Read Beans On Monday: Tom Piazza Interview

You wrote Why New Orleans Matters in the months following Katrina, and the second half deals with the aftermath of the storm. Had you already conceptualized the first half, a memoir of how you fell in love with New Orleans?

Oh, no. In fact, before Katrina people would periodically ask me if I were thinking of writing anything about New Orleans, and I’d say no. I had been in New Orleans for 11 years when Katrina happened, but I still didn’t feel that I knew enough. There are so many layers to the place.

Right after the disaster, my better half, Mary, and I were in Missouri, where she grew up. It was extremely traumatic being stuck there and watching what was happening down here and not being able to do anything about it. I talked to my editor at Harper Collins, Cal Morgan, and he asked if there were anything they could do to help. We started talking and very quickly evolved the idea for a very short book that would make the case for why New Orleans has to survive, because at that time there were a number of voices out there, including some high-profile ones, who were saying, ‘Hey, yeah, the place should be just be bulldozed.’ The book was my response to that.

Reading City of Refuge, which you wrote afterwards, I got the sense that Why New Orleans Matters served as a blueprint for the novel. Did you purposefully use it as a roadmap or did experience subconsciously bleed in?

One is non-fiction and the other is a novel. Those are two different modes. Some people assumed that Craig’s character was based on myself, his experiences on mine, but that is really not the case. The problem that Craig faces in the novel is that he is a family man and has divided loyalties, to his family and to the city he loves. I have a friend who moved to Chicago with his wife and children from New Orleans after the disaster, as Craig and his family do, and I got a lot of insight into the choices, and the anguish, involved from long conversations with this friend, as well as from other friends who were in similar situations. His experience is very different from my own, although I and, obviously, everyone else had to make hard decisions about whether to come back or not.

When you write a novel, [Read more…]

Read Beans On Monday: Interview With Gumbo Tales Author Sarah Roahen

Sarah Roahen at Hansen'sLast Monday I reviewed one of my favorite New Orleans books, Gumbo Tales. Last week author Sara Roahen was gracious enough to meet me at her beloved Hansen’s Sno-Bliz shop so I could pick her brain while we indulged our frozen cravings. (She had Rootbeer. I had Cream of Nectar and Cream of Ice Cream!)

One of the things I love about Gumbo Tales is that, although it’s about New Orleans food, you also talk a lot about its history and culture. When you started writing, what goals did you have in mind?

I wrote restaurant reviews for Gambit [Weekly] for about four years. That was really my first writing job. I was a line cook between college and then. It was a great way for me to get to know the city and learn how to eat here, but I was more interested in the historical and cultural stuff—the really quirky things about New Orleans that were so new to me and the unique relationship people have with food here. I was trying to figure out how to write more about that but wasn’t finding a way to in Gambit. That wasn’t Gambit’s fault. It was my fault for not being able to do two things at once. I’m actually a really slow writer and horrible at multi-tasking. It’s no way to make a living, but that’s just how my brain works.

So I decided to make it into a book and had an agent who was working with me who pushed me in that direction. A lot changed in the course of writing but the structure took form in my head while I was still writing for Gambit. I knew there were these things that I wanted to write about in a more in-depth, first person, ‘how cool is this’ kind of way. I had all these legal pads full of ideas like how weird a crawfish boil is.  Having a ‘Gumbo’ chapter, having a ‘Sno-ball’ chapter, that sort of filing system was in my head from early on.

Also, near the end of writing restaurant reviews for four years and living here for close to five, I started feeling

[Read more…]

Read Beans On Monday: Interview With DIRTY LITTLE ANGELS Author Chris Tusa


Dirtly Little AngelsFor last Monday’s ‘Read Beans’ I posted a review of local author Chris Tusa’s Dirty Little Angels, a crime noir novella about a young girl coming of age in New Orleans while grappling with the city’s violent underbelly. I recently caught up with Chris to pick his brain about what drew him to such dark subject matter and what gave him the nerve to write from the perspetive of a sixteen-year-old girl.


WV GUMBO: Dirty Little Angels is your first novel, and yet you chose to write not only in first person narrative as a female, but an adolescent who, during the course of the narrative, has her first sexual experience. It seems to be a risky choice. What lead you to choose this narrative device? [Read more…]

St. Joseph’s Day: A Fading Tradition



Joe Talamo Along With Wife & Family Open Their Home To Strangers On St. Joseph’s Day

New Orleans is always celebrating something, whether enlivening national holidays with local color such as the four days of St. Patrick’s Day I’d just enjoyed or the magical Christmas I blogged about in my last post; growing local festivals into epic regional holidays such as Jazzfest, French Quarter Fest, and Voodoo Fest; or taking traditions from around the world, mainly of European and African descent, and celebrating them in ways unique to the United States. Mardi Gras is the most well-know of this latter category, but another Catholic European tradition, this one arising from the large Sicilian population, follows closely on its heels. On March 19th, in honor of St. Joseph, earthly father of Jesus Christ, churches as well as local families around the city build elaborate altars and cook large feasts (meatless, of course, as it fall in Lent season) open to anyone who [Read more…]

Rocckus-ford Files, Case #1: International Ezralite


Barbara Schweizer from Switzerland: Not Neutral When It Comes to Band Allegiance

Barbara Schweizer from Switzerland: Not Neutral When It Comes to Band Allegiance

Part of the beauty of writing in New Orleans is the chance to meet people from around the world and, hopefully, launch my blog internationally; as a writer in love with irony, it wasn’t lost on me that I met Krewe of Rocckus’s first international attendee, Barbara Schweizer from neutral Switzerland, on the neutral ground of Canal Street! [Read more…]

And The Roccktail Winner Is: The Rocck-ito!


Your Roccktail, Sir

Your Roccktail, Sir

In their emails leading up to the event, Krewe of Rocckus’s awesome organizers, Ashley, Ashley, Brian, and Maggie (advanced apologies if I screwed up names or left anyone out, but it was an open bar on the Creole Queen, after all!) gave some hints about the Roccktail contest that would be held at the welcome brunch, but in the end, it was really no contest.  Word is Michael Jerome pouted a bit last year after his team came in second for everything and he was eager to return with a winner.  Either luck or the Patron Saint of Mardi Gras Mojo was on his side, for one of the two sent him fifteen year bartender and food services professional Sally Baker to save the day. [Read more…]