Friday, May 30, 2008

Pick of the Week (June 2nd-6th)

Photo: Judy Staggs, Sigourney Cheek and Edith C.

Wanted to report on last night's reading by Sigourney Cheek author of Patient Siggy: Hope and Healing in Cyberspace (Lit Magic's Pick of the Week). Sigourney read multiple passages and shared the backstory of how and why she started writing. Members of the audience were encouraged by her candid talk to ask a number of questions. This in turn led to a 25-minute group discussion on the power of journaling to heal the mind, body and soul. It was a rare treat to experience that level of audience participation at a reading. Special thanks to Judy Staggs at the library for making it possible.

Lit Magic's Pick of the Week (June 2nd-6th) is Rick Bragg author of The Prince of Frogtown. This pick was inspired by Rebecca Bain's June cover story in BookPage. (Rebecca was the former host of the public radio program "The Fine Print", a critically acclaimed show beloved by Nashvillians. You can pick up a free copy of BookPage at your local library. I got mine at the Green Hills branch a few days ago.) Look forward to seeing you there.

Date: Friday, June 6th at 7:00 pm
Where: B&N, Cool Springs (1701 Mallory Lane)
Event: In this final volume of the beloved American saga that began with All Over but the Shoutin’ and continued with Ava’s Man, Rick Bragg closes his circle of family stories. Join us as he reads, discusses and signs The Prince of Frogtown.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Literary Center: Economic Impact

This post is part of a series of why we should all care whether Nashville is a literary center. The first post focused on education. This one will focus on the economic / businesses impact of books on our community.

Before we get into the details, let's take a moment to review the basic value chain of publishing. It starts with an individual researching and writing a book. The author then secures a literary agent who places the title with a publisher in return for a percentage of the advance. The publisher is responsible for printing the book, marketing it and distributing it. The author and publisher share in the profits of a book through royalties (Said another way, after an advance is earned out, the author earns a % of sales on each book sold). A key piece in distribution is working with a book distributor who makes the book available to bookstores, libraries and the like. A distributor buys a book at a discount and resell it at a profit. A bookstore, free standing or based online, then sells the book to the end consumer again at a profit. Lastly, a book publicist is often hired to generate additional awareness and sales by securing media attention and setting up speaking engagements at bookstores, associations and conferences. It's not easy for a book to get noticed when +100,000 are printed every year.

Nashville is in an usual position; we have every piece of the value chain represented in our community. We are fortunate to be the base for one of the nation's largest book distributors, Ingram Book, which in turn attracts additional investment from national publishers who set up warehouses in the close vicinity. We are also a publishing center for Christian books (Thomas Nelson, LifeWay and United Methodist Publishing House). While I have no proof, it is said that Nashville is the largest producer of bibles in the world (yes, I throw this factoid out at cocktail parties on a regular basis-- smile). There are also a number of smaller presses located here including Vanderbilt University Press, Turner Publishing, Providence House, Cold Tree Press and Cumberland House Publishing. As for bookstores, we know there is no shortage. There are the independents and/or used bookstores like Davis-Kidd, Landmark Booksellers, Bookman/Bookwoman, Elders Bookstore and Rhino as well as the large chains like Borders, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-million. Thanks to Humanities Tennessee, Nashville will the the permanent home for the Southern Festival of Books, a leading book festival in the nation that attracts 200 authors and 30,000 attendees. (If you are interested, see this article for the economic impact of the Festival on Memphis in 2004). As for authors, agents and publicists, see the TN Author and TN Lit links on the right hand side. You get the idea; we've got it all.

It is clear that our community is benefiting on an economic basis from the book business. What can we do, on an individual and collective basis, to further stimulate this part of the economy? Personally, I would be interested to know the exact economic impact on the community in terms of employment, related services, taxes etc.. as well as see more collaboration in the industry. I raise the issue because I care and believe that we have the makings of being a nationally recognized literary center.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clarksville Writers' Conference

Once again, the Arts and Heritage Council of Clarksville is putting on a writers' conference. An annual event, the Clarksville Writers' Conference is in its 4th year and the list of participating authors (many of them local) shows that Nashville isn't the only Middle Tennessee town with literary heart.

Here's the press release for the event:

Clarksville Arts and Heritage Development Council Presents The Fourth Annual Clarksville Writers' Conference, July 10-12, 2008

Clarksville, TN -- The Arts & Heritage Development Council of Clarksville, TN, is holding its Fourth Annual Clarksville Writers' Conference, July 10-12, 2008, at the Morgan University Center on the campus of Austin Peay State University. Writers and readers are encouraged to attend this three-day event which addresses a wide variety of literature, including historical fiction, journalism, poetry, the Southern Gothic novel, biography, short stories, storytelling, writing for young adults and children, fiction and nonfiction.

