The weekend that was

On Friday, I left Atlanta at the crack of dawn for the four hour drive to Nashville. With the crossover into central time, I made it to the city with  more than an hour to spare for the opening of the Southern Festival of Books at noon. A roadtrip to Nashville is actually quite pleasant, since the expressway takes you around winding rivers and high up into the mountains where there are signs for "falling rock" and for truckers to use lower gears and keep to the right.

The festival was held in War Memorial Plaza, pictured, and the capital building in the heart of downtown Nashville. It's a lovely spot. The plaza was full of booths from indie presses and literary organizations and the festival bookstore was laid out between the columns that lead up to the Tennessee State Museum and the War Memorial Auditorium.

My reading was in the cabinet rooms underneath the plaza. I read with two other novelists, Mark Heinz (Shine) and Leanna Sain (Gate to Nowhere). Our event was appropriately titled "Uniting the Unlikely: Three Debut Novels." Mark's novel is about moonshining in Kentucky, while Leanna's is a fantasy novel about a woman who find's a gate on her property that sends her back in time. And, of course, there's my Conquering Venus, which you already know about. Don't you?

Our session got off to a disappointing start. There was no one to introduce us and a metal detector kept attendees waiting in line as they tried to get to the readings and panels in the plaza rooms. We only had a dozen or so folks for our reading, so we gathered around the big conference table and talked about our books and gave short readings. The host never materialized to walk us over to the "signing colonnade" so we wandered over there ourselves. I think we each sold one book.

Book festivals are tricky and often disappointing, especially if you're a first-time author. There are so many competing events and, chances are, no one knows or cares who you are. I've done enough readings from my poetry collections and Venus that low turnout doesn't faze me anymore. There were four or five high school students in our session and they asked some thoughtful questions.

It was a beautiful day in Nashville, so I wandered around the booths for a bit and then checked into the hotel for a nap and to catch up on work email. I phoned up the fab poet Jilly Dybka and we made plans to meet for dinner and to see the restored version of Metropolis as the historic Belcourt Theatre (a former home of the Grand Ole Opry). "The Complete Metropolis," as it's billed, features 25 minutes of footage thought lost and this special screening was accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. The old Belcourt is a stunning old theater and seeing Metropolis on the big screen the way Fritz Lang intended it (not to mention the brilliant score from the Alloy) was a thrill. It was a sold out screening and the audience gave the film and orchestra a standing ovation at the end.

On Saturday morning, I returned to the festival to hear Ron Rash and Rick Bragg (excellent readings and big audiences) and then it was time to head home. The drive was quick, but by the time I arrived I was exhausted.

Starting Wednesday night, the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival kicks off. Come out and join us!


January said…
Sounds like you made the most of your time.

Put in you calendar: Dodge 2012!

And, will I see you at AWP DC?
Collin Kelley said…
I'd love to do Dodge. How does one get invited to read and attend?

I'm skipping AWP. I'll be in full rewrite/edit mode for the second novel then.
Sun Singer said…
The trip to Nashville from Atlanta is a nice one, especially once one gets through Chattanooga. We were last there in the spring for a show at the Ryman, then spun out to the Hermitage which I hadn't seen since I was a kid.

Sorry to hear, though, that the organizers and the arrangements weren't up to par for your reading. One never knows what to expect with these things.

I like gaining an hour on the trip over, but hate losing it on the way back.

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