Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Southern Voices 2013 - A Most Excellent Adventure!

It was another fantastic year for The Hoover Library's Southern Voices Festival!  The 21st year that Hoover has worked so hard to ensure that one of the finest author events out there came to fruition again and once more sent everyone home more than satisfied with their time spent.  

The line up this year was superb.  Authors from several different genres and experience levels were there to make sure we were not only entertained, but educated, enlightened and excited about learning how the writing process came to be in their lives. 

Hoover has been under pressure to grow Southern Voices in size - the event has traditionally been in the library theatre (a library with a theatre - I love it!) and this only allows 250 people to attend.  While I do understand no one wanting to be left out, I also find a very strong appeal in the coziness and beauty of the having the event in the heart of the library.  Hoover is trying to please both sides of the fence and I think they managed to do that this year.  

With the exception of Lisa See, all of the authors spoke twice during the Saturday event.  One time in the auditorium and then another in the upstairs Plaza area, which allowed approximately another 100 people to attend. While this kept the authors nice and busy, it also pleased the patrons very much.  The authors themselves had no issue with enjoying the excitement and interest of two different crowds. If this is judged to be a successful endeavor (since all tickets were sold I would say it was) I believe we may see this for future years. 

Repeatedly the authors mentioned that this is the best event they have attended and spoken at, that they were treated wonderfully and that there were never any rough spots or issues that made them regret the invitation.  

As always, this was a multi-day event with music and art.  Of course my concentration has always been on the authors and books.  While I did not get to experience the musical aspect, the art of Alexi Torres was spread throughout the library to be enjoyed for the entire festival by all. With that said, let's jump straight to the authors and what they shared with their audiences!

I hope to be able to update this soon with links to the author videos, but that takes a bit of time for Hoover to put together so I'll add it in down the line.


Lisa See:  Though she jokes that it's fairly hard to tell, Lisa comes from a huge Chinese American family.  She was raised with rich cultural traditions and stories and she pulls these stories to the forefront of her own novels.  The amount of research she puts into her work is amazing.  I was exhausted just listening to how much work goes into one of her novels.  So I can say that when you read a Lisa See novel, you never have a concern that something was just thrown in there to make the story.  Her books are not only intriguing with great characters, but you also receive a nice history lesson.

Wendy Wax:  Wendy is a lovely author with a warm presence, which is also felt in her novels.  Her characters are easy to relate to and likeable, which is more important than you might expect. She was filled with humor during her time on stage as she described where some of her stories ideas come from and how they make it from her mind into the pages of novel.  Her latest novel comes out of her love of Downton Abbey and again embraces the humor and warmth of Wendy herself.

Dorothea Benton Frank:  What can I say - I expected an experienced and distinguished author who gave a calm and intense presentation of the struggles a writer has as they strive to succeed in the publishing world.  Instead I ended up laughing hysterically while she told multiple stories of what made her decide to become a writer, along with life on the road and the experiences that brought up her ego, and then crashed it into the ground.  Fantastically entertaining.

Tayari Jones: What an inspiration she was to listen to.  Tayari had a dream to become an author since she was a little girl.  She kept at it slowly and steadily and today is a successful author. She told her story with warmth and self-depreciating humor and I love how Judy Bloom became her Publishing Godmother.  She was a gracious speaker who I could have easily listened to for much longer than she was on stage.

Michel Stone: I was so excited to hear Michel as I personally feel like she came out with a full blown winner of a debut novel.  So different than anything I've read before in terms of subject matter.  I was very excited to be able to meet her in person. She took a story of illegal immigrants sneaking across the border into the United States and humanized them.  She made them simply people attempting to better their own lives.  There was much research done to write this book realistically and the stories of that research were simply gripping.

Grant Jerkins:  I don't think anyone but Grant could describe how the urge to write was fostered by a co-worker with a fervent adoration of Alice Cooper.   His journey is a fascinating one and he also shared interesting background information on the actual process of being published.... or being told the publisher wants a different story other than the one presented.  Grant's novels are quirky, dark and intense and it was fascinating to hear where his ideas developed from.

Wiley Cash: It was interesting to meet the debut author who's book is busting down doors and hear not only how the process started but how he's handling the sudden non-stop touring that comes with book fame.  He was lively and personable on the stage and filled with humorous tales of moving from the mountains to the Deep South of Louisiana.... and immediately longing to go home.  But it did help bring his novel to life so it was worth it.

Ron Rash:  As always, Ron was a true Southern gentlemen on stage and regaled the audience with hysterically funny tales of how he gets research for his stories.  There is a huge amount of background digging that goes into his novels.  People may not realize how hard he works to make sure the facts are straight and the details precise in his writing. He then read passages from several of his books, reminding us once again of why he is a success - the words flow like a smoothly burbling brook right into your ears and mind.

A highly successful event indeed and I cannot wait to see what Hoover comes up with for next year!

Photos of the event

Link to the Southern Voices Event Page