busy writer bee

Since 4Cs I have had nothing but days filled with writing, stressing, going to the gym, and editing existing pages. My blogging has suffered, but I think, dear readers, you understand why.

It’s starting to hit me now that I’ve landed a great job and will be moving in a little over 2 months, but there is so much to accomplish before then. I’m also trying to spend a lot of time in the sun while I can. On Friday we went to the beach at Fort DeSoto Park and today we biked 14 miles at Flatwoods Park. I know we’ll be getting to Wisconsin during the summer, but it’s kinda like I’m trying to stock up on the sunshine to prepare for the long winter I will have to endure next year. 🙂

In other news, I cannot wait for a new computer and a new blog platform. Since I’ve been following lots of social media professionals on Twitter I’m seeing really cool layouts and all I’ve got is some packaged template [on a very old version of Word Press] that I can’t figure out how to manipulate.

Off to bed for now. Will likely blog more tomorrow since I’ll be getting much needed feedback on my diss chapters and may need to figure out my ideas and/or timeline til defense.


1000th tweet

Since I’ve been on Twitter I’ve noticed people announce when their 1000th “tweet” is coming up. There’s a certain pressure to make it a good one, yet staying within the 140 character limit is always a challenge.

Tonight I hit my 1000th and have to admit it was chosen carefully, although only a few minutes before.

Since Andy’s been writing for his MFA program, I’ve picked up his regimen of freewriting, timed writing, and reading not for research sake but for craft’s sake. When I was in NOLA last November we went to the book sale at the Latter Library and I picked up Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. As I’m in the throes of the dissertation, I thought this quote was well-suited for describing my personal narrative chapter:

The frame through which I viewed the world changed too, with time. Greater than scene, I came to see, is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.

If listening to fellow Katrina survivors and New Orleans college and university teachers last week at 4Cs taught me anything, it’s that more and more people need to hear our stories because of the fact that they are so varied. I know my writing out of passion and emotion is something I may have to defend to a scholarly audience, but it’s something I find quite necessary to my academic work, at least for now. I can’t let what I think people will critique hold me back from constructing the narrative thus far. So thank you, Eudora, for reminding me of basic human nature because, as you say later, I know “The strands are all there: to the memory nothing is ever really lost.”


Spring Fever

I don’t know the answer to that question… if I knew I would tell you

Ala Clever Girl, although I don’t have anything to report this sunny Saturday other than once again heading to my library carrel, I thought I’d share a video. I’ve loved this song forever and I can’t help but laugh every time I hear the monologue near the end ever since my fav 80s music friend Theron pointed it out as the signature trait of a great pop song. Yet I’ve never seen the video until today, and, believe me, it’s one to see!


church closures

Growing up in the Catholic school system of New Orleans holds fond memories for me. We had a school mass every week, and starting in the fifth grade, we students were allowed to do the readings, carry up the gifts, and sing in the choir. This was more than just studying to receive the sacraments and putting on a frilly dress for a ceremony. Every week, in our plaid uniforms, we were the church.

Sure, when you’re young it may come off as another hour to be out of class or “people-watch” instead of listen, but I very much miss the sense of community that those weekly masses instilled in me. Even though I was always upset when our priests were “stationed” somewhere else, I think having the physical place and ceremony always made me feel that I belonged to something larger. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I’ve never felt at home in any other church aside from St. Raphael the Archangel. Had Katrina not happened, it’s likely I would have been married in that church, but I was never given that option.

Today, many parishioners of churches in New Orleans that did not even suffer the water damage St. Raphael experienced are also not being given an option. Today, the Archdiocese [reminiscent of my time in 1992 when my high school the Academy of the Holy Angels was forced to close due to financial strain] announced numerous church closures and merges. A map and list can be found on these pages, but this video of local author and livejournaler Poppy Z Brite is most powerful:

Poppy Z. Brite decries Uptown church closing

Let us hope the people and the protests save some of the churches and parishes that need not be disturbed, especially when these structures help hold most neighborhoods together, particularly now.


CCCC 2008| Blogging New Orleans: Locals Creating Reality Online

For those new readers of my blog who may be visiting this site after attending our Saturday Katrina panel at 4Cs–“Composed in the Wake of Disaster: (Re)Writing the Realities of New Orleans”–I’d like to post some text and links for your benefit. As I was the last panelist of four and we were Internet-less in our conference room [something I’ve started to rant about over at Dennis’s blog], I felt a bit scattered. I typically create Powerpoints, but wasn’t in the mood for that this time around. So even though I had typed up a few pages and had a plethora of examples to share, I ended up doing what I prefer, extemporizing.

Here is a more fleshed out version of what I shared on my handout:

Like Bryon Hawk [who spoke on Hurricane Katrina as a cultural media event, using the framework Jean Baudrillard sets forth in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place], I agree that there were repeated and manipulated images of Katrina that circulated at rapid speed, particularly during that week of the storm when little to no information could be verified and the media focus had to remain on those still stranded in the city, Superdome, Convention Center.

But as a New Orleans native, I had other issues with the depiction of my beloved hometown. I was skeptical when Brian Williams declared on NBC’s Today Show (August 30, 2005. 7:05 a.m. ET): “There has been a huge development overnight … the historic French Quarter, dry last night and it is now filling with water. This is water from nearby Lake Pontchartrain; the levees failed overnight.”

Not only did I not know how to begin to process this information—which levee? how much water? where would the water go?—when I watched the news later that night and saw streets in and near the Quarter bone dry, I knew that these news stories were evolving into journalistic “meta-narratives,” and I knew that from this moment on, these would no longer suffice.

Thus, my focus today is on those locals–primarily those cyberliterate and with access to technology–who had evacuated and were watching from hotel rooms or the homes of extended family members. When they could not find any information relevant to their neighborhoods, never mind their eventual return to their homes and beloved city, many went online.

[Here I referred to the chart from a Pew Internet and American Life report on getting news during the storms of 2005, and wanted to highlight how it’s likely that, once again, locals were not part of the sample population. ]

While it’s great that more and more Americans nationwide are turning to and trusting alternative news sources like blogs and discussion boards, my argument is that in the years since the storm, the only place one can truly get a real depiction or chronicle of a Katrina survivor/resident of NOLA is in the New Orleans blogosphere.

With that said, and without Internet access, I read from several blogs, highlighting the dates of the posts to prove that the Katrina narrative is still developing, with every insurance claim, abandoned house or business, death, and reiteration of why New Orleans matters!

Full list of examples I shared or wanted to share, organized by rhetorical mode:
1. EXPLAIN: Katrina stories—locals who stayed and who watched from afar

2. DESCRIBE: the look of one street in January 2008 and a video commentary 16 months after the storm:

Grocery from Editor B on Vimeo.

3. ENTERTAIN: in order to meet new insurance guidelines and avoid flooding next time around, one has to raise one’s house:

4. PERSUADE: a powerful speech and then the speaker’s reflection 1 year later, still outraged at the lack of change when it comes to crime

5. INFORM: One’s shock at the lack of discussion surrounding a scary statistic.
Finally, how to describe New Orleans? It’s a place of its own and one to which we are intensely attached

If anyone has comments or questions, please leave a comment. Watch this space for a link in the coming weeks because a more theoretical look at the “writing wrong” examples like these demonstrate is now in print in the Spring 2008 issue of Reflections.