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Writing Your New Orleans Story

Everything you need to create your own New Orleans novel (or novella)!

Visitors and locals sitting along the mighty Mississippi on a beautiful day. Photo courtesy of Dustin Woehrmann.
Visitors and locals sitting along the mighty Mississippi on a beautiful day. (Photo courtesy of Dustin Woehrmann)

Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner have all called New Orleans home at one time. The city is a wilderness of stories waiting for writers to capture from an outdoor cafe in the Marigny, a rotating bar in the French Quarter, or a bench on the banks of the Mississippi. Spring is especially inspiring because of blooming flowers and metaphors, as well as two festivals honoring writers and words.

Script your own “happily ever after” story using this itinerary as an outline. For a more novel (or novella, depending on time) experience, skip the driving and instead rely on your feet and public transportation. If you’re feeling energetic, bicycle rentals are available throughout the city.

Writer’s Survival Kit

Travel like a writer and pack a lightweight bag (messenger or backpack) with writing utensils and a journal or notebook. Save room for a water bottle and umbrella or jacket depending on the weather. Update or start a new writer’s survival kit at Tchoup Industries, the designer and retailer of New Orleans-made bags and accessories.  Scriptura, the European-inspired paper and writing boutique on Magazine Street offers beautiful pens, pencils and journals that are perfect to capture your experience.

Breakfast of (Writing) Champions

Croissant D'or Patisserie on Ursulines Ave in the French Quarter. Photo by Rebecca Ratliff and
Croissant D’or Patisserie on Ursulines Ave in the French Quarter. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

Start your morning at a cafe with outdoor seating like Cake Cafe and Bakery in the Marigny or Croissant D’or Patisserie in the French Quarter. Open your journal and write about the food you are eating, the people around you or the smell in the air. Or, grab a chicory coffee and beignets from the Cafe Du Monde to-go window, and find a bench on the banks of the nearby Mississippi River. After you take that first sip and bite (and licked the powdered sugar from your fingers and lips), try writing a short story using the words “beignets,” “riverboats,” “champions,” and “living.”


New Orleans has several independent bookstores throughout the city. Faubourg-Marigny Art and Books, is the oldest gay bookstore in the south. Stacked with original paintings and photography, new, used, and vintage books, and old porn magazines and erotica, the vibe is 1970s underground. About ten minutes away in Pirate’s Alley is Faulkner House Books, former residence of William Faulkner. Lose yourself amongst the shelves of classic and rare edition books by Faulkner and other historic writers.

Literary Landmark

A few blocks away sits the Hotel Monteleone, an official literary landmark and historic haunt of distinguished Southern authors including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote, who often joked that it was his birthplace. Spin around a mixologist at The Carousel Bar, and sip a Sazerac where literary greats plotted their novels, plays, and lives.

Novel Settings

Many wonderful books like A Confederacy of Dunces and Interview With a Vampire are set in New Orleans. On Canal Street, check out the bronze statue depicting Ignatius J. Reilly, just as he appears on the opening page of the book right out front of the former D.H. Holmes department store, now the Hyatt French Quarter Hotel. Jump on the St. Charles streetcar and head to 1239 First St. in the Garden District to see Anne Rice’s former residence, and rumored setting for her novel, The Witching Hour.

John Waters at last year's Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. Photo courtesy Paul Willis.
John Waters at the 2015 Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival. (Photo courtesy of Paul Willis)

Celebrating Desire and Literature

If you’re in town March 30-April 3, be sure to attend the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival.  Five days of events include literary panels, readings, workshops, and performances including a stage production of The Glass Menagerie at Le Petit Theatre. There are also poetry, fiction, and one-act play writing contests as well as a “Stella!” shouting contest.  As long as you’re in town, check out the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, which features panel discussions and master classes focusing on LGBT literary topics and literature.

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