SOUTHERN BYWAYS BOOKSTORE PROJECT: BOUND TO BE READ BOOKS

Bound To Be Read Books

Address: 481-B Flat Shoals Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316

Phone: 404-522-0877

Owner: Jeff McCord

Website: www.boundtobereadbooks.com

Twitter:  @BoundToBeRead

Jeff MCord thinks the birth of Bound To Be Read Books came out of his mid-life crisis. After seeing a friend making a go of it with a book store in Canada, he decided to stop his life on a dime and open a store of his own. That very next week he started putting together the business plan and started figuring out how a book store works.  He started buying lots of used books – lots and lots of used books, until his house was full of boxes.  When he couldn’t open my front door any more, he knew it was time to open a store.

When he looked around Atlanta, he was amazed at the lack of book stores anywhere in the Southeast quadrant of the city. East Atlanta Village was an “up and coming” commercial district when Bound To Be Read Books opened 5 years ago…and still is today. An interesting fact: The store is located right on the battlefield of one of the biggest fights in the Battle of Atlanta, so Jeff honors that with a good section of Civil War books.

With an eclectic customer base that includes hipsters, young families, and urbanites of all races, ages and genders, they also carry a wide variety of good used and new books.  They’re very inclusive and have over 50 categories, including children’s books. Jeff notes that “We have a section on sustainability that workswell for us.” Their most popular adult titles tend to be contemporary fiction and edgier titles.  (Of course, zombies have been very popular lately!) And they recently added a new graphic novels section, which has been selling like crazy.

In terms of Southern literature, Bound To Be Read Books sells tons of the classics like “Confederacy of Dunces,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and anything by Faulkner, Welty and McCullers.  “Janisse Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood” is popular with the sustainability crowd.

And I must add that besides being fun, this bookstore is tremendously good to authors – including yours truly.

P.S. After featuring Park Road Books’ canine staffer Yola, it only seemed fair to showcase a photo of Bound To Be Read Books’ Public Relations Director Kona the Cat. Check her out in all of her feline glory!

Posted September 7, 2010 at 11:42 am · comment · Leave a Comment

SOUTHERN BYWAYS BOOKSTORE PROJECT: FICTION ADDICTION

Fiction Addiction

Address: 1020A Woodruff Rd, Greenville, SC 29607

Phone: 864-675-0540

Owner: Jill Hendrix

Website: www.fiction-addiction.com

Owner Jill Hendrix had been working for internet startups in New York when the Internet bubble burst in 2001 and was laid off.  She has also sold her apartment at the same time, so she had an unfortunate pairing: no job and nowhere to live.

Some might have drowned in despair, but not Jill. Instead, she decided that she wanted to run her own startup and as an avid reader, a bookstore instantly came to mind – Fiction Addiction was born. The store moved to its current location just over a year ago. The previous shopping center location was losing stores right and left and this more visible, vibrant location fit the bill perfectly.

Regional fiction does very well at the store, and they have a lot of mystery and thriller readers too.  The store has also gained fans through their new author events program, Book Your Lunch, which to my mind is a perfect representation of Southern culture.

They invite authors  - like to  Kristy Dempsey, Michael Cogdil, Melinda Long, Shirley Twiss, Karen White, Ron Rash and Mindy Friddle  - to speak over lunch and get to show off  their Southern hospitality while letting our customers learn all the behind-the-scenes details (i.e. gossip) that led to the creation of their favorite books.

What can I say? Food and books – what could be better?

Posted August 30, 2010 at 8:07 am · 1 comment · Leave a Comment

SOUTHERN BYWAYS BOOKSTORE PROJECT: BIENVILLE BOOKS

Bienville Books

Address: 109 Dauphin Street, Mobile, AL  36602

Phone: 251-438-2904

Owner: Russ Adams

Website: www.bienvillebooks.com

Twitter: @bienvillebooks

A lifelong love of reading and a desire to help revitalize the downtown Mobile area led Russ Adams to start Bienville Books.

