It's Book Festival Season!

What an amazing literary town.  St. Francisville plays host to three different literary festivals each year and I get to participate in the planning of all three!   We are well underway planning for all of the 2018 events and you won’t want to miss these so pull out your calendar and mark off these dates.

First up we will have The Writers and Readers Symposium on February 17, 2018.  This event is in it’s eleventh season and is hosted by A Celebration of Literature and Arts.  This day long Saturday event brings together award winning authors from different genres to talk about their books and the craft of writing.  With such a diverse group of authors there is something for everyone.  This year’s featured presenters include :

Genaro Ky Ly Smith whose two novels The Land Baron’s Sun and The Land South of the Clouds have garnered much attention for both their subject matter and writing style.  The first book described as  “an elegant novel-in-verse, exploring the rise and fall and dispersal of a Vietnamese family across generations.”.  The second book serves as a companion piece and beautifully continues the story.  Mr. Smith will also lead a Writers Retreat and Workshop on Sunday Feb 18 at Greenwood Plantation 

Poet , essayist and scholar of French literature Catharine Savage Brosman will present poems from her newest book The Memory of Manaus as well as beloved favorites from her other works.

John R. Kemp will present his book Louisiana Expressions of Place.  This exquisite book is a collection of Louisiana landscapes by 37  contemporary Louisiana artists .  In this one book you will see an extraordinary grouping of work that truly express the varied beauty and style that is Louisiana. 

M.O.Walsh will present on his New York Times Bestselling novel My Sunshine Away.  Set in Baton Rouge this combination crime  novel meets coming of age story will keep you guessing until the very end at which time you still might continue guessing when you start to notice the stylistic nuances that make this book such a satisfying read.

Michael H. Rubin whose first novel The Cottoncrest Curse won the Indie Fab Gold award for best thriller by a small press has now written a second novel called Cashed Out and we are looking forward to another of Mr. Rubin’s fast paced, multi media presentations. 

And finally to close out the afternoon we will be honored with a presentation by Ernest J.  Gaines who will join us to talk about his new novel The Tragedy of Brady Sims.  In true Ernest Gaines fashion this novel set in Louisiana explores the lives , race relations and mores of small town life in Louisiana. 

 

Up next will be The Second Annual West Feliciana Children’s Book Festival.  Scheduled for Saturday May 6, 2018 this day in the park will once again feature lots of authors and storytellers reading to the children.  Illustrators giving demonstrations, face painting, craft projects and more.  Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

 

Then in early June our little town will once again be swamped with lovers of Southern Literature and culture as we celebrate The Fifth Annual Walker Percy Weekend.    We will again begin with an over the top soiree on Friday evening that will set the tone for a weekend of fun and literature.  The presentations on Saturday will bring in scholars and experts from around the country to discuss Walker Percy’s writing as well as that of other southern writers.  This year there will be an additional focus on the works of Shelby Foote.   As lifelong friends Walker Percy and Shelby Foote had a huge influence on literature in the south and on each other’s lives and works.   Saturday would not be complete with the now legendary Front Porch Tour and Bourbon Stroll which will be followed by a joyous,  delicious, and musical  crawfish boil downtown.  There are plenty of other surprises in store for attendees this year and All-Inclusive tickets now available at special early bird pricing, but buy them soon this price won’t last long.   As you know space is always tight for this event and a sellout is once again likely so get your tickets early.

I am so honored to be a part of each of these events and hope you will join us for one, two or even all three.  See you soon in St. Francisville!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two years...

Two years.  Two years of having the privilege to talk about books with both strangers and friends every day.  Two years of meeting authors and finding out that they are real people.  Two years of Storytime (which means 2 years of occasionally wearing a tiara in my role as Missy the Storytelling Princess – BONUS!).  Two years of attending book conferences with hundreds of other booksellers to share insights, ideas and hear about books coming out in the future.  Two years of publishers sending advance copies of books so I can read them before they are even released and be ready to knowledgeably share my thoughts on the book with our patrons (did not even know that happened before opening the store).  Two years of writing this blog and newsletter to try and share my experiences on this journey of a lifetime. 

