A few weeks ago, it was time for Unofficial Booktopia. What is Unofficial Booktopia, you ask? Well, Unofficial Booktopia is a play on Official Booktopia (hosted by the fantastic Books on The Nightstand). How did it all start? A few of us met in Oxford, MS back in 2012- and we became fast friends- discussing books, going out for drinks, and just having a good time. After that weekend, we all stayed in touch through the power of social media and monthly phone chats. Unofficial Booktopia happened, though, because in 2013- none of the Booktopia sites were close for 2 of us to get to be able to attend (basically, it was a wing and a prayer kind of thing). So, one suggested- let’s get together in Jackson, MS (home to Lemuria Books). So we began the plan and it worked! We all managed to get together (and engage in some literary hijinks!) We had such a good time that Unofficial Booktopia was born- and this year, it was in Texas. Continue reading
Utopia: an ideal community. So Booktopia is an ideal community of books and book-lovers, authors, great book stores, and places that inspire writing or reading.
Actually Booktopia has different meanings to different people- but that is a good, basic definition. For a more involved scene/definition of my idea of Booktopia, read this What Booktopia Means to Me. I hope reading about Booktopia inspires others to think about their definition of Booktopia.
Back to the main point of this blog post, though- this past weekend, June 15-17, I spent the weekend in Oxford, MS (home of Square Books) and the site of 1 of 3 Books on Nightstand Booktopia retreats. First, it was a fantastic weekend- filled with book people, book lovers of all kinds (from classics to chick lit)- everyone had something bright and intelligent to say about books.
The first day of Booktopia began with a workshop discussion “What is Southern Writing”? The 3 person author panel was comprised of: Susan Greg Gilmore (The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove and Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen), Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter), and Kevin Brockmeier (The Illumination). When questioned about “What is Southern writing?” or “Were they Southern literary authors?” the responses varied. Tom Franklin, born in Alabama, really just wants to be known as a “writer” as opposed to being a “Southern writer”. He compares being a “Southern writer” to being a “left-handed pitcher”- no one really knows exactly what to do with you. He also says that at first he “did not want to write about the hicks he grew up with”- it wasn’t until he went to college in Arkansas that other classmates helped him realize that he had quite a background to help with stories.
Susan Greg Gilmore, though, is fiercely proud to be known as a “Southern writer”-in fact, she says that the more specialized the label for her as an author, the better. Susan Greg Gilmore “Hell yeah, I’m a Southern writer!” She speaks of using her cast iron skillet, going to her grandma’s old house, pulling over to look at a church- these are all Southern things. When asked in her writing whether the character or the place come to mind first for writing, she says they seem to come together immediately, as opposed to one or the other coming first.
Kevin Brockmeier spoke of writing, specifically The Illumination, as him having a “metaphor in mind” when starting a book. For The Illumination, it’s 6 paintings on a transparency- each can be revealed as it’s own image, but when you layer them on top of each other- it provides a different picture. After hearing his description of writing The Illumination, I’m considering reading it again and trying to see the book through the eyes of his metaphor.
Late Friday afternoon/early evening- we all went to Rowan Oak (home of William Faulkner) where some of us explored Rowan Oak. We also had a Yankee Swap (also known as White Elephant or Dirty Santa) exchange- it was great fun. I brought a Sue Grafton book (U is for Undertow) to put in the exchange pile. After I picked a book, I traded mine in for Miss Mississippi Cooks– which later was stolen from me. Not to worry, though, Susan Greg Gilmore and Ellen F. Brown were super-sweet- they bought me a copy! That night a group of us went to Boure for dinner and while we waited to have our name called we had drinks at City Grocery. Dinner and drinks was quite fun- our group had a fun time laughing and talking about books.
Saturday morning, some of us met at High Point Coffee for coffee and breakfast. Then we were off to the different author sessions. My first session was with Ellen F. Brown (Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood) and she was delightful. Full of interesting, behind the scenes information on Gone With the Wind and the Mitchell estate, Ellen F. Brown worked the author session like a pro- she teased us with bits and snippets of information. Ellen F. Brown wanted the book to be titled Minding Scarlett’s Business instead. She also said that Margaret Mitchell had a plan for her next book that she told to a friend, but she never got a chance to write the book. The book was to be about a poet from Georgia who claimed Edgar Allen Poe stole The Raven from him. If you think that would make an interesting book and curse the fact that Margaret Mitchell is no longer around to write it, fear not- Ellen F. Brown will be writing the book herself. While she has no way of knowing if take the book in the same direction as Margaret Mitchell planned to, she is looking forward to writing and gathering more information.
After the Ellen F. Brown author session, some of us met for lunch at City Grocery- shrimp and grits was quite yummy. After lunch, I went to Square Books to browse before the next author session with Tom Franklin. While in Square Books, I purchase Susan Greg Gilmore’s 2 books (Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove). Great news for me- because of Booktopia, Square Books was giving Booktopians 10% off their purchase!
My next author session was with Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter). Listening to Tom talk about his book, he states that Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was “slightly autobiographical”. Again he says that he is “tired of being called a Southern writer, he just wants to be known as a writer”. When asked since he feels this way- why title his book Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (since it’s obviously a Mississippi title, therefore Southern)- he answers “because it’s never been used before”. He’s not afraid to use Southern terms, he just wants to be known as a writer, instead of neatly classified. Another tidbit- if the book had been set in Alabama, he would have titled it “Jurisdiction“.
My 3rd session was a podcast with Ann and Michael- creators of Books on the Nightstand. It was really interesting to see how they did a podcast, and our session will be used for a later podcast of BOTNS.
