So how does one become a writer in New Orleans? Literary clichés of absinthe and sackcloth aside, there are more resources than you might imagine in the Big Easy for folks trying to "make it" or just get their words from their notebooks to the ears and eyes of the masses.
In case you're looking to win a few dollars, or perhaps to publish that (first?) book, or maybe just get some feedback (toughen up if you are), the following may help you break through whatever's blocking you.
Two of the local authors whom I've interviewed here have run workshops, and a third was a student of one of the first two. This sort of intense cooperation is essential to early projects. The "myth of the lone genius," as James Nolan put it, is just bogus. Now, sure, there's one writer in a couple million or so who can crank out a masterpiece with no feedback or peer-reviewed drafts – but the odds of that happening are rather slim. Nolan has directed the Loyola Writing Institute, now led by Stephen Rea, which accepts registrants until March 13.
The Fantasy on the Bayou Workshop – which has more of a conference/seminar format and – is coming to the Big Easy next weekend. "Fantasy" is a production of the Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal chapter of the Romance Writers of America – if that happens to be your bag. If you want to learn literature that dwells a little closer to home, the Tennessee Williams Festival will include sessions on everything from children's books to "making social networking work" for authors.
Other workshops run during other parts of the year – such as Constance Adler's Bayou Writing Workshop of this past autumn – and we'll keep you posted on those.
The William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition began accepting entries in several categories on Jan. 1, and will continue to accept material until May 1, offering prizes of up to $7,500 (in the "novel" category). Faulkner-Wisdom is organized by the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society, which also runs the Words and Music festival.
The National World War II Museum runs an essay contest for young writers (middle school and high school only, folks). This year's question that essayists must answer is "What WWII invention or innovation has had the greatest impact on your life?" Essays are evaluated not necessarily on depth of research, but instead on originality, style, historical accuracy and precision.
And the kind folks who organize the Tennessee Williams Festival also judge three contests: One-act plays, with submissions accepted between June 1 and November 1; poetry, accepting submissions between April 15 and August 15; and fiction, for which you may submit material between June 1 and November 15.
These open-mike-style readings tend to appeal more to our poets and beat-speakers, and can vary from solemn to ecstatic. The 17 Poets! literary series at the Gold Mine Saloon (701 Dauphine St.) features weekly readings (on Thursdays) by notable local poets and writers, followed by a free-to-all open mike. The Red Star Gallery (2513 Bayou Road) hosts Spoken Word NOLA's open mike night every Friday. Readings by authors and open mikes pop up all over town – stay tuned to our Today's Top Events column for updates.
This list is by no means comprehensive. The idea is to get you, if you're interested, to start looking. If there's a particularly important item we've left off, drop a comment below.