According to Publishers Weekly, the Southern Festival of Books attracted more than 200 authors and 20,000 attendees last weekend in Nashville, Tennessee. Although the festival has been around since 1989, this was my first visit. I was astonished at the lineup of well-known authors and other presenters. Even more impressive were the facilities and organization of the festival. Here’s a brief recap with photos of my two days at the Southern Festival of Books (unfortunately, I had to drive back to Atlanta on Sunday, the festival’s third day).
One of the big stars of the Southern Festival of Books was the main branch of the Music City’s public library. Many of the events took place here at the Nashville Public Library, which looks more like a hybrid bookstore / theater.
In this photo of the Nashville Public Library, you see the second floor staircase with piano in the foreground. You get another look at the interior, with its beautiful white and gray marble, and one of the mosaics on the left wall.
This is the outdoor courtyard at the Nashville Public Library, complete with fountain, umbrella-sheltered tables, benches and plenty of greenery. Okay, I’ll stop with the library photos. One of my best friends is a librarian, so I like to think I got a little camera-happy on her behalf. I told her this must be the place where all good librarians go when they die.
The first panel I attended on Friday featured debut authors Amy Franklin-Willis, Lydia Netzer and Lynda Rutledge.
Amy Franklin-Willis’s novel, The Lost Saints of Tennessee, was inspired by her father’s hometown of Pocahontas, Tennessee.
Lynda Rutledge set Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale on the last day of the millennium–December 31, 1999.
In her debut novel, Shine Shine Shine, Lydia Netzer writes about love between a man who builds robots that will live on Mars and his bald, pregnant wife who is shedding her wig and other layers of her perfect suburbanite persona back on Earth.
Much of the action took place about a block away from the Nashville Public Library. At War Memorial Plaza, you found numerous vendor tents. The most popular one by far was the book sales tent, run by Parnassus Books, the independent bookstore owned by author Ann Patchett.
Author Lauren Groff signed my copy of her new book, Arcadia. The inscription reads “To Alison – The doyenne of Southern Spines!” I’m looking forward to reading this novel about a man who is born into and grows up in a utopian society. The fictional commune of Arcadia is partially modeled after The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee.
The “New Voices of Women’s Fiction” panel featured Ginger Moran, Kimberly Brock (previously featured on Southern Spines for her novel The River Witch) and Pamela King Cable. Ginger Moran read from her book The Algebra of Snow, whose protagonist is a woman mathematics professor who withdraws to the Adirondacks. Pamela King Cable said that one thing writers cannot live without is courage. She tapped into that courage and her intimate knowledge of televangelism’s unholy underbelly when writing Televenge.
Some of the festival events took place in the wood-paneled rooms of the Tennessee Legislature. One of the liveliest panels was led by Kathy Patrick, founder of the Pulpwood Queens. Kathy owns Beauty and the Book, the world’s only combination beauty salon/bookstore, which is where she hosted the first Pulpwood Queens book club. Now there are more than 500 chapters of tiara-wearing Pulpwood Queens nationwide.
I hate that I missed Julianna Baggott on Sunday. Thankfully, she shared this irreverent blog summary “Sh*t I Said on a Panel This Weekend.” Gone Girl‘s Gillian Flynn was gone before I could get to the signing colonnade. Daniel Woodrell’s car broke down outside St. Louis, so I missed telling him how I can’t stop re-reading Winter’s Bone. But I did stand behind Junot Diaz during a futile search for coffee in the author’s lounge and I did have a great time connecting with the many people I met at the Southern Festival of Books.