Archive | Book Events Festivals

“Great Transformations: Debut Novels” Panel at Southern Festival of Books

Great Transformations Debut Novels at Southern Festival of Books

Debut novels Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile and The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi will be the focus of a panel on Friday, October 10, 2014, at the Southern Festival of Books.

I have the privilege of moderating a panel this Friday, October 10th at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee. Entitled “Great Transformations: Debut Novels,” the panel features two amazing stories. I hope you’ll join us at 3:30 p.m. CT in Room 30 of the Legislative Plaza.

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile tells the story of a Los Angeles single mom who inherits a neglected 800-acre sugarcane farm in rural Louisiana. Protagonist Charley Bordelon’s “great transformation” relies on hard work and fellowship with a community of people she’s only met at family reunions. Baszile’s own family history inspired Queen Sugar.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi examines the ancient Afghan custom of bacha posh–a girl dressed and accepted by everyone as a boy. Living in Kabul in 2007, Young Rahima is one of five sisters whose only hope of going to school and leaving the house is to dress as a boy until she is of marriageable age. Hashimi’s story is based on her family’s Afghan heritage.

I’m binge-reading these books before the panel on Friday, which is an easy assignment. Charley and Rahima’s narratives are captivating and will make for a great discussion. Again, the Great Transformations panel takes place this Friday, October 10th at 3:30 p.m. CT. Friday is the first day of the 26th Annual Southern Festival of Books. To view the complete list of sessions, visit this page. You can also follow @SoFestofBooks on Twitter or visit the festival’s Facebook page for more information.

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Atlanta Writers Club: Social Media 102 Workshop with Kimberly Brock and Alison Law

Atlanta Writers Club

Social Media 102 Workshop on July 19th

Author Kimberly Brock and I are getting the band back together. Last December, we were invited to speak at the SCAD Atlanta Writers’ Boot Camp. On July 19th, we’ll tackle similar subject matter at the “Social Media 102” workshop with the Atlanta Writers Club. The workshop will start at 2:30 p.m. at the Dunwoody Library, located at 5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody, GA 30338.

I’m flattered to be speaking at an Atlanta Writers Club event. This year marks the organization’s 100th anniversary. The event is free for Atlanta Writers Club members. Non-members will have to pay the $40 annual membership fee at the door. The Saturday afternoon workshop alone is worth $40, but you will get so much more from that annual membership. Learn about the workshop in this flyer or visit the Atlanta Writers Club website.

Have questions or topics that you think Kimberly and I should cover in a social media workshop for working writers and aspiring authors? I hope you’ll leave them in the comments below or bring them with you to the workshop.


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Dahlonega Literary Festival 2014

Photos from the 2014 Dahlonega Literary Festival

A little more than an hour north of Atlanta, the legendary gold-panning town of Dahlonega, Georgia really shined this past weekend when hosting its 2014 Dahlonega Literary Festival. Saturday’s warm spring weather was a sunny contrast to the chilly fall that greeted me the last time I attended the festival.

It was fun to catch up at lunch with wonderful Southern Spines authors Ann Hite (The Storycatcher), Erika Marks (The Guest House) and Renea Winchester (In the Garden with Billy). I also met children’s picture book authors Rosalind Bunn and Kathleen Howard, two Georgia school teachers who collaborated on Sophie May and the Shoe Untying Fairy and The Butter Bean Lady.

After lunch, I attended the panels on fantasy and speculative fiction and using humor in fiction. The panels were fantastic, although a bit overcrowded with authors. The hour-long discussions could only accommodate 3-4 questions because both panels were comprised of seven authors, each with wonderful information and anecdotes to share. I could have listened to Jackie K. Cooper, Raymond Atkins, Charles McNair and Terry Kay hold court for the better part of the day.

A darkened coffeehouse served as the perfect place to get to know multi-genreational (yes, I just made that term up) author Delilah S. Dawson (Wicked After Midnight) and James R. Tuck, the tattoo artist and photographer responsible for penning the Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter series (Special Features). My friend, Joshilyn Jackson, was there to talk about her latest novel, Someone Else’s Love Story, which is partially set in Dahlonega. And I had a few minutes to get reacquainted with Kim Boykin (The Wisdom of Hair) and catch a glimpse of her next book cover for the August release, Palmetto Moon.

For every author that I saw, there were at least two whom I only met in passing (I’m thinking of you, Deanna Raybourn) or didn’t have an opportunity to talk to for very long in between sessions (howdy, Scott Thompson). In its tenth year, the Dahlonega Literary Festival seems to be hitting its stride. Readers fanned out from crowded classrooms and two of my favorite booksellers, Ellen and Gary from FoxTale Book Shoppe, were busy doing the Lord’s work in the festival’s makeshift bookstore. Kudos to organizers Carole and Arienne and all the volunteers whose hard work made for a fun weekend in Dahlonega.

