Friday, July 17, 2020

Virtual Format for Southern Festival of Books Reaches Broader Audience

This is such a season of misgivings. The only reason my calendar isn't bare is that I had already recorded all the plans I had before all the cancellations--MerleFest, James Taylor and Jackson Brown at Bridgestone, Americana Fest, Swannanoa Gathering, the IBMA's, even Sing-along Sound of Music at the Nashville Symphony: Cancelled or Postponed.

This week, though, Humanities Tennessee hosted the reveal party for Nashville's annual Southern Festival of Books on Zoom. Some of the authors who will participate in the virtual festival October 1-11 were on hand to read or speak to the nearly 200 people who logged on for the virtual event. Cinelle Barnes introduced A Measure of Belonging, an anthology of new writers of color, with Nashville's own Tiana Clark reading from her essay in the collection. 

Another favorite Nashville writer Ruta Sepetys, whose latest novel Fountains of Silence is a crossover bestseller appeals to adult and young adult readers, participated, noting that she is thankful  she won't have a conflict this year--no matter where she is.  

Poet Nikky Finney also joined the meeting from South Carolina to talk about her new book Love Child's Hotbed of Occasional Poetry, with other material, including photos and notes from her years of journals, joining her poetry. 

Some favorite authors are returning: Yaa Gyassi will discuss her novel Transcendent Kingdom, due out in September. Erik Larsen will be discussing The Splendid and the Vile. Alice Randall will be reading from Black Bottom Saints. The charming and funny Southern writer Lee Smith will return to talk about Blue Marlin.

Ron Rash, a perennial favorite at the festival, has a new novel In the Valley coming out soon, which he will be discussing this year. The current National Poet Laureate Joy Harjo will participate, as will 2012 Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway. 

One of the most engaging writers on the Zoom meeting, M. O. Walsh, author of My Sunshine Away has a new novel that is already getting advance attention. Dedicated to the late John Prine, the book also gets its title The Big Door Prize from Prine's song "In Spite of Ourselves," which Walsh said he and his wife chose as their wedding song. 

While a virtual Southern Festival of Books may be a letdown to regular attendees and volunteers who invariably go home with armloads of new books--signed by the authors, Parnassus Books has promised to do their part to make the festival a success in the new format.Other good news is that book lovers who might not be able to get to Nashville for the festival otherwise will have access now, and as the directors reminded everyone, the festival is always free. That's just one more reason to mark the first days of October 2020 on the calendar--in ink.



Cerrillos Sandy said...

Beautiful review . . . how do I get included in the October meeting? Thanks for your loverly words, Cuz!

Nancy said...

I'll share the links here (and with you directly) the week before.