Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 27: Anthony Grooms

Literary Atlanta Episode 27 - Anthony Grooms, author of The Vain Conversation
Anthony Grooms is the author of Bombingham and Trouble No More, a novel and story collection, respectively, that both won the Lillian Smith Book Award for fiction. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, Anthony has taught writing and American literature at universities in Ghana and Sweden. Since  1994, he’s been teaching students at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, where he is a professor of English and director of the school’s Master of Arts in Professional Writing (MAPW) program.

Below is a video that Kennesaw State produced of Anthony Grooms* in which he explains the origin of the book’s title.

You can read the University’s full profile here:
“Novelist Tony Grooms Tells Stories from History,” Kennesaw State University News

For those of you unable to make it to tonight’s book launch in Atlanta, block off April 12th on your calendar. Anthony Grooms will be at FoxTale Book Shoppe on that date to discuss and sign copies of The Vain Conversation at 7:00 p.m.

* FYI: Anthony goes by “Tony.” Just like Christopher Martin goes by “Chris.” I tend to use the author’s full name—or pen name— in my interviews and here on the website so there’s no confusion when you search for the book.

Other Links from This Episode

“Clinton Adams Recalls the Lynching at Moore’s Ford,” Atlanta-Journal Constitution

Anthony Grooms Author Website

Feb. 15th – Anthony Grooms at the Wrecking Bar

Feb. 15th-18th – 11th Annual Savannah Book Festival

Books Mentioned in This Episode

The Vain Conversation by Anthony GroomsThe Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms





Bombingham by Anthony GroomsBombingham by Anthony Grooms





Trouble No More by Anthony GroomsTrouble No More by Anthony Grooms





The New Mind of the South by Tracy ThompsonThe Mind of the New South by Tracy Thompson





The New Jim Crow by Michelle AlexanderThe New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 26: Jamie Quatro

Literary Atlanta Episode 26 - Jamie Quatro, author of Fire Sermon

I was excited to talk to this week’s guest not just because she’s an extraordinary writer, but because she also lives close to where I grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Jamie Quatro has called Lookout Mountain, Georgia, home for about 12 years now. If you’re unfamiliar with the geography of Georgia, Lookout Mountain is part of metro Chattanooga, which lies about two hours north of Atlanta, right at the border of Tennessee and Georgia.

Jamie Quatro is probably best known for her short fiction writing. Her first book was a story collection entitled, I Want To Show You More. I Want To Show You More was a New York Times Notable Book, an NPR Best Book of 2013, and an Indie Next and O, The Oprah Magazine pick.

Jamie’s novel, Fire Sermon, came out in January. When I asked about the book’s origin, Jamie said she didn’t know it would become a novel when she sat down to write the story in her head.

Jamie Quatro has two appearances comings up in the next week in the metro Atlanta area. Catch her Feb. 13th at SCAD’s Ivy Hall in Atlanta or meet her Feb. 15th at the Prince Avenue location of Avid Bookshop in Athens.

Jamie Quatro Author Website

Events Mentioned in This Episode

Feb. 9th – Tayari Jones in Conversation with Pearl Cleage at the Alliance Theatre
RSVP via email to

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – Oprah’s Book Club 2018

Feb. 10th – Sisters in Crime Workshop: Write & Sell Your Novel

Feb. 12th – Revival: Lost Southern Voices, Featuring Laura Crawley, Stephen Corey and Tim Tarkington

Feb. 12th – Zadie Smith at SCADShow

Feb. 13th – Jamie Quatro at SCAD’s Ivy Hall

Feb. 14th – The Wren’s Nest and Literary Atlanta Present “Beyond Books” featuring Jim Auchmutey

Feb. 15th – Jamie Quatro at Avid Bookshop (Prince Avenue Location)

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Fire Sermon by Jamie QuatroFire Sermon by Jamie Quatro





I Want to Show You More by Jamie QuatroI Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 25: Tayari Jones

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 25 - Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and coming out this Tuesday, February 6th, An American Marriage. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, the New York Times, and Callaloo.

