The Southern Festival of Books starts tomorrow in Nashville, and readers: If you live anywhere near our city, I recommend you come for a visit because this year's festival is going to be truly awesome. There will be more than 200 authors present, and the lineup is so impressive I can't quite believe our good fortune.
First order of business: I will be talking to three authors as part of a BookPage live interview series. These interviews take place on the Chapter 16 Stage, which is close to the entrance of the Legislative Plaza and the book sales tent. I would love to meet any BookPage readers in person, and I know you'll enjoy hearing from these three talented authors. (There will be time for questions from the audience, too—it won't just be me yammering away the whole time!)
Friday, October 12, 3-4 PM
I'll be talking to Bellwether Prize-winner Naomi Benaron about Running the Rift, a gorgeously written and heartbreaking coming-of-age story about an aspiring Olympic runner, set during the Rwandan Genocide. (Hint: The paperback of this novel comes out next week and it would be a great pick for book clubs.)
Saturday, October 13, 1-2 PM
Come hear me talk to Inman Majors, the author of the makes-you-want-to-cry-it's-so-funny Love's Winning Plays, a satire about SEC football. (If you're football-shy, never fear: This is really a story about an unlikely friendship. Football lingo and scenes are minimal. And really, football fanatics and people who roll their eyes at the sport will find plenty to appreciate in this book.)
Sunday, October 14, 2-2:30 PM
I can't wait to chat with local thriller author J.T. Ellison, whose first book in a series starring Tennessee Medical Examiner Samantha Owens—A Deeper Darkness—kept me up until 2 a.m. on a work night. Book #2 comes out in November, so jump on board with the series as it's being written. (Scarpetta fans will love it.)
I'm also moderating a YA panel on Sunday:
Sunday, October 14, 12-1 PM
The theme of the panel is "Creating Our Own Realities: Young People Making Sense of Their World" and the authors are John Corey Whaley and Loretta Ellsworth.
Whaley's Where Things Come Back might just be the most acclaimed YA novel that was published in 2011: It won the 2012 Printz Award, the 2012 William C. Morris Debut Fiction Award and Whaley was the first-ever YA author to be selected as a "Top 5 Under 35 Author" by the National Book Foundation. I loved this book. It's a story about growing up in a small town, hope, an obsession with a bird (!) and so much more.
Ellsworth's novel, Unforgettable, is fascinating—it's definitely one of those "what if" kinds of stories that makes you think. The main character, Baxter, has a photographic memory and suffers from synesthesia. He also testified against his mother's ex-boyfriend who is now out of jail, so there is an element of suspense that keeps you turning pages.
Frankly, there are far too many must-see authors speaking at the festival to highlight everybody, but here are a few that we're especially excited about:
• You know Junot Díaz? That guy who just won a MacArthur "Genius" Grant and is a National Book Award Finalist and is a past winner of the Pulitzer Prize? Well, he's speaking on Saturday at 4 P.M. at War Memorial Auditorium.
• Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is the breakaway hit of 2012. Everybody I know is reading it—people who devour suspense, people who typically don't read "genre" novels, people who aren't usually aware of contemporary fiction. I adored this chilling, completely unpredictable story of a marriage and a police investigation. Flynn is speaking on Saturday at 11 A.M. at War Memorial Auditorium.
• I've heard Ron Rash speak twice at past Southern Festivals, and he is wonderful—funny, interesting, entertaining. Go hear him speak on Saturday at 10 A.M. in Room 12 of the Legislative Plaza.
• As a reader of his own work, Adam Ross gives the best performances I've ever heard from an author (seriously). Claire Vaye Watkins' collection Battleborn is one of the most haunting and exciting debuts of the year. Adam Prince has recently been named one of the 20 best new writers by Narrative magazine. Hear all three of them together on Saturday at 3 P.M. in the Nashville Public Library Auditorium.
• Damien Echols, one of the "West Memphis Three" who served 18 years on death row (for murders he did not commit), will speak about his memoir, Life After Death, on Sunday at 1 P.M. in War Memorial Auditorium.
And friends: That is only the tip of the iceberg.
Other authors you can see live and in person: Chris Pavone, author of The Expats; Padgett Powell, author of You & Me; Jay Jennings, editor of Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany; Amy Franklin-Willis, author of The Lost Saints of Tennessee; Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia; Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy; Katherine Paterson, the former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature who is beloved for her novel Bridge to Terabithia; David Maraniss, author of Barack Obama: The Story; Dan Chaon, author of Stay Awake: Stories; Alice Randall, author of Ada's Rules: A Sexy, Skinny Novel; Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and the Unlikely Road to Manhood (and a contributor to The Atlantic); Sharon Creech, author of The Great Unexpected (and Walk Two Moons!); Courtney Miller Santo, author of The Roots of the Olive Tree; R.L Stine, author of GOOSEBUMPS(!!); Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk; Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles . . . and more!
Can you see why we're so excited?
Browse the Southern Festival of Books schedule; make a game plan for which sessions you're going to attend; and come prepared to ask questions and buy books. Visit the festival's mobile website to plan on the go.
Which events are you planning to attend? See you this weekend! (I'll be the dork carrying a stack of 15 autographed books.)