Posts Tagged ‘benu press’

For the entire time I was growing up in Nashville, my favorite place to go when I had some money in my pocket was a bookstore called Davis-Kidd. Heck, it was my favorite place to go even when I didn’t have money in my pocket. Many of Nashville’s bibliophiles, seeking to prove their long memory, will brag about remembering the first location Davis-Kidd had in the Green Hills mall, back in the 80s. Well, I remember even before that, when Davis-Kidd was in a little box of a building that is now an Oriental Rug Depot or somesuch thing. I remember the clerk recommending children’s books to me. As I grew, so did the store, moving to bigger and bigger locations.

By the time I was about 13, Davis-Kidd was in a glorious two-story building and my English teachers were predicting that I would be a writer when I grew up. Their assertions were almost always followed by a reference to Davis-Kidd, i.e. “I just know I’m going to see your book in the window at Davis-Kidd someday.” My dream of being an author was completely intertwined with the idea of someday reading and selling my book there. When I got my driver’s license, I would go to the store and sit on the benches between the shelves like I was in worship, which I suppose I kind of was.

At about this time last year, the news broke that Davis-Kidd was closing. My book had been accepted for publication but not yet released, and I had just received the form that authors have to fill out in order for this icon of a store to carry their book. My immediate reaction was that I had come very close to realizing a dream, only to have it snatched away. I was crushed. Eventually, this emotional reaction healed over, but I was still left with a pragmatic struggle: Here I was with a book about Nashville and there was no place in Nashville to sell it.

Over the past year, I’ve learned a lot about what’s involved in selling books. I’ve learned about publishers and distributors, and I’ve learned just how hard it is to get a box store to carry a book that didn’t come out of a major publishing house. The Barnes+Noble located not far from the events depicted in Confederate Streets won’t carry my book unless the national office approves it, which isn’t going to happen for my little collection of essays.  It’s ridiculous. The whole process of trying to get any retailer in Nashville to notice my book has been frustrating and disheartening. It seems that every phone call gets routed through New York City.

This summer, some rumors about a new bookstore began circling. And, I’d be darned if they didn’t end up to be true. Ann Patchett, a Nashvillian and nationally renowned author, partnered up with Karen Hayes, a sales rep from Random House. They decided to open their own bookstore, which they named Parnassus, after the mountain where the ancient Greeks believed learning and literature lived. After a whole lot of work on their part and a lot of enthusiasm from the community, Parnassus Books opens TODAY in Green Hills. I will be there. Confederate Streets will be there.

There’s been an awful lot of talk in recent years about the death of the book (a session with just such a name was standing-room only at The Southern Festival of Books last month in Nashville), and I imagine that at least a few of you are reading this blog or my book on some sort of e-device. That’s fine, but after the year I’ve had, I can assure you that bookstores are still a vital part of any intellectual community. My friends have stepped up admirably – they’ve hosted me for readings and shared Confederate Streets with their book clubs – so the book has definitely received some momentum. However, even with that assistance and the dominance of Amazon, if a book doesn’t have a home, it doesn’t exist. I don’t even know if I would buy a book about Nashville that cannot actually be purchased in Nashville. Anyone can throw some self-published blather up on an e-book. Bookstores provide ethos.

Bookstores also provide community. As a reader, sometimes I just want to be in a place where I can browse. Sometimes, I’m in a mood and I just want to read something with a certain tone or that covers a certain topic. Knowledgable booksellers are so much more helpful than an algorithim, and it’s always more fun to be in an actual physical space than it is to browse the Internet in solitude.

As an author, bookstores are equally as necessary. Davis-Kidd closed and my scramble began. I was emailing churches, libraries, colleges, anyone. I have this book and people say it’s pretty good and would you like me to come speak about it? Well, you can’t buy it in town, but I can bring my own copies. It’s been the same with getting the media to review the book. It’s about Nashville…No, but you can buy it on Amazon. I was usually shut down. I’ve even met a couple prominent authors who were willing to give readings with me (I saw it as being the opening act to their arena-level rock band), but it’s hard to give a reading when the place that usually hosts such things has gone.