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Savannah Book Festival: Alice Hoffman on The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Alice Hoffman speaks at Savannah Book Festival. February 15, 2014.

Alice Hoffman speaks at Savannah Book Festival on February 15, 2014.

After five years spent researching and writing her last novel, The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman swore she would never write another work of historical fiction. This revelation came as a surprise to many of us seated in the pews of one of the oldest churches in the United States; Trinity United Methodist Church, whose original congregation dates back to the 18th century, was the largest venue at this year’s Savannah Book Festival.

Hoffman continued from the pulpit, explaining that she changed her mind about historical fiction when someone told her she should investigate the Triangle Factory fire. The fire “was the worst workplace disaster in New York City until the fall of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001,”  yet know one had heard about it. Hoffman’s research led her to write an opinion piece about the fire that was published in the Los Angeles Times in 2011, and ultimately became her most recent fictional offering, The Museum of Extraordinary Things.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice HoffmanInstead of thinking about The Museum of Extraordinary Things as historical fiction, Hoffman said she considered her book a love story. A love story between Coralie, a young girl who knows very little about the world except what she has gleaned from books, and Eddie, a Russian immigrant who becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding the factory fire while attempting to shed his family’s expectations and plans for his life. Hoffman said that The Museum of Extraordinary Things was also a love story between her and the city of New York. After 9/11, Hoffman encountered her first bout of writer’s block and feared she might never write again. She found her way back to writing by re-reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, but she truly fell in love again with New York City through her research of the history, people and places in The Museum of Extraordinary Things.

If you’re in the Atlanta area, you have a couple of opportunities to see Alice Hoffman. TONIGHT, Hoffman will be reading from her book and signing copies at FoxTale Book Shoppe. You can learn more about the event here. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.

Alice Hoffman will be speaking at SCADAtlanta tomorrow night, Friday, February 21, at 6:00 p.m. The event is open to the public. You’ll pay $10 at the door or get in free if you’re a SCAD student, staff or faculty member. The address is 1600 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30357. A book signing and sales will follow Hoffman’s talk. 

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Book Lovers Migrate South for the 2014 Savannah Book Festival

This past weekend I fled Atlanta’s latest round of snow and ice sequestration for the warmer climes of the Hostess City of the South–Savannah, Georgia. Although Savannah is just a quick, four-hour drive from Atlanta, this was my first time visiting the state’s oldest city. I was there courtesy of VisitSavannah to attend the 7th Annual Savannah Book Festival.

It seems I wasn’t the only one who migrated south this past weekend in search of better weather. I heard so many stories from people who were eager to escape snow and ice in different parts of the country. In fact, the weather prevented three authors from speaking in Savannah. The festival kept attendees apprised of schedule changes via the festival website and social media accounts. Volunteers handed out print copies of the revised schedule just outside the venues on Saturday.

I arrived late on Friday, so I wasn’t able to attend the keynote addresses of Scott Turow and Mitch Albom at the Trustees Theater. All festival events took place around Telfair and Wright Squares on Saturday. More than 250 volunteers and dedicated Savannah Book Festival staff and board members worked on the festival. Ex Libris, the bookstore at the Savannah College of Art and Design (better known as SCAD), sold books and merchandise in a dedicated tent in the middle of Telfair Square.

An alternative name for this year’s festival could have been the “Oprah’s Book Club Festival” as there were no fewer than four authors whose books had been previous Oprah’s Book Club picks. Wally Lamb and Anita Shreve both related their tales of getting “the phone call” from the famous talk show host whose book club picks quickly land on the bestseller lists. Alice Hoffman said she didn’t get the phone call from Oprah when Here on Earth was selected because the talk show host was on trial in Texas at the time.

Deens at Savannah Book Festival

Paula Deen (left) and Jamie Deen (right) talking to Savannah Book Festival attendees. Jamie Deen was there but I did not get his photo.

Saturday’s sunny 60-degree weather and a stellar lineup enticed thousands to the Square. Although a blustering wind twisted the flags atop their poles and kept people in their warmest jackets, many who waited in long book signing lines were treated to a celebrity chef sighting or three, as Paula Deen joined her sons, Jamie and Bobby, at their hometown book festival. The Deens talked with fans in line and signed copies of their cookbooks.