The building that houses the store originally belonged to Russ’ father and another businessman. He have eventually purchased the building from the other owners and turned it into a book lover’s paradise, featuring history, classics and local/regional nonfiction. Popular books by Southern authors include “A Confederacy of Dunces,” “Alabama Moon,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “Southern Ladies and Gentlemen.” Furniture and furnishings are also for sale, as well as art by local artists.

Bienville Book’s variety of local and regional books, as well as artwork pertaining to the Mobile community, truly speak to the store’s Southern roots. They’ve also republished a rare copy of “Our Creole Carnival,” an 1890 publication on Mardi Gras in the United States. It was the first of ten annual publications by T. C. De Leon, editor of the Mobile Register and a prominent author of the day. The 40-page booklet, features six pages of illustrations of floats and tableaux from New Orleans, Mobile, Baltimore and Vicksburg, as well as gorgeous cover illustration.

In addition, making for one of the most entertaining elements of visiting Bienville Books. Russ also inherited the goodwill of a previous bookstore, The Haunted Book Shop, which was a downtown fixture for fifty years. The upstairs is named in its honor and carries on its spooky traditions.

Posted August 25, 2010 at 7:07 am · 1 comment · Leave a Comment

SOUTHERN BYWAYS BOOKSTORE PROJECT: PARK ROAD BOOKS

Park Road Books

Address: 4139 Park Road, Park Road Shopping Center, Charlotte, NC 28209

Phone: 704-525-9239

Owner: Sally Brewster

Website: www.parkroadbooks.com

The staff  over at Park Roads Books has been so supportive of me and my work – hand selling Dairy Queen for years – already spreading the word about Bezellia – and I can’t wait to get there.  According to owner Sally Brewster, it’s a store you can’t help but love. In fact, she was a sales rep for a publisher and called on the previous owner of the store and it was love at first sight. She ended up working for them at Christmas for 10 years. She eventually bought it when the original owner decided to retire.

The location is a dream come true. Park Road Shopping Center is the oldest strip center in the Southeast and the gentleman that currently owns the property was the lawyer of the original owner!  Sally is happy to say that Porter Byrum is the best landlord in the world. He loves Mom & Pop stores and does all he can to encourage local business.

Fiction is the main draw for Park Road Books with children’s books being a close second. Current top selling books by Southern authors include “The Queen of Palmyra,” “The Sweet By and By,” “The Well & The Mine,” “South of Broad” and “The Help.”

A key element that keeps customers coming back for more is Park Road Book’s commitment to Southern hospitality. Sally and her team will do anything we can to help anyone out, whether it be a ride somewhere, deliver a book or help with their increasingly forgetful father. To top it off, they are also dog friendly and now dog-staffed. Yola (isn’t her picture cute!?!) has been working there since last November and she has quite a fan club of both humans and canines. She also recommends a book every month. This month is “The Little Pink Pup” by Johanna Kerby.

Posted August 23, 2010 at 8:06 am · 1 comment · Leave a Comment

SOUTHERN BYWAYS BOOKSTORE PROJECT: MAPLE STREET BOOK SHOP

Maple Street Book Shop

Address: 7529 Maple Street , New Orleans, LA 70118

Phone: 504-866-4916

Manager: Gladin Scott

Website: www.maplestreetbookshop.com

Twitter: @fightthestupids

Mary Kellogg and Rhoda Norman opened Maple Street Book Shop back in 1964, celebrating their independence as women and free thinkers. From the beginning, the bookstore became a place the left wing and avant garde could depend on as a source for their books and as a meeting place. The location was ideal, near both the Tulane and Loyola University campuses in New Orleans, and Mary and Rhoda  soon found their store becoming the city’s answer to the conservative norm.

The current owner, Donna Allen purchased it from Mary and Rhoda in 2007,  joining the world of bookselling after years of teaching history at several local universities, including Loyola. She decided to continue Mary and Rhoda’s legacy with longtime customer Gladin Scott on-board as the store’s manager.

Literary fiction, children’s books and books about New Orleans are favorites among The Maple Street Book Store’s clientele, with Southern literature like “Confederacy of Dunces,”  “Keepers of the House” and “The Moviegoer” claiming Dixie fans as well.

