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Readings . . .

I am growing more and more excited about reading my work - those who know me understand everything about those words. Perhaps my excitement is growing out of the very successful readings that I have had so far. My first reading/book signing was on November 11, shortly after we received the first copies. The reading took plaace at the school where I teach, University of Holy Cross (formerly OLHCC). I read the title story "The Persimmon Trail," to an audience of students, faculty, and friends. One of my students (who has since moved to Alabama) and her husband, said they had never been to a reading before; they were in awe of the story and the event overall. Many of the attendees asked for a sequel to the story: "What happened to the family afterward? To the woman having her baby?" I promised to give it some serious thought.

I had been invited to Ms. Gisleson's Creative Writing class at NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) on November 12, so there I was a day later, reading once again. I arrived during a fire drill, which put us a little behind, but as soon as we were allowed back into the classroom, I could not have been more pleased with the welcome I received, as well as the questions these young writers asked me. They had read the book, from cover to cover, as they say, and wanted to know overall things like how I chose my titles and how the actual stories were placed in their final order, and more genre/literature specific questions like what advice I could give them on how to write good fiction and questions about specific characters and stories in the collection. I was more than impressed with their level of interest, their comments, and their apparent talent and ability to write their own fiction. The instructors are clearly doing an amazing job over there at NOCCA.

Lots of people have said they heard me on The Reading Life (WWNO) with Susan Larson. Although I was incredibly nervous, I was able to read from one of the stories Susan seemed to like most, "Even in New Orleans," and talk about another, "The Meeting." She also asked me about my time as an over-the-road truck driver. Most people are fascinated about that aspect of my life (it was six years of hauling freight for what seems like many, many years ago). It shows the adventuresome side of my character, for sure.

A few days later, on January 14, we had the official Book Release, at Octavia Books in New Orleans. Talk about wonderful stuff! There was an interesting array of people there - from students, colleagues, and friends to people interested in buying the book, which included a group of students (and their teacher) from Boston, who were down here (NOLA) working on a service learning project. I wish I had gotten more information from them, so that I could thank them for coming and for asking such enlightened, powerful questions. But alas, I did not. I think they might know how much I appreciated their presence, as I did all those in attendance, including Shelly and Stacy, who have somehow managed to make it to all my readings.

Finally, I will mention my reading at UNO (University of New Orleans) on January 28, sponsored by the Creative Writing Workshop. It was definitely me in awe this time around, having my mentors Randy and Richard there, not to mention my editor of the book, David. This time, I read from "Trio" and "Collection." The UNO students, of course, gave me some valuable feedback and asked questions that forced me to say, "Mmn, good question," and then stall until I could answer. HA. There was some debate about the fate of the character Lambert, noted by one of the students as rather deliberate and abrupt. I am reminded that writers are part of a notional conversation about their work, which is amazingly fun to contemplate.

So, there are other readings on the schedule. I will keep you posted, as soon as I figure out how to do so here. Until then, blog you later. J.

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