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Naked in the River

ODILE AUCOIN and Jean-Francois LeBlanc took a steamboat down Bayou Teche in 1923 to the river town of Cours D’eau, Louisiana, to make their fortune together, exchanging a hardscrabble rural life for opportunities only a boomtown could offer.

He had a third-grade education, she’d made it through seventh. She carried a carefully folded spelling certificate congratulating her on a perfect score, in case it might help her get a job. They’d been married in the parish clerk’s office in St. Martinville before eloping on the steamboat Amy Hewes (with a dancehall onboard), planning a church wedding once they’d settled and started making money. Odile was dark-haired, wide-faced, pretty in her way, with lively eyes that didn’t miss a thing. Jean-Francois was five-foot-eleven, broad-shouldered, good-looking, and genial. He always had a harmonica in his pocket and was a world-class whistler. Odile was the willful one. She had plans. She was nineteen. Jean Francois had just turned twenty-six. They spoke nuanced French with each other, broken English to the outside world. 

Odile took a job at a seafood warehouse on Front Street down by the river, picking crabs for ten cents a pound, leaving her fingers bloody from the sharp shells and swollen from the wetness. She worked faster than most to make enough to enroll in an English grammar class once a week at the Marcel School for adults, intent on getting her high school diploma. Jean-Francois worked at the shell crusher, hauling fifty-pound bags of pulverized oyster shells used for covering roads and parking lots, a modern improvement over dirt paths, which turned to muddy ruts in the Louisiana rain. The heavy work didn’t bother Jean-Francois, who had been working hard for as long as he could remember. His mother died in childbirth when he was two years old, and his father remarried soon after. Jean-Francois was the oldest of a brood of half brothers and sisters he helped raise. He could cook, quiet a baby, work a cane field or build anything you wanted, whistling all the while. Work didn’t bother Jean-Francois, it was expected, he did it without complaint; it was the evenings he looked forward to.

Jean-Francois liked to drink. It was Prohibition times, but that meant almost nothing in south Louisiana. New Orleans was dubbed the “liquor capital of America,” but the small towns along the coast were even more soaked in alcohol. Who was going to enforce the Noble Cause? No one. Many a fortune was made running rum and bootleg whiskey through the web of bayous and backwaters filtering to the Gulf of Mexico. There was so much more liquor in south Louisiana after Prohibition, the price of a drink went down. Which was fine with Jean-Francois. 

Odile and Jean-Francois rented a shotgun house on a bend of River Road between the railroad tracks and the graveyard. Every room was tiny, the whole house was the size of one good-sized room, but it was a miracle to them, having both grown up with a horde of siblings, sharing beds, sharing clothes, sharing everything. This was theirs and theirs alone—front room, kitchen, bedroom, screened washing porch with wooden steps leading to a scraggly back yard with an outhouse. Odile had plans for that yard, a vegetable garden to feed them through hard times.

The view from their back door was of the old cemetery, which had graves going back before the Civil War, even though the town was less than twenty years old. Jean-Francois liked to sit on the back steps with his black coffee before work, watching the rising sun throw shadows on the tombstones. The cemetery was here first, he thought, and it’ll outlast the town. He imagined himself and Odile lying in the dirt there, side by side through eternity.

One warm Friday night in November Jean-Francois gets hold of a gallon of gin and invites his buddy Clayton from the shell crusher over to drink it with him and Odile. Clayton, tall and skinny, is from north Louisiana, having recently moved to Cours D’eau, like so many others, looking for a life beyond the farm.

After knocking off, the guys stop at the ice house to buy a chunk of ice, then hump it fast to River Road to get started on the gin before the ice melts. It’s already dark with a rising three-quarter moon as they hurry along the shortcut through the old graveyard when Jean-Francois shouts, “Fais nous?” stopping to suck the dripping ice and take a quick swig of gin. Clayton laughs and does the same as Jean-Francois flops onto the wide flat tombstone of the Morgan family. He notes they’re in the rich Protestant section, French Catholics only allowed at night or if they’re digging graves. 

