Category Archives: Uncategorized

Just Like My Mother Used to Make

Overheard in the deli this morning — uninterrupted and spoken with an almost stereotypical New York accent:

“How much is your large coffee? … You know what? Fuck it. Give me large coffee. I can’t make up my mind today. Been hit in the head too many fucking times. … I gotta tell you, you guys have a nice set up. The food? The pancakes? Holy shit. Your pancakes got bananas in them. Just like my mother used to make. … Whoever you got cooking for you is fucking amazing.”

Can We Make Her Younger?

Mama (l.) and Aunt Delores outside the old house in Grand Prairie in 2011

Mama (l.) and Aunt Delores outside the old house in Grand Prairie in 2011

When I set out to write a novel from the point of view of a 50-year-old woman, I expected a little bit of trouble. Not so much with the writing, mind you. I’ve written from the point of view of a woman numerous times. And when I finished writing “Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears,” I was pleased with the results, in particular the main character Katie-Lee Fontenot (when I wasn’t hating myself and the book and writing in general).

But when it comes to getting a book published, the writer’s opinion on his own writing isn’t exactly relevant, especially if said writer hasn’t been anywhere near a best-seller list. I knew this. I knew there’d be some worrying about a guy’s name at the bottom of a book that can be seen as, depending on your definitions of the genres, Southern women’s lit, commercial women’s fiction or even the much-denigrated but extremely lucrative chick lit.

When it comes to selling my books I’m somewhere between a pragmatist and a shameless pimp. If someone had asked me to drop my first name and go with K. Wheaton — or hell, Liz Wheaton (remember that?!) — I would have considered it. If someone suggested I have an arm-wrestling match with Jennifer Weiner, I’d definitely do it.

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Waltzing Through Louisiana

B&NBatonRouge2Last week, I was down in Louisiana for a couple of readings/signings for my latest novel, Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears. Firstly, I want to offer my condolences to those people who didn’t show up. Because surely your failure to show up was due to a death in the family. I’m quite positive that after I traveled across the entire country and after you promised to show up and yet you didn’t, it wasn’t because you simply were tired or forgot (especially after my 1,653 reminders) or didn’t feel like it. So again, I’m sorry for your loss.

Instead of a sympathy card, maybe I can sign my tear-stained pillow cases or pieces of my broken heart and send that to you.

I think I handled that well.

Now, then. I would like to thank Octavia Books in New Orleans — and Veronica in particular — as well as Barnes & Noble in Baton Rouge — and Courtney at that store — for hosting me and making both events go swimmingly and putting me at ease.

I still get nervous at these things, often for different reasons. In New Orleans, I was worried that exactly four people would show up — Felicia, Eric, Kelsey and Kelley. And they did. Because they’re the best. But so did other people! Some high school friends I hadn’t seen in forever and even some people I didn’t even know. This was my very first reading ever in New Orleans, so I was pleased with the turnout. Here is a photo of the crowd, taken by me.

ReadingOctaviaCrowd

And here is a photo (taken by Veronica) of me doing god knows what. I’m not one of those people who acts out scenes or talks (a lot) with my hands. My favorite guess, from someone on Facebook: I was doing The Carlton.

ReadingOctaviatheCarlton

In Baton Rouge, where I knew it would be mostly family and friends, I was worried someone would be like, “HEY THIS CHARACTER IS BASED ON ME AND WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!?” That didn’t happen. And there were a few high school friends who showed up that I haven’t seen since the Paleozoic era. Could turnout have been better? Yes. But any reading with more than five people is a success — even for famous authors. It should also be pointed out that a) it was the most beautiful weather ever in Louisiana, so people might have been outside b) it’s college football season and c) it was the first day of squirrel-hunting season.

Here’s a photo of Nick and me. I don’t seem to be embarrassing the child. I need to work on that.

ReadingBatonRougeNick

And a photo of Mama and me. (That glowing skin and bright smile I’m sporting is from three days of fried food, including chicken from Willie May’s Scotch House.)

ReadingBatonRougeMom

Daddy and them were there. I can’t even remember if someone took a picture. These things are always a blur. But Daddy’s not on Facebook, so I couldn’t go steal pictures from his profile.

So that’s that. Both of those lovely stores now have signed copies on hand, so go over and buy one. And, if you’re an e-reader sort, the book is actually on e-sale at the moment for the low, low price of $1.99. (I’m not going to make any money off of that, but it’s a good opportunity for you to push it on your friends!)

Gothamist: There Is a New Subset of Peoples Restaurant in New York

Hey yall, we’re a subset of peoples now!

According to Gothamist: “A new East Village eatery opening tonight wants to introduce the unique flavors of Acadian culture, a subset of Louisiana peoples with roots in French Canada.”

Awful lot of words to avoid saying, you know, Cajun. This is what happens when restaurant marketing people attack. I guess they have to change it up.

KingBee

After all, pretty much every other attempt at Cajun in New York has failed — because they don’t do it right. And if you don’t call it Cajun, you might not get cranky-ass Cajuns showing up in your restaurant saying, “WTF IS THIS? RAW DEER MEAT? KEYAWWWWWW! MAWMAW NEVER MADE DAT, NO!”

