Last weekend I returned to southern Louisiana for the final events of my book tour to promote my novel, Death Wishing.I had been invited to participate in the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival, which was a dream come true (more on that next post), but we also took the opportunity to visit The University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where I was lucky enough to score a slot at their Thursday Night Reading Series. Dean and I attended graduate school there more than twenty years ago when it was still called The University of Southwestern Louisiana. I’ve said this before, but Louisiana changed this Ohio girl’s writing forever.
We got to town early enough to tour the campus, and we were delighted to see that not a whole lot had changed except that there were several new buildings made to blend in with the old ones, making campus seem a little more crowded. Griffin Hall, where the English Department is housed, still had that Griffin Hall smell, and The Fellows office (where Dean and the other PhD freeloaders pretended to toil [PhD fellows got $, free tuition, subsidized housing, and they were not required to teach or in any way serve the University. I wonder if that is still the case today] ) was exactly as it had been when we left–right down to the beardy poet in the corner, reading with his feet up on the desk.
In the center of campus is Cypress Lake. It has alligators in it. What’s your campus got? Some crummy mud pond with a sad swan in it? My eyes are closed here, but it’s a good pic of the lake. The second pic is a typical snap of an alligator–you always have to point out the bumpy ripple.
What made the trip so special was meeting up with dear friends who are still in Lafayette-Joe, Gail, and Lauren–arguing about literature and enjoying life.
In the evening we headed to the Jefferson St. Pub for the reading. A different beardy poet went first and he read for what seemed like a long time. But to be honest, we were all pretty giddy to be in each other’s company again, and some of us were not completely receptive to the nuances of his work. I wish him more attentive audiences in the future.
By the time it was my turn to read, we’d run out of light, so I eschewed the podium+mic set up for a position at the bar where I could read under the glow of a televised basketball game. This turned out to be a great move because every time I looked out into the audience, it appeared as if they were paying close attention to my words. Gail and Lauren sat next to me, so I asked them for performance support. Each time I said the word cats, they meowed. I read from the first chapter, and the word cats is mentioned 8 times? And it’s mostly in a sad context, so let’s just say it got weird. Anyway, because I was without a mic, and we were in a bar with spots on TV and a band setting up in the next room, I kinda shouted the whole thing. Dean said it was my best reading of the whole tour.
Good thing, because it was the last reading I’m doing for the foreseeable future.