Speaking of “The Moviegoer,” it is important to note that this legendary book store had a very special relationship with local author Walker Percy.  (I love it when authors can develop a deep connection to a bookstore that they know and cherish!)

Posted August 19, 2010 at 8:19 am · 1 comment · Leave a Comment

LAUNCH AT DAVIS-KIDD A FAMILY REUNION

Last night I introduced Bezellia Grove to the Nashville community at my hometown bookstore, Davis-Kidd.  It was like the best family reunion . . . ever!  Better than that . . . it was like THIS IS YOUR LIFE Susan Gregg Gilmore.

Authors River Jordan and JT Ellison at the release of The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove

Treva Horne was there, the woman who held my mother’s hand the day I was born. Tricia Saperstein (and her precious mom) and Betsy Bass, playmates from the first grade, were there.  Babs Young, Mary Addison Hackett, Jennifer Herbert, Ann Hunt, Olivia Miller, Currin Mifflin, all buddies from the sixth and seventh grades were there, too.

That’s not all.  Karen and Rick Miller were sitting on the front row. Heck, this book was born at their dinner table!  Book club friends, editor friends, mothers-of-my-daughter’s-friends friends were all there. And amazingly talented writer friends like J.T. Ellison whose next mystery thriller, The Immortals, will be released October 1, River Jordan whose next book, The Miracle of Mercy Land will be released on September 7th, Lisa Patton (Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’Easter), and poet Lisa Dordal, my roommate at the Sewanee Writers Conference, were all at the bookstore cheering me on. And my Davis-Kidd family, wow!  OK, I know they had to be there to run the store, but I love this staff that has supported me on this book-writing journey from day one.

Simply put, I was so touched.  I just wanted to stand there and take it all in, memorize each and every smiling face.

No doubt having a book published is a big, wonderful deal, but having your friends surrounding you on such a special evening is absolutely incredible.  Thank you for the giving me that moment.

Posted August 18, 2010 at 11:42 am · 3 comments · Leave a Comment

SOUTHERN BYWAYS BOOKSTORE PROJECT: THAT BOOKSTORE IN BLYTHEVILLE

That Bookstore in Blytheville

Address: 316 West Main, Blytheville, AK 72315

Phone: 870-763-3333 / 800-844-8306 (toll-free)

Owner: Mary Gay Shipley

Website: www.tbib.com

Twitter: @marygayshipley

Thought I’d start the Southern Byways Bookstore Project all the way down in Arkansas, at That Bookstore in Blytheville, which – you guessed it! – is at the heart of the historic commercial district of Blytheville, Arkansas. Considering that Blytheville is truly a small-town, I can’t say enough about how owner Mary Gay Shipley has created such a vibrant and bustling indie, becoming a powerhouse in the book-selling world. Customers come looking for current fiction, signed books and Southern authors from John Grisham to Pat Conroy to Kathryn Stockett.

Hand-selecting a friendly staff that loves to read, alongside the store’s creaky wooden floors, rocking chairs and a real working wood stove, Mary Gay has created a welcoming refuge for book lovers.

One of the very cool things about the store is the special seating for readings and alike.  For an event, Mary Gay pulls out a collection of wooden folding chairs and every year, every author who comes to the store signs the chair for that year. I actually signed my name alongside John Grisham’s, so  people would be sure to see it!

And – as a personal aside – I must share that  it was one of her staff members, Marvel, who tweaked the title of my book from “The Proper Life of Bezellia Grove” to “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove.”  In fact, one of the main characters in my next book is named Marvel in her honor.

Secret insider’s tip: If you get a chance to pay call on the store, go around the corner afterwards to Sharecroppers for delectable chocolate meringue pie!

Posted August 17, 2010 at 8:11 am · 12 comments · Leave a Comment

THE SOUTHERN BYWAYS BOOKSTORE PROJECT

My bags are packed.  My maps are highlighted.  And my car is gassed and ready to roll.  That’s right, I’m hitting the road again. Tomorrow, I’ll inaugurate my book tour of the Southern byways right here in Nashville, Tennessee, with the release of my second novel, “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove.”  And the very next day, I’m off and running – Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Pennsylvania (yes, I know it’s above the Mason-Dixon Line) – here I come!

