Posts Tagged ‘readings’

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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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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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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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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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.

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Last Monday morning, I grabbed the almost-full box of books I’m still trying to sell. (Fortunately more like a quarter-box now) and headed off to Martin Luther King Magnet at Pearl High School.  When I went there in 7-9 grade, it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School for the Health Sciences and Engineering. Being as I wasn’t much of a health scientist or engineer, I left in 10th grade to go to Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet.

Anyway, while most people probably don’t dream of the day they will triumphantly return to their junior high school clutching an essay collection, I kind of did.  I was actually a student at MLK when English teachers starting to pay attention to my writing. I was at MLK when I decided I would write a book someday.

That was almost 20 years ago. But, once again, I found myself in the sort of time warp one experiences on trips home.  As I say in my chapter on MLK, a lot has changed around the school – it has landscaping, the street is a thru street, the Hale Homes have been razed and replaced with HOPE VI Housing – but a lot is the same.  The hallways are still brown tile, the seventh graders still stick close together.

I sat in the hallway at MLK during lunch and watched the kids milling about. A couple old teachers came by and bought the book. After lunch was over, an English teacher invited me to come speak with her study hall group, and the kids were full of questions about what the school was like 20 years ago.  From our dialogue, we determined that the teachers were different, but the quirky,misfit spirit of the school was essentially the same.

After about 25 minutes with the class, it was time to go. I thanked them for listening, walked down the hall, and out to the principal’s office. Just as I was saying goodbye to her, a school resource officer came up and said, “We’re going to have to put the school on lockdown immediately.”

The principal and I agreed that I should get out before I was stuck indefinitely. Then, a couple boys ran in to the office.  They were frantic.  It seems they had been outside when they heard about 15-20 gunshots and  saw a car going up the street with its windows shot out, being pursued by an SUV.

I decided not to go out there.

When I was a student at MLK, we had a similar situation. There was a hostage situation in the housing projects across the street and we were not allowed to move around the school.  But it was a pretty primitive lockdown compared to the one I saw on Monday. Twenty years ago, we were told to get away from the windows (so we all ran to the windows), but we weren’t given any other explanation. I remember I eventually wandered out into the hall, found my soccer coach and teammates also wandering the hall, and asked if we would still have our game that day (we didn’t).    Shades were drawn, doors were locked, walkie-talkies brandished.  Every room was its own shut off little pod.  I sat in the main office with a motley crue of office aides, seniors, 7th graders, and a former French teacher. I tried to sell my book. 🙂 The atmosphere was pretty relaxed, really, and after 35 minutes, we were freed.

As far as I know, the police never found either vehicle. Just as I did twenty years ago, I think of the layers and layers and divergent lives converging on one space, interacting with and effecting each other, deliberately or not.

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After bidding farewell to the folks at the Southside Family Charter School (who took a copy of my book back to their school library), I headed out from downtown, past my high school, and over to “my” part of town, the area around Granny White Pike and Radnor Lake which is depicted in Confederate Streets. All the major stuff I remember from my drive back and forth to high school is still there – Music Row with it’s houses and studios and banners congratulating songwriters, Belmont Blvd with its funky, urban feel and Bongo Java (the world’s most wonderful coffeeshop), and Granny White Pike with it’s long ranchers and wide, green lawns.  While the major stuff was still in place, I was thankful all weekend for that Nashvillian proclivity for giving directions based on “where the so-and-so used to be.”  The city has changed. It’s hip now, for one thing, and areas of town which were once just spots you drove through on the way to someplace else are full of bars and sushi restaurants and fancy high rise apartments (I’m talking to YOU, The Gulch).  Actually, it was the beginning of that trend in the early 2000s that brought about the idea for my book. The area where many of the African-American students with whom I attended Percy Priest Elementary had lived was in the early stages of gentrification; I started wondering what had happened to those children, where their lives had taken them.

Back to the reading, the reading itself, was wonderful for a variety of reasons. I have been taking my writing pretty seriously since I was about 13, and all that time I had a vision of reading my first book for a hometown crowd of friends and teachers.  That’s exactly what I got on Friday night.

One of William Faulkner’s more famous quotes is, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  I have seen this somewhere with the preface, “To a Southerner the past is never dead. It’s not even past,” but I can’t seem to find evidence of that anywhere on the web at the moment.  In any case, that line has often been interpreted as Faulkner writing about the South, specifically why this region has problems with confronting the Civil War and other issues pertaining to race. (my post from yesterday, however, reveals that even though we can’t let our past go with respect to race, we’re not talking about it like we should )

However, when I’m feeling sentimental (as realizing a lifelong dream in front of a group of treasured family, friends, and teachers is wont to make one do) I think Faulkner also meant that we Southerners are good at remembering things that matter, because those things never fade into insignificance. Maybe any place that is home feels this way, but I’m from Nashville, so that’s all I can speak for.  It’s why alumni from a school that was closed in 1983 still came out to my reading.  Because the past is never past in Nashville, I could knock on the door of my fourth grade teacher, invite her to the reading at Glendale United Methodist Church that night, and see her in the crowd.  Because the past is never past, Mr. Bill Brown, an incredible poet and a teacher who inspired me like no other (in 1994, which was a long, long time ago) introduced me on Friday night. Because the past is never past, everyone in the audience who’d had Bill Brown as a teacher half a lifetime ago was leaning on the edge of their chairs, once again wondering what knowledge and love of words he would impart.

I guess I’m trying to come up with a literary way of saying that time did a strange dance on Friday.  My friends and I are older and lord knows we’ve been through the struggles adulthood brings. But standing there in front of people who have known me since I couldn’t keep barrettes from going crooked in my hair caused everything to melt together. I was the adult reading the book and the kid depicted in the book. It was rather glorious.

Fortunately, the reading had the same effect on my audience. I read the first 6 pages of the book, which are mostly about Brown v. Board of Education, the Nashville Plan, and busing.  As I signed copies later, many of my parents’ friends told me their own stories about busing, about moving out to Brentwood or Forest Hills after Brown. These are stories which really need to be told.  I’m glad I got to hear them, and I’m glad my book resonated enough to bring those stories out.

The end of the night  found me sitting on a back porch, sipping good bourbon, laughing about the events of the evening (some of the toddler literati in attendance had struggled with paying attention and staying upright), and engaging in really good conversation about topics from the reading.  It’s not the first time I’ve ended a good night on a porch with bourbon and friends, and it won’t be the last, but that specific night is one that I will remember for a long while.

Thanks to all of you who came out. Oh, and check out Mr. Brown’s newest book of poetry. It will knock your socks off.

I will be back on the blog next week to give a rundown of the readings at Rhino Booksellers and Martin Luther King Magnet.  To keep the suspense up over the weekend, let me tell you that I am tentatively subtitling them “The Trouble With Lockdowns” and “Why Nonfiction Sometimes Makes You Feel Like a Total Butthead.”

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