Posts Tagged Harper Lee
Signing Books In the South
By Wayne Greenhaw
Throughout the southeastern U.S. there is a liberal sprinkling of independent book stores. They are run by friendly open-armed sellers who not only welcome customers but embrace writers with a genuinely warm hospitality. They are well-read up-to-date providers of information on today’s and yesterday’s books.
My first booksigning took place in November of 1968 at Capitol Book & News, a small indie in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, where proprietor Victor Levine was an amiable gentleman who not only hosted the party with his wife Jean but became my life-long friend. After selling more than a hundred copies of The Golfer, my first novel, Vic and Jean took me across the street to the historic Whitley Hotel, where we had more than one celebratory glass of wine and a platter of appetizers.
Little more than a year later, Vic called the newspaper where I worked as a reporter and invited me for coffee “with a friend who wants to meet you.” I went, met Nelle Harper Lee, and we talked and talked over coffee. After that meeting, every time Nelle came down from her home in New York to visit family in Monroeville, she called and we met Vic and enjoyed each other’s company. We shared not only an editor, Tay Hohoff, at J.B. Lippincott, but Victor Levine’s friendship.
Some years later, after Vic sold his store to his clerk, Cheryl Upchurch, and her husband Thomas, we continued a warm friendship. When Nelle Lee visited to buy Christmas presents at this small book shop, we got together, shared coffee and conversation, and talked with Cheryl and Thomas, who also visited the author of To Kill A Mockingbird from time to time in Manhattan.
From my first booksigning I learned that writers are valued by the people who make their living selling our books. Through the years I have met many. In the early days of Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA), we met in a hotel in Nashville and read from and talked about our books. In that informal atmosphere, Ferrol Sams and I talked at length about our families. Roy Blount Jr. and I talked over drinks. All of it was a delightful learning experience for this boy who was raised mostly in rural Alabama. From the legendary Mary Gay Shipley, whose That Store in Blytheville, Arkansas, is a gem to Jake Reiss’s off-the-beaten-path Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, the sellers are friendly and open-hearted. It’s always more like a welcoming into a cozy living room than a store’s open house.
After my twenty-second book is published in January, Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, I plan to travel the South doing readings and signings. I look forward to working with the friends I’ve known for years, like Mississippians Richard Howorth at Square Books in Oxford and John Hughes at Lemuria in Jackson, or Floridians like Linda and Bob White at Sundog Books at Seaside, and new people in stores across the countryside.
Signing once in Burke’s Books on South Cooper Street in Memphis, I wandered amidst the first editions and found From Here to Eternity, my first favorite contemporary novel. I picked it up, felt its strong weight in my palm, and I had to have it. After all, that is part of the process of browsing, to feel and open and peruse the printed words, and experience the wanting.
Signing at the Page & Palette in Fairhope, Alabama, is always a delicious time for me. Not only are Karin Wilson and her booksellers friendly, they welcome my friends and fellow writers, like Sonny Brewer, who founded Southern Writers Reading and edited Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe, and Winston Groom, the author of Forest Gump who lives in nearby Point Clear. And occasionally songster-novelist Jimmy Buffett wanders through the crowded stacks.
In the South, where Wanda Jewell is the guru of SIBA, we writers and booksellers hold hands as we sing her praises. It is all truly a family affair.
Author Of To Kill A Mockingbird, Booksellers Association, Glass Of Wine, Harper Lee, Husband Thomas, Independent Book Stores, Liberal Sprinkling, Lippincott, Mockingbird, Montgomery Alabama, Proprietor, S Books, Signing Books, To Kill A Mockingbird, Upchurch, Warm Friendship, Warm Hospitality, Wayne Greenhaw, Welcome Customers, Wife Jean
Hester Bass, SIBA Book Award YA & Children’s 2010 Winner; Author of award-winner The Secret World of Walter Anderson, she will sing for her supper!
Favorite book as a child? The first books I owned: The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan by Beatrix Potter, Winnie The Pooh by A. A. Milne, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
What are you reading right now? The Everafter by Amy Huntley, Up Close: Harper Lee by Kerry Madden, and The Cracker Queen by Lauretta Hannon.
Share a favorite segment from your book … Walter Anderson painted to realize his secret world, to bring himself and nature into one thing called art.
Why that title? No one knew what he had in his Little Room. His creative process called realization is mysterious. Walter Anderson truly had a secret world.
Why independent bookstores matter? It’s passion for books and for community, the mind-to-mind, hand-to-hand connection with another human being over a story. That matters.
Favorite part of writing a book? It’s amazing when I’m not thinking about it & the solution to a story problem just bubbles up. Winning awards is awesome; thank you so much!
Least favorite part of writing a book? Printing out a draft that I think is finally there, re-reading it, and realizing that I haven’t actually said what I wanted to say.
Are you working on anything new? Yes! More picture book biographies because I love those, funny picture books, a supernatural YA, and an alternative-history middle grade.
Do you have any superstitions, lucky charms, or rituals around your writing? Mum’s the word until a project is sold, I keep my first-grade picture on my desk & to remind myself who I work for, I wear a kid’s watch.
Comment on the writing life… Invigorating, revealing, sometimes frustrating. I’ve been a singer, actress, radio announcer & game show contestant; writer is my favorite.
Hardest part of the creation-to-publication experience? Waiting! For the right word, to finish the ms, agent & editor response, illustrations, reviews, for the book to publish. Definitely waiting!
Why do you write? If I tried to hold the stories in, I think it would end up looking something like that scene in “Alien” – you know the one I mean!
When do you write? I’m best during early mornings and late evenings. It has to be quiet so I can hear the voices. (Insert sound effect: Oooh-whee-oooh!)
When did you know you were a writer? I’ve wanted to be a writer since 1st grade. I knew I was when a boy told me that my first book helped him learn to read. Cue the waterworks!
What, or Who, would you dish on – as in gossip about? Andy Warhol, Barbara Walters, Dick Clark, Johnny Mathis, the Millionaire Hot Seat, Meredith Vieira – and E.B. Lewis, but he’s a peach.
What would make you a scintillating dinner guest? I live life with a capital L! What happens here stays here unless it makes a good story. (I change names to protect the guilty.)
Who is your favorite new author? Me! (Just kidding!) I’m looking forward to new books by Sarah Frances Hardy, Kristin Tubb, & Leslie Muir. And I just love Lauretta Hannon.
What is your drink of choice? What I should say: Water with lemon. What I really want: hot chai, an amaretto sour, or the Table Wine of the South: Sweet Tea!
What is your favorite food? I love local specialties; Southern Classic meat-n-three especially turnip greens, fried okra & blackeyed peas; & I love salmon & asparagus.
Alternative History, Beatrix Potter, Book Printing, Creative Process, Everafter, Fairy Tales, Favorite Book, First Books, Game Show Contestant, Grade 9, Harper Lee, Hester, Huntley, Independent Bookstores, Kerry Madden, Lucky Charms, Meredith Vieira, Publication Experience, Radio Announcer, siba, Walter Anderson, Writing A Book
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