A great weekend
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Each year the Hoover Public Library in suburban Birmingham, known as one of the best libraries in the country (seriously, only Queens beat them in a recent national comparison), invites a handful of authors to their Southern Voices Conference. This year, I was asked, and I was in fine, fine company:
Billy Collins, a poet laureate of the United States. A very funny, very smart man (I think my wife, who accompanied me, has a crush on him.)
Marc Fitten, who recently published his first novel "Valeria's Last Stand." Right now he's in the middle of a 100-bookstore tour in which he's driving around the country, visiting indie booksellers. Just a super nice guy.
Masha Hamilton, author of, most recently, "31 Hours" and "The Camel Bookmobile." A former world-affairs journalist, she's also organized book drives for the Third World and writing projects for Afghan women. She reminds me of what Eleanor Roosevelt would have been like had she been a novelist/journalist. A woman with a mission and big heart who is great with words.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson, who presented with me on stage. Rheta is a syndicated columnist (Yes, 'tis the same Rheta on your newspaper's op-ed page), who talked about her memoir "Poor Man's Provence: Finding Myself in Cajun Louisiana," which I am reading right now.
Todd Johnson. Todd and I share the same agent, the beautiful Wendy Sherman. He is one fascinating dude. He sings and records jingles for a living, and he was a producer of the traveling show of "The Color Purple." His first novel is "The Sweet By and By." Truly, one of the funniest speakers I have ever heard.
Ridley Pearson: The best-selling crime writer, who has a charming wife, gave us insights about the CSI-like research he conducts for his books, and he told us some secrets about Dave Barry, whom he has worked with in co-writing a series of children's books.
River Jordan. I have grown to know River more in the past year because she went to Girlfriends' Weekend, and she is very active in the Nashville writer's community (where I am now living, part-time). She has her own radio show in Nash, called River Jordan Radio, on WRFN.
Diane McWhorter. Okay, so while my wife has a crush on Billy Collins I have one on Diane. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her book, "Carry me Home," a personal documentary of the cataclysmic civil rights events that took place in Birmingham in the sixties. Diane and I sat next to each other at the Ruthie Foster concert Saturday night. Both of us had trouble keeping in our chairs. Ruthie ROCKS, y'all.
SHOUTOUT: None of this could have happened without the incredible staff at the Hoover Public Library. Linda Andrews, Head Cheese, has put together an excellent festival team, headed by Amanda Bonner and Carrie Steinmehl. Their staff made us feel at home. Thanks, everyone.
Dear Readers: Put all these writers in your queue. They are talented and deserve your time.