Posts Tagged ‘chattanooga’

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, but that’s not because Confederate Streets has dropped off the radar. Whereas 2011 was the Year of the Book – an exhilarating adventure of promotion and travel, 2012 has begun with a comfortable momentum. I have a reading coming up and the book is also gathering some credibility on the book club scene.

Last night, I returned to the WinderBinder Bookstore and Gallery, site of my Chattanooga book launch last April, for a discussion of Confederate Streets at the monthly meeting of Chattanooga’s Southern Literature Book Club. I do love sitting down with people who have read my essays, especially folks who didn’t know me beforehand. Inevitably, these discussions turn into author interviews and good readers (as these folks are) ask good questions. Last night, someone asked me how I teach students who have told me that they, too, want to be writers. Well, I’ve only had one who’s declared his interest in writing books and he actually introduced me when I read at WinderBinder last April, which was one of the most special things about that evening. Other than trying to connect interested students with opportunities to be published, enter contests, and that type of thing, I realized that I don’t approach teaching any differently with a math kid or a poet or whatever. Good writing is good writing. Perhaps I’m just a crazy idealist, but I want every kid who comes in contact with me to understand writing both as something that is functional and necessary and something that allows us all to understand the world as we muddle our way through living in it.

March is almost here and I have two more appearances connected with Confederate Streets

Wednesday, March 14, 12:00 – Book club meeting at McCallie School. I believe this is a pretty established club, but it’s run by the headmaster’s wife, so if you know her and want to come, drop her an email, I guess. I’m looking forward to passing a lunch hour in the Headmaster’s House on the day before Spring Break.

Thursday, March 22, 7 p.m. – Reading at Tusculum College, Greeneville, TN –  I am really looking forward to heading up to Tusculum during Spring Break. My friend and fellow WVU MFA Alum, Wayne Thomas, has been teaching there for a number of years now and has steadily garnered attention for the school’s creative writing program. This will be a fine evening indeed.

I’ve really appreciated you all, my faithful readers, and your willingness to share your thoughts on my book, write reviews for it, and tell your friends about it. My goal last year was to get my book “out there” and it does seem that has happened. I’m in a good place as a writer and teacher at this point. The published book is rolling, the work I want to write is making progress (slower than I would like, but I can make it a priority this year, which is wonderful), and my time in the Writing Center at the school where I work is giving me the chance to support young people who want to write.

I’ll say this though – I’d love to have more than three book-related appearances in 2012. If you can’t make it to the upcoming book clubs or reading, consider hosting your own! I am based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I have a reliable car, an iPod full of music, and a high school teacher’s schedule. In other words, I am game for road trips. In fact, I love them. If you’d like to arrange a reading or book club meeting through your church, school, friends, etc. and you want me to come, I’d be more than willing. The best way to get in touch with me would be to leave a comment here, email me (info is under the contact tab) or “friend” Confederate Streets on facebook.

Thanks everyone. Have a great day and read a good book.


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Along with being a writer, I teach, coach, work in the Writing Center, and run the literary magazine at an all-boys’ prep school here in Chattanooga. (Maybe that sentence should be reversed. Unless it’s summer, carving out writing time is quite a battle. I’m following a proud tradition in that camp.) My coaching duty is fall novice crew, which I affectionately think of as “rowing kindergarten.” The other novice coaches and I show up in the Student Athletic Center in August and meet about three-dozen ninth-graders who have never even sat in a racing shell. By November, they’re trucking down the course at The Head of the Hooch, one of the largest regattas in the country (Actually poised to become THE largest regatta in the country this year. I’m not sure if the numbers are out yet.)  It’s a steep learning curve, and I could certainly write an essay or two about what happens to your heart rate when you put 9 14-year-olds in an expensive boat and turn them loose on the Tennessee River. By the end of the fall season, however, a lot of the “crap-are-they-going-to-crash-into-stuff?” stress is gone and replaced by the fun of strategizing for competitions, soaking in the slanting golden light as I putt down the river in a jon boat, and enjoying the personalities of the rowers and coaches around me.

