July 31, 2015 – New Orleans. President Sue Quiroz of Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat Fan Club hosted a panel of four female authors Tuesday evening in Metairie. Award-winning New Orleans freelance writer and photographer Deborah Burst was a featured panel guest.
Deborah, or “Deb,” as she likes to be called, shared stories of her experiences and adventures as a writer and photographer.
She is known for her passion for travel, history and architecture. Burst has traveled throughout the south. She has also followed the hallowed grounds of the east coast, earning columns on travel and historic churches. Her work reflects her commitment to detail. Driven by the artistry of photography, she began working with national magazines, featuring travel, historic homes and hotels.
Recognized for mastering a vivid sense of place and stunning composition in photography, she earned a national cover photograph and feature, as per her bio.
Burst was a panelist asked to take part in the discussion held at the Metairie Branch of the Jefferson Parish Library. Also featured were authors Alys Arden, Dawn Chartier and Alexandra Weis.
The ARVLFC will be hosting its annual Undead Writers Conference and annual ball, this year entitled Gathering of the Ancients, in October just before Halloween. On the night of the gala event, Burst will join Quiroz, Arden, Chartier.Weis, an assortment of genre authors from around the globe, and a couple thousand costumed revelers in welcoming guest of honor Anne Rice back to her beloved hometown.
Deborah has a special relationship with Anne Rice. Deb interviewed Mrs. Rice in 2008 for Southern Breeze Magazine when Rice released her memoir, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. Anne offered personal commentary about her childhood and her memories of growing up attending St. Alphonsus Church. During the interview, Burst mentioned that she hoped to one day write a book about New Orleans’ historic churches.
In December, 2012, Burst began compiling her Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans, and the photographer/journalist reached out to Rice for another interview to include in her first book.
The graciousness of the world-renowned author came clear when Rice replied! Through a conversation of emails, Burst explained that she was writing a book about historic places of worship to include a vignette on Rice’s childhood New Orleans church, St. Alphonsus. The talents of Burst so compelled Rice that she reached out to the freelance writer. Anne wrote back to Burst, offering, “I will do what I can.”
Burst sent Anne a request that resulted in Mrs. Rice herself writing the foreword for Burst’s first book.
Burst calls Rice’s stunning inclusion the “most eloquent prose of her hometown of New Orleans.”
As part of the foreword, Anne Rice wrote, “The tolerance in New Orleans is something rare, the love of family is rare, and the co-existence of ardent faith with the Mardi Gras Dionysian spirit is rare and special and priceless.”
During the panel presented at the Jefferson Parish Library branch, Burst shared that she often writes through her photography.
ARVLFC’s Sue Quiroz, responsible for the decades of success of the world-famous New Orleans Anne Rice ball, the founder and owner of NOLA Undead Con, lived and traveled with Anne Rice as her personal assistant for 15 years. “Suzie Q,” as she is lovingly referred to by Rice, is a prominent icon in New Orleans author circles.
Sue had the following praise for the artistry Deborah Burst captures through her photography and writing.
Deborah Burst has a great eye for capturing the beauty in whatever she is photographing. I have seen her plan out a shot, with the light being just right, and then getting the subject framed in a particular way that draws the eye towards her subject. And she always does exhaustive research into whatever she does. The broken above ground tomb at the Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville that she wrote about with the open iron door and steps going down into the dark below…she found the true story of a grieving husband who wanted to sit in his rocker and talk or read to his wife who had passed. She found out the family moved her remains and the tomb is in disrepair now.
Through her blog, Burst promotes self-publishing. She posts anecdotes and photos of her work, her love for Louisiana cemeteries and churches, and tales of her adventures in travel.
Deb also added those only-in-New-Orleans kinds of experiences a reporter here relishes. Burst once contacted New Orleans Voodoo priestess Sallie Ann Glassman for an interview. During the ARVLFC library panel, the Sacred Places author recalled how Sallie Ann once told her that New Orleans is richly abundant in ghosts. So much so, in fact, that during Glassman’s morning run along one of NOLA’s famous levees, the athletic priestess has to often “knock spirits out of the way.” Sallie Ann, according to Bust, is one of many in New Orleans who believe the dead travel back to their above-ground crypts after a night of paranormal revelry.
Second book, Louisiana’s Sacred Places, Churches, Cemeteries and Voodoo, is the first in a series to lead down a “captivating trail of history, mystery and the blurred lines between the sacred and profane.” Deborah took control of the entire project, publishing the 152 page book with 57 full color photos herself in October 2014.
When asked a question during the library panel about incorporating the character of New Orleans into her work, Deborah shared that she plans to feature Holt Cemetery near City Park in her next book. Burst stated that it is “New Orleans only below-ground cemetery,” explaining that Holt is “one of those places that are true New Orleans” and “anyone who visits is definitely going to find character there.”
Burst told the library audience that she reads “a lot of non-fiction.” She mentioned her admiration for author Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In answer to an audience question Tuesday night, she praised Capote’s use of characterization in creative non-fiction, complimenting the Truman’s mastery of juxtaposing “superimposed conversations he thought to have taken place” within the actual documented historical events that occurred during the 1959 murders of Herbert Clutter and his family.
The audience questions led Burst back to a beloved subject of her two published works. Churches.
She commented that what most inspires her about New Orleans churches is “the people who built them.” It is the details that inspire Burst. She relishes the stories that depict the history…not just the process of how the church was built, but how the building of the church led to the community that built up around it.
She cited Anne Rice’s beloved St. Alphonsus as an example, which she details in her first book. The people wanted a church, and in order to have one they first had to hand-dig trenches to underlay all the walls. Then cypress trees had to be placed within the trenches, then those trenches had to be filled with clam shells in order to support the walls. St. Alphonsus literally floats over these filled canals. The ladies of the Irish Channel then chose to carry bricks in their aprons from two to three blocks away to be laid into the building. There are no cracks in the walls. There is to this day no sinking of the foundation, as the church literally ‘floats’ over the support system.
An excerpt from Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans on Anne Rice’s childhood experiences with St. Alphonsus, as published by Burst, reads as follows:
“Rice was captivated by the massive presence of St. Alphonsus and marveled at its artistry. ‘I loved the old marble flooring that was covered up in the ’50s and the statues near the rear of the church. I remember a giant statue of St. Rita–I used to pray to her.’ She fondly recalls sitting in the pews studying the stained-glass windows. She remembered one window in particular, the third window on the right that depicts the story of ‘Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.’ As a child, Jesus stood barefoot, adorned with a halo and in a white robe, pointing to the heavens. The elders sat around him listening, while Mary and Joseph, also blessed with halos, stood in the background, Mary reaching out to her son. ‘The one is fixed in memory–I dont’ know why,’ she said. ‘I loved the robust and detailed colorful figures and often mediated on teh different windows.'”
Both Deb’s books showcase ghostly experiences, captivating photos, detailed descriptions and historical community dedication shared by devotees from individual centers of worship.
Active within her own community, Burst co-founded the Northshore Literary Society to “help grow literary endeavors and support writers in St. Tammany Parish.” Deb has served on writing panels for both the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Words & Music Festival and the Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans. The New Orleans native has appeared on multiple television and radio shows including both the New Orleans and Mississippi NPR station. The recipient of some 20 writing and photography awards, she is a member of the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans, Save Our Cemeteries, and the Friends of St. Alphonsus.
In addition to researching new trails for her Louisiana’s Sacred Places series, she continues freelancing, with a monthly travel column with Louisiana Road Trips magazine. Deborah plans for a November 2015 release of a compilation of short stories and personal essays featuring travel and animal attractions.
For more info on Deb, along with samples of her published works, go here.