This past weekend was my all-time favorite bookseller’s event–The Southeastern Independent Bookseller’s Association meeting. I’ve been going to SEBA, or SIBA as it’s now called, for 16 years. And from the time my very first book, EVERY CROOKED NANNY was published, way back in 1992, the Southern booksellers have been amazingly supportive, friendly and helpful.
I love going to SIBA because it’s like a big ‘ol family reunion–without the ‘tater salad or dysfunction. This year was no different. The first person I spotted when I walked into the downtown Atlanta Hilton was my dear friend Nancy Olson, who owns the amazing Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. You know you’ve arrived as an author when Nancy invites you to sign at Quail Ridge. And I’ve been fortunate enough to call her a friend for many years now. In fact, when we moved to Raleigh, she was the person who found our real estate agent for us, and put me together with an amazing group of writer friends like Margaret Maron, Sarah Shaber, Katy Munger and Bren Witchger. Here’s me with Nancy and the world’s greatest publisher’s rep, my own, darling Eric Swenson of HarperCollins.
Saturday morning, I was asked to emcee the Southern author’s breakfast sponsored by HarperCollins, with authors Michael Lee West and Nancy Peacock. Nancy lives a double life–turning out critically acclaimed novels while working as a cleaning lady. Her new non-fiction book about writing and cleaning is called A BROOM OF ONE’S OWN, and she lives near Chapel Hill, N.C. Michael’s new novel is MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT. If you’ve never read these wonderwomen, you must. I especially recommend Michael’s CONSUMING PASSIONS, which is a warm and witty series of essays about Southern cooking. My favorite one is called “Fear of Frying” in which she explains why she wears opera gloves when frying chicken. Michael lives on a farm near Lebanon, Tenn., and she has a watch-donkey.
Later that day, I got to sign advanced reading copies of DEEP DISH in the Harper booth. Of course, DEEP DISH won’t be out ’til March, but publishers prepare advanced copies of upcoming books to give away at trade shows like SIBA so booksellers and critics can get an early peek. There is nothing as heart-warming as looking up to see a long line of book-sellers waiting to grab your new book. I saw tons of my favorite bookstore owners, like Cathy Blanco, of The Book Exchange in Marietta, GA., Mary Jane of G.J. Ford’s in St.Simon’s Island, GA., the new owners of Bay Street Books in Beaufort, S.C., Earlene Scott of Scott’s Bookstore in Newnan, GA., Frazer Dobson of Park Street Books in Charlotte, NC, and the girls from Page and Palette in Fairhope, ALA. Here I am with the Page and Palette girls in the Harper booth.
And as a reward for all that hard work, what did I get? Free books! Oh heaven, oh bliss. You know you’re a hard-core bookslut when you have a 60-pound canvas satchel of books on each arm, yet you’re still cruising the aisles for more goodies. Some of the ones I brought home include David Halberstam’s new book about the Korean War, David Baldacci’s new book (Mr. Mary Kay is a fan), Margaret Maron’s HARD ROWa re-release of Barbara Kingsolver’s essays, and much more. Tomorrow I leave for a few days down at Tybee, and I have an embarrassment of riches to enjoy.