Monday, February 29, 2016

Southern Voices Festival 2016 - The Greatest Literary Show on Earth

All photos provided by Lance Shores, Hoover, Al

This year's Southern Voices Festival was my fifth one to attend.  I have to say I believe this was my favorite. 

Once again the Library and Staff absolutely outdid themselves with their elegant presentation, hospitality, openness