Conference holders are honored to have as this year's keynote speaker John Seigenthaler, Sr., renowned journalist, editor, publisher, political figure and current host of WNPT's book-review program "Word on Words." The conference banquet, held on the evening of July 11 at the Clarksville Country Club, will feature Seigenthaler and include a "Meet the Authors" reception and book signing. Conference participants can also take part in sixteen different workshops/presentations given by such talented authors as young-adult author Tracy Barrett (Anna of Byzantium), editor and novelist Sonny Brewer (Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe, The Poet of Tolstoy Park), poet and editor Leigh Anne Couch (Houses Fly Away), poet Blas Falconer (The Perfect Hour, A Question of Gravity and Light), fiction and nonfiction author Joe Formichella (Here's to You, Jackie Robinson), novelist and short story writer Suzanne Hudson (In a Temple of Trees, In the Dark of the Moon), novelist and creative writing instructor Barry Kitterman (The Baker's Boy), professor of philosophy and religious scholar Bert Randall (Holy Scriptures as Justification for War) and journalist/author Karen Spears Zacharias (After the Flag Has Been Folded). In addition, this year's conference features the premiere of John McDonald's play Headin' South, Goin' North, based on the story of lost Clarksville Civil War Confederate hero Charlie Lurton. Preceding the play at the historic Roxy Regional Theatre, participants will be taken on a tour of beautiful downtown Clarksville churches and other historic sites mentioned in the play.

The complete conference schedule and registration forms can be found online at Conference costs vary by package, and discounted prices are offered to those who register by June 25, 2008. Late registration ends July 3, 2008. Packages offered include (along with early and late registration prices): Complete (all workshops/presentations, two luncheons, banquet, tour and play) - $250/$270; Two-Day Workshops/Presentations (Friday and Saturday Workshops/Presentations, two luncheons) - $165/$175; One-Day Workshops/Presentations (Friday or Saturday Workshops/Presentations, one luncheon) - $85/$95; Banquet Only - $40/$50; Tour and Play Only - $50/$55.

*Completely irrelevant note: Tracy Barrett is in my knitting group. (OK, so maybe I haven't attended many sessions lately, but I haven't quit. Really!) The group is made up of Vanderbilt professors and staff--oh how these women come together to break down the barriers of ivory tower life--and Tracy is the uber knitter of the group. She just made a sweater; she's not kidding around. Really.

Plus, she's a great writer too! So don't be afraid to cross the county line. Get to Clarksville in July.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Literary Center: Education

So why should we all care whether Nashville becomes a nationally recognized literary center? And what are we doing now to become one? As this is a big issue, I am going to break it up into a few posts. This first post will focus on education.

The partial answer for me lies in the tag line for the Nashville Public Library which reads, "A City with a Great Library is a Great City". The people at the library recognize that our tax dollars could be used a variety of ways. By choosing to spend them on the library, we are declaring our true character or greatness. With each dollar, we are declaring that books and learning are important to us. We are saying that we are willing to invest in programs that have the potential to touch every person in the community. We are committing to invest in ourselves, who we are today and who we want to become in the future. That my friend is a worthy endeavour. I send my thanks to the folks at the library for all of their hard work.

A very similar argument can be made about the schools and universities here in Nashville. They are all committed to books, learning and shaping the next generation. It is not surprising that many of the authors on the TN Authors list can be found at these institutions. Great institutions invest in great talent. These institutions, and Vanderbilt University in particular, also do a lot of outreach into the community. My favorite is Professor David Wood's monthly speaker series, Thinking Outside the Lunchbox which is run in conjunction with Nashville Public Library. It's an hour of pure pleasure: a lecture from a Vanderbilt professor plus interesting Q&A. (And yes, I was one of those people who always loved school....)

But let us not forget all of the work being done to promote literary. There is the Governor's Books From Birth Foundation run in conjunction with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library that sends a free hard cover book each month from birth until age five to every child in the state of TN who registers. There is also Book'em that matches reading volunteers with local schools and groups like Head Start. (As an aside, I became a reading volunteer this spring for a local elementary school and cannot tell you what a rewarding experience it was. If you have any inclination and want to hear more about it, please feel free to contact me.)

Clearly, many of our citizens and institutions care about books and learning. But somehow, there is a disconnect. Why is TN ranked 50th in total education spending per capita? Or 49th in elementary and secondary education spending? (For more information, see Tennessee and its Children: Unmet Needs 2001.)