There have been ups and downs, stress and joy, and more satisfaction and happiness than I could have imagined.  Thank you for taking this journey with me and I hope you buckle up and stay on the ride for a long time to come.  We have big plans in the upcoming year to expand our events and programming in store, to participate in more off-site events and literary conferences and to expand our online presence. 

But before all that, we hope you will join us to celebrate our first two years this Saturday December 2, 2017 from 5pm until 7pm.  We will have music by Kevin Landry and Rebecca Richard, we will have food and drinks, good friends old and new, and ,of course , Books. 

 

Book Club 2.0

Book Club 2.0

 

People love to talk about books they have read, and authors REALLY love to talk about books they have written.  Wouldn’t it be great if the two could meet up?  Well they can!

Recently I have talked to several authors who love to talk to book clubs and lead the discussion of their books. I first heard of this idea before I even opened a book store when my cousin’s wife (cousin-in-law?) mentioned that her book club often has authors as guest leaders – even skyping them in occasionally.   At the time I could not imagine how you contact the authors, but suddenly a few authors have asked me about meeting with book clubs.  I love this idea, and one of the most fun parts is I get to act sort of like the matchmaker and help “set your book club up” with a selection of authors.  You can think of me as a bookish match.com. 

Does your book club like mysteries and thrillers?  I have an award winning author for that!

Does your book club enjoy a regional story ?  I have an author for that?

Does your book club prefer non-fiction about the area?  I can find you an author for that!

To kick this off I thought we would revamp our own book club and kick off with a discussion of the Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale.  I was introduced to Celeste’s books by The Storied Life Book Club of Baton Rouge.  The ladies of this book club held a book club girls weekend retreat in St Francisville a few months back and mentioned that they had read this fabulous book and then skyped a discussion with the author.  They could not stop saying great things about the author and her books, so of course I had to contact her myself.  As a result Celeste will join us for a book signing the Friday night of Christmas in the Country (December 1, 2017) from 5:30 until 7:00 and she has graciously agreed to discuss the book with us at the beginning of this event.  So come into the bookshop and pick up a copy early, read it , then bring it back to have the author sign it on December 1.  I started reading my copy last night and I am so looking forward to getting back into it tonight. 

If your book club would like to contact an author to participate in a discussion with your group send me an email at missy@conundrumbooks.com and let’s see who we can match your group with for Book Club 2.0!

Do you ever get a "Good Book Hangover"?

Do you get a “Good Book Hangover” ?  You know what I mean? You have just finished a book you really enjoyed, you have the next book you want to read right on the side of you ready to go, but… Every time you read a line in the new book you still have a movie in your head of the cast of characters of the last book wondering what they are up to now.  So much so that it is keeping you from truly focusing on the new book.   But then you decide to push through anyway and keep reading, and eventually you start to at least partially focus on the new book and it’s characters.  Then you fall asleep and find yourself dreaming next chapters for the last book characters, or maybe incorporating them into the current book.

It can be very confusing, and very frustrating.  You can’t take an Excedrin to make it go away, you could have “hair of the dog” but re-reading the old book would only make it worse.  What you need here is a “sorbet for the brain” .  You know. a little something to cleanse the book palate.

Maybe you need to read a story or two from a favorite magazine, or a chapter from an inspirational book that can be taken in pieces (I’m thinking “Make your Bed” or something similar that is written in short standalone chapter/lessons), or maybe you just need to play two or three dozen hands of online solitaire  - whatever it takes BUT you cannot just jump into that new book because you have  Good Book Hangover.

I would love to hear your good book hangover remedy ideas, email me at missy@conundrumbooks.com and I will share them with our followers and maybe we can all stop suffering these hangovers and start moving on the next great book even faster!  

From Both Sides Now...