A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship.

Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its “Big Read Library of Classics” in 2016.

Tayari is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University, she is spending the 2017-18 academic year as the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

She’ll be in Atlanta on Feb. 9th to promote An American Marriage at a special event at the Alliance Theatre.

Links from This Episode

Junot Díaz Keynote Speech at ABA Winter Institute 2018 Full Speech (YouTube video courtesy of Word Up Books in NYC; warning: the video contains some explicit language)

“WI13: Junot Díaz Urges Booksellers to Walk the Talk on Diversity,” Publishers Weekly

Tayari Jones Author Website

Judy Blumesday, Judy Blume’s 80th Birthday Event in NYC

Literary Atlanta’s First, Five-Question Listener Survey

Events Mentioned in This Episode

Feb. 1st – Cheryl Reid at Eagle Eye Books

Feb. 3rd – Kimberly Brock and Ricki Schultz at FoxTale Book Shoppe

Feb. 8th – Jessica Shattuck at the Margaret Mitchell House

Feb. 9th – Tayari Jones in Conversation with Pearl Cleage at the Alliance Theatre. RSVP via email to

Books Mentioned in This Episode

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones





Silver Sparrow by Tayari JonesSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones





Leaving Atlanta by Tayari JonesLeaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 24: Mark Pendergrast

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 24: Mark Pendergrast, author of City on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America's Urban Future
In partnership with The Wren’s Nest, Literary Atlanta launched the “Beyond Books” series on Jan. 10, 2018. Our first guest for this live podcast event was Mark Pendergrast.

L-R: Kalin Thomas, program director of The Wren’s Nest, author Mark Pendergrast, and Alison Law at the first “Beyond Books” event on Jan. 10, 2018. Photo courtesy of The Wren’s Nest.

Episode 24 includes a recording of the Jan. 10th event. This was our first time recording on location at The Wren’s Nest, the historic home of Joel Chandler Harris in Atlanta’s West End. The sitting room was packed! The audience included Mark’s mother, Nan, and two of his brothers (he’s one of seven children). Mark was born and raised in Atlanta, but now lives in Vermont.

Mark spent more than four years researching and writing his book City on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America’s Urban Future. In the book, Mark shares the history of Atlanta and its rise as a major metropolitan city poised for “either tremendous rebirth or inexorable decline.” He organizes the story around one of the most promising catalysts for the city’s rebirth: the Atlanta BeltLine, a 22-mile loop of mostly defunct rail lines that are being transformed into a series of stunning parks connected by trails and streetcars.

City on the Verge is Mark’s third book about Atlanta. The other books about his native city are For God, Country & Coca-Cola, which was named a notable book of the year by the New York Times, and Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. The EIS is part of the Centers for Disease Control, located in Atlanta.

City on the Verge Website

Beyond Books Monthly Author Series on Facebook

Jan. 25th – Bryant Simon Event at Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

Jan. 30th – Diane Kantor Event at A Cappella Books

Jan. 30th – Julie Lythcott-Haims Event at Margaret Mitchell House

Please remember to complete our first, five-question listener survey for a chance to win an Amazon gift card.

Books Mentioned in This Episode

City on the Verge by Mark PendergrastCity on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America’s Urban Future by Mark Pendergrast




For God, Country, and Coca-Cola by Mark PendergrastFor God, Country & Coca-Cola by Mark Pendergrast





Where We Want to Live by Ryan GravelWhere We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities by Ryan Gravel

Complete the First, Five-Question Listener Survey for a Chance to Win

Create your own user feedback survey

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 23: Patrisse Khan-Cullors

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 23 - Patrisse Khan-Cullors, author of When They Call You a Terrorist
Patrisse Khan-Cullors, community organizer and social activist, artist, and one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement will be in Atlanta on Jan. 22nd. She’ll be speaking at the Carter Center at 7:00 p.m. about her new book entitled When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. Patrisse co-authored the book with asha bandele, an award-winning author, former senior editor at Essence, and a senior director at the Drug Policy Alliance.

