Guide to The 23rd Annual Tennessee Williams/ New Orleans Literary Festival
March 25-29, 2009
Debbie Lindsey and Phil LaMancusa
By now, every adult resident of New Orleans that draws an occasional sober breath knows about the annual Tennessee Williams/ New Orleans Literary Festival (TW/NOLF), or by Gad, should. Unfortunately, most folks forget about it until the last minute or more likely after it has come and gone. Sound like you? This need not be the case and our editors agree; so, heads up, you’re reading this, you’ve got time. Up, up, up!
First, there are those that know that this is a cool thing to do but it’s a matter of… “yeah, I hear that’s pretty cool… what is it again?” For them, let’s start with explanations preceded by theorems and maybe a few axioms thrown in. Whatever… let’s start as if you’re as dumb as I look.
Okay, who doesn’t like to read (raise your tentacle)? Who doesn’t love to lose themselves in a book by a great author with a good story line and a tale with a smashing finish. And who, after reading that book, does not just scream out: how do they do that (write)? where does it come from? or I could do this! Okay, maybe you’re not a screamer, so I’ll tell you who: all readers do with few exceptions. Scratch the surface of any great reader and you’ll find a great writer longing to put pen to paper. You can tell who readers are because they’re pretty much the folks worth talking to. You’ll know non-readers too, because they aint got snot for conversation and because they can’t write except for text shorthand. Easy for me to say, I may just be more attracted to the informed.
About the annual TW/NOLF : here’s the quote: “The five day fete (don’t you adore that word?) which celebrates the life and legacy of Tennessee Williams in the adopted city that he called his ‘spiritual home’ offers two days of master classes; a roster of lively discussions among blue chip panelists; celebrity interviews; theater, food and music events; a scholars’ conference; short fiction and one act play competitions; a breakfast book club; literary and other French Quarter walking tours; a book fair; and an Opening Night Fundraising Gala”. It’s kind of the literary equivalent of Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show--- ‘pack up the babies and grab the old ladies and everyone goes’.
No kidding, we’ve been covering this thing for twelve of their years and one of the things I have to point out here is this:
You know that great big storm that we had, and how, at the time we didn’t know if anything that’s New Orleans was ever, ever going to come back for us -- for us that braved a sad and poignant homecoming? Remember what it was like back in the day when we had no mail service, we swept our own streets and counted each familiar face as a long lost family member? Remember the joy when carnival came back and Jazz Fest? Well, that year the TW/NOLF came back for their twentieth anniversary year and didn’t miss a beat. THAT’S how much of a part of the city this event is.
Anyway, it takes all year to put this festival together and at the time of the event the ball rolls smoothly with hundreds of volunteers coordinated by three staff members and a few contract guns. Our favorites of course are Ellen Johnson and Karissa Kary who can be found just about everywhere with band aids, extinguishers and directions for the fledgling gophers (“you go fer this and YOU go fer that.”) and empty handed pilots (“pick it up here… pilot over there.”) all while smartly frocked and accessorized.
Just about all of the events happen in the French Quarter which makes it an easy escape for that lost weekend that you’ve been promising yourself. A Festival Panel Pass is $60.00 ($50.00 for students); a One-day Pass at $25.00 is hard to beat and special events/theater are ten bucks and up, also Master Classes and Walking Tours reasonably priced and if you want information call the Festival office 504-581-1144 or go to www.tennesseewilliams.net---- yes, there are group rates in case you want to bring your posse of wannabes and word nuts.
I’ve got the info in front of me and it includes words like: noted thespians, Broadway legends, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, acclaimed poet and memoirist, and also Tony Award winning…. Somebodys! (a plural of Somebody that my spell check doesn’t want to accept). There’s a bunch of theater and the shouting contest on the last day; that’s right, your favorite couple Stanley and Stella, is a must. Aren’t you glad that the Kowalskis didn’t have a dog or cat?
You know, or you should have read by now, all the reasons that we go to this event religiously. It is candy for the brain, it’s the uber people watching weekend and it’s informative to us writers that need to put information in their back pockets about real situations that effect us: character development, scoring an editor, finding your ‘voice’, self publishing, what kinds of things are selling and the comfort of knowing how many of us are really out there… and still attending.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of writers that are full blown bat pucky crazy and can make (and have made) a living with the written word, and you learn about that as well.
Word up! Once this thing (TW/NOLF) gets rolling, you’re going to find that some events will be sold out and, as we do, you’ll be the worse for not planning ahead for tickets to events, classes, theater and panels.
Also: be aware that there is little to purchase, as far as eating, at the Festival. You’ll need to time and coordinate your sustenance. Feel free to bring a samich or noshes (avoid littering) for the parks and al fresco dining. Quarterites usually find the best and quickest food in grocery stores and although we have some fine restaurants, it is really important that if you are to stop to dine and have a time constraint that you let that be known on the onset of service. Our local establishments will welcome your hard earned and, the servers are depending on your gratuities, but are not mind readers….yet.
The weather is usually perfect and the folks around you are of the highest caliber. This is the event (the other being the Faulkner bash) that you will come away from with a head full of ideas, questions, interests and a definitively revised reading list. See you there.