I was privileged beyond measure this past March to attend the first Writing Marathon to be held at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans. At its launch, Southeast Louisiana Writing Project Director, Richard Louth, read us the famous Hemingway quote from A Movable Feast and told us, “When you write in a place, it belongs to you forever. Today, New Orleans belongs to you.”
He also told us, as per writing marathon tradition, that if anyone asked us what we were doing, we should tell them, “I’m a writer.” “The world loves writers,” he said. “People want to hear your stories. And they want to tell you their stories.”
Many thanks to Richard, to the wonderfully hospitable teacher-writers of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project, and to the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival organizers. Here are some pieces of writing that emerged from that day:
At “The Original” Cafe Maspero
My walk to the Monteleone Hotel leads me down a quiet, freshly-washed Chartres Street, at one with the morning dog-walkers and the friendly doormen. A tarot card reader calls to me as I pass between his table and the cathedral steps in Jackson Square. “Hey gorgeous,” he calls. “Are you ready for your reading?”
“Maybe later,” is my reply, clearly the wrong one, but my mind is on the walk and on getting to the writing marathon launch on time.
He can feel the hesitation in my stride, however slight. “Come here,” he says, beckoning.
I can feel his will drawing me into the folding chair, but I resist. “I can’t,” I say. “I’m going to see my writing marathon guru.”
His eyes are pirate-hard and crystal-bright. “Never say no to a gypsy, darling,” he says, smiling darkly.
At the river:
How does one begin to describe the smell of the French Quarter? It’s an exercise both impossible and cliched. But this morning in the original Cafe Maspero, my nose isolated a new note in the bouquet: well-worn, well-loved, sunbaked brick dust. It’s the smell of decay, I suppose, but here it is a luscious entropy. Preserved and cherished and inhaled like perfume.
At Molly’s on the Market:
I’m collecting writing marathon lore, dipping my pen in the local waters. Everyone has a story to tell. About marathon stops. Marathon people-spirits. Marathon magic. I’m so very grateful for the hospitality of my morning group, and so very sad to leave them, so very, very sad to leave the cool oasis of Molly’s On the Market. For now, I’ll take their stories back to deepest Nebraska, where writing project folks will smile to hear “how they do it in New Orleans.” Just like we do it in Nebraska. With spirit and spirits, “in good company revealed.”