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Posts Tagged ‘Southern Literature’

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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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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Summer is in full swing now and I have been busy writing, recreating, and setting up readings.

I didn’t blog much last week because I was in a super secret undisclosed location, researching and writing for my latest project.  I bet you can’t guess what I’m focusing on for my next essay collection:

and now for something completely different...

I say it’s a “completely different” project from Confederate Streets, but really it’s not. Like CS, this project allows me to focus on my own interpretation of cultural geography – how we 21st Century Americans, especially Southerners, perceive place, space, and cultural issues, and what external and internal factors drive our perceptions.

For my next project, I’m taking it outside. And that’s really all I can say. It’s so new that it is completely nebulous. Along with reading lots of books (or parts of lots of books), I’ve decided that an important part of the research process is learning how to kayak.  I’ve chosen to intensely research what it feels like to go through rapids while upside down, so I’ve been doing that a lot. It’s all for you, dear reader.

My next project also is not completely different because race will be a factor. Why? Well, because race is a factor in every facet of American life, no matter where you live or what you do.

One of my favorite funny blogs, Stuff White People Like, gets (or got, since it hasn’t had new material in about six months) a lot of comic mileage out of the fact that one rarely sees people of color perusing the aisles of the local REI. But to say that “the outdoors” is purely the domain of middle class whites is pretty myopic. The 7th book up in today’s picture, The Colors of Nature, is a fantastic literary nonfiction collection by writers of color. I highly recommend picking it up, and I’m sure I’ll blog more about it later in the summer as I continue reading  the essays.

Do you know of another work of “nature writing” by a minority author? Please post a comment about it!

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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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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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Last night was Poetry Night at the school where I teach. As soon as I get their permission, I will post a couple student pieces on the blog. Until then, it’s on with our regularly scheduled PhotoWednesday. (Actually, more like a Photo Essay Wednesday Night. Variety is good)

I have gone through many, many stages in my life when I was inordinately influenced by books. Shortly after college, I read the entire collected works of Norman Maclean, and nothing would do but that I move to Montana, which I did in early 2002.

After I’d lived there for a while, I decided I needed a dog to accompany me on my adventures. I was reading many books about the South at the time, being perhaps a little homesick. (wow, we’re just never satisfied, are we?) After reading about the Smooth Fox Terrier hero of Willie Morris’ My Dog Skip, I decided that was the breed I needed – intelligent, sturdy, lively, and portable. I did more research and looked at many other breeds, but the SFT is what I kept coming back to.

And so, on Tax Day 2003, I left work early and took the drive from Kalispell to Missoula to fetch my new fox terrier.  I remember calling my sister as I zipped through Polson and on past the Mission Range (Hey, guess what? I’m on my way to Missoula to get a puppy!)  I remember pulling off at the Cracker Barrel just outside town and seeing the couple who’d collected my puppy from the breeder via a dog show in Sacramento (long story).  The woman was walking three dogs who trotted calmly and did their business. The man was attached to one small, white dog running frantically to the end of its retractable leash, flipping itself over backwards, hopping forward on two legs, and repeating the process. “Oh lord,”  I thought, “I hope that one’s not mine.”

But it was, of course.

Once we made it back to Kalispell, I remember sitting on the floor, trying to keep the puppy from eating all the Gore-tex and synthetic fiber in the house while my housemate read place names from Glacier National Park off the map on the wall.  But I didn’t want a dog named Camas, or Avalanche, or Huckleberry.  The dog was black and white, so I decided to name him Winston after my favorite black-and-white photographer, O. Winston Link.

This morning, almost exactly eight years after the drive to fetch the puppy, Winston is under the covers on my bed. He climbs up there every day to luxuriate in the warm spot left when I wake up to get ready for work.  His other daily pleasures include tennis ball fetching and eating scrambled eggs. And, as I’d hoped, he loves the woods and is a wonderful hiking companion.

We’re celebrating Southern Literature in Chattanooga this week, and I thought it was as good a time as any to thank the late Willie Morris for writing about Skip and inspiring me to find a Skip of my own.

Here, I give you three  of my favorite shots of the Winstigator –

his silent suffering pierces the very soul

in the Great Snow of 2011

don't let the energetic persona fool you; he'd really rather be on the couch.

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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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