I have not posted much this fall, nor have I done a lot of writing (though I have been reading/researching, so that’s good). I sent my dog off to be with my parents in Florida because I was too busy to take care of him. The lazy, languid days of summer ended with a full sprint into the school year, and I’ve been going ever since. Still, I’m not gonna’ lie, coaching novice crew here in Chattanooga is a blast. From the initial rowing instructions to frightened and adrift novi in September (“Okay, now straighten your knees …. no, your knees….your knees….. Those are your elbows.), to  the overheard conversations as I drive the mini-bus (We have a boarder from Westchester, New York, this year. Listening to the Southerners and the Yankee trying to sort out their mutual misinformation has been so funny that I’ve nearly crashed the bus), to the general chaos around regatta preparations (last week, after rowing all of our boats down to the staging area for the Hooch in the rain, I ended up walking all the way from downtown back to our boathouse with about eight guys, one of whom was barefoot because he couldn’t find his shoes), to the sprinting-cowbell ringing-dock catching chaos that the Head of the Hooch always brings, it’s been a satisfying and exhausting autumn.

I’ve done other stuff this fall, too, like realizing my lifelong dream of being a part of the Southern Festival of Books. (I was even mentioned in the Nashville Scene!)More on that and other events in future posts. For now, enjoy a few pictures from my life in rowing kindergarten.

By the way, if you enjoy these shots, want to learn more about rowing, or are interested in how I got into crew and why I love it so much, check out the essay I wrote for the Pittsburgh in Words project a couple years ago.

The Novice 8 in late fall 2009

Rowing with the Novice 4+ in November 2009

The recovery dock at the 2011 Hooch in Chattanooga. Thanks to my mom, Margaret, for this shot!

"My" Novice 4+ coming under the Walnut Street Bridge at the 2011 Head of the Hooch. My mom took this awesome shot. I was too busy whooping and hollering.

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I get many ideas for my writing while I’m riding my bike – a steel-framed Jamis Satellite which I bought during the first summer I lived in Chattanooga. Biking is a lot like writing – I feel like I’m gliding through the world, observing and taking it all in, but keeping a bit of distance between myself and the goings-on of daily life. When I’m riding (or writing, for that matter), I see things I normally wouldn’t and I interact with the people around me in a more intimate way than I would if I was in a car or just not paying attention, but then I move on.

These are some shots from the ride I take most often here in the ‘Noog – a 20+ miler down Main Street, through St. Elmo, and out to Flintstone, Georgia. These photos are from late July. I’ve been busy with school lately and not riding as much as I would like, but this is a quick, easy ride, and I do always come up with new ideas or solve problems while I’m out there, cranking my way to North Georgia and back.

Starting the ride:

On Main Street

Across the street:

Houses on Main Street, Chattanooga

Near the turnaround point:

Sunset over Lookout Mountain

Flintstone United Methodist Church

Nearly home again as darkness falls:

Pardon me, is that...??

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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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Back in May, I envisioned spending a lot of time with this blog this summer, reading up on issues and then waxing philosophic in this space.  It ends up I haven’t been spending much time in the blogospere, but that’s because I’ve been working on my new project, enjoying friends and time outside, and, oh yeah, setting up readings!

Last Friday, I read at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe in Asheville, NC. In a world where independent bookstores are folding like….umm…stuff that folds. (hey, I told you I’m saving my best writing for the new project), Malaprop’s is a proud exception.  They have readings and events all the time, which they promote like crazy. They keep the store open during readings to encourage walk-ins, and they usually group the readings into a lecture series of sorts. This summer, they are focusing on Southern Culture, so Confederate Streets fit in like…well…things that fit in.