Parnassus is focusing on the local, and that will be key to its survival. Take it from me – the small neighborhood bookshop is as relevant in 2011 as it has ever been. In fact, with the all-out information blitz that assaults our senses during our waking hours, a place like Parnassus – Nashville’s new home for literature, for readings, and for browsing on a Saturday afternoon – is more necessary than ever.

The GRAND OPENING of Parnassus Books will be all day today in Nashville. I will be joining other local authors for a reception from 5-8 p.m. Parnassus is in the shopping center where Abbot Martin T’s into Hillsboro Road. (As if a bookstore opening isn’t wonderful enough, it’s opening in the same row of shops as Fox’s Donut Den!)  If you live in Nashville, stop on by. If you don’t, give your friendly neighborhood bookstore some lovin’ real soon.


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Wow! So, I’ve had this blog up since my essay collection was published by Benu Press in March. Through Wednesday, I’d had about 2,000 visits to the blog, total, with the largest day bringing about 160 views to an essay I wrote in the wake of the April 27 Tornado Outbreak. Yesterday morning, before I’d even had my coffee, I heard of the passing of Civil Rights icon Fred Shuttlesworth. My breakfast ruminations over the deaths of Shuttlesworth and Steve Jobs occurring on the same day led to an idea, which led to me holing myself up in my study and going on a writing binge of sorts. Around 2:30 p.m., hungry and thirsty and bleary-eyed, I posted “Fred and Steve.” The last time I checked, over 1,000 people had read the piece.

If you are one of those visitors, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read that essay, check out my blog, and tell your friends. If you are interested in learning more about leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, my book, Confederate Streets, explores the history of Nashville, Tennessee, through the lens of someone who was born in the late 1970s. I was born after the movement, but the work of desegregation was far from over and, like most Nashvillians (especially those of us who attended public schools), the work of the Civil Rights leaders and those who opposed them affected virtually every facet of my life. (The book’s title comes from the fact that segregationists named all the streets in my neighborhood after Confederate leaders and battles shortly after the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education) You can find my book on amazon.com or, conveniently enough considering yesterday’s post, read it on your i-something for the low price of $4.99.

Even before people started sharing my work on Facebook yesterday, I was looking forward to this month as it connects to my writing career. You see, this time next week I will be on my way to Nashville to participate in a panel discussion at the Southern Festival of Books! I first attended the Festival in October 1994, when I was a junior in high school. It was just a short walk from my high school, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet. We were given free rein and little supervision, but, being good little nerds, we all stayed around. I remember it as a spiritual awakening of sorts. I walked from table to table there on War Memorial Plaza, spoke with authors, and realized they were real people. I remember wandering around in that slanting autumn light and thinking to myself, “I can do this. I can be here someday.”

Someday” comes next Friday, October 14, at 1 p.m. in the library of the State Capitol. I will be presenting with Ms. Carrie Gentry, wife of Tennessee State University’s iconic coach and professor Howard C. Gentry, about whom she has written a book. We will each read from our respective works and then there will be a moderated discussion on race. I’m really, really looking forward to the realization of this dream and the chance to meet Ms. Gentry and hear her take on issues that matter so much.

But really, regardless of your interest in the book or your proximity to Nashville, thank you all so very much for stopping by. I do write pieces here about ideas that interest me – mostly topics connected to the Civil Rights Movement, social justice, or cultural geography. On Wednesdays, I post photos. I hope many of you return to the blog, but even if you don’t, I appreciate you taking the time to read my tribute to the two very different kinds of visionaries we lost on Oct. 5 – Fred Shuttlesworth and Steve Jobs.

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It took a bit longer than I thought it would, but WUTC, the local NPR affiliate, broadcast my interview about Confederate Streets this morning.  I have to say, radio interviews are pretty fun. Since I was just in a foam-lined studio, there wasn’t much distraction. The reporter, Michael Edward Miller, asked the questions and I just took off with the answers.