Clayton wants to know, “Where the poor people at?”

Jean-Francois points to a side area under a cluster of oak trees.

“Least we’re better off than the coloreds, who barely get headstones. But the Jews—look—they got a little iron fence around them. Like they wanna be apart from everybody.”

Clayton starts to urinate on the graves of the wealthy, but Jean Francois stops him. “Why piss off God?”—making a play on the word piss that flies right over Clayton’s head.

When they get to the house, Odile is playing cards at the kitchen table with a new acquaintance, Susan Ann Price. Both girls squeal when they see the gin. Odile takes the dripping ice, discreetly pressing her puffy, reddened fingers onto the frozen chunk for relief.

Odile introduces Susan Ann as her English teacher from the Marcel School. Jean-Francois teases his wife—in French—she’s always trying to move up in the world with fancy friends, but he likes her like she is. He cups her ass, tugging her in for a kiss and a playful bite on her nose. Without letting go of his bride he switches to English, “Nice to meet you, Susan Ann. This my buddy Clayton.”

Clayton mumbles hello, digging his boot at a tear in the grungy flowered linoleum, stealing looks at Susan Ann’s ample curves. She takes the measure of long, tall Clayton, likes what she sees, straightens her back a little to show off her bosom. 

With a worn wood-handled ice pick, Odile chips ice into mismatched jelly jars and Jean-Francois pours the gin. The ancient window fan rattles away, not giving much of a breeze on this hot night.

Three drinks later Clayton is sitting in his underwear, the two women are down to their rayon slips, bras, and panties, and Jean Francois is removing his shirt, having just lost a hand of strip poker on purpose so as not to be the only one at the table still dressed. The gin is only half gone.

Whistling, Jean-Francois deals another hand but Clayton looks scared—he doesn’t have a lot left to bet—and Susan Ann nervously asks if her purse counts as something she can wager? 

Clayton pushes the cards away. “Maybe I better . . .”

But Odile is not ready for the night to be over.

“It’s too hot in here. This old fan don’t cool off much. Let’s go outside.”

Susan Ann doesn’t want Clayton to leave but – “Not like this!” She covers her chest with her hands. 

Odile stands, stretching in front of the fan, arms lifted, eyes closed, pale-pink slip sticky with sweat at her midriff. Jean Francois strokes her hip. Clayton tries not to look. Odile opens her eyes, reassures Susan Ann, “We know a place.” 

It’s quiet on the slow-moving river, the waxing moon casting shadows through the willows clustered on the muddy banks at the bend where a pirogue lays hidden in high grass a few feet from a small rough-hewn dock. Whispering cuts the humid night air as the couples cross the railroad tracks, loping down the embankment, headed for the water. Odile leads the way, Jean Francois carries the gin, chasing her.

Having redressed for the trip across the road, Odile pulls her dress over her head and flings it in Jean-Francois’s direction. She darts away, stripping as she goes, taunting Jean-Francois, who makes no real effort to catch her, preferring to see her running naked in moonlight.

Clayton and Susan Ann bring up the rear, learning the rules of this wild night as they go—he pretends to chase her, she escapes with a laugh.

Once Odile reaches the dock she shimmies up the four-foot post at the end, posing nude, high above the river, waiting for the others. Having shed her poor-girl rags, she is restored to the riches of her healthy nineteen-year old body—firm breasts, flat stomach, strong legs, a shield of beauty connecting her to goddesses of old. She howls.

Jean-Francois lunges to silence her—she dives into the river.

He shrugs off his clothes, slugs back the gin, and follows her into the black water.

Susan Ann and Clayton arrive at the dock, panting. He grabs her by the waist, kisses her. She pulls away, he holds on. Listening to the thrashing lovers in the water, tapping desire she didn’t know she had, Susan Ann Price unbuttons her dress—for the second time that night. Never taking his eyes off her, Clayton gets out of his clothes. Susan Ann’s breasts are fuller than Odile’s, and when she removes her bra the release takes Clayton’s breath. He reaches for her, but she flits away to the end of the dock. Nowhere to go but into the dark muddy river . . . Susan Ann hesitates. 

