Archive | From the Editor

Books, Books Everywhere But Not a Page to Read

Today was publication day for one of my clients. I’ll share more about that in a future post, but for now, I am pretty tuckered. As I shared with some of my online book pals the other day, I find myself in the enviable position of having day after day filled with book-related work, events and writing. But lately, I have become outnumbered and almost overwhelmed…by books.

I fled the room formerly known as my home office a few months ago when I could no longer stand to be surrounded by the overflowing bookshelves and piles of books on the furniture and in the floor. I work mostly at the dining room table now–so I can spread out and enjoy a big open workspace. But even this space has been compromised. The books, they multiply like rabbits.

And here’s the thing: I find myself with less and less time to read. I asked a few of my book blogging colleagues, “How many books do you read in a week?” Most of the bloggers who responded said they read about 2-4 books a week. I met a book reviewer for a major metro newspaper who has to read three books a week and review them. I am a s-l-o-w reader, which compounds the problem. Right now, I have multiple books going at once and awaiting my full attention. I just have to carve out the time.

How about you? How many books do you read in the average week, month or year?

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For now, the cats think all the books make excellent pillows.

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Welcome, WordCount Blogathon Participants!

The WordCount BlogathonAs a way to reinvigorate and reenergize our efforts here at Southern Spines, I am participating in the 2013 WordCount Blogathon. Freelance journalist Michelle Rafter created the Blogathon six years ago and has grown the event every year. I first accepted the challenge of writing a blog post every day for an entire month two years ago when I was writing for another blog, which is now defunct. What I discovered is that the WordCount Blogathon provides a fantastic opportunity to connect with bloggers from different parts of the country who write about a variety of subjects outside my usual areas of interest. When I participated before, I read and commented on others’ blog posts, shared links and promoted others’ efforts on Twitter and most importantly, wrote a blog post every single day for a month. As I tell my clients who are using blogging to connect with their target readers, consistency is the key to any great blog. And I usually follow up with another trite saying, “Do as I say and not as I do.”

Luckily, these last few months have been filled to overflowing with incredible book events. I never take for granted just how rich the arts and literary communities are in Atlanta. I’ve met some of the finest people–readers, writers, booksellers, publicists and others–in the publishing industry. And yes, I’ve been reading some really wonderful books! I’ve got interviews, photos and giveaways galore, so I hope you’ll check in here every day in June. If you’re new to Southern Spines, please leave a comment and introduce yourself below. Or tweet me up on Twitter; I’m @alisonlaw.

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Staying Busy: Six Months of Southern Spines

Six Over Twelve Half-iversary Image

Happy Half-iversary, Southern Spines!

March serves as the six-month milestone for Southern Spines. A Half-iversary if you will.

Since our launch last September, we’ve been privileged to meet and share the work of so many gifted storytellers. I’ve personally enjoyed connecting with readers and visitors to SouthernSpines.com as we’ve grown our audience here and on our Facebook page. The next six months promise more interviews with writers, songwriters and poets. Staying true to our name, we have focused most of our posts on those Books with Backbone that take place in the southeastern United States, but we’ve been known to cross a boundary or two in search of a good story. I thought it would be nice to share with you what the contributors to Southern Spines have been doing these past six months.

Alison Law

I recently accepted a position as assistant program director for the AJC Decatur Book Festival, the nation’s largest independent book festival. This is a dream assignment for me and will take up a significant chunk of my time in between grad school and other professional and personal obligations. I am in my second semester of graduate school at Georgia State University, where I’ve just started exploring thesis ideas. After trying to tweet from two different profiles, I herded everyone over to my original @alisonlaw moniker. Hope you’ll send me a 140-character greeting soon.

Stacie Boschma

Like many of us (or maybe it’s just me) who have signed up for NaNoWriMo, Stacie did not complete the November writing challenge, but she did generate a really cool story concept that she continues to play around with. When not posting to Southern Spines, you can find her writing and brewing up good things at her beer blog, brewlikeagirl.com. She’s also Queen Bee at the blog bees.stacieboschma.com. Beekeeping season is about to begin, so she’s “off the charts excited” about that.

Samantha Sessoms

Samantha completed not one, but two major writing challenges in the past six months. She finished a 70,000 word manuscript as part of her enrollment in a Fast Draft/Revision Hell class. This made 50,000 words seem like child’s play when she completed NaNoWriMo in November. When not posting to Southern Spines, Samantha is waxing nostalgic about her favorite “throwback movies” and discussing her writing and photography endeavors at samanthasessoms.blogspot.com.

 

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Thanksgiving and Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. In the Southeastern United States, that means most of us will gather around a table with the obligatory turkey centerpiece. The real meat of the meal is the multitude of dishes whose recipes begin with some variety of canned cream soup and culminate in crumbled, buttery crackers. I have painstakingly educated my “Yankee” husband not to utter the S-word at my mother’s Thanksgiving table; she only serves the best cornbread dressing and it is wrong to profane her work by calling it “stuffing.”

You’d think that all the preservatives and the three kinds of pie could create a barrier to any heartache dished out at this time of year. But they can’t. Close friends and family are experiencing sudden loss and illness this week, which means that my mind and heart have been consumed with futile attempts at comprehending, and even more futile plotting to somehow “fix” things.