The link is here, and you can also listen to an excerpt of me reading from “Our Most Segregated Hour.”

I think I handled the radio interview pretty well, and I hope Terry Gross takes note. 🙂

Oh, also, for you Chattanoogans, check out the Metro Weekly insert in today’s Times Free Press. There’s a short review promoting my reading this Saturday at Wild Hare Books from 2-4 p.m.

Thank you, readers, for indulging all the self-promotion as of late. I’m trying hard to get the word out, especially with readings coming up. If you have enjoyed the book, please consider passing this link along to like-minded friends. I’ll be back to photography and reflective essays before long, and perhaps I’ll see some of you soon!

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Last week, I had the thoroughly new and interesting experience of sitting in for a radio interview. I had one of those big foam microphones right in front of my face and gave verbose answers to questions from WUTC’s own Julie Steele.  I was a little nervous and can’t exactly remember what I said, but I’ll certainly remember tomorrow, Wednesday, July 6, when the interview is aired on “Around and About,” WUTC’s daily program about events and people in the Chattanooga area.

So, y’all tune in! If you are in Chattanooga, you can tune in to 88.1 FM and hear “Around and About” at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you live outside Chattanooga, you can find an mp3 stream here.

The interview is to promote the book, as well as my upcoming reading at Wild Hare Books on Taft Highway in Signal Mountain, which will be from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, July 23.

Tune in and let me know what you think!

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I know you’re probably thinking, “What? No PhotoWednesday? Why am I even out of bed?”  I know, I’m sorry. But PhotoWednesday has been usurped by the exciting news that the good folks over at chapter 16.org just posted a review of the book.

I only just discovered Chapter 16 this year and I must say, if you love books and Tennessee, it’s a webpage you should become familiar with. It’s run by Humanities Tennessee, the organization which runs the Southern Festival of Books and the Tennessee Young Writers’ Workshop.

Chapter16.org is an excellent source for events, interviews (one with Nashville native Ann Patchett is currently up), and reviews. I sent them a copy of Confederate Streets in the hopes that they would come to believe it merited some attention….and they did.

So, please head on over there and read the review by Ralph Bowden.  If you’re so inclined, send the link to any potentially interested friends, colleagues, or news outlets. To be honest, I often have a hard time articulating what, precisely, Confederate Streets is about, but Mr. Bowden has done an excellent job with it.

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It’s been a busy April, both literarily and with my job.  I have many stories to share about Driving Ms. Mason, giving a reading during a Chattanooga monsoon, and making David Sedaris laugh out loud ( Sedaris: 1,273 – Tocknell: 1). And now, there’s this whole blow-up with Greg Mortenson – the latest author to give us honest memoirists a difficult time appearing legit. (thanks, buddy)

However, I will deal with all those stories after Easter.  This is typically a week when I pause and reflect, and I plan to unplug a little and do so.  See you all on the flipside. Happy Easter.

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As the Old Man would say, “Tonight! Tonight! …. Hot damn! Tonight!”  Come on over to the North Shore at 7 p.m. this evening for the Chattanooga launch of Confederate Streets at the Winder Binder Folk Art Gallery/A Novel Idea Bookstore.  (It’s all called Winder Binder now, but we Tennesseans are adept at understanding a place by what it “used to be.”)  I will read, there will be food and drink, I will sign copies of the book. (I’m getting much better at this. In fact, I’m getting so accustomed to it that I recently signed “Erin E. Tocknell” on a greeting card to a friend). You can even go home with a nice piece of folk art if you wish.

The owner of Winder Binder, David Smotherman, has been great about promoting the reading as a part of the Faux Bridges Art and Literature Festival.  The Chattanooga Pulse and the Times Free Press both have write-ups this morning. Overall, between Faux Bridges, the Southern Lit Conference, Four Bridges, and David Sedaris, Chattanoogans who enjoy the arts are in for a wonderful weekend. So, get out there and enjoy!

However, if you can’t come, you can still get copies of the book at Winder Binder after the weekend. You can also order directly from the publisher or amazon.com. OR, you can get one from me. I deliver!

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