“How deep is it?”

“ ‘Chafalaya’s pretty deep, ya know, the paddleboat’s come through. We only thirteen miles to the Gulf.”

“But I mean right here. Will I touch bottom? Will it be muddy?”

“Let’s find out.” He eases her toward the water.

“No, don’t! I don’t want to.”

“Okay. It’s okay, ya know, whatever you want.”

Something grabs Susan Ann’s ankle—she screams and lurches into Clayton’s arms. Jean-Francois pops up in the water. “Jump in, mes amis. What you waitin’ for?”

Susan Ann tries to regain herself. “You scared the devil out of me!”

Odile swims over, hangs on Jean-Francois’s neck. “Feels good, ya’ll—c’mon.”

“It’s okay, Susan Ann. It’s just fun.” Clayton runs a finger along her face, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear, a gesture somehow more intimate than all the nudity of the evening. It’s too much.

Susan Ann, suddenly sober, sees herself like her mother and father would, like her pastor would—naked, outside, cavorting with low-class strangers by a dirty river. Shocked at herself and deeply ashamed, she pulls away from Clayton, covering her body with her hands as best she can. “I need to go.” 

“I dare you!”

Odile pushes herself up on Jean-Francois’ shoulders, shouting into the night, “I dare you, Susan Ann Price!”

Susan Ann so wants to be that girl—daring, free, divinely sensual. She’s twenty-two years old and senses she will never be more beautiful or more desired than she is at this moment. Clayton reaches a hand to her—Susan Ann takes it—he yanks her into his arms, leaping out over the water, yowling. Odile and Jean Francois whoop in celebration as the water around them explodes.

They swim and tease and talk as the moon crosses the inky sky. When they hear a car on River Road, they float to the cover of the willow trees, but when the 11:18 Southern Pacific rumbles through on the nearby railroad tracks they hoot and holler, and the women bob up to flash their breasts. Jean-Francois passes the bottle as they tread water, finishing the warm gin as the church bell tolls the midnight hour. Twelve peals.

They dress without looking at one another. Clayton asks if he can escort Susan Ann home, but she has missed the last ferry to Morgan City. Odile invites her to spend the night in their front room.

Back at the house Odile makes up a pallet of quilts for Susan Ann, suggesting the coolest place to sleep is under the window fan in the kitchen, but if she prefers the front room, that’s fine. Clayton keeps trying to say goodnight but never quite makes it out the door.

Jean-Francois and Odile say they always sit on the back steps for a while before going to bed, a white lie to give the new lovers privacy. Clayton shoots Jean-Francois a grateful look; Susan Ann’s eyelids flutter as she stares at the floor.

Odile and Jean-Francois find crackers and a tin of Vienna sausages and disappear out the back door, leaving Susan Ann and Clayton alone in the house.

Odile sits one step below Jean-Francois, leaning into him, feeding him, kissing him upside down with Vienna sausage breath. As their eyes accustom to the dark, shapes appear in the shadowy graveyard—mossy trees, tombs, crucifixes, sorrowful angels. The smell of rain is in the air. They whisper in French. After she gets her high school diploma from the Marcel School she’ll get a fancy job—maybe in an office. He likes that idea, she can support him in style. Meanwhile, he heard he can make more money as a cook on a tugboat, but it’ll mean being away from her.

Staring at the graveyard Odile tells him, “Sacrifier maintenant pour l’avenir.” Sacrifice now for the future. She wants to get married in the Church, she wants to have lots of babies. But first they have to save—and learn to speak good English.

Parle l’anglais,” she insists.

He indulges her, as always. “I’m a build us a house. Red house.”

“Wit’ a porch. An’ a vegetable garden.”

Et le chat.

“What we need a car for?” 

