Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Library That Could - Hoover Public Library and Southern Voices 2012

If ever I have met an organization and/or group of people that know how to do things right... that would be the Hoover Public Library.  At first glance at the name you might think it a simple local library where you check out your school project books and new releases and remember it again only when the time comes to return those same items.  But if you take a moment to look at the library, it's people and what it does for the community, you would soon change your mind.

The Hoover Public Library goes above and beyond to serve it's community. Whether it be after school programs, adult classes on ebooks, community outreach programs, everything is done with class, organization and enthusiasm.  I can honestly say I've yet to see another public community organization that matches what Hoover does, or how they do it.

One of Hoover's projects which I am most enthusiastic about is their annual celebration of the arts.  Each year they hold a Southern Voices Conference.  During those four days they present one artist, a musical group, and a multitude of authors.

I was honored to be able to attend again this year and as my friend Rex said, "It must have been like a pilgrimage to Mecca for you."  :)  Indeed!

This year was the 20th anniversary of the event and it sold out in 16 minutes online.  Hoover is actually getting pressure from the public to find a larger venue for this event because of the fact that at this time they can only accommodate 250 people. It has become the exclusive party of the year that everyone wants an invitation to!  We'll see what happens in the future.  It is such a cleanly organized event that I would hate to see it grow larger and harder to keep such a close rein on, but at that same time... if I was the person that called 20 minutes after the tickets went on sale to find there was no availability..........

As I said, this was the 20th anniversary of the event and the Hoover staff outdid themselves with the guests.

Local Hoover artist Arthur Price's work was exquisite.  You can see a small sample of it below and more on the Southern Voices photo page (link below). Giant hanging sheets of landscape, angels and beauty.  I'll admit to being absolutely captured by the landscape paintings.

I didn't get a chance to hear the band (you never drag me away from book talk) but The Steep Canyon Rangers were playing Saturday night and Sunday.  In 2006 the International Bluegrass Music Association named them Emerging Artists of the Year and they have released a collaborative album with Steve Martin, which went to #1 on Bluegrass Charts.

I, of course, went to Southern Voices for the authors - and what an outstanding selection of them did they have this year!  Every single one of them (and yes, this is rare) was positive, enthusiastic, humorous and lively in their talks.  At the end of each presentation you felt that you "knew" them.  It's difficult to engage an audience on a consistent basis, especially after a full day of sitting in auditorium chairs, but these authors managed it without breaking a sweat.

We started off with Scott Turow.  The man can not only write(when he's not trying cases as a lawyer) but he can keep you completely immersed in his stories.  School, legal council and editing drafts of books never sounded so interesting before.

Karin Slaughter was next and I could not have enjoyed myself more listening.  You might think that an author that writes about  death and dismemberment on a constant basis would not be able to be funny, or even attempt it - but Karin is not that author.  I had tears of laughter the entire time.  By the way, below I have a link to Karin's short story, available on Amazon.  All proceeds go to the Library Fund.  Now that's a good investment.

Jeffrey Stepakoff was a delight, as always.  He told of his journey from TV and movie writing to author, with many romantic tales of finding his one true love, Elizabeth, in between. Alas, no dark Hollywood secrets slipped out. 

Vanessa Diffenbaugh ripped our hearts out with her life story.  She found herself raising 4 children not her own at 23 years old until she was forced to give them over to County Services.  This was the impetus to start her organization (link below) to help children in our foster system... especially the ones that turn 18 and are put out abruptly and often with no fail-safe for their lives.  She nearly had tears running down my face, and not from laughter.

Then AJ Mayhew hit the stage, full steam ahead.  Her story is so inspirational.  Just keep after your dreams, don't give them up, no matter how long it takes.  Her book is a well received novel that took her 18 years to write.  It was well worth that time.

James Swanson was next and while I really enjoyed his talk about Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth, I've decided to never visit his house.  (His collection of Civil War artifacts sounds deadly!)  He actually brought back my interest in that whole period of time in history.

Finally Mark Childress came onstage and what can I say, more tears of laughter.  His adventures while writing books and making movies are well worth listening to.  I believe he may have a second career as comedian, should he need it.

Overall, it was a weekend well spent and I have to thank Hoover and it's staff for allowing me to be a part of it.

Go to the link below and check out the pictures of the event.  Get your speed dial fingers working out for next year!

A little later I'll have a video link also.  Many of the actual presentations are placed on the Southern Voices site and they are well worth the time to watch.  You may go to the site now and see videos and photographs from the previous years events. 


Karin Slaughter's ebook short, Thorn in My Side can be purchased HERE. 100% of Slaughter's proceeds from sales in the US will benefit SaveTheLibraries. 100% of proceeds from non-US Kindle Single sales will benefit The Reading Agency in the UK. 

Vanessa Diffenbaugh's link to her Camellia Network can be found HERE.The mission of Camellia Network is to activate networks of citizens in every community to provide the critical support young people need to transition from foster care to adulthood. 

You see the photographs of the 2012 event HERE.

The 2012 event page is HERE.