance at one got participants access to the other, and I found panels at both enlightening and entertaining.

My panel at TWNO--Ladies With an Attitude, also included Rebecca Chance, British author of wildly popular sexy thrillers.  Our moderator was the award-winning mystery writer Greg Herren, who has over thirty books, both adult and YA novels.  Greg is a thoughtful man and gifted speaker.  He did what no moderator I have ever worked with had done before.  He, Rebecca, and I talked about books we love, authors in our genre and out of it that we admire, and who influence us.  The audience was energized by the discussion, full of questions and opinions of their own, and were attracted to us as writers because they love the authors we love.  (Future moderators take note.  I know I certainly will make this part of any literary panel I ever moderate in the future.)

Greg holding forth on writing YA.

I attended Greg's  Saints and Sinners panel on writing YA.  I don't write YA or LGBTQ (unless you count a brief reference to the sex-life of Sor Eustasia  in City of Silver), but I found the discussion interesting and useful, much more about the topic philosophically and from a business perspective than the usual "my book" --"my book"-- "my book" discussions that I have sat through at other conferences.

I also got permission to crash the S&S party and heard great readings by talented short story writers.

Co-winners of the Saints & Sinners's best debut novel award:
La Shanda Katrice Barnett and Saeed Jones.  I heard her interviewed on
WNYC about her book "Jam on the Vine," which is getting great reviews.

A favorite event for me, and for many others, was the TWNO panel called And Then We Laughed, featuring humorists Roy Blount, Jr, Rick Bragg, and Amy Dickinson.  As a fan of the radio show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," I was familiar with the hilarious Blount and Dickinson.  Bragg was up to their standard and often did them one better.  I will arrive at the next big MIE meet-up armed with a couple of very funny jokes from that crowd.

Amy Dickenson
Roy Blount, Jr.
Rick Bragg

Their happy audience

Other than that, I have taken some nice walks around the Quarter and give you here some snaps of what I saw--in one case what I ate and drank.

My first breakfast of beignets and chicory-coffee in eleven years.  Delish!

Many ancient magnolias survived the storm.

Some buildings are all spruced up now.

Some are left showing some signs of damage.

Cat and dogs!

Bourbon Street--the most famous and to my way of thinking
the least interesting street in New Orleans.  I spared you a
photo of the drunk, lying in the street at 3 PM, surrounded
by police officers. 

As you read this on Monday, I will be touring around the city more extensively.  I'll post some more pictures on my Facebook page.  Meet me there if you want to see them.  Otherwise, I'll "see" you here next week.  Who knows where we'll go then.

Annamaria - Monday


  1. This is entirely unfair. It appears to me that entirely TOO much fun was had in the absence of those who wish they could have shared in the bounty. Shame. Shame, I say. You should have a scarlet 'A' stitched to your shirt... (for Author, of course)

    1. EvKa, this is my consolidation prize for having missed Crimelandia. And I'm making the most of it. So there!

  2. Sounds as if you are having a great time, said Caro looking out the window and watching the rain and snow having an argument. I am going to take your advice and steal that idea for my Crimefest panel!

    1. Caro, I wish I could be there too. It worked like a charm here. Tell all after the event!

  3. Ooooh, I have only been to New Orleans once, and that was before Katrina. Bouchercon will be there next year, I think, and I am definitely planning on attending! Thanks for the tour, Annamaria, and keep those photos coming!

  4. Annamaria, I want to thank you for serving as a shill for Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans (September 15-18), but first there's Raleigh and its Murder Under the Oaks festivities from October 8-11, 2015!

    1. I'm going to Raleigh! I'm going to Raleigh!!

      (My LOC would have my head if I didn'

  5. I LOVE New Orleans!!! I'm already registered for Bouchercon 2016, and I can't WAIT! My aunt lives just outside NOLA, and I confess I haven't been back in many years, but I miss it all the time.

    It looks like you had a fantastic time - and I bet we are going to have a blast there in 2016!

    1. Thank you for calming Jeff down, Susan. We are all signed up for Raleigh, I think. I HOPE! And then NOLA!!!

    2. Did you hear that world, Annamaria is going to the RNC extravaganza.