At 5- all of us met back at Off Square Books for A Celebration of Authors. This is where we got to listen to each author speak for 10 minutes, which was nice, since we did not get to go to all author sessions. After everyone spoke, there was a chance to have books signed, as well. Another group of us went to Old Venice for dinner that night and then the Burgundy Room for drinks and hanging out. It was really fun hanging out with everyone and enjoying a beautiful night in Oxford. As we headed back to the hotel, some of us decided to take a picture with William Faulkner’s statue on the Square.
Sunday morning was breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast, which was really great (pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries and sausage). After breakfast, coffee and talking at High Point Coffeehouse- then the final Booktopia session at Off- Square Books. The session, The Many Forms of Storytelling, brought up many interesting topics- such as e-readers, books, audio, and an upcoming app from Richard Mason (History of a Pleasure Seeker) which looked very interesting.
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend- filled with interesting people, great books, good food and many activities. I adored my time in Booktopia and happily look forward to a future event.
Just 4 mere days away from Booktopia in Oxford, MS. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever and now it’s so close to being here! The author line-up is quite nice- Jesmyn Ward, Tom Franklin, Kevin Brockmeier, Ellen F. Brown, and a few others.
I’m beyond ready to spend a couple of days in Oxford- it’s one of my favorite places. The Square, Square Books, sitting on balcony at Burgundy Room or City Grocery, the food, shopping- plus since it’s summer- the town will have almost a sleepy feel at times with the majority of the students being gone.
While I have not finished all my Booktopia reading, I’m not going to stress. I’m going to go, enjoy listening to the authors, and have a good time. I’m also going to eat at all my favorite places, take pictures and really enjoy a weekend of being away.
My packing list: Flip flops, shorts, cute shirts, nice pants for dinner, books to be signed by authors, camera, big sunglasses, and my Kindle.
1. Recently began reading James Patterson. Sorry to report that I have been ignoring his great books for years. Loved Kiss the Girls, I, Alex Cross and now reading Roses are Red. Good books.
2. Received my copy of The River Witch by Kimberly Brock that I won from Hallie Sawyer’s blog. Kimberly personalized my copy with the sweetest message: To Tamara- My sweet friend. May the story sing for you! Love, Kimberly Brock
I cannot wait to sit down and begin reading this book. With the rave reviews it’s getting, I’m very excited about reading it.
3. Bought Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn yesterday. Have never read a book by her, but between the description of the book from Reader’s Digest, the book cover and my book friend, Keetha’s, excitement over the book- I feel sure it’ll be a winner. I hope so anyway.
4. I’m still waiting on the library to get my copies of Ready, Player One and The Rook from the inter-library loan. This is probably why people buy, as opposed to borrow books mainly- it’s too long of a wait.
5. I was asked to guest blog about The Hunger Games trilogy for a friend’s blog- Man Vs Books Club. The blog is a collaborative effort among a group of people who read and encourage others to read. If looking for another blog to read or some great reviews, please check them out.
6. It’s 9 days till Booktopia Oxford, MS. Books on the Nightstand has several great events planned. Look for future blog posts on the authors I met at Booktopia.
7. Speaking of Books on the Nightstand, if you don’t listen to their weekly podcast, give it a try. They usually have great recommendations for books. This week, they recommended Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier. Nichole’s book was getting quite a bit of attention from several bloggers I follow yesterday- based on the talk, I’ve decided to add it to my list of books to read this summer.
8. My “to-read” list is growing exponentially. It bothers me because no matter how much time I devote to reading, it seems I never make a dent in my list.
9. She Reads is looking for more bloggers to join their network- if you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, please check out their website.
A few weeks ago, I registered for a weekend retreat in Oxford, MS. The weekend is being sponsored by Books on the Nightstand and it’s called Booktopia. In short, several authors will be in town and the participants will be able to meet them, listen to author talks, ask questions and meet other book people. In short, it will be a book lovers dream weekend. After I registered, Ann and Michael ( the Books on the Nightstand creators) asked everyone to please consider contributing what their idea of Booktopia was, and it would be printed into a small souvenir type book. I submitted my idea of what Booktopia is to me, and the book has been published. So I guess, technically, you could say that I’m a published writer! Since it does not seem fair to only let the people who bought the book ,Living in Booktopia, know what my dream of Booktopia is, I decided to write a blog post about it.
My vision of Booktopia is this: Walking in a room with great lighting, bright and colorful bookshelves crammed with books, but organized. Books are divided into sections- chick-lit, suspense, fiction, and the like. There is a beautiful plush pink velvet chair with a table beside it. There is also a rich midnight blue couch with a silver blanket and plush pillows. I can sit or lie down as I rediscover favorite books or invite new friends to my collection. I simply snap a finger and the book I currently want to read just magically appears. The room never gets over-crowded, the bookshelves just expand for more reading material. This room houses all my books- from childhood to current age. In short, when I unlock the room with my antique key, it’s like a magical room: filled with promises of laughter, good times, some sadness, but mainly unlocking emotions and fulfilling me. This room is my utopia- it is where I go to rest and relax. It is where my best friends live and eagerly await my return. Simply put, this vision of Booktopia is magical.
While I understand that not everyone enjoys to read as much as I do, I’ll never understand why some people so proudly announce that they never read. I firmly believe that there is a book out there for everyone- a book that is a game-changer and that will instil at least a slight yearn to read more. When a person does not read, they are willingly shutting themselves off from worlds and stories that can be enjoyed from the comforts of home. Traveling is great, and I firmly believe people should travel; but reading takes you traveling much cheaper than airplane tickets.
Now that I’ve shared my vision of Booktopia- consider your vision, if you are a reader. Might it be a porch where the wind blows and there is a glass of sweet-tea ever present? Or a deep footed claw tub with never ending bubbles and a glass of wine that never empties (yet, you do not get tipsy?) Maybe your vision is walking in a bookstore and seeing row after row, and knowing you have all the time in the world to explore?