A big week for Louisiana seafood …

This week, New Orleans will play host to the first-ever Dine Out America event. The event’s organizers are working diligently to draw attention to Louisiana seafood — it’s safe, it delicious and it’s available!

This week, Secretary Robert Barham from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and I will be attending the Dine Out even in New Orleans on December 1. We are incredibly excited about participating — especially because it means restaurants across the nation will be joining us in eating fresh Louisiana seafood that night.

Word on the street (or rather from the organizers) is that the White House will also be serving Louisiana seafood on December 1. But more important than the big guy in D.C., joining us is the participation of the rest of the country.

Mary Foster with the Associated Press wrote a piece on the event, which the Miami Herald picked up. Here’s a taste and a link to the rest. But before I give you the goods, I want to hear, will you join us this week in eating Louisiana seafood?

Bringing celebrity chefs to tout Gulf seafood

By MARY FOSTER

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Drew Nieporent the New York City restaurant mogul whose Myriad Restaurant Group owns eight world-renowned dining spots, recently spent a few days enjoying a Louisiana fishing trip followed by seafood at some of New Orleans’ top restaurants.

The trip certainly gave Nieporent a great time. Tourism and seafood officials in south Louisiana hope it, and others like it, will help the state’s fisheries and tourist industry recover from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“We don’t have a product problem, we have a perception problem, said Kelly Schulz, a vice president with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We need people to get rid of that perception problem – and who better than some of the top restaurant people?”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/11/28/1946971/bringing-celebrity-chefs-to-tout.html#ixzz16eDTPhY0

Getting Animated …

Red Stick Animation Festival
It’s happening again and I’m so excited! It’s the Red Stick International Animation Festival, a non-stop, completely engaging, completely out-of-the-box-for-Baton Rouge event. There are animated films — not just the kind for kids. There are films like Howl, which you can check out here: http://howlthemovie.com/. And there are Incredible people from around the globe.
If you’ve been complaining that Baton Rouge isn’t cosmopolitan enough for you, now is the time to grab a ticket and get your butt downtown, because Stacey Simmons and the folks at LSU and BRADIC around about to shake things up.
I’ll be blogging throughout the events that I can attend and I’ll be tweeting about the incredible people and animated films.
Hope to see you there!

The Act of Remembering

Late Friday afternoon, long after the droves of government workers had logged off of their docked Dell computers and filed through the towering glass doors to their Hondas and Ford pick-up trucks in the heat-soaked downtown parking garage, I made a phone call to another government communications worker in D.C.

“Your request to film the exercise shouldn’t be a problem,” I said, “just let us know what we can do to facilitate the process.”

“Thanks,” he fired back quickly, going into a thorough recap of our earlier conversation.

“My pleasure, hope to see you soon,” I followed ready to end the call and begin work on my to-do list tacked to the tiny makeshift cork board by my executive-level window.

“By the way, I love your blog,” he snuck in, just before I was about to hit the “end” button on my semi-functioning 90s-era cordless phone. “You should really write some more. It’s good.”

I think I blushed, and I’m sure if a blush could be heard through the phone, he would have known the level of embarrassment and hesitation that prompted my response.

“Oh, wow. I’d forgotten all about that. I can’t believe you were even able to find that. Well, thank you. I guess it’s about time to start writing again.”

The truth is, I wasn’t at all surprised that he was able to find my blog. A quick google for my name reveals not only this blog, but my Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages. Headshots taken my by friend Brian Baiamonte also pop up as the first few results on an image search — and all of this was done consciously.

As a writer and editor at a local business magazine, I was determined to make my online presence known, targeted, full of my work and my trade. But in the last few months, I’ve begun to slack off, let it go altogether.

It isn’t that I don’t care about writing anymore; nothing could be further from the truth. But I somehow felt in that becoming part of an executive communications staff for the state health department, that I was no longer really a writer.

That’s when it struck me. You know, the things you read in Poets & Writers about how being a writer isn’t about being published or having a full-time gig devoted to crafting a way to touch readers, enlighten them, help guide the conversation to something deeper than the surface details will allow a broadcast report or a tweet to enumerate. But that just isn’t true.

What the transition from the life of a journalist to the life of a communications professional has done is to test my character. Do I really care about writing? Do I really want it or feel it? Do I really have the drive and the passion to continue to put words to paper (or screen) everyday. Leaving journalism was like a test of my identity.

The question became: I am a writer for a sake of the title and the paycheck, or am I writer because it is a part of my life, like the blood pumping through my veins, keeping my limbs in motion? When I’m cut through the flesh, do I bleed narrative?

I know the answer to that, and it is, of course, “yes.” How does the Shakespeare line go — “a thousand times yes!”

That’s why I’m here again, I guess. There are thousands of things I could write about, but I’m terrified to begin again. So I’ll start with this, I am a writer who has lost her way, forgotten what living in words means. And my only way back, to begin anew, is just to admit that I have fallen off the path, the horse, whatever your preferential phrase is, and I am picking myself up and beginning anew. It just took someone to help me remember.

I doubt that federal communications staffer will be back to look at these pages. I doubt he’ll return to find this informal thank you, but I know what he gave me was a little dose of reality.

We’re all a little busy. We’re all tied up with life. But for those of us whose entire existence is based upon the desire to communicate, to impress, to gather the bits of life that fall to the fringes and arrange them in way that makes sense, we have to begin again. We have to remember who we are.

After all, some of the greatest writers and poets were not simply journalists or novelists. They were attorneys, homemakers, performers, doctors. William Carlos Williams did not spend his days buried in the pursuit of prose composition. He saw patients, prescribed medication and cared for his loved ones while turning the fringe pieces into beautiful lines of poetry. He made us analyze our own temptations by apologizing for eating the plums in the icebox and he described the small red wagon in a way that helped us hear the creaking of tiny black wheels.

We are who we are, no matter the title on our business cards, and I’d almost forgotten that in just four short months.

So thank you, I needed that little bit of praise; it was more of a swift kick in the rear, but it’ll do.

Beginning again …

Louisiana State Capitol building viewed through the state museum, steps away from the Department of Health & Hospitals building. ImageThere is a lump in my throat, and it has nothing to do with a cold. Last week I left my job at the Baton Rouge Business Report for a new position at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. As of tomorrow I am a Public Information Officer in the Office of the Secretary. It’s new territory, new guidelines, new obstacles and, hopefully, new opportunities for success.

Yet, while I am formally leaving the world of journalism, I am not leaving the world of writing. I am still available as a freelance writer and already have a number of projects lined up — possible work on a cookbook with a photographer/chef friend and ghostwriting for a private company.

The big change on the writing front will be the attention I may now give to my fiction work. I have a publication goal for a short story by the end of the year (trying to be lenient) and have been outlining for the past week.

While some friends have told me I am a sellout, I’d argue that the move is actually both practical (financially and career-wise) and indulgent (giving me time and energy to pursue creative writing again). Either way, we’ll see how it goes. I am at least satisfied in the knowledge that I am joining a government agency dedicated to helping educate and facilitate medical knowledge and services — giving me the luxury to both be passionate about my work and pay my bills.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the transition. Have you been in a similar situation? How do you feel about it now?

Image courtesy of the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Journalists Are News Companies’ Most Valuable Asset – Publishing 2.0

Mike Arrington points to a very interesting strategy AOL is pursuing–hire all of the unemployed journalists and take over the industry. Hm, wonder if it will work.