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  • I'm a writer, journalist, and the editor of The Gambit, the alt-weekly newspaper in New Orleans.

    Journalism: My work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Globe & Mail (Canada), The Times- Picayune (New Orleans), The Oregonian, and Willamette Week, as well as in magazines including Details, Vogue, Publishers Weekly, and Portland Monthly.

    Publishing: Tight Shot, my first novel, was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Its sequel, Hot Shot, was roundly ignored by everyone, but was a far better book. I'm also a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

    Stage: I was a member of the Groundlings and Circle Repertory West in Los Angeles, and am a playwright (see "Stage" in the right-hand rail).


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January 13, 2008



I am vacillating here between laughing and a nonstop stream of "ew ew ew."
On the FAR OTHER END of this nonsense: read Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year. Read the last two pages, just in case you weren't sure that life/death/writing has nothing to do with coffee and networking.


Granted, $120 is pretty steep - I'm not a member and have very little hope of affording that - having spoken to a few members I'd have to say that your idea that it's about being seen writing isn't the scheme here. We've long accepted that artists having community studios isn't just about making art, it's about being in a creative community - how is the Dojo any different? I understand the solitary writer, I'm one as well, but not every writer thrives holed up in a room alone.

Kevin Allman

Kate, I'm all about the freedom of choice as well. But to me, 'community' (like 'self-esteem') isn't a goal to be pursued, but the natural byproduct of the way one lives. And it's certainly not something one can buy into for $120 a month.

If being in a creative community is important to a writer, he or she can hang out with other writers, start or join a writing group, or follow any number of different paths that don't involve a commercial transaction.

And I double-damn sure wouldn't pay a sou to a writers' group that would say this:

"Imagine a shared office space that's quiet, literary, and beautiful, where the value of benefits to serious writers is superb...."

"Value of benefits"?


No, I do have to agree with you on several points. I have no bones with the complaints on the price, for one. But I think I'm just looking at it from a different perspective (obviously.) I know plenty of visual artists who pay for studio space, not only for use of the equipment but for the "buzz" of collaboration, to be around like-minded people from which they can learn. I see the Dojo as the equivalent for writers. And I absolutely grant you that if you know the right people and the right places, one can go to a coffee shop and get the same fellowship, but there are also plenty of people who don't know where to go for that community. If they can afford to belong to a studio, have at it. I just don't think the studio is about being seen writing, having spoken to the founder and a few members who are sincere in their idea of having a writing community.

Kevin Allman

Fair enough. You've met them; I haven't; and I'm not presuming motive.

But how sad is it if people are willing to pay $120 a month to feel part of a 'community'?


Eh, if you want to and can afford it, it's no skin off my back. Laissez-faire.

Otherwise I'm off to do some writing too - shut up in my tiny room trying not to pay attention to the sounds of the Giants game coming from the living room :)

Lizzy Caston

Well, on one hand I probably spend $120 a month on coffee while writing in various Portland Cafes around town. However, as no slight to the probable good intentions on the part of the "Dojo" I just don't ever see myself joining something like this mostly because the name "writers dojo" bugs the crap out of me. Why? It sounds incredibly pretentious and belly button gazing to the extreme to me. I have images of herbal teas, no shoes allowed in the Dojo, a couple people practicing "writers block Tai Chi" in the corner, and lots of passive-aggressive signs posted up all over the place on how and when to do the dishes, "rules for guests", music issues (Holly only wants acoustic music while Peter really wants to play his roots rock CD mix, man), and tons of meetings talking about writing and what the writers community means to everyone, but not actually doing any writing. It's enough to drive one writer crazy.

But perhaps I'm letting my imagination get the best of me. Murder at the Writers Dojo would make an excellent short story though, no? Where one moody writer is killed and Detective K.A. must figure out who did it amongst the "whacky" cast of eccentric writer characters that inhabit the Dojo.

And see there, the Writers Dojo Community just inspired me to write something. Cost? Free.