“A car—wit’ a radio. For drivin’ an’ singin’. I’m a build a playhouse pour les enfants an’ a work shed pour moi. What you want, for your special room?”

“Sewing room.”

“All right then, c’est bon, ma chere, c’est bon.

“But first we got to sacrifice.”

It starts to rain, lightly, a drizzle. Odile stands, tilting her head back, opening her mouth to the heavens. Jean-Francois grabs his spirited girl and they sneak silently back into their tiny rented house and their rickety borrowed bed, making love quietly with the smell of river in her hair. 

In the morning Susan Ann and Clayton are gone, the quilts from the pallet neatly folded. That afternoon Odile and Jean Francois break ground on their backyard vegetable garden.

At Sunday Mass Alida Jumonville snubs Odile, not responding to her greeting, walking away as if she hasn’t seen her.

On Monday at work none of the girls talk to Odile. They barely look at her except to sneak sly glances and catch each other’s eyes with knowing looks. Odile corners her friend Marie.

“What’s going on, anh? How come nobody’s talking to me?”

Marie, a skinny, nervous girl, pretends not to know but has a frantic look as if she’s scared to be seen with Odile, as if she might catch something from her. 

Over an early supper Odile tries to figure it out with Jean Francois, who laughs it off. “Women always carrying on. Ignore it, it’ll go away.”

But when she shows up for her class that night at the Marcel School she is told by the principal she is no longer a student there. They do not allow loose women into their classes. Odile protests, outraged. “What you talkin’ about? I’m a good Catholic, from a good family!”

The principal raises his eyebrows. “I understand you are living in sin, hosting single men in your rent house on River Road. You’re a bad influence on our students, and you are no longer welcome here.”

He attempts to shut the door, but Odile sticks her foot in it.

“That’s a lie! Who says that?”

“Did you swim naked in the river with two men? Did two men spend the night with you after that? Is that a lie?”

Behind him Odile sees Susan Ann peeking out of her classroom, too curious to stay hidden. Under Susan Ann’s glare of defiance Odile sees fear—fear Odile will fight back, expose the truth of their sweet, wild night, smear Susan Ann’s reputation, stain her virginity, ruin her chances.

Odile smells linseed oil rising from the polished oak floor, the cleanest floor she’s ever seen. She loves walking to her class, the click of her shoes echoing in the wide hall like she’s going somewhere. 

Odile realizes—who would believe me?—a barely literate Cajun girl not married in the Church over upstanding Susan Ann Price of Morgan City?

She says, “Susan Ann . . .” beginning an appeal.

Susan Ann shakes her head, one sharp move, and she’s gone. The principal pulls the school door shut, leaving Odile on the steps outside, burning with shame.

Susan Ann will leave this job to teach elementary school on the good side of the river, away from the rough trade of boomtown Cours D’eau. Alone in her bed at night she will revisit, time and again, Clayton’s body clasping her, skin on skin, flying through the air, splashing into the cold dark wet.

Odile walks home in twilight, breathing in muddy river air, eyes wandering downstream with the currents past oaks and willows, winding to the Gulf. In the far reaches of her soul the extinction of her dream makes room for reality. But time enough for that. Tonight she sorrows. 

UCross Residency


I spent the month of November on a writing retreat at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming..( and my oh my what a wonderful place. It’s a thousand acre working ranch that supports residencies for writers and visual artists. They offer a studio, meals and uninterrupted time to work on the project of your choice. Heaven.

I worked in the Marvelous Studio and it was. I forgot to sign the guestbook, but was very impressed by the other writers who wrote notes there, having worked in this studio before me. I think their hovering spirits helped me focus in the most creative and fruitful way I’ve experienced in years.

I worked at a standing desk overlooking a field of frozen grass, old bent trees, and herds of deer, antelope and cows. As always, ever-changing nature— weather, animals— never fails to inspire. It snowed, it rained, it was so sunny I had to close the blinds… and it was rutting season so I saw a lot of deer frolicking and chasing each other, hopping fences like you and I take steps.