I have had the most interesting opportunity to see the other side of bookselling  these past few weeks.  As I previously told you,  we recently started our own publishing company, Feliciana Publishing Partners, and published our first book.  Suddenly,  I found  myself calling and visiting other bookstores to ask them to carry the book and to host book signing events with our author, Ronnie Virgets.  

This has been so eye opening.  In my previous experience when authors and publishers reps have approached me I thought about it from the bookseller prospective.  Did I think I could draw a sizeable crowd?  How would we build interest in the book and the author with our patrons? Quite frankly, what was in it for me?   And then I would spend time advertising the event through our newsletter, facebook page, the newspaper , our website and anywhere else we can think of to spread the word. Then when the author arrived, I was a nervous wreck thinking I might embarrass myself by not getting a respectable crowd. 

Now flip the script and I am on the other side of the glass arriving with the author after having spread the word via our newsletter, website, facebook page,  etc and I still find myself  getting terribly nervous  worrying about drawing a respectable crowd so as not to embarrass myself and my author in front of the bookseller.

All of which begs the question: whose responsibility is the success of a good book event anyway?  And I submit to you I believe the answer is BOTH.  The bookstore knows the local area and has local contact lists who will want to know about upcoming events. The writer may have a national following and there may be people on his ( her )  friends lists who live in the area but until now (and particularly with a newer bookstore)  do not even know your bookstore is  there! When bookstores, authors and publishers partner together everyone benefits.

Its fabulous that I have had this opportunity to see both sides of this equation so early in my bookselling career.  …. Or maybe all of this can be boiled down to the simple fact that I am going to feel guilty and responsible regardless of what I do in life or what side of the fence I am standing on.  Call it catholic guilt, call it a stress disorder, call it just being a worrywart, call it whatever you like. I choose  to see this as an opportunity to learn and assume that all booksellers and publishers feel the same way. I have just been lucky enough to , in the words of Joni Mitchell get the chance to look at clouds from both sides now!

So many books, so little time!

So many books, so little time.  Do you ever feel like that?  This past weekend I attended the Southern Independent Book Sellers Association’s annual conference and trade show.  There were over 50 authors in attendance to tell us about their new and upcoming books, and representatives from just about every publishing house also attended to pitch the books of authors that couldn’t be there (again with the “So Little Time” part) .  And then they all want to give you advanced copies of the books so that you can read them, fall in love with them and order them before they are released – you know so that we will inevitably fall in love with the book and tell everyone who walks into the shop about it.  Only now there are 57 new adult fiction and non-fiction books spread out over my dining room table awaiting their placement in my TBR (To Be Read) list.  Ok, so far I have read One, only 56 more to go! 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, someone handing me 57 not even yet released books to read is by no means a hardship – actually it is a bit of a dream come true, but also rather over whelming and intimidating.   How will I ever read them all?  What if I miss one and it is the big hit of the season?  What if I love one and no one else does?  Where do I even begin, alphabetically, by release date, by genre ? Decisions, decision! 

 

The first one I read was a mystery about an agoraphobic woman who loves old noir films.  I chose it because he was on a panel with our friend Michael Rubin’s whose new mystery Cashed Out has just been released.  (Oh, I already read Cashed out so that’s 2 read!)   As you would expect from Mr. Rubin “Cashed Out” was a fast paced thriller with lots of twists and turns.  It stars a failed lawyer, his ex-wife, a toxic waste entrepreneur and almost $ 4.5 million dollars in cold hard cash.   If you enjoyed his first novel “The Cotton Crest Curse” you will definitely enjoy this one, and if you did not enjoy Michael’s award winning first novel it is probably because you haven’t read it (we can help you fix that). 

Next up?  I think we will stick with mysteries and go with Laura Lippman’s upcoming Sunburn.  I’ll let you know what I think. 

Is It Just Me?

Is it just me, or are there certain words and phrases that just make you smile when you hear them used in conversation or on the news even (imagine the news making you smile these days!) , or read those words or phrases in a book?

