Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Southern Festival of Books

Having been back from Nashville less than a week, the memories of the Southern Festival of the Book are still fresh in my mind. It's a wonderful feeling, being surrounded by book lovers. We shuffled from one room to the next, listening to authors discuss their innermost secrets, in the beautiful Legislative Plaza, Korean War Memorial and marble-laden Congressional rooms.

I ate much-too-expensive hotel food, watched cloggers dancing to bluegrass and met some fascinating authors to boot. What a thrill it was when, after speaking to a room-full about my books with Denise Hildreth, we sat down for a signing at the Colonnade and up walked J.L. (Jackie) Miles to say hello. Here is a woman whose writing I adore AND she blurbed my first novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass. Not many people would blurb a new novelist, but Jackie did. I won't forget it. It was amazing to finally meet her in person.

Jackie then introduced me to author Karin Gillespie, and on the elevator to the seventh floor of my hotel, I'd invariably meet a poet or novelist or author of some sort.

"Oh, what do you write?" I would ask, he/she would ask.
"That's fascinating," he/she/I would say back.

It's fairly surreal to bump into so many talented people at once. I met other authors at various stages in their careers, River Jordan and Tim Callahan. And on the way home, I began reading Callahan's charming novel, The Cave, the Cabin, and the Tattoo Man. I think my laughter scared the poor guy next to me on the flight home when the main character who has a speech impediment, nine-year-old Timmy, tried to recite Bible verses in front of the church congregation.

Yes, it was expensive. Yes, the trip took me away from my family, and I suffered guilt over that. But I was able to meet readers and authors and publishers passionate about what they do. I was able to give away advanced copies of my next novel, Trouble the Water, and hopefully, to generate some good buzz. And I was able to feel a part of something, in the often isolating and lonesome business of writing books. There was a true sense of community in Nashville last weekend and that, in my book, is priceless.

And don't worry--my kids were fine. In fact, they fared better than their daddy did. God bless you, Brian. I couldn't do this without you.

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