Last week’s winter weather prevented Kim Michele Richardson from joining the holiday festivities at FoxTale Book Shoppe. Fortunately, I was able to catch up with her by phone. Kim Michele is a Kentucky native who lives in Louisville at present. She writes unflinchingly about the splendor and violence that co-exist in her home state—and in our world in general—in her books.
Her latest novel, The Sisters of Glass Ferry, opens with a description of a decadent strawberry birthday cake. But we quickly realize that we are not reading about a celebration. We are witnessing a family’s ritual of loss.
Kim Michele Richardson will be back in Atlanta in May. The Sisters of Glass Ferry is part of the TRIO Exhibit that I mentioned in a previous episode of Literary Atlanta. And as Kim Michele pointed out when we talked, the event at FoxTale coincides with the Kentucky Derby. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you see her wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sneaking in a flask of mint juleps. Pencil the party in on May 5th of your 2018 calendar.
The Wren’s Nest is the Queen Anne style home of Joel Chandler Harris, located in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. On the national register of historic places, The Wren’s Nest is a museum that’s open to the public for tours, but it’s become so much more than that in the 100+ years since Harris bought the home.
This week’s guest, Kalin Thomas, is program director at The Wren’s Nest. She joins us to talk about the historic West End and continuing the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris.
As Kalin mentions in our conversation, Literary Atlanta is thrilled to be partnering with the Wren’s Nest on a new author series called “Beyond Books.” This series will feature a monthly author talk at the Wren’s Nest. Kalin has already confirmed the first authors of the series, which kicks off next month. We’ll have more details on Beyond Books in future episodes.
I’ve been a fan of Wiley Cash since I first heard him speak at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. He was talking about his debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home. See, that’s what happens when you attend book events! You usually walk away wanting to read everything that author has ever written. I also loved Wiley’s follow-up book, This Dark Road to Mercy. So I was more than thrilled to get an advanced reader copy (ARC) of his latest novel, The Last Ballad, at Book Expo.
I get a little political when introducing this week’s interview with Wiley. Hopefully, he will forgive me. To be fair, he brought up the #metoo movement during our phone conversation.
The subject of Wiley’s latest novel, Ella May Wiggins, didn’t know she would become the face of a labor movement when she spent her only off day traveling to a union meeting in North Carolina. It was 1929, and Ella May was a single mother whose husband had abandoned her and their four children. She was working six days a week, 12 hours a day, at a textile mill in Bessemer City, North Carolina, and was barely able to keep her family alive. So she hopped in a stranger’s truck and traveled to another town to learn about the union. To learn more, you’ll have to read The Last Ballad.
Wiley Cash currently serves as the writer-in-residence at his alma mater of the University of North Carolina-Asheville. He also teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA program. He shares insights from his writing life, including his studying with the incredible writer Ernest J. Gaines, in this episode. Don’t miss seeing Wiley in Atlanta on December 7th.
This is a brief message to let you know that we’re taking this week and next off. I’m going on vacation and next week we’re celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S. I hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday ahead of you.
I did mention some bookish events happening in Atlanta in the above audio. The links are below.
Thank you for listening and being a part of the Literary Atlanta community!
Christopher Martin is a native Georgian, a poet with three poetry chapbooks, and a freelance writer whose essays and poems have appeared in publications across the country. He is also an outdoorsman who regularly hikes the trails close to his home in Acworth, Georgia, which is located about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta.
His nonfiction debut, This Gladdening Light: An Ecology of Fatherhood and Faith, is billed as “part memoir, part essay collection, part spiritual journal.” Throughout the collection of essays and poems, Christopher explores universal themes of what it means to be a father, what it means to be a white man living in the South, and what it means to be a man of faith without being tethered to any one religious denomination. He’s also very in tune with nature and the writing of Henry David Thoreau.
Metro Atlanta is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the United States. It also boasts one of the largest Jewish book festivals in the country. The 26th Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCA begins Saturday night.
For this episode, I went “out in the field” to record my interview at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA). Thanks to Dee Kline, one of two chairs of this year’s Book Festival of the MJCCA. Bea Goodman, Dee’s co-chair, was under the weather. Bea, we hope you’re feeling better just in time for a busy two weeks of authors and books!
November is National Jewish Book Month. The Jewish Book Council’s website details the history of the Council and of Jewish Book Month. Like many good things in life, the National Jewish Book Month began with a librarian. Fanny Goldstein, a librarian at a branch of the Boston Public Library, set up an exhibit of Judaic books and started a Jewish Book Week. That was back in 1925, when there weren’t a lot of Jewish books in English. In 1927, Jewish communities around the country adopted the event, and it’s only grown from there.
Dee shared a bit of the history of the MJCCA Book Festival and highlights of this year’s programs.
