2014 New Orleans Writing Marathon Retreat Days 5 and  6: Friday and Saturday

Martens photo 8 French Quarter DownpourDay 5: Friday

Opening session for the last day with our retreat writer-in-residence, Kim Stafford.  I write,

What is there left to write? 

Everything.  All of it.  The bits in the cracks.  The bits in the light.  All of it.

We are doing it together.  Learning by being writers together.

There is a reason we bow our heads.

In the quiet, I can tell that there is some silent weeping in the room.  I am wiping away tears, too, and I don’t even know what they are about any longer.  All of it.  Something very strong has happened here, and we all are feeling it.20140718_122814

Jeanne baptizes the bricks of the Gallier House meeting room with a spilled Bloody Mary, a kind of sacrifice.  A tiny, angry dog barks away nearby.  It is enough.

Kim tells us about something called “The War of Art.”  He says, “Seek your muse, but seek your resistance.”

20140718_101032We take lots of photos, and then trickle away in sad, reluctant fragments.  Some of us are staying on for one more night, and we are off for some bonus fun in the city after the retreat’s official end. Kelly and Jeff and I rendezvous at Muriel’s for lunch.  For dessert, we accept the hostess’s invitation and do the self-guided tour upstairs, talking in whispers the entire time, especially in the famed Séance Room.  Like everywhere else in the Quarter, the ghosts are charming and the vibe is lush.20140718_145316


That night we see trumpet player Kermit Ruffins perform at the Blue Nile and have another amazing night on Frenchman Street.  I dance my booty off with complete strangers, including an artist Jeff befriended earlier in a record store and who shares my love of Kermit’s “Palm Court Strut.” When the song is over, we hug like old friends.20140718_204614-1

Day 6: Saturday

8:45 Croissant D’Or.  I write,

It’s raining again, and it’s beautiful.  I got up early to pack and to have one more New Orleans moment before we needed to get in a cab to make our flight home.  In a sleep-deprived fog, I headed out the door and promptly passed up the turn at Ursalines Ave. and found myself at St. Philipp before I realized my mistake.  By that time, it was really coming down.  I paused under a big balcony and checked the map.  A small, patient bulldog and his person waited it out with me, all three of us watching the crystal downpour next to the vine-wrapped balcony ironwork of a lapidary shop, sparkling with pink Christmas lights.

Jeff said last night that we would all have to pay some kind of price for what we were taking from New Orleans.  I suppose he might be right, on some level.  If anything, my liver and arteries are paying the price.   But honestly, I don’t think New Orleans works that way.


On my way to Croissant D’ Or, I’d just been thinking how much I wished I could capture in a photograph–as well as in writing–the beauty of the French Quarter in the rain, but also how impossible that seemed, so ethereal as to be utterly untranslatable into something as mundane as film.  But the wrong turn, the downpour, the bulldog, the balcony, and the Christmas lights gave me the perfect opportunity to come fairly close.  Once I had my picture, the rain let up, and I went on my way for a perfect coffee and a spot of writing before my flight. 

That is how New Orleans works.



  1. I appreciate how you incorporated both your writing from the retreat and little explanations of what was happening. Since I have never been to New Orleans it is nice to have this almost double graphic of what it looks and feels like. I also appreciate the pictures going along with the writing. Visually, the pictures are gorgeous but is also always me to see what you were seeing and gets me more excited to read about this exotic land. I also like this wordpress thing because it is almost like a dairy. You can keep all of your memories in one place to go back to and look at.
    As I read through this, I want to know more about the people you are hanging out with, which could probably be their own blog! I bet they were absolute characters to hang out with. I also want to know more about the food you ate. I am one of those people that wants to visit a place biased on the food but I am pretty sure New Orleans would kill me (seafood allergy) but if I could live through you, I would do it!
    Overall, this is a really easy blog format to read and follow. I think it is like diary or journal entries. This is totally something I want to come back to and read more about. It allows me to “live” out a vacation but through you!

    • Thanks, Jamie! I am glad to hear that this blog is easy to read. I am still learning blogs as a genre, and I know I could improve. Unfortunately, I only force myself to write every other semester when I am teaching ENG/EDU 512! Yes, there is a ton of seafood in New Orleans, but also lots of delicious other food. Their pork products are delicious. I’ve even been known to overlook a few pieces of tasso or andouille in dishes. I do hope you get to go there soon. It is a writer’s paradise! Thanks for reading!

  2. Somehow, this reply window popped up after scrolling up and down multiple times! I have a feeling it’s going to take a while to get used to blogging, especially to different apps. Perfect time to eat a croissant! I remember this picture from PLWPSI14. It made an impression on me! I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love hot chocolate which is what I imagine in the cup.

    I love how the camera angle is from your perspective! It puts the viewer in your place at the table whether you have offered us your seat or just stepped away for a minute while we slide in and pick up the fork that is calling to us! I also like the shiny reflective surfaces, and I think that the lady on the right is reflected on the tile. Interesting composition with the light in the front moving darker as it approaches you at the table with this delicious food!

    I wonder about the two people in the foreground and the chair pushed back from the table with what looks like a strap hanging from the back. I think there might be a story there! I wonder what I have in my kitchen to go with my hot chocolate since I’ve finished my blog responses and this picture has stirred my appetite!

    • Thanks for noticing my composition skills, weak as they are, I do try a little sometimes, though I have to be careful not to let the picture taking overtake the writing (easy to do). I often try to take a photo of my notebook wherever I am writing on a marathon. I guess it’s my marathon meme 🙂 . Thanks for reading!

  3. Dr. Martens, the picture at the top of the blog, with the lights on the trees, the rain falling from the sky and the balconies, it is as though I am the person behind the camera. I can smell the rain falling, I can feel the sense of wanting to be there, the picture makes me smile and an overwhelming sense of happiness fills my being. Joy abounds in my soul.

    Ever since you shared this picture two years ago at the Summer Institute, I have wanted to share in the experience of traveling to write, and in the experience itself. Your pictures help in setting the stage for each of your stories.

    I have wondered what it would be like to take a trip, with people who share the same interests as I. To socialize, and experience a new adventure. Your blog helps to understand just how that must feel, and it encourages me to seek out that experience even more.

    • Thanks, Robin. That’s one of my favorite pictures of New Orleans, mostly because it captures an important moment. It’s amazing how much I care about this blog, even if I only update it a few times a year, usually during ENG/EDU 512! How fun it is to share with people who are familiar with writing marathons! I finally got a new post up about last year’s marathon. I think it took me most of the day. Blog writings is hard! 🙂

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