NOLA til we die…

New Orleans was all I hoped it would be– mysterious, decadent, full of old ghosts and oddballs. I can’t possibly hope to make sense of it all, but here are the highlights:

Part One: The Conference

Marvelous Macmillan sent me to the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute where I had the opportunity to meet some of the amazing independent booksellers who are keeping people reading and buying books across the country.

Barring the terror of being rear-ended on the way to the airport, missing my flight, and nearly missing the whole party, the conference was like some kind of bizarre and wonderful dream. The first night, we dined in a beautiful little private room with painted walls at Susan Spicer’s Bayona. Strangest moment? Looking down to see my book set up as the centerpiece on the table. After that, it was all a blur. We talked about Shadow & Bone, but we also talked about how indies are doing after the close of Borders, our favorite comfort reads, and Comic Con. Bayona is one of the best restaurants in NOLA and I do not remember a single thing I ate.

The only pic I had time to take at the signing.

Day two: The signing! All of the authors were set up at tables ringing a giant ballroom. I had a few minutes to meet the delightful Andrea Cremer and Veronica Rossi–both glamorous and gracious. Then I was whisked off to my table to sign. It was… heady? Unreal? How many times as a kid did I imagine this moment? “Can you make it out to Lauren?” “Can you write ‘happy birthday’ to my daughter?” Why yes, yes I can.

A doorway at Pravda

The signing was followed by barbecued shrimp and grits, and an absinthe party at (wait for it) Pravda. Oh, Tsarpunk, you follow me everywhere. I actually loathe absinthe, but I managed a couple of sazeracs with the helpful coaching of Allison Verost and Mark von Bargen. I was too tired to sleep so I joined some new friends for dancing at One Eyed Jack’s, then fell into bed at 4am.

Part Two: The City

The Reznor/Goodman House

* Walking tour of the Garden District with my friend Jimmy and our wonderful guide Nita of Magic Tours. She’s adorable and happens to play drums in an all-girl jazz band called “Some Like It Hot.” (I find it very odd that John Goodman now lives in what was Trent Reznor’s house. I realize properties change hands all the time, but somehow it just seems weird. Like wife swapping or something.)

Carriage House. Perfect fixer upper for a writer type, no?

It was cool to see Anne Rice’s house, the inspiration for the home of the Mayfair witches, but I have to admit to being more intrigued by the mansion across the street and its rundown carriage house.

Sunflower post on the cornstalk fence. As we passed the cornstalk fence surrounding Colonel Short’s Villa, Nita told us that after Katrina, whole swaths of the city were just grey– covered in trash and debris, totally lifeless. But then out of nowhere, you’d see a giant yellow sunflower poking its head out of the wreckage. In a novel, that would feel like a heavy-handed metaphor. In real life, it’s just a beautiful thing.

Later that night, Jimmy and I strolled the filthy madhouse that is Bourbon Street on a Saturday night. It all had a very End Times feel to it. If New Orleans is a slow seduction, Bourbon Street is a stranger trying to hump your leg. Best moment? A tie between Jimmy “borrowing” some poor guy’s bike and the college kid who giddily told me, “I’m a philosophy major! I love writers!”

Bourbon Street. What is up with neon lady's boob?

* The raucous dinner at Eat NOLA: wine, butterbeans, much giggling with friends I haven’t seen since junior high. The karaoke that followed is best forgotten. We will not speak of it again.

*Best shopping: A tie. I loved browsing new and retro fashion on Magazine street, and popping into sweets-purveyor Sucre (the store is like a little bonbon itself). But my favorite purchase was made at Masquerade, a mask shop off of Jackson Square. There are feathers involved and it had to be shipped. I promise to post a pic when it arrives.

Sweets at Sucre

*Best savories: short ribs at Cochon Butcher, oysters Bienville at Antoine’s, fried catfish po’boy at Parkway Bakery

*Best sweets: the marmalade drenched Gateau Basque at Luke’s, warm chocolate pudding cake with caramel corn at Herbsaint, and of course, beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde.

