Posts Tagged ‘independent bookstores’

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.


Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

This week is guaranteed to go by quickly as every day is filled with some sort of literary event, including my own reading on April 15 at Winder Binder/A Novel Idea on the North Shore in Chattanooga.

In honor of a week that’s certain to be as glorious as it is exhausting, I will be posting an excerpt or short work by each author I plan on seeing during the week.

I’m starting with Mr. Bill Brown.  Brown will be reading as part of a group of Southern poets at 2 p.m., Sunday April 17, at Winder Binder/A Novel Idea.

Mr. Brown was my creative writing and English teacher for two years at Hume-F0gg High School in Nashville. I have had many teachers and professors who have made it possible for me to be where I am today in my writing, but Mr. Brown was the first to show me what words can really do – not just his, but mine. As I’ve been reconnected with him professionally over the past few years, I’ve been struck by how much his poetry and ways of seeing influenced my own work.  Now, for your reading pleasure, two poems by Bill Brown.  If you like them, for pete’s sake, buy one of his books. You won’t be disappointed.

What the Night Told Me

The owl and whipporwill know this well

that while the world sleeps, earth

still swings around the sun

the sun in its slow death

swirls a broader arc

and light rushes toward

the red fringe of something

and the moon for which they sing

drags each sea with a whip

Weasel and snake know this well

that rock and limb do not reveal

their shadow in the night

the warm blood of a rat

can be sensed without

the distraction of light

a prey’s shriek is swallowed by darkness

only man clutches his mate

when the talons of owl surprise

the silent rabbit, its scream

does not keep the raccoon

from watching that great horned

drag its soft catch across the sky

Worms and maggots know this well

that rot feeds on darkness

the source of all light

is decay, the cool glow

of foxfire thrives on dead wood

polished bones glare at night

and only reflect

what they cannot keep.

from What the Night Told Me, Copyright 1993, Bucksnort Press

Okay, now one from his latest book The News Inside, which is currently available on amazon.com

The Melting

There should be hope in the leaves’ first turning –

summer green fringed gold and crimson, webbed

hands reaching out against the curtain’s blue.

Winter and what it takes from the heart

is almost worth it. Year by blessed year,

in the shortened days, something is stolen

that cannot be reclaimed – a swelling in the chest

when night comes soon. At a certain age

a man takes a season’s beginnings, the small

beauties – frozen rings on creek rocks,

the first skein of ice in the horse trough.

He holds it to the morning sun and it burns

his palm as it drips through his fingers.

Each year he grips it tighter

to see his face melt in the fire.

from The News Inside, Copyright 2010, Iris Press

Read Full Post »

If cities full of people really did spontaneously break into showtunes, the writers and bibliophiles of Chattanooga would currently be dancing in front of the Tivoli, singing “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails.” Those of us who love writing and literature are getting ready to step out to breathe an atmosphere that simply reeks of literary class.  The excitement as we prepare to (metaphorically) suit up and geek out is palpable.

The main event that has us all tap dancing on Broad Street is the biennial Conference on Southern Literature, during which the South’s literary giants (Roy Blount, Jr., Dorothy Allison, Bobby Ann Mason, Wendell Berry, Lee Smith…the list goes on) will converge on the Scenic City for four days of panels, conversations, book clubs, readings, and gatherings.

But, as if that isn’t enough, the city will be celebrating more local writers (including yours truly) at the  Faux Bridges Art and Literature Festival.

In the middle of all this, David Sedaris is coming to town! (like Santa…or a Roman bell filled with chocolate).

As if these events weren’t enough, the all-boys’ prep school where I teach will be hosting a poetry night, featuring my wonderful, talented friend, Sara Coffman.

Here’s what the week will look like for me:

April 12 – Writing Center hosts Poetry Night with Sara Coffman (and many, many student and faculty readers) at McC.

April 13 – The Southern Literature Book Club will discuss In Country with Bobbie Ann Mason.  Oh, and who gets to drive Ms. Mason back from Winder Binder (where we meet) to the hotel? THIS gal! (so while I am only metaphorically brushing off my metaphorical tails, I need to literally clean out my car)

April 14 – Southern Lit. Conference officially begins. I will be catching my breath and probably trying to get my school’s literary journal to the printer. (oh yeah, that deadline is this week too)

April 15, 7 p.m. – Chattanooga Launch for Confederate Streets – the kick-off event for the Faux Bridges Art and Literature Festival on the North Shore. Reading is at Winder Binder/A Novel Idea.  Books will be available for purchase. Drinks and refreshments provided.

April 16, 11:30 – Southern Lit. Conference Keynote Luncheon. Roy Blount, Jr. will be speaking. Ernest Gaines will receive the Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

Robert Morgan, a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, will be reading at Winder Binder/A Novel idea, at 6 p.m.

