Dispatches from Saints & Sinners 2010: Day 3

By definition, any conference is a self-contained world. Because I’m from New Orleans, staying inside that conference bubble is difficult. Friends call, want to see me. The late-afternoon slant of light calls. The Plum Street Sno-Ball stand, the streetcar, Café du Monde call. It’s difficult to extract myself from the landscape which defines me. I made my rounds: wandering the less-touristy parts of the Quarter, stopping to light a candle at St. Louis Cathedral, raging with locals about the oil spill, listening to my old friend-turned-Treme-TV-personality Davis Rogan play piano and gorging on Café Atchafalaya’s flavorful fried oysters, roasted oysters, soft-shell crab, and gourmet cocktails. Because we believe in Huey Long’s admonition to share the wealth, I have made it my personal mission to escort as many Saints and Sinners as possible as far away from Bourbon Street as possible.

Yesterday was a festival of master classes. I sat in on Fiona Zedde‘s workshop, which was devoted to filling fiction with poetic language. Fiona, author of Hungry For It and Every Dark Desire, among other lesbian erotica titles, recently decamped from Charis Books in Atlanta (the Southeast’s oldest women’s bookstore). Her intimate workshop pored over lists of clichés, collecting such horrors as “smooth as silk” and “tough as nails” and revising them into fresh, compelling imagery.

We capped the day with a reception at the Hermann-Grima House, a shrine to the Old South, New Orleans style. In the courtyard, someone recounted a bit of trivia from the tour: that the lady of the house would wash her own china because the slaves couldn’t be trusted not to chip that most valuable of possessions. A steel-drum performer trilled in the courtyard, across from the cheese-and-fruit plates set before the kitchen building, where said slaves were once adequate to bake bread for the lady of the house. As Fiona sauntered up to the party, I relished the thought of her peeling a grape.