You can check out a list of their other offerings here. I really wanted to hear about moonshine on Saturday night, but I was off hiking in the Smokies as research for my next project. (life is tough. 😉

THIS week brings a three-city “tour” of sorts. At 11 a.m. on Thursday, I will be revisiting the church where I grew up (and am still a member), Calvary United Methodist on Hillsboro Road in Nashville, and sharing at their Adult Fellowship. This requires reservations, so please call Libby at (615)297-7562 if you wish to come.

If you live in Birmingham, know people who live in Birmingham, or just want to take a drive down to this fine Alabama city, come on out to The Little Professor Bookshop , which is in Homewood, at 5 p.m. on Friday for the reading. I will be signing books until 8. Like Asheville, Birmingham is new territory for me, but I do believe that the stories in Confederate Streets will resonate there. It’s just a matter of getting the word out.

And, finally, on Saturday, I’ll bring it back to the ‘Noog. It’s hot out, so why not come up to Signal Mountain where the breeze always blows? I will be reading at Wild Hare Books (in the shopping center across from Pruett’s) at 2 p.m. The store’s owner, Linda Wyatt (mother of a McCallie alumnus) will be baking cookies. I know that sealed the deal for me. 🙂

For those of you who have been listening to “Around and About” on WUTC, the interview hit some glitches and I have to go redo it today. It should air TOMORROW (Wednesday).

Thank you so much to all of you who read this blog and have come out to hear about Confederate Streets. It’s been a great spring and summer.  I hope to see more of you (and your friends!) this week.

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Confederate Streets is hitting the road this summer. I’m excited about combining my love for road trips with the chance to meet up with old friends and share my work with more people. Here are the dates so far:

Friday, July 15, 7 p.m.  – Malaprop’s Bookstore; Asheville, North Carolina

Thursday, July 21, 11 a.m. – Adult Fellowship @ Calvary United Methodist Church; Nashville, Tennessee (reservations required)

Friday, July 22, 5-8 p.m. – Little Professor Book Center; Homewood, Alabama

Saturday, July 23, 2-4 p.m. – Wild Hare Books; Signal Mountain, Tennessee

Looks like fun, no? I am pleased to be able to travel to Asheville and read in Malaprop’s – my favorite bookstore in one of my favorite cities. I’m also pretty excited about the mini book tour through Nashville, Birmingham, and Chattanooga the following weekend.

Do you think you might want to come? Would you like to help promote a reading? Would you like me to come read in your city? Please leave a comment below or send me a message on Facebook.

Busy summer? Never fear. I will also be one of hundreds of authors set up at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville  from October 14-16. Come on out and say howdy. The Festival of Books never disappoints.

See you on the road!

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Zzzzzzzzz….wha? How’zit?  Wha’ time is it? What? It’s summer?? Niiiceeeee.

Okay, so as the school year ended and I developed a summer routine, this blog lay neglected.  I’m back now. By this time tomorrow, I will have some exciting announcements regarding summer reading dates.

For now, your PhotoWednesday comes a day early.  Last night was the Bessie Smith Strut in Chattanooga.  The Empress of the Blues was born here in the late 1800s, and the festival which bears her name is a celebration of blues, BBQ, summer, and the historically African-American neighborhood where the festival occurs. It is, in short, the best day of the Chattanooga year.  I’ve been on summer break for over a week now, but it’s not officially summer until I sit on a curb listening to blues, digging into a rib plate, and sopping the sauce up with a piece of white bread. After I’ve had my fill of that, I grab a cheap cold beer and join the throng of people “strutting” up Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Now, last night, I had to hustle over to the Strut from a kayaking trip on the Tennessee River (perfect day? I think yes.), so I didn’t have my camera. These shots are from the 2010 Strut, but that’s okay, because, like Christmas and other great days of the year, the best thing about the Strut is how it much it stays the same.

smoke from grills wafts over the entire length of the Strut

smoke from grills wafts a haze over the entire crowd

a gap in the crowd along the Strut

A gap in the crowd along the Strut

I believe this man is in the Task Force for Getting Down

I believe this man serves on the Task Force for Gettin’ Down

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