Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Perez land grab in Holy Cross

In the coming weeks, New Orleans City Council will be deciding on the fate of the former Holy Cross school site for which the neighborhood is named.  Perez APC has an agreement to purchase the property with the hopes of building a series of tall residential buildings along the river.  Their first proposal was for 13 stories, the latest is for 7.  Current zoning limits them to 40 feet, which is where the neighborhood would like to remain.  Working with Tulane City Center, the neighborhood came up with three alternate proposals to develop the property without the need for a change in zoning.  Perez is not interested.  

In spite of their lack of vision and funding, Perez has begun aggressively pushing for the zoning change, which would remain with the property even if they decided to sell it.  To gain "support," they have contracted with a number of questionable entities:

1.  Blair Boutte, a bail bondsman and convicted murderer, who offered them his services in identifying supportive "neighbors" in exchange for $30,000 plus expenses.

2.  Velocity, a new Orleans firm that has put together a sloppy social media campaign using fake Facebook profiles and testimonials from people who don't actually live in the neighborhood.  

3.  FDG Creative, a company that specializes in mobilizing support, "online and in person," to help create the appearance of community support for developer projects.  

The past two years has seen a remarkable surge in renovation and population of the Holy Cross neighborhood, where I have lived since 2007.  And the residents would love to see something happen on the site of the former school.  Abandoned my the Brothers of Holy Cross after Katrina, the school ground have sat unused since then, after an unusual deal in which the Brothers were able to get FEMA to fund a brand new campus, yet also retain their old, unused land.  They have been trying to maximize their profits ever since, with a series of development proposals that would, in earlier incarnations, rise as high as 13 stories or even create a gated community with its own neighborhood association within our neighborhood.  

Because of this history, Perez has realized it is vital to create the illusion of neighborhood support.  They have even launched a series of videos featuring testimonials from people you might assume are representatives of the neighborhood--yet they don't even live here.  Their astroturf grassroots website talks about inclusion and wanting to hear from people--yet they don't respond to emails and have banned many of us from asking questions on their Facebook page.  

Normally, in a situation like this, a community would be able to count on their councilperson to represent them. But our council member is James Gray, a lawyer and associate of Blair Boutte.  Gray is also now in the process of being disbarred.  And he only received 38% of the vote in the Lower Ninth Ward, winning his seat with support from New Orleans East.  He has already made it clear that he sides with the outside developer.  

The petition to support the neighborhood is here:

Here are some other reports to consider:

From The Atlantic

From The Lens

Neighbors speaking with Angela Hill on WWL Radio

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Why I republished my first collection of short stories fourteen years after the first edition

The Kind I'm Likely to Get, 1999
The Kind I'm Likely to Get, 2013

Last year I was able to put out an ebook edition of my story collection The Kind I'm Likely to Get. Here's an extended version of my author's note from the ebook edition, with some of the backstory on the original publication as well as the how and why of how it fell quickly out of print and why I wanted to put it back in circulation.  You can buy the ebook for 99 cents at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBooks.  

When I first published The Kind I’m Likely to Get, in 1999, it was after years of rejections.  During that time, I’d met with agents, including one who was puzzled by the idea that the stories should be read in order.  I hadn’t thought it was so revolutionary, or that agents didn’t read things in order.  Why couldn’t it be a novel, others asked.  But it wasn’t a novel, and it didn’t aspire to be one.  Eventually, after firing my agent, it was published as a paperback original by William Morrow.  Even then, part of the reason it was picked up was that they were introducing a line of paperback original fiction and had a slot to fill.  This is how publishing works. 

It was a relief when it began to get positive reviews from places like The New York Times.  Maybe I would have the chance to publish again!  But just as quickly, Morrow was sold to HarperCollins and when the second printing of The Kind I’m Likely to Get ran down, it was never reprinted.  But, technically, it was available as a print-on-demand title, so they could retain the rights.  So, readers could order the title, but bookstores couldn’t return unsold copies for credit, which meant they were unlikely to keep any copies on the shelf. 

But in 1999, when I was negotiating my contract, I managed to strike electronic rights without anyone batting an eye.  We still weren’t sure what electronic rights actually were, and I was a completely unknown writer, so no one really cared one way or another. 

More than a decade later, after writing a series of books about life with dogs, reissuing my stories seemed like a good idea.  In the intervening years, I would still occasionally hear from people who had been inspired by the book, and it seemed likely that there may be a few curious readings of my dog work who might find the stories interesting as a relic of my pre-canine life, if not for other reasons.  As I prepared the files, I realized that it would also be easy to add some extras—including commentary on each story, which you, the reader, can choose to read or ignore.  Revisiting some of these old stories was a joy, because there were sentences and paragraphs that I'd forgotten about which took my by surprise in a great way. What was I thinking when I wrote some of these things?  And there were certainly some stories that I recognized as noble attempts, even if they didn't quite succeed at what I may have been attempting.  

I’ve also added four newer stories, Stories About Animals.  While there are virtually no animals in The Kind I’m Likely to Get, they are unavoidable in my more recent work.  And, to me, the stories with animals are warmer, richer and more emotional than the shell-shocked characters of my original collection.  But I’ll let you be the final judge.