Creating a New Orleans Courtyard

When we bought our house, my husband wanted a New Orleans courtyard. What we had was a small, grassy square with a deck. It was COVID when we bought the house. Then the contractor was kinda sloooow. So it was only last summer—a year after buying the house—that we began creating a New Orleans courtyard. I want to share its stages with y’all....

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Misogyny Denies Truth of Pregnancy

At church yesterday, when the priest was giving the sermon, a baby joined in. Then, when the family went up to the altar for communion, the baby went with them. The baby peered over the mother’s shoulder. I whispered to my husband, “Look at that baby!” He said, “That baby is looking at you.” I said, “That...

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Opening Our Literary Eyes

I fancy myself embedded in a new strata of American history. That strata is white people gaining awareness of how whiteness shapes society. It’s a stupid conceit. White Americans have always known institutions were shaped for them. We only momentarily “forgot” for the years from, oh, 1972 to 2008. In our forgetting years, we told...

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Writing Home and Beyond

In 2014, Nautilus Press published the memoir, Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness. The book was an intense year in the making. The authors, all of whom personally knew homelessness, selected their writings to include. A hoard of volunteers typed up the writings. Lawyers reviewed the draft to insure the writers weren’t...

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Best Legal Thrillers

I wrote this legal thriller. Then I wondered, what other legal thrillers are like my legal thriller? I embarked on a reading research campaign. I read—and charted by title, author, and salient features; after all, I’m a former lawyer—twenty-three legal thrillers in about two weeks (I don’t want to exaggerate). I want to share with you...

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Putting Out Fires

My father used to tell a story about his job and putting out fires. He sat at his desk, concentrating, and the phone would ring. A problem had flared up, demanding his immediate attention, diverting him from what he really needed to be doing. It drove him bonkers—when would he get his real work done?—until he realized putting out fires was his real...

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Hidden Mississippi Novels

Ok. These Mississippi novels aren’t exactly hidden. But I didn’t know them. I do now, thanks to the confluence of two things. One, I’ve been intentionally reading African American writers for almost two years now. Second, I thought to myself, Ellen, you’re hoping to publish a Mississippi novel. You need to know the canon...

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