David Sedaris at the Tivoli, 8 p.m. (tickets still available, last I checked)

April 17, 2 p.m. – Faux Bridges continues with the launch of Southern Light – an anthology of 12 contemporary Southern poets. One of the readers for this event will be Bill Brown, who was my creative writing and English teacher in high school. His poems are absolutely incredible and I can’t wait to be there.

So, that’s about it. It’s a good thing that words feed the soul, because I’m not sure how much time there will be for actual eating or sleeping for all of us Chattanooga writers and readers.

In preparation for the big week, I will be posting work connected to each event over the coming days.  Keep checking back.  Also, look for more news in The Pulse and various other Chattanooga literary outlets.

And put on your top hat, if you have one.

Read Full Post »

I’m back to the blog after a lovely weekend in Huntington, West Virginia – a city that gets some mentions in Confederate Streets owing to the fact that I have good friends there and have visited it a few times a year since I was about 16.  When I was younger, many eventful Greyhound bus trips began and ended in Huntington, and the most eventful of those was my first, which is chronicled in “Leave the Driving to Us” – a chapter in my book.  That’s all I’m going to say about that  – I’m trying to pique curiosity after all.

Back to Nashville.  My third reading of the weekend was at Rhino Booksellers, an excellent used book store.  I read at the store on Granny White Pike, not far from the neighborhood where I grew up. It was a much smaller gathering than the one at Glendale the previous evening, but that allowed for more of a discussion format.  I read from my essay about the history of Pearl High School/ my experiences in junior high. Overall, it was a nice mix of lifelong friends, folks who were just introduced to the book this winter, and some Pearl alums who had helped me with research.

But the most amazing/nervewracking moment came when I walked into the bookstore and saw folks I’d worked with at The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tennessee. I was extremely happy to see them again, after almost ten years away from the newsroom. However, one issue essayists must deal with that novelists escape (well, almost) is the fact that we’re writing about stuff that actually happened and we are not, for the most part, changing locations or names. So, as I watched my old editor, his wife, and the woman who had been the office manager take a seat, all I could think of was the chapter entitled “That’s What We’re Doing Here” – in which I question the value of being a journalist and reveal some of the behind-the-scenes gallows humor so common in newsrooms.

When the reading was over and my editor was writing a check for the book, I felt I had to tell him that chapter was there.  After driving all that way to support me, I didn’t want him to be blindsided.  So, Chris took his copy home and read it, and when I checked facebook the next day, this message was waiting for me:


I thought the essay on your time as a reporter was terrific.

As far as the part about gallows humor, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the reason for it explained as well as you did.

Wish I’d known how hard you took some of those assignments — I’d like to have been able to tell you it’s OK to be both a reporter and a human and that reporters who don’t feel sympathy for the people they write about are crappy reporters, crappy people or both.

I wish I’d told Chris more, too. But I was just 22-23 while I worked there. It was my first job; I think I had the impression that jobs are supposed to push people out of their comfort zone and there wasn’t much I could do about it. However, one thing I should tell Chris, or anyone who finds themselves portrayed in an essay, is that the “creative” in “creative nonfiction” comes from the fact that essayists choose what they will portray. We don’t make things up, or change facts (At least, I don’t.) But we do take life and structure it into a literary format. I’m not writing straight autobiography or my life story, I’m adjusting focus, creating metaphor and theme. The themes I put in my essays aren’t necessarily how I saw my life at the time – in fact, they usually aren’t – but finding those themes in my life retrospectively is always illuminating.

The message from Chris continued, and I was struck by another reason I love creative nonfiction.  I love the fact that people tell me their stories after they’ve read the ones I wrote.  That kind of resonance is my entire goal, really. The chapter in Confederate Streets about my time as a reporter centers around three deaths I covered.  So, Chris told me about covering a trailer fire in which two young boys were killed:

What stands out most vividly for me is their young mom, sitting on a porch swing near the highway, keening. The sound made me frantic and nauseous. The part I don’t usually tell folks is how I wanted so much to go and sit by her and hold her hand or pat her on the back, but I knew I was the last person she’d want comfort from.

I, too, felt “frantic and nauseous” when I was a reporter. I could write another chapter just on those words and the feelings they evoke.  But Chris has already hit the nail on the head. I’ve always been impressed that writing can bring such connective feelings and ideas to light.

Chris went on to say that he has worked in print journalism so long because he believed in the importance of the truth. That’s also a feeling I tried to get across in my chapter about the topic.

There’s a lot of talk these days about newspapers being on the way out, but just in the process of writing this blog and reconnecting with the Daily Herald staff, I have been reminded that there are reporters out there every day, hitting the streets and putting themselves in all sorts of situations, just to get the truth out in print. I hope this inspires you to pick up your local paper. If you read something you like, shoot an email to the reporter.  Like us essayists, connecting with the reader is their goal.  And they’ve got a lot less time and space in which to make it happen.


Read Full Post »