I spoke to Patrisse about the importance of sharing her memoir now—with her family and with the public. We also talked about the toll that the fight for social justice takes on black women in particular, and how people can get involved in their communities.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors Website

“Black Women’s Lives Matter: A Discussion with BLM Co-Founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Author asha bandele,” The Root

Jan. 22nd – Patrisse Khan-Cullors at the Carter Center

Book Mentioned in This Episode

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandeleWhen They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 22: Xhenet Aliu

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 22 - Xhenet Aliu, author of Brass
We’ve made it to the third week of 2018. How are you doing with your bookish resolutions? Are you participating in any New Year’s reading challenges? Here are a few on our radar:

The UnreadBookShelf Challenge on Instagram

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge

If one of your challenges is to read a great debut novel this year, you’re going to like this week’s interview. I’m talking to Xhenet Aliu, author of the debut novel, Brass. The book that we’re discussing this week doesn’t go on sale until January 23rd, but it’s already debuted on numerous “must-read” lists. The Millions listed Brass as one of their “Most Anticipated Books of 2018.” Elle magazine named it one of their “21 Best Books of 2018.” And the list goes on.

The book’s author, Xhenet Aliu, lives in Athens, Georgia. I asked her why she set Brass in her hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut.

Xhenet Aliu Author Website

Jan. 18th – Laura Lee Smith in Conversation with Xhenet Aliu at Avid Bookshop

Jan. 23rd – Writers at Wrecking Bar Event featuring Xhenet Aliu

I’m pleased to announce that we will be posting a bonus episode of Literary Atlanta next week. I spoke to Patrisse Khan-Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. We talked about her new memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist. We’ll be releasing that episode next Monday, Jan. 22nd in advance of her appearance that night at the Carter Center.

Jan. 22nd – Patrisse Khan-Cullors Event at the Carter Center

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Brass by Xhenet AliuBrass by Xhenet Aliu





Undomesticated Wild Things by Xhenet AliuUndomesticated Wild Things and Other Stories by Xhenet Aliu

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 21: Laura Lee Smith

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 21 - Laura Lee Smith, author of The Ice House

We’re wrapping up a busy week here at the Literary Atlanta podcast. A week that included the inaugural “Beyond Books” event at The Wren’s Nest. Thanks to everyone who attended. For those who missed my conversation with Mark Pendergrast, author of City on the Verge, we’ll have a recording in a future episode of the podcast.

This week’s guest is Laura Lee Smith, the author of Heart of Palm and the recently-released The Ice House, both from Grove Press. Her short fiction was selected by guest editor T.C. Boyle for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2015 and by guest editor Amy Hempel for inclusion in New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, 2010. When not writing fiction, Laura works as an advertising copywriter in St. Augustine, Florida.

The Ice House follows the beleaguered MacKinnons as they weather the possible loss of the family business, a serious medical diagnosis, and the slings and arrows of familial discord. I asked Laura why she’s drawn to Florida as a backdrop for her writing and if she considers her work southern fiction.

Laura Lee Smith Author Website

Jan. 17th – Laura Lee Smith at SCAD Ivy Hall

Jan. 18th – Laura Lee Smith at Avid Bookshop, Prince Avenue Location, Athens, Ga.

Jan. 16th – A Celebration of Denis Johnson at Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge

Jan. 17th – The Big Read: In the Time of the Butterflies at Decatur Library

Jan. 18th – Kevin Young at Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

Books Mentioned in This Episode

The Ice House by Laura Lee SmithThe Ice House by Laura Lee Smith





Heart of Palm by Laura Lee SmithHeart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 20: Nic Stone

Austin Miles Anderson of Vox Teen Communications with Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin
Austin Miles Anderson of Vox Teen Communications with Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin. Photo credit: Rich Eldredge.

Happy New Year! We’ve got an amazing, super-sized episode to kick off 2018 of the Literary Atlanta podcast.