Without a doubt, one of the great and unexpected joys of being published two years ago was meeting YOU – all the readers, booksellers, and bloggers – who enjoyed “Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen.”  I drove more than 18,000 miles in total introducing myself to the reading public and I believe every truck-stop employee along I-81.  But every mile was worth it, well, except for maybe about 75 of those miles in Mississippi when I’m certain I barely out ran a tornado.

After that experience, I couldn’t help but want to give a little something back to the independent booksellers down South.  So, while I’m traipsing across the Southeast and farther afield for my book tour, I’m gonna be starting a special series of blog posts profiling bookstores in Dixie.  Some I’ll be visiting in person. Others I’ve only gotten a taste of through photos, fans and alike.

I’m christening this special series of posts The Southern Byways Bookstore Project.

In the end, we’re all part of one big, wonderful book-loving family – and this is just a small way for me to celebrate being kin.  Can’t wait for the “family reunion,” hitting the road to spend some time with the people who love books as much as I do.

Posted August 16, 2010 at 8:54 am · 2 comments · Leave a Comment

WHAT I LEARNED FROM A POET

For a couple of amazing weeks in July, I attended the Sewanee Writers Conference.   I took a a few pages of my third novel, very much a work in progress, along with me.  Jill McCorkle and Tony Earley were my workshop  leaders, and I cannot even begin to thank them both for their insight and advice.  The Funeral Dress will no doubt be a better book for having been there.

Days and nights were filled with readings and craft lectures, workshops, and yes, cocktail parties and one very dark mothing expedition where I saw more bats than moths.  But the greatest discovery, for me, was poetry.

The gods must have known what they were doing when they assigned my roommate – a poet – a poet who thankfully woke up every morning before 6 am just like I did.  First, Lisa opened my eyes (usually after a strong cup of coffee) to the emotional, heartfelt, human poetry of Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Claudia Emerson.  Then she patiently taught me a little about meter and narrative form.  But more than anything else, she taught me to look at my own work, my own fiction, with the eyes of a poet.

As a journalist, I always thought I used words sparingly, appropriately.  I’ve spent hours staring at the computer searching for just the right word – the word that conveys the right emotion, that carries the right rhythm.  But now I was suddenly paying attention to the movement and message of each and every word on the page – thinking about the best, most powerful, most economical way to describe a character, a scene, a moment with more determination that I ever had.  When you are writing with few words, you must use them as wisely and as powerfully as you can.

I will never be a poet, but I found myself reveling in its beauty. And I found myself appreciating its instructive nature for a fiction writer.  I will write poems someday, for no one but myself.  But that will be a gift in and of itself.

Posted August 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm · comment · Leave a Comment

MOONSHINE HIP?

Yesterday’s local newspaper ran an article on moonshine – the great illicit whiskey – white lightening – hooch – mountain dew – ah, you get my drift.  I don’t care what your pedigree is, if you claim to be a Southerner, there is somebody, somewhere in your family tree that has at one time or another done a little shining.

In my own family, apparently it was my grandfather who liked to tend to the still under the light of an East Tennessee moon. Then somewhere along the way, he went to a revival, found the Lord, and took up preaching.  As I write in Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, “he built a church and nurtured a flock, all the while delivering another libation just as intoxicating as his moonshine.”

But now the infamous drink is becoming cool, hip, and worst of all, LEGAL.  The mystery and aura around moonshine will, I’m afraid, fade with the setting sun now that micro-distilleries are brewing small batches of rye, wheat and millet shine with cute, catchy names like Death’s Door, White Dog and Wry Moon.  Soon there will be moonshine-based martinis and other specialty drinks with even cuter names like Lightning Breeze or Corntini.

Please, please, listen to reason.  Some things just need to remain a little shadowy, a little prohibited, a little banned!

Posted July 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm · 4 comments · Leave a Comment

Susan Gregg Gilmore