The wind was my companion throughout and even made it into the play I was writing.

I finished a draft of a play called Drunk at the Base of the Bodhi Tree. It was started in a silent retreat with Erik Ehn in June in Bolinas, and I definitely owe him and the other silent retreatants a debt of gratitude. The ground for the play was turned there and the seeds planted; in November, with the deep attention made possible at Ucross, the first draft was completed. First new play in several years.

I also started a second play, working title— Just Curious. This one is a science story and will require some research, but I hope to get a draft out later this year.

I also (miracle!) worked on a few prose pieces, including an essay called I Can’t Close My Mouth, which I’m submitting for publication now, about the long-term effects of sexual assault and the obstacles I’ve faced in trying to tell those stories in television from a female point-of-view.

All said, it was the most productive time I’ve had as a writer in many years and I could not be more grateful to Ucross and to Mame Hunt and Roberta Levitow for introducing me there. BTW— I’m now working at home at my new standing desk! Fingers crossed to keep the productivity going…

Julie Moderates “Good Girls Revolt”

Hi friends! I’m delighted to be moderating a discussion Friday night November 11th with Dana Calvo, Jeanine Oppewall and Cynthia Pusheck, creators of the new Amazon show Good Girls Revolt. We’ll talk after a screening of their pilot at the beautiful Wilshire-Ebell Theater. I’d love to see you there. Come and get some inspiration from this true story of women banding together to create change.

By the way, this is now a FREE event!

For ticket information go to




Check out the trailer here:

NEW LWSD! backyard video shoot

We completed our latest Look What She Did! shoot at the end of August in Julie’s backyard (and two in the front yard– we got wild). Our all-gal crew was amazing (!) and we filmed nine interviews in just one weekend, our biggest shoot ever. Two incredible, inspiring days filled with crazy-great women talking about other crazy-great women. Stay tuned, we’ll be posting new videos soon.

Here are our newest co-conspirators:

Writer/director Julliette Carrillo on writer/director Jo Anne Akalaitis

Writer/director Julliette Carrillo on writer/director Jo Anne Akalaitis

Theater Critic Sylvie Drake on the mind-blowing Queen Hatshepsut of Eqypt

Theater Critic Sylvie Drake on the mind-blowing Queen Hatshepsut of Eqypt

Screenwriter Anna Thomas on anthropologist Carobeth Laird

Screenwriter Anna Thomas on anthropologist Carobeth Laird

Documentary filmmaker Grace Lee on Civil Rights activist Grace Lee Boggs

Documentary filmmaker Grace Lee on Civil Rights activist Grace Lee Boggs

Filmmaker Tamar Halpem on journalist Nellie Bly

Filmmaker Tamar Halpem on journalist Nellie Bly

Actress Elisa Bocanegra on playwright Maria Irene Fornes

Actress Elisa Bocanegra on playwright Maria Irene Fornes

Downtown Women’s Shelter communications director Ann-Sophie Morisette on homeless advocate Mollie Lowery

Downtown Women’s Shelter communications director Ann-Sophie Morisette on homeless advocate Mollie Lowery

Musician/writer April Wolfe on badass aviator Pancho Barnes (yes, she’s a woman…)

Musician/writer April Wolfe on badass aviator Pancho Barnes (yes, she’s a woman…)

Playwright Laural Meade on suffragette Sara Bard Field

Playwright Laural Meade on suffragette Sara Bard Field




















We had an absolute blast and can’t wait to show you these new stories! Keep an eye out for the new ones but meanwhile check out our other videos at

Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out our Instagram. Please tell us, who is YOUR astonishing woman?

American Crime goes to the Emmys… and has a peanut butter sandwich!

Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 1.33.59 PM

PB&Js courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel’s Mom

Okay, second visit to the Emmys– way more relaxed. We knew our way around this time, starting with driving up Pico instead of Olympic to get there, which saved us at least 20 minutes of waiting in a line of cars. Good start. We also knew to eat a little before we left, AND I brought almonds in my purse in case we became desperate. Turns out this was unnecessary because not only did they have mini-burgers in the lounge when we arrived (Kenn had one and said they were good) in the middle of the broadcast Jimmy Kimmel sent around lunch sacks from his mom filled with peanut butter and jam sandwiches, a cookie, an apple and a juice box. By that time everyone really was hungry and we — along with 7000 of our over-dressed colleagues — scarfed it up. It was a kick to see elegant men in their tuxedos and women dripping in diamonds licking their fingers and enjoying the pbj’s. One of my favorite moments. Thanks Jimmy’s mom.

Walking thJulieHredcarpete red carpet was more chill this time, too, despite the 100 degree heat because they’d erected a cover and hedges and had water available and all the folks guiding us along were cheery and helpful. They did a great job of moving thousands of socializing people into place for an on-time start to a live broadcast. Not easy and they did it with grace. I don’t know if it was aired on the Emmy broadcast, but before the show started three kids from Stranger Things sang and danced Uptown Funk and I LOVED it. They were adorable and fun and super-talented. Glad I was in my seat ahead of time to see it.

I’m pretty bad at recognizing famous people and I kept saying to Kenn: Look, that’s so-and-so! and he’d say: No, it isn’t.  And he was right. I mis-identified several seat-fillers but thank god I didn’t request their autographs. Meanwhile, I was so delighted to see some of my favorite people up on the big screen for their nominations, including Lili Taylor, Felicity Huffman, Lesli Linka Glatter, Lily Tomlin and many more. When Lily Tomlin didn’t win, you could see her mouth the words “Oh, damn it!” I love her. Also absolutely loved that Susanne Bier won best director for a limited series. She is a phenomenal director and it makes me so happy for women of talent to be recognized. Then, of course, our own Regina King won best supporting actress in a limited series for American Crime, and we leapt from our seats with tears in our eyes. Okay, Michael McDonald and I did, not Kenn, but he was proud of her, too. Turns out Regina’s win was the ONLY win of the night for anyone from broadcast television. Gave us a little lift.

Afterwards,GovBall we tromped over to the Governor’s Ball (my feet in stiletto heels were beginning to scream at this point… ah, vanity…) but when we walked in– the decor was breathtaking. Kenn says it’s like the most over-the-top high school prom you can imagine. Last year it felt like we’d been catapulted out into the universe and this year it was more Hobbit-like with lush, draped greenery GovernorsBall
hanging from the fifty-foot ceiling. An elevated, wedding-cake-like platform in the middle held an orchestra and singers who keep shifting through the evening. Magical.


We found ourJulieemmys2016 table then wandered around talking to friends and colleagues. Very happy to see some of our brilliant Season Two cast including Joey Pollari, Elvis Nolasco and Connor Jessup, as well as Ms. Cherry Jones, who will be joining us for Season Three. Damn, it’s fun to know amazingly talented people who are all such sweethearts.

Dinner was yummy and at our table we ate, drank and chatted with writer-producers Diana Son and Keith Huff and his wife Georgette, as well as our AD Kayse Goodell. Really lovely.

And we were out– except for the long walk back to the valet. I admit removing the stilettos and enjoying the red carpet in bare feet! Goodbye 2016 Emmys.


Regina King accepting her Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress

Me, Cherry Jones, and Kayse Goodell


Diana Son, Kayse Goodell, and me








LWSD! Founding Board meeting

The Look WhIMG_7377at She Did! team convened the first meeting of its Founding Board of Directors on Sunday May 15th, 2016.  It was an inspiring gathering of brilliant women in support of our project and we are truly grateful for their wisdom and vision as we create a sustainable organization to celebrate women of achievement long into the future.

During the meeting we passed the By-Laws of our new company, discussed future interviews (including out of town shoots!), made plans for fundraising and partnerships, and of course elected Officers and Committee Chairs.