Poached Pears at Iris

*Best cocktail: Easily the French 75 at Luke’s. At the risk of receiving hate mail, all of the NOLA cocktails seemed to skew a little sweet to me. Maybe LA drinkers have a different palette?

*Best local color: The Chart Room (most definitely a dive bar) where I met a sorority girl with a thirst for vengeance, a hollow-eyed bartender wearing– no joke– a shirt embroidered with golden yetis, and a weeping woman who swore she’d met me in a dream.

Finally, can you SOLVE THIS MYSTERY? On my last day in NOLA, I came across this bizarre building on the corner of Magazine and St. Mary. The first person to post a (verifiable) comment solving the origins of the crest and its relationship to the building’s history gets a $25 gift card for Powell’s Books or

I also want to shout out Eve Troeh and Georgia Archer who were kind enough to share their NOLA recs with me. Eve wrote beautifully about the city here. If you care about freedom and net neutrality or you just like a good story, I highly recommend checking out Georgia’s film Barbershop Punk. (It will be screening in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina in February, so if you’re down south, don’t miss it!)


Filed under The Violet Hour

21 responses to “NOLA til we die…

  1. Josh K-sky

    Shopping: a tie.

    Ooh, who’d you buy the tie for?

  2. Jimmy F

    When booking a vacation do make sure that you’ll get a day with Leigh like I did. Delightful. Trying like mad to find about about that crest!

  3. Inserting a commenter’s full name when he has chosen to use a pseudonym, even one which refers to that full name, is deprecated.

  4. Amazing!!!! This sounds SO wonderful.
    And now, I’m hungry.
    By the way, dropping things like goose shields into Google Image search is highly amusing. Useless. But amusing.

  5. Hi Leigh, my wife is April Tucholke, your agency sister. She clued me into your challenge here. (As a journalist and librarian I can’t resist a good research challenge). Ok, here’s what I’ve got: the building is called St. Mary’s Market and was built (into its current formation) in 1932 as a product of the WPA. It used to be the open air marketplace for the St. Mary’s neighborhood, something which New Orleans is known for. (Here’s a link to more information about the New Orleans marketplaces, including some before and after shots of WPA renovations: The building was used as an industrial laundry in the 1950s and 1960s before the current occupiers, Art-Vertising, a screenprinting company, moved in in 1964. The owner of the building, Mike, who I spoke with on the phone and is the source of all this information, doesn’t know exactly why the crest was there but his guess was that it related to the former marketplace. That’s also my guess – that the crest was just a fun way to indicate the building was a market. Interestingly, the crest was white and blended into the building until relatively recently when Mike had the crest painted with color to make it stand out. Ok, that’s all I’ve got.

  6. Adeeti

    Hey Leigh, this is Adeeti, the girl who tweeted you abt the ARC seller on eBay. I checked again but it seems like they’ve taken down the book or sold it already. They were also selling a Bitterblue ARC this morning, which isn’t listed anymore either. The seller name is “toadstoolbookstore”, which is a very happy name for a company that deals mostly in illegal reader copies of books =/ I hope you get justice for your book. There are too many people making money off of other people’s hard work.

  7. Adeeti

    OH also: can’t wait to see the mask you picked up and hopefully you find a lavish costume party to wear it to!

  8. Thanks for the info, Adeeti. I’ll pass it on to my publisher. It’s depressing to think of someone nabbing up free ARCs just to sell them on ebay.

    As for the feather headdress, I have a party in mind already šŸ˜‰

  9. Beth

    Your trip sounds absolutely magical, Leigh!

  10. You do realize that I am literally wailing with envy as I drink my coffee at my desk. *wails*

    This sounds like THE BEST TRIP EVER.

    You also looked absolutely lovely at your signing. Wish I could have been there!


  11. It most definitely was magical, Beth! You should go. Stat!

    Wish you could have been there, too, Jo. But soon we will be carousing in NYC!

  12. Pingback: Fine Feather |

  13. Amazing pictures and reasons why I have to go to New Orleans.

  14. Piece of writing writing is also a fun, if you know then you can write otherwise it is complex to write.


    You could certainly see your skills in the paintings you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

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