On the Writing Marathon at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans

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.

My gracious and lively writing group at the Original Cafe Maspero.

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.

My group writing on the banks of the Mississippi.


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.”







For more information about writing marathons, please check out the Writing Marathon Central website and the book, The Writing Marathon: “In Good Company Revealed

Writers always somehow end up at Molly’s on the Market. Many thanks to my wonderful group for showing me the way!


  1. I am interested in more about the gypsy. He was funny! I bet it would be really fun to do a writing marathon in a different city where I have never been before. It sounds like you had a blast!

  2. Seriously, I love Writing Marathon as well as English 254 class in which i have opportunity to experience writing marathon for the first time. I bet you enjoy writing marathon too, Susan since you have many entries from your writing marathon. I think Im gonna do writing marathon more often on my own and not just for class. I think that would help me improve my skill of writing in English. Also,I want a place that I have been become to belong to me. ” When you write in a place, it belongs to you forever.” I want people to ask me, and I have a chance to say: ” I’m a writer.”

  3. Your blog posts about New Orleans really makes me curious about the place. You don’t meet characters like the tarot card reader in Nebraska! A line that stood out to me was the quote from Hemingway: “When you write in a place, it belongs to you forever.” I am thinking that if I write a journal during an upcoming trip to Europe, Rome and/or Barcelona will belong to me. A girl can dream I guess…

  4. I truly enjoyed reading this blog! I love how you have it set up and seperated into the different spots it really helps the flow of the piece and keeps me wanting to know more. I have yet to visit New Orleans but how you talk about it in your blog and in class it is definatley a place I will be sure to visit in the future. The pictures you use fit nicely into the piece and the easy flow and vivid descriptions and funny anecdotes you place in the piece make it very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing!

  5. It seems like NO is a lot different when there aren’t thousands of drunks celebrating sex and booze. this blog makes me wonder what it would be like to run down the quarter just at the break of dawn with the smell of the gulf and all of the ovens, and coffee machines firing up to make the early risers there morning cup of joe. The only thing that i can think of is walking through the old market in Omaha early in the morning before everyone is up. Quiet and peaceful almost as if you are the only one there, finally starting to understand that Hemingway quote. Thanks for everything.

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