Board members include Ellen Gavin, Courtney Graham, Julie Hébert, Janice Hebert, Lucia Jacobs, Tegan Molloy, Julie Sgarzi and Melinda White. Like all Look What She Did! gatherings… the food was yummy. Onward!

Look What She Did! Website Launch

-1Julie is thrilled to announce the launch of the cool new website for her backyard video project Look What She Did!

Check out the mosaic homepage with all the beautiful faces (and videos) of the women who have been interviewed so far. It’s a quite an inspiring collection. Some have even called the mini-videos addicting! See for yourself: or click on the image to the left.

The mission of Look What She Did! is to share stories about the lives and impact of under-recognized women who have transformed the world. Please go by our Connect page and tell us about an astonishing woman you know who deserves more recognition.

Check out the site and learn about some crazy-great women as told by some crazy-great women!

Don’t forget to follow Look What She Did! on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram


For the last few years I’ve been writing prose in addition to my usual scriptwriting. I’ve taken a few workshops with the inimitable Jack Grapes which have been instructive… and a blast. I’m working on a collection of short stories, but meanwhile here’s a crazy lighthearted piece to get started. I’ll be posting more prose and poetry on my website periodically. Hope you enjoy it.


Adam and Julia come over for dinner. I grill oatmeal skirt steaks, sea bass and rotisserie a chicken, which takes much leisure-suit longer than anticipated because we run out of propane in the middle of it. They’re cool, especially because I ply them with Margaritas. I make Adam’s beach umbrella twice as strong, doubling the tequila, but he slurps it down so fast I stomach-pain to get him another before Julia and I are even half way done with our screened-in porches. Julia helps me finish up the grilling while the guys chat in the interview room, nibbling on handcuffs and olives. The ears of corn keep going up in flames but I’m not bothered, I’m writing my play. Jim calls “Emergency!” but I say we have to pick tomatoes first. Finally, the flurry of food and smoke settle and we sit down to eat. For some reason, Jim starts talking about the Monkees and we can’t get off the living-room-floor subject for an hour or more. It’s crazy. Jim is trapped in a pratfall monologue. Julia keeps asking Red Buttons questions and egging him on and Adam and I are falling asleep in our meaty-rific plates. Suddenly Jim stands up and yells, “Okra in my nose!” and runs into the house. We’re mystified, but secretly relieved the Monkees story is over.

We start talking about movies and other things, a regular conversation, not a monologue and Hushpuppy swamp girl is being dissected when Jim sweeps back in saying, “Where was I?” Oh Lord. He tries to pick back up with the Monkees but I ask what happened to his rainbow suspenders and he proceeds to describe a stalagmite in his nose, which no one wants to hear about. “I thought it was pepper,” I say, but he corrects me, no it was a giant grandma falling out of his nostril and he wanted to save us from seeing it. But now he’s talking about it and it’s just as bad.

How about those Jets?” Adam offers, grinning bleachers through his lips. Back to the Monkees and we settle in for a long make-out session on the sixties. And of course the possible murder because of greed and the hot-cha-cha-cha third wife and her criminal brother. Oh yeah. Disco halter tops, white-jeans-so tight-youhave- to-zip-them-up-with-a-hanger days. We’ve floated around to the seventies, I guess. Eventually we realize something is wrong with the skirt steaks, way, way, way too coast of Spain hot, wait I mean salty. Briny. Salt-lick-like. Yeah. Jim takes a bite, warns off the others and throws them away. What a coyote dinner.

When I bring out the tarte tatin for dessert I put the platter of French window-box chicken onto the coffee table to get it out of the way, then race back inside for the whipped cream. When I come back down the hall vacation people are screaming and the dog looks guilty. Magnolia. She stole the chicken and dragged it across the kissing-in-a-tree patio, smearing Julia’s pretty red flats in the process. I walk out with a sequined parrot on my head and serve the whipped cream. Ta-da. When Jim disappears to clean up, we talk of work, Adam and I, with Julia asking the probing pogo-stick questions, as usual. Leading us into the John Street of it all.