You could also scoop up a fun literary treat at Leopold’s Ice Cream. The store named ice cream flavors in honor of the authors and books featured at this year’s Savannah Book Festival. Here’s a picture of Melanie Benjamin enjoying a cup of her ice cream, “The Aviator’s Vanilla.”

Melanie Benjamin with The Aviator's Vanilla

“Me and my ice cream!” tweeted Melanie Benjamin (@melanieben). Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah named a selection of their sweet treats after authors appearing at the Savannah Book Festival.

I plan to write separate posts about some of the author talks I attended because I found myself taking copious notes with my iPhone. In addition to witnessing the great speakers on the stage, I had a chance to catch up with a couple of good friends who joined me in the  audience.

Alison and Anita

Alison and Anita pose in front of the Penguin Books truck at Savannah Book Festival. Photo courtesy of Anita Loves Books – February 15, 2014.

Here’s a photo of me with my book blogger friend, Anita of Anita Loves Books, in front of the Penguin Books truck. I told Anita that we should quit our day jobs and become Penguin spokesmodels, but I’m not sure she’s sold on the idea. They should at least let us drive the truck o’books, right? More to come…

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SCAD Atlanta Writers Boot Camp

SCAD Atlanta Writers Boot Camp

On Saturday, December 7, 2013, I will be speaking with three other writers and digital marketing experts at the SCAD Atlanta Writers Boot Camp. Buy your ticket online here. Below are the session descriptions and other details from the website:

1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

NON-FICTION: YOUR STORY-YOUR BRAND Once upon a time, writers wrote, and played small parts in the business of promoting and selling non-fiction. Today, marketing and publicity budgets are miniscule even for established authors. The writer must create and sell a personal brand to support and sell the book. Author publicist and media consultant Alison Law shares timelines and tools of nonfiction marketing campaigns. She demystifies the “platform” – the social media presence that should be in place before submitting a book proposal or query letter. Learn how to connect with readers, booksellers and supporters, ultimately, to sell your book. Alison Law, writer, marketing and social media consultant, advises published authors, book publicity firms, public relations and advertising agencies, and a variety of businesses. Law was the assistant program director of the 2013 AJC Decatur Book Festival. In 2012, she launched, an online community dedicated to celebrating and promoting southern writers, songwriters and poets, and “Books with Backbone.” Alison is a member and site publicist of the She Reads Book Blogger network. She is pursuing a master’s degree in English with a concentration in literary studies at Georgia State University.

2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.

PUBLISHING NOW – AND BEYOND! Today’s publishing revolution surprisingly offers more opportunities than ever before. But how to sort through the maze – and cost – of options, such as traditional publishing houses, small independent presses and online opportunities, such as e-books and Amazon? How does a writer lucky enough to be published, form an innovative marketing strategy, based on the publishing model? Ramsdell will discuss opportunities and pitfalls, as well as high- and low-tech marketing, from book trailers to local writers groups, public readings and other tools that generate sales.

Catherine Ramsdell has taught new media, promotional, business and professional writing at SCAD since 2001.

She is a staff writer for the online magazine, a speaker and lecturer. She has a Ph.D. from Auburn University.

4 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.


It’s easy to see why non-fiction writers and journalists need online platforms, but how can fiction writers benefit in tangible, measurable ways? Brock will discuss the e-book revolution, the use and value of social media pre- and post-publication, virtual chats, savvy networking, connecting with online book clubs and the book blogger community, and how professional storytellers can successfully establish an authentic presence in a virtual world.

Kimberly Brock is the author of The River Witch and recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year Award 2013. Her short works can be found in the anthologies Summer in Mossy Creek, and Sweeter Than Tea, and as a featured guest blogger on sites such as Writer Unboxed, Writer’s in the Storm, It’s Only a Novel and Psychology Today. She is currently the Blog Network Coordinator for She Reads, a national online book club.

5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.

YOU CAN DO IT! How to build your own platform and extend your reach. For writers, a digital media presence is a must. But how and where do you start? For everyone, including the technology-challenged, this hands-on session will teach everything you need to know to get started, maintain and extend your platform.

Steve Aishman is a professional photographer, writer and curator in addition to serving as a SCAD Atlanta’s Dean of Academic Services.

WHERE: SCAD Digital Media Center, 1611 W. Peachtree St., Atlanta, Georgia, 30309.

COST: $65 at the door, cash, check or credit. $55 for early registration (payment received no later than Nov. 23.) Checks should be made to Ivy Hall-the SCAD Writing Center. Mail to: Attention Georgia Lee, Ivy Hall-SCAD Atlanta 1600 Peachtree St., 30357

* SPACE IS LIMITED. Early registration encouraged. For more information, contact 404-253-3206.