Somehow a shift needs to happen. We need to band together to make books and education more relevant to each and every person. We need to raise the issue, discuss it and address it together as a community. How can we do this? Part of the answer lies in becoming a nationally recognized literary center. We will be publicly declaring our intention and investing in ourselves, as we are today and who we want to become.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Southern Charm

We were very fortunate to have Denise Hildreth author of The Will of Wisteria as the featured speaker for Evening with an Author tonight (Lit Magic Pick of the Week #2). She was wonderful! As one person commented, and I paraphrase, "Gosh, she's a great speaker" and it's true. She is equally comfortable speaking in front of a crowd as she is behind a computer churning out her delectable novels. If you have a chance to hear her, jump at the chance. She just oozes Southern charm.
(Photo: Denise Hildreth)

The Lit Magic Pick of the Week for May 26th-31st is another great speaker, Sigourney Cheek, author of Patient Siggy Hope and Healing in Cyberspace. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Sigourney over the last six months as she is represented by Swift Book Promotion and was a featured speaker for Evening with an Author in February. She is an amazing individual who speaks frankly about her life experiences whether they be what it is like to go through chemo or how she celebrated her 60th birthday with her closest friends on a picturesque Mediterranean island. Her candor, humor and grace are noteworthy. You'll not want to miss it.

Thursday, May 29, 6:00 PM
Green Hills Library
3701 Benham Avenue, Nashville, TN

(Photo: Sigourney Cheek and Ginna F. at launch party)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Intimate Gathering

I went to Tasha Alexander's reading at B&N Cool Springs last night (Lit Magic's Pick of the Week #1). Hey, did you really think I'd recommend something that I would not want to go to myself? Stop that crazy talk.

(Photo: Authors, JT Ellison and Tasha Alexander)

It was exactly the type of reading I love best. Why? First, Robbie Byran Community Relations Manager always puts on a great reading. I think it's because the authors feel taken care of and therefore are relaxed. Next, I ran into some interesting people: JT Ellison, author of All the Pretty Girls and Tom Robinson, a book publicist who represents both JT and Tasha. The crowd was relatively small (call it 15 people) but clearly made up of passionate fans who have read all of Tasha's books. A Fatal Waltz is the third in the series. Being a newbie, I picked up the first one, A Poisoned Season. And lastly, the author provided some interesting tidbits / backstory as well as read from the book.

What could be better? It was an intimate gathering of interested and interesting people that ran for less than an hour. Don't be shy. Come join us at the next one. Lit Magic Pick of the Week #2, Evening with an Author with Denise Hildreth, is tomorrow night.....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

3 Remembers

Here are some websites/books that have found their way onto my list of Don’t Forget. Some may already be familiar with them, but for those who aren’t, here is my gift for today.

1. Arts and Leisure Daily--Be forewarned: this is the motherlode for periodical junkies. It will be tempting to read as much as possible as quick as possible, but there’s just too much here. Journals, newspapers, magazines, blogs: they’re all here. Breathe, focus, savor. There’s (maybe) time enough for them all.

2.—I’m a writer, but inside me there’s an inner crafter, and I even once took a class on bookbinding. Now, though, I have Like those photo websites that compile your pics into one handsome book, this website adds text and graphic design to the mix. Some may use it to publish their novel. Others might make a cookbook for their mom. When my god-daughter was born, I scrapbooked her a Chronicles of Adeline. The gift I gave her is handmade and charming, but this site would have required a lot less cutting and pasting.

3. The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa by Michael Kimmelman–This book came out in 2005; and I missed it until just 2 years ago. Malcolm Gladwell may be better known, but Kimmelman might just be better. He doesn’t leave the reader hanging. He doesn’t pose a question, give some information, and then never answer the And Why Is This Important? What Does All This Mean? As circuitous as his route might be, he always circles back to the beginning, and how he meanders, weaves, and explores the many concepts within this book—still managing to connect and answer them by chapter’s end—is a true example of writing grace.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sixty Authors

Thank you to everyone who sent in names of additional authors to add to the TN Authors list. We're at like 60 people with the large majority based here in Nashville. I also added to the list by scanning my bookshelves which was great fun. In the process, I rediscovered two gems.

The first is Chris Hilicki's business book called May I Have Your Attention Please? Building a Better Business by Telling Your True Story. It's hard to explain so I will quote from the Preface. "This book is not just a business tool. It's a plan for life fulfillment. Fulfillment comes from being authentic and genuine even though it may be uncomfortable at first. You can define success in terms of fame and wealth, but it is that and more when you follow the process I've illustrated herein. Financial, emotional, and spiritual success can be gained as soon as you begin. However you define your success, it is critical that you feel fulfilled and satisfied, or you will be chasing a dream that can't be caught." It's a book that appeals equally to my right and left brain (read business school training and hippie dippie leaning).