Help Thanks Wow The Three Essential Prayers by Anne LamottBest-selling author Anne Lamott says the confounded belief that we can “fix” things is epidemic among the female species. That was one of her many messages that I scribbled down from a pew at the First Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia on Monday night. Thankfully, the Georgia Center for the Book hosted Lamott to read from her new book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.

Lamott says Help, Thanks, Wow was a complete accident. Her publisher encouraged her to write the book after she suggested that human beings only need three essential prayers when communicating honestly with God. The first is “Help me,” a prayer Lamott often used when she was first getting clean and sober 26 years ago. The second essential prayer is “Thanks.” Lamott says she uses this one a lot when she thinks of the “extraordinary” blessings of her life, including her son and three-year-old grandson. The final essential prayer is “Wow,” something she finds on her lips a lot when she witnesses the awe-inspiring terrain of her native Marin County, California.

Some of the things that Lamott talked about on Monday also appear in a recent New York Times piece, “The Prayer of an Unconventional Family.” She thanks Astrid Lindgren in the column, and on Monday night, she asked a young man–who had stepped to the microphone to ask her a question about becoming a professional writer–if he had read Pippi Longstocking. He hadn’t, but he was familiar with Harry Potter. When Lamott asked the boy what he was good at, he responded, “Dancing.” She told him that if he kept dancing and reading, he could be assured a good life.

Lamott–who says she is 58 years of age on the outside and 38 on the inside–says that aging means beginning to live without the people who are indispensable to you. That concept hung in my throat for a few solemn moments. However, in true Lamott style, she also shared the grace of getting older: you start to care so much less about the trivial things, like your hairstyle and the flaps of skin that used to rest smoothly on your face, but now drape your neck. “You learn by 50 that you’re never going to get anyone to do what you think is best,” she says. The church erupted in knowing laughter, which is what Anne Lamott calls “carbonated holiness.” Because we knew that if we just kept dancing and reading, we’d be assured a good life.

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Banned Books Week Video and Websites

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. Open Road Media created the following two-minute video featuring their authors whose works have been banned, or writers who found inspiration in a banned book. Open Road Media also created a Open Road Media Banned Books Week website complete with an interactive calendar where you can view the story behind some of the books that have been banned.

To learn more, visit the official Banned Books Week website from the American Library Association (ALA). This year’s theme is “Celebrating the Freedom to Read.”

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Southern Spines Is Not a Book Review Site

In the past few weeks, as I’ve socialized this new online project, people have asked me: “Why Southern Spines?”

Sharing a bit of my story

No matter what I’ve done in my life, I keep coming back to stories. I want to hear and share people’s stories, and the way I’ve done that has evolved over the years.

I’m this strange hybrid of former journalist /marketing and social media practitioner /avid reader /writer. A perpetual learner, I recently added grad student to the mix. It’s been 20 years since my last English class, so I’ve spent the past month trying to adapt to the New World of academia and research; email and the Internet were still new concepts as I was left college with my undergraduate degree.

Like so many, I’ve shared the dream of being a published author. I write every day in my professional life, but sitting your ass down in a chair and forcing your fingers to move the keys in any discernible direction is miraculous. That’s why writers are my rock stars. Beyond books, poems and songs rock my world, so you’ll find poets and songwriters on Southern Spines as well.

The need for online communities

We all know that the publishing industry is in a tremendous state of flux. When Borders closed, we bemoaned the demise of the brick and mortar bookstore, while downloading the latest ebook to our Kindle. Ebooks now outsell hard copies, so all signs point to readers seeking book lover communities online. Not that these communities replace the neighborhood independent bookstore or your book group that meets in a different friend’s home every six weeks. Or even my first love, the local branch of the public library. Truth be told, I haunt the virtual and physical doorsteps of all these places.

Writers can’t do it alone

I’ve worked as an independent publicist and consultant for a few authors. Even traditionally published authors have limited marketing resources at their publishing houses, unless they’re James Patterson or J. K. Rowling. So a lot of the work of developing a website and social media presence falls on the writer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the writer knows their work and their readers better than anyone else; however, it is a labor-intensive and often expensive process that robs them of the time they need to write.

What is Southern writing?

One day I was monitoring an author’s Twitter feed, when I saw a comment [paraphrasing here] “I don’t usually like Southern fiction, but this author’s work is the exception.” I thought to myself “What does that mean?” As a Southerner, my first reaction was to bristle at the notion that Southern writing was in any way less than writing in other geographies. But then I began to wonder “What is Southern writing?” I think some people believe it began and ended with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Flannery O’Connor would spin in her grave if she knew that. Part of the website’s mission then is to help explore classic and contemporary Southern voices, and better define Southern writing.

Why this isn’t a book review website

Southern Spines does not publish book reviews. Book reviewers, by my definition, are often MFAs or journalists who have been trained to read and analyze books and the craft of writing. Book reviewers serve an important role in the publishing industry. I am not objective. I have an agenda: to help writers, poets and songwriters connect with their audiences. I want to help overworked publicists do their jobs, and as long as we can agree to certain standards of quality, I’m not ashamed to say we’re all on the same team. We won’t accept payment from publishers to feature their authors, but if we read and like their work, you’re going to read about it here.

We want to hear from you

What does Southern writing mean to you? What are your favorite books, poems or songs about the South? Who are your favorite authors, poets or songwriters? We want to hear about them. This is your online community now, so I’m going to shut up and invite you to start talking.

Thanks for being here.

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