Matt Davis

This post is precisely why you'll never be accepted into Portland's "creative class," Kevin.

Shame on you.

melissa lion

Hey, thanks for the mention. I will also say they have no desks.

Here's my thinking on the whole thing -- I lived in San Francisco for ten years. In that time, I was invited to exactly zero writing clubs or groups or whatever, despite my being published by Random House (under the Knopf umbrella, no less). I wasn't part of SF's literary clique and so I wasn't someone who mattered much.

Here in Portland, it seems there's a small clique happening, which grates on my nerves, but maybe this Writers' Dojo is the first step in more of an inclusive group with a center. If the Writers' Dojo has enough money to put on events for writers that will be open to the public, then we all benefit. If it becomes a center for the writing community, both rent paying and not, then wow, how lucky are we.

The party was fun, though. And it had my favorite moment -- an old guy approaching me and asking me, "You're so young, what are you writing and where do you hope to get that published?" When I explained that I'm under contract for my third novel with Random House, and that my second one is optioned for a movie, he just had to inform me, "you are very lucky." I told him, "I call it talent."

Oh writers, we're a fun bunch.


Sigh... St. John's. Well, there goes the neighborhood.


I will be joining the Dobro. And driving to the meetings in my new Kia Diaspora.

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  • Booklist:
    "A worthy successor to Tight Shot, Allman's insider view of the seamier side of Hollywood is not only hip and entertaining but also has something serious to say about our insatiable hunger for tabloid thrills."

    Washington Post:
    "Barbed, breezy and often pretty and entertaining. Allman can be very funny, and Hot Shot complements nicely the less forgiving takes on Los Angeles as the future of us all. "



    "Allman turns a very sardonic pen loose on Hollywood's glitz-and-glamour crowd in this entertaining first novel... An impressive debut and an almost sure thing for a sequel."

    New Orleans Times-Picayune:
    "Allman clearly knows those of whom he writes. He's got L.A. nailed."

    Publishers Weekly:
    "Snappy debut... Readers will look for a sequel."


    A French Quarter convenience-store clerk has a hilariously traumatic encounter with a pair of Shreveport tourists. Part of Native Tongues 3 (Le Chat Noir, New Orleans; 2001; Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago; 2006).
    An upper-class black caterer finds comeuppance and redemption. Part of Native Tongues 4 (Le Chat Noir, New Orleans; 2005).
  • MY-O-MY
    A recreation of an evening at the notorious New Orleans 1950s female-impersonator nightclub My-O-My (Le Chat Noir, New Orleans; 2005).
    A lonely man discovers purpose when he intercepts a televangelist's letters from his neighbor's mailbox. Part of the Dramarama New Plays Festival (Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; 2004).
    A black father discovers that no good deed goes unpunished when he helps his white neighbor bail her son out of Orleans Parish Prison. (Le Chat Noir, New Orleans; 2004; Walker Percy Southern Playwrights Festival, Covington; 2007).
    An evening of comedies. In The Stud Mule, the world's richest woman arranges to be impregnated by a doltish escort; in Snatching Victory, an earnest college student runs afoul of her lecherous professor and the dour head of a women's-studies department (Le Chat Noir, New Orleans; 2003).


  • Patty Friedmann: <i>A Little Bit Ruined</i>

    Patty Friedmann: A Little Bit Ruined
    One of the first post-Katrina novels, and probably destined to be one of the best. Friedmann's sequel to Eleanor Rushing finds her crazy heroine still holding everything together after the storm (after a fashion), until she has to leave New Orleans and she falls apart physically as well as mentally. Mordantly, morbidly funny.

  • Tom Piazza: <i>Why New Orleans Matters</i>

    Tom Piazza: Why New Orleans Matters
    The best post-Katrina book I've read. In 150 small pages, Piazza explicates the New Orleans experience simply and beautifully. I'll be passing this one on to anyone who wonders "But why would anyone want to live there?".


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