I’m looking forward to learning from my fellow speakers and the writers who’ll help us fulfill the promise of an “interactive” boot camp experience. What questions should I be prepared to answer from writers of nonfiction? What would you want to know?

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2013 South Carolina Book Festival

South Carolina Book Festival Panel

USC Press Panel featuring L-R: Pat Conroy, Ken Burger, Cindi Bolter, Aida Rogers and Sandra Johnson. Not pictured: Dot Jackson.

It was my great pleasure to attend the 2013 South Carolina Book Festival a couple of weekends ago. My husband Zach and I drove up early Saturday and stayed until the janitorial staff powered through the hallways of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on their riding vacuum cleaners Sunday evening. I was hardly an objective visitor to the SC Book Festival, considering that I’ve attended each and every AJC Decatur Book Festival in my hometown and serve as a member of the programming team for this year’s DBF. However, the SC Book Festival was really well done. Practically each and every author and exhibitor that I spoke to praised this year’s event and attributed the festival’s success to Paula Watkins, director of the South Carolina Book Festival and assistant director of Humanities Council SC. This is Watkins’ last year as festival director because she is moving out of state.

The big news swirling at this year’s SC Book Festival was that bestselling South Carolina author Pat Conroy had accepted a position as editor-at-large of a new fiction imprint at University of South Carolina (USC) Press. They announced before Conroy’s first appearance on a USC panel that the city of Columbia had declared that Saturday “Pat Conroy Day” in honor of his new role at USC Press. Conroy made several appearances on the SC Book Festival schedule and the signing line wrapped around the convention center.

Lynda Bouchard, Kathie Bennett and Alison Law at SC Book Festival.

Lynda Bouchard, Kathie Bennett and Alison Law at SC Book Festival.

Fellow book publicist and friend, Kathie Bennett of the Magic Time Literary Agency, invited me to speak for a few minutes at the end of her presentation on Sunday. Kathie was leading a 90-minute workshop in the final time slot of the final day of the festival, so I wasn’t optimistic that I’d see more than my spouse in the room. Imagine my surprise when Kathie and I were greeted with a standing room only crowd, with a few people lingering in the doorway. Kathie gave an extremely valuable presentation on the various steps an author must take when planning and executing a book marketing and publicity plan. I addressed some of the ways that social media and online marketing have changed how authors connect with their different audiences. We ran out of handouts and business cards as many people stayed long after the allotted time to ask questions. I really enjoyed it!

Below are some other photos from my great weekend at this year’s SC Book Festival.

The Complete Poems of James Dickey Panel featuring L-R: Ward Briggs, Bronwen Dickey, John Lane and Ron Rash.

The Complete Poems of James Dickey Panel featuring L-R: Ward Briggs, Bronwen Dickey, John Lane and Ron Rash.


Beyond Whodunnit: Mysteries with a Twist Panel featuring L-R: Jim Johnson, Phillip DePoy, Terra Elan McVoy and James Sheehan.

Beyond Whodunnit: Mysteries with a Twist Panel featuring L-R: Jim Johnson, Phillip DePoy, Terra Elan McVoy and James Sheehan.

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2012 Southern Festival of Books Recap

Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word

Official poster from the Southern Festival of Books. A Celebration of the Written Word.

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).

Main Lobby of Nashville Public Library - Southern Festival of BooksOne 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.

2nd Floor Staircase at Nashville Public Library - Southern Festival of BooksIn 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.

Courtyard at Nashville Public Library - Southern Festival of BooksThis 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.

Pictured L-R: Alison Law, Amy Franklin-Willis, Lynda Rutledge, Lydia Netzer and Gail Kerr. Southern Festival of Books

Pictured L-R: Alison Law, Amy Franklin-Willis, Lynda Rutledge, Lydia Netzer and Gail Kerr.

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.

Parnassus Books, a Nashville independent bookstore owned by author Ann Padgett, sold books at the Southern Festival of Books.

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.

Nashville's War Memorial Auditorium and Author Signing ColonnadeOpposite the book sales tent was the War Memorial Auditorium and Colonnade. This is where authors sat at tables and signed books after panels and presentations.

My copy of Arcadia signed and inscribed by author Lauren Groff. "To Alison - The doyenne of Southern Spines!"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.

New Voices in Women's Fiction Panel featuring Ginger Moran, Kimberly Brock and Pamela King Cable

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.

Pulpwood Queens Panelists Lynda Rutledge, Jenny Wingfield, Kathy Patrick, Robert Hicks and Amy Hill Hearth

Pulpwood Queens Panelists Lynda Rutledge, Jenny Wingfield, Kathy Patrick, Robert Hicks and Amy Hill Hearth

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.



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