Granted, this food is probably all going to be delicious. And you shouldn’t be a slave to the past if you’re trying to do something new.

So why not just serve it rather than market it? Oh, that’s right. It’s all about storytelling these days. And about faux authenticity. Even if the story is badly told. You know, like when you tell about the unique flavors of Acadian culture using Swiss Chard. But at least the restaurant has a picture of an oysterman!

And nice song selection Gothamist. Hard to tell if you don’t know the difference between Acadiana and Acadia, or are simply ignorant of the literally thousands of Cajun songs out there — some of them even Grammy winning.  Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s both.

Hell, you could have at least used “I’m a King Bee” by Slim Harpo. He might not belong to the “subset of peoples,” but he was born and raised among them. (Oh, and the song is the same name as the restaurant.)

Gamma Radiation? No. It Was Gumbo

Sometimes, folks ask me, “Ken Wheaton, what is the Ken Wheaton origin story? How did you get from mild-mannered Louisiana boy to a fully-fledged Ragin Writer?”

Note: No one has ever asked me that.

Still, Octavia Books — WHERE I WILL BE APPEARING THURSDAY OCT. 2 at 6 p.m. — asked me to write a guest post for their blog. So I did. And, as one friend pointed out, it is an origin story. Perhaps one not as dramatic as Spiderman’s or The Hulk’s, but it’s an origin story all the same. So go read it.

The #RNRPHILLY Half Marathon

Gonna have to burn them shoes.

Race: Philly Rock n Roll Half
Official Time: 1:55:23
Course: Flat and pretty.
Weather: A little known weather system called a Humidity Vortex moved in STRAIGHT FROM HELL.

Top line: I thought I was going to PR in this one. I did not. Not even close. 10 minutes slower than that. It wasn’t my worst, either, so there is that. We also raised a good bit of money for charity.

Excuses: Going into weekend, I’d been showing signs of a slight cold, scratchy throat, tired, achy. I think it was going away by Saturday night, Sunday morning. But one of the pleasures of being me is that race nerves don’t just make me go to the toilet like crazy — my apologies to the maid at the Hilton Garden Inn — they also make me snotty. So did I still have a cold, or was the steady stream of snot threatening to drip onto my pre-run banana just nerves? The world may never know.

The race: Started out just over the pace I needed, figuring I could pick it up once I figured out how I was feeling. You’ll see below how well that didn’t go. By mile five, I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. And I was sweating. Sweating like crazy.

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I’m Coming to See You, Louisiana!

Thanks, Dana, for the photo!The great Ken Wheaton book tour is coming to a state near you!

As long as you live in Louisiana. Because that’s the extent of the book tour. Sorry, everyone else, but that’s the reality of publishing. I do these things on my dime and on my vacation time from work. And if it comes to a choice between spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to read to 15 people at the local Books a Million or going on a two-week wedding and honeymoon trip to Bora Bora — well, let’s just say you’re going to really hate my Instagram pics come November.

But I AM coming to Louisiana and I’ll be doing two events.

So bring yourself, bring your friends, bring all your coworkers. If you’re a teacher, this sounds like perfect extra-credit work to me! And also bring your fellow teachers.

NEW ORLEANS — OCTAVIA BOOKS
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2, 6 p.m.
513 Octavia St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Octavia_Books_10-09_106I’m super excited to be doing my first ever reading in New Orleans. Yes. My first. (This is the part where New Yorkers are all, “I thought you were from New Orleans. By the way, I love JazzFest.” GOD DAMN IT! FOR THE THOUSANDTH TIME, I’M NOT FROM NEW ORLEANS!)

But yes, I’m looking forward to a day in New Orleans of stuffing my face, getting an old fashioned (or seven), and then hanging out with the gang at Octavia, who have been kind enough to let me into their store — and to humor me on Instagram and Twitter and even may let me defile their blog with a guest post.

So if you’re in New Orleans or Metairie or Kenner or some of them places around there, come on out to Octavia and say hi.

BATON ROUGE — BARNES & NOBLE – CITIPLACE
Saturday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m.
2590 Citiplace Ct, Baton Rouge, La. 70808

I know for folks from the part of the state that I’m actually from, getting to New Orleans is a bit of a pain. So here’s your chance. And all yall from Baton Rouge and Lafayette and out in Cajun Country who know me personally? Yall besta be coming to this one. And everybody else too. No excuses.

Even if they make LSU play Auburn at noon or 2:30, yall can come to Baton Rouge, watch that game from one of the bars at Citiplace, then come over to Barnes & Noble and show your face, then go back to the game. I guarantee you, watching me read is going to be a hell of a lot less stressful than whatever Les Miles has in store for you that day. (Hopefully, it’s a night game and then we all win!)

I have a little list of all your names and I’m going to be taking attendance! I might even get a grade book. (Okay, I will not do this.)

AND ONE MORE THING
If you’re a New Yorker and reading this and feeling left out, I apologize. It’s not my fault Louisiana is the cultural capital of the world. But if you live in New York and have a book club — especially a boozy book club — and you read the book, I can probably come and discuss it with you.