As Dee mentioned, many of the big name events, like Al Franken, Dan Rather, and the Bush Sisters have already sold out. Still, you’ll find individual tickets to the other 30+ events on sale at the festival website. Most of the events take place at the MJCCA in Dunwoody.
It took a while for me to warm to Posey, the main character in Sally Kilpatrick’s latest novel, Bless Her Heart. You must read your way into some of Posey’s backstory before you figure out just why she is the way she is. Sally and I talked about that and some of the more serious themes that she’s woven into this book.
That led to bigger discussions about writing—where she found her writing community and honed her writing skills—and why some people are quick to dismiss any book that’s marketed as romance or contemporary women’s fiction. Sally tells an exceptional story about how a negative comment from a literary agent helped her own her writer’s voice. Whether you follow the hashtag #metoo or the hashtag #NaNoWriMo, you don’t want to miss episode 13 featuring author Sally Kilpatrick.
UPDATED SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28TH. THANKS TO TERRI, THIS POST NOW HAS 100 PERCENT MORE CONTEST. I TOTALLY SPACED AND FORGOT TO ADD THE RAFFLECOPTER INFO. I’M SORRY. PLEASE ENTER TO WIN. THE CONTEST IS LIMITED TO U.S. RESIDENTS ONLY AND ENDS 12 A.M. ON MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2017. – AL
Are you excited about National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo? The Decatur Writers Studio is hosting a free NaNoWriMo Write In on November 4th. Please note that space is limited to the first 20 people to register. You’ll find other NaNoWriMo events and activities—both online and IRL—by registering at the NaNoWriMo website.
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott– this is the book that Sally mentions in our interview. Lamott advises writers to start with a shitty first draft. In fact, there’s a whole chapter devoted to “Shitty First Drafts.” You’re welcome!
This week’s guest, Thomas Mullen, is the author of Darktown. Set in Atlanta in 1948, this mystery and historical novel tells the story of the city’s first African-American police officers. NPR named Darktown its Book of the Year.
Now Officers Boggs, Smith, and Rakestraw are back in the sequel, Lightning Men. In Lightning Men, two years have passed, but life hasn’t gotten much easier for the men of the APD. They are dealing with rival groups of white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and the Columbians. Further blurring the lines are their family members of these officers who have opposing interests in black families moving into Atlanta neighborhoods that were previously occupied by whites only.
Sony Pictures has optioned the rights to Darktown. Jamie Foxx has signed on to executive-produce the TV show version. Thomas gives us an update on that process and shares the best piece of advice he received about the roller coaster ride of being a writer.
This week’s guest has not authored a book, but she is responsible for the creation and publication of numerous stories. Stories that are hers and stories that she has coaxed out of other creatives and everyday people. Stories that do not appear in print, but leave an indelible impression on all who hear them.
Shannon Turner is a storyteller and co-host of the North Avenue Lounge show on 91.1 WREK. Earlier this year, she became a full-time story coach, helping other people and organizations to tell their stories in more powerful ways. That business is called StoryMuse.
Shannon and I met when I signed up for her “Storytelling for Writers” class at the Decatur Writers Studio. She’s an excellent teacher who’s obviously been working on her craft for a long time. I asked Shannon to tell me when she first became a storyteller.
Up next for Shannon Turner? A Yoga and Storytelling workshop. Shannon is teaming up with yoga instructor Rachelle Knowles. Rachelle will lead attendees through gentle yoga practices and Shannon will lead storytelling exercises around how to tell a good personal story, reframe your past stories, and tell a story about a future you would like to see. That’s happening on November 5th. The cost is $35 per person. For more details or to sign up, visit Shannon’s website.
Something happens when you go from reading words quietly off the page to speaking words aloud on a stage. (Forgive the rhyming. I’m obviously not the poet here.) The experience transforms both the author and the audience.
Theresa Davis is one of the best-known performance poets in Atlanta. She has competed in poetry slams and spoken word venues across the country, even ranking 8th among women poets at the 2009 World Poetry Slam. Theresa says she has been able to connect to the truest version of herself through poetry—not just poems that she’s written for the page, but spoken word poetry. And it all started with a conversation she had with her father just before he passed away.
Theresa absolutely devastated me when she closed out the ceremony for the “2017 Books All Georgians Should Read” with a performance of her poem “Copse.” It’s one of the poems found in her book that all Georgians should read, Drowned: A Mermaid’s Manifesto. I asked her to read that poem and another work she referenced in our conversation.
Theresa organizes live slam and spoken word events in Atlanta. If you want to catch one of these events, the best place to start is the Java Monkey Speaks and Slam Sundays. Java Monkey is a coffeehouse in Decatur, Georgia. We’ll include a link to their Facebook events in the show notes. The slams are competitions. The Speaks events usually showcase the work of different poets. These spoken word events happen every Sunday at 8 p.m. at Java Monkey. They are free and open to the public, but as a courtesy to the host, and to keep these events free, you should order drinks or food at Java Monkey.