This week’s guest is Nic Stone, an Atlanta author whose first novel, Dear Martin, debuted at Number 4 on the New York Times young adult hardcover bestseller list last fall. Dear Martin is a YA book whose main characters are teenagers at a fictional Atlanta prep school. The protagonist, Justyce, is an African-American teen who attends the elite school on scholarship, and he’s getting an education about race and privilege both inside and outside the classroom. Justyce writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to puzzle out what he is experiencing and to ask “What would Martin do?” in response to some of the situations he encounters.

My guest host for this episode is Austin Miles Anderson. Austin is a senior in high school with aspirations of becoming a journalist. He’s a staffer at Vox Teen Communications, a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to “connect diverse metro Atlanta teens to resources for building their confidence, increasing their capacity to meet life’s demands, and ensuring their future success” by giving them a professional, uncensored publishing platform.

Austin and I both read Dear Martin and prepared a list of questions for Nic. We recorded the interview at Vox. Thanks for Rich Eldredge, senior editor at Vox, and our producer Sean Powers for helping to make this happen.

I think you’ll agree with me that this is one of our best episodes. Thank God for books that help us question and have uncomfortable conversations.

Vox Teen Communications

Nic Stone Author Website

“Townsend Prize Finalists Announced,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution

January 9th – AJ Tata Event in Gwinnett County

January 10th – The Wren’s Nest and Literary Atlanta Present “Beyond Books” featuring Mark Pendergrast

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Dear Martin by Nic StoneDear Martin by Nic Stone





The Fire Next Time by James BaldwinThe First Next Time by James Baldwin





Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 19: Charles McNair

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 19 - Charles McNair, author of The Epicureans
Thursday, December 21, 2017 is the Winter Solstice. To most of us, the Winter Solstice is merely the shortest day of the year. Thank goodness the longest dark days of winter are behind us! For others, the solstice marks a pagan celebration, a Bacchanalia, a feast like no other.

The Winter Solstice plays a crucial role in The Epicureans, a serialized novel by Charles McNair. I talked to Charles about this eerie, fictional celebration and his decision to publish the book one chapter at a time on The Bitter Southerner in Episode 19 of Literary Atlanta.

Charles lives with his family in Bogotá, Colombia. We spoke via Skype.

I first met Charles McNair about ten years ago when he was teaching a writing workshop here in Atlanta. A native of Alabama, Charles is a storyteller of the highest order who never meets a stranger.

Although he is a prolific writer in his daily life as a freelance writer, editor and consultant on assignment to some of the world’s best known publications and businesses, Charles has only produced two book-length works in the last 30 or so years.

Of course one of those books, his first novel Land O’ Goshen, was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Not too shabby. His long-awaited second novel, Pickett’s Charge, came out in 2013, a year that marked the 150th anniversary of that bloodiest of Civil War battles, Gettysburg. In terms of production, 2017 signals a “best of” year for Charles, as he’s had not one, but two different book-length works released.

In September, his biography of Atlanta’s first Jewish mayor, Sam Massell, was published by Mercer University Press. Charles met the 90-year-old Massell while on assignment for an alumni magazine. The two forged a partnership and the resulting book was Play It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell, Atlanta’s First Minority Mayor.

While Charles’s other book-length project has yet to be captured between two cardboard covers, he’s gained new fiction fans with his serialized novel, The Epicureans. Published each week or so on the online publication The Bitter Southerner, The Epicureans is in its final chapters.

Charles McNair Author Website

The Epicureans by Charles McNair on The Bitter Southerner Website

“Atlanta’s First Jewish Mayor Meets Eleanor Roosevelt in an Exclusive Excerpt from Play It Again, Sam,” Paste

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Play It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell by Charles McNairPlay It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell, Atlanta’s First Minority Mayor by Charles McNair




Pickett's Charge by Charles McNairPickett’s Charge by Charles McNair





Land O' Goshen by Charles McNairLand O’ Goshen by Charles McNair