For me it all started with any mention of July 3.  July 3rd is arguably the best day of the year.  It is the exact mid-point of the year, in most years it actually has it’s own name (aphelion: the point of orbit where the earth is farthest from the sun ), and it is my birthday.  But I digress.  So hearing July 3rd in a song or reading it in a book has always made me happy .

Other words and phrases that make me happy are when people honestly use the word Serendipity  in their everyday lexicon (Serendipity has been my favorite word since the third grade when it was the title of my English class textbook reader). 

Of course, another favorite word is Conundrum.  I swear I hear and see it used more and more.  I think it is on used on the news at least twice a week (puzzling times we live in ) , and I seem to see it used in nearly every book I pick up.  It is even the name of a great book of literary puzzles and a heck of a wine!

And finally it is words and names of home that make me happy when I run across them in my reading.  Well this week, I hit a home run on this front.  I was reading C.H. Lawler’s new book “Living Among the Dead” and on PAGE ONE  I see that the main character lives on Prytania Street in New Orleans – I LIVE ON PRYTANIA STREET IN NEW ORLEANS!   Then I get to page 41 and I read “At the river across from Bayou Sara, I stopped and pondered the town”.  I KNOW THAT TOWN!   The main character leaves the area for some time and many pages later  on  page 212 I read “My path headed north , up into a place called the Felicianas.” And then a few pages later on page 222 “We had just followed another dead-end trail, one that lead us to the river at Bayou Sara”.  And all the while the book is flashing back and forth to the narrator who is writing  the tale from his bed as an old man, you guessed it on Prytania Street.    Since my real life is spent continually travelling between Prytania Street in New Orleans and the Felicianas you can bet I enjoyed seeing it through someone else’s eyes as I read the book.

And guess what? Dr. Lawler will be joining us to sign his books this Saturday starting at 5pm during Polos and Pearls, so we will get to ask him the inspiration for this and his other books “The Saints of Lost Things” and “The Memory of Time”. 

So , is it just me ?  Or are there words and phrases that make you happy too?

Introducing Feliciana Publishing Partners !

First it was “Let’s open a bookstore”  , and that has gone pretty well so then I said “I know, we should start our own Children’s Book Festival, and that was more of a success than we dreamed it would be in our first year.  So what’s next you may ask ?  Well our own publishing imprint of course! 

Introducing Feliciana Publishing Partners, LLC !   And in early September we will launch the first book published by our new entity. 

So why start this new publishing company?  According to Forbes the first rule of developing a successful new business is to identify a need in your community and in our first year and a half in the bookselling business we saw a need for a Publisher who would truly partner with their authors to make the books they publish a success. 

With that in mind this new publishing partnership was established based on a belief that to have commercially and critically successful books requires the publisher to partner with the author.  It must select only those books with which the publisher can realistically assist the author. This involves carefully curating the books it selects for publishing; partnering the author with the right editor to make sure the book has both the author's voice and rigorous , helpful editing;  selection of the right printer so that the if one chooses the book by its cover, the author's book is selected; the right strategy and implementation of that strategy is used to publicize the book;  and every reasonable step that can be taken, is taken to actually sell the book producing a reasonable return for both the author and publisher.

Our first book will bring together the two towns we call home by publishing a collection of essays and articles written by New Orleanian Ronnie Virgets.  Not only is this book stories of New Orleans published by Feliciana Publishing but like us Ronnie also now divides his time between New Orleans and our little slice of heaven north of Baton Rouge.  In Ronnie’s case it is New Roads, in ours it is St Francisville,  but in both we have found a perfect balance to the crazy go-go life style of New Orleans in our laid back “country” life. 

Feliciana Publishing Partners will release this first book in early September and we hope you will join us to celebrate the launch of this new venture and a fabulous new book.  Details on the launch will be coming soon so stay tuned and watch for your next newsletter for more information.