The second is Martha Ingram's Apollo's Struggle: A Performing Arts Odyssey in the Athens of the South, Nashville, Tennessee . It tells the story of Nashville's cultural history and in particular the circumstances surrounding the creation of TPAC. It shows what passion, determination and teamwork can accomplish. Hats off Martha, hats off!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pick of the Week (May 19th-25th)

In honor of, we are going to initiate a new feature, Lit Magic's Pick of the Week.

Lit Magic's Pick of the Week #1
Tasha Alexander (author of A Fatal Waltz):
Barnes & Noble Tuesday, May 20, 7:00 PM
1701 Mallory Lane, Brentwood TN More info:

Lit Magic's Pick of the Week #2
As part of the Evening with an Author series, Denise Hildreth reads from and signs The Will of Wisteria at Tinney+Cannon Contemporary (237 Fifth Avenue North) from 6:00-7:30pm on Thursday, May 22nd. For a full schedule of the series, please see

Ok, so why is this in honor of Well, in my humble opinion, it's one of the coolest sites out there for book junkies. You put in your zip code and the site sends you a weekly email with all of the book signings happening within a 50 mile radius. It's free and takes like 30 seconds to sign up. The info for Tasha's reading came from such an email. And, the book publicist in me loves it because I can promote events (e.g. my clients readings and/or Evening with an Author series) to a highly qualified targeted audience of book lovers. Awesome, right?

Both of the authors featured in Lit Magic's Pick of the Week are local.

I have not had the pleasure of hearing Tasha Alexander but I understand she's pretty good. For those of you not familiar with her books, you may know her work through the recent Cate Blanchett movie "Elizabeth: The Golden Age". (As an aside, great movie if you like historical epics like "Queen Margot" and "Shakespeare in Love" etc...).

As for Denise Hildreth, I have had the pleasure of knowing her for about a year. I first met her through the Women's National Book Association, Nashville Chapter. There's something about her writing that just pulls you in. Perhaps it's her Southern charm? Perhaps it's her strong faith? Perhaps it's her ability to weave a tale? Not sure but I know that both my gram and I loved her most recent book The Will of Wisteria. We look forward to seeing you at Evening with an Author.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hotbed of Talent

Without even breaking a sweat, we came up with a list of about 40 authors based here in Nashville (feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment).

I can see the purist now, shaking his/her head thinking, "what definition are they using?" The answer is simple. "Anyone who has published a book." Happily, the list contains a wide variety subjects and genres from philosophy (Vanderbilt Profs. David Wood and Michael Bess) to poetry (Blas Falconer, Mark Jarman, Rick Hilles and Kate Daniels) to memoirs (Former Gov. Winfield Dunn, Sigourney Cheek, Pat & Scott Price, and Robert Benson) to southern fiction (Denise Hildreth and Darnell Arnoult) to children's books (Estelle Condra) to how-tos (Linda Ragsdale, Martha Stamps and Will Akers) to name a few. It's this diversity that makes Nashville such an exciting place to live and work. Without a doubt, we're in a hotbed of talent.

The list of authors also makes me pause. Are these Southern writers? Does geographic location trump subject matter as the defining criteria? Does one have to be born in the South or just live here to be considered a Southern writer? Hmm... lots to think about. Your comments would be welcome.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Party Trick

Ok, I have a good one for you. Think of it as a party trick of sorts. Try incorporating the phrase, "Nashville's vibrant literary scene", in your next conversation about books, the arts, plans for the weekend, whatever... How does the person respond? Did you see the look he/she gave you? Funny, right?

If your experience is anything like mine, the responses vary from a blank stare (read "What are you talking about? We live in Music City. Books? What books?") to befuddlement (read "Ok, there's that nice library downtown, some book festival in the fall and yeah there are those two authors who live here -- Ann Patchett and that Widow of the South guy. Does that make a scene? I don't think so. She must have meant to say Oxford, Mississippi or Sewanee because they have vibrant literary scenes.") to total agreement (read "You see it too? Yeah! There are a ton of authors, book readings, organizations here focused on the written word. I cannot wait to tell you about something cool that happened last week.") I'm not kidding. Try asking some people and test out what I am saying.

We are in an exciting time; we're at the cusp. I think Nashville has a good shot a becoming one of the major literary hubs in the US. We've got the key ingredients -- writers, publishers, universities, non-profits focused on the written word, reasonable cost of living/mild weather and a community that supports the arts -- to make it happen. What's left is to forge the connections between the different people and groups and watch the sparks fly. That's what this blog is about. The creative spark that brings about Lit Magic. We welcome all of you to become part of the movement.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why Lit Magic?

Because "Books Rule" was too much, too Really Excited Librarian. Ginna and I are convinced there’s a community of writers, readers, publishers and all-around bookish types here in Nashville. So here is Lit Magic: Our attempt to suss out the book lovers, gather them round, and say now talk, talk, talk!