Was your dad a good dad?” How’d we get to that?

Jim walks out and looks at me to see what I will say. Little League, check; hardworking, check; still married to my mom, check. Yellow-gray-hair-involved, I say, stern from a distance. “Not engaged,” says Jim. “Involved, but not engaged.” Okay. I begin the defense, the tidal wave of good deed and sofa-talk moments with my dad. Before he blew it. Now I’m in my own Monkees monologue and I can’t creature-destroying-Tokyo get out of it. Adam is drunk on tequila so he doesn’t care and Julia seems deeply fascinated. I think she can turn her hi-beams in any direction.

The looks begin, time to leave, they’ve had enough of motel parking lots. Easing toward the front door and an elegant Walker Percy goodbye, I notice Julia is barefoot. I don’t realize until later her dark red satin roses were smeared with chicken grease from Jojo’s caper. Bad dog.

Read Online


Julie was honored to continue her work with John Ridley and Michael McDonald for the second season of critically acclaimed American Crime on ABC. The Writers Room on this series is one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse, on television, leading to the powerful, original storytelling the show is known for. Collaborating with these writers was an unforgettable experience. Ridley and McDonald extend this dedication to diversity both in front of camera and behind it, creating an artistic community reflective of our society. Julie directed Episode Four and wrote Episode Nine. Shooting with the mondo-talented cast and crew in Austin was the highlight of 2015.

Check out the promo videos below for American Crime Season 2!

American Crime Season 2 promo video:


American Crime Season 2 Episode 4 promo directed by Julie:


American Crime Season 2 Episode 9 written by Julie:


On set with Look What She Did!

Julie Hébert directs Sonay Hoffman

Julie & Sevdije check Sonay’s shot.

Last weekend we accomplished our biggest-yet Look What She Did! shoot, involving 8 crazy-great women telling us about 8 crazy-great women. Hey, wait a minute, one of our interviewees was a guy, the first one ever on our project. Rick Zieff offered to do his interview in drag, but we decided that was unnecessary as we are flexible and open-minded gals. Rick was invited based on his sheer enthusiasm about his subject, Ernestine Fields, the Teddy Bear Attorney, a woman who has created a national program called Comfort in the Courthouse to help children in Family Court. Ernestine visited our backyard set on Saturday and we were thrilled to meet her in person and hear more about her projects.

Our harmonious all-female crew had a tremendous time working together (stringing up tablecloths in the lemon trees to diffuse the sunlight…) and listening to stories of women who fought to change their worlds and created important, lasting effects for all of us. On Saturday we heard about a brilliant scientist/artist from the 17th century, an Academy-Award winning costume designer who inspires unconventional beauty, the first Black female novelist who wrote her major work while hiding in the Underground Railroad, and one of the seminal founders of Jazz in America– unheralded women who we want to know about!

Sevdije Kastrati shoots Susie Landau Finch

Susie Landau Finch on Milena Canonero.

Sunday we started with a beautifully told story by our lead editor, Farrel Levy, on an artist-nun who saw spiritual meaning in the most unlikely places.

Sevdije Kastrati with Ferrel Levy

DP Sevdije with umbrellas.

We also heard about the first art photographer, a woman who elevated photography from its designation as archival by daring to infuse her work with feeling; we finished the weekend hearing about the woman who founded the Feminist Health Initiative, a housewife who shocked everyone with her radical commitment to women’s control of their own bodies.

Brighter Jan

Jan Oxenberg talks about Carol Downer

I am so grateful to my friends who took the time to tell us these inspiring stories, many of whom are not that comfortable in front of a camera. It is the core mission of this project that we should hear stories about real women from real women, and I so appreciate your commitment in showing up for this lovingly hand-made series.

And to our mind-blowingly great and dedicated volunteer professional crew– thank you. It would not be possible without the generous gifts of your time and talent.

I had a ball, can you tell?

The Look What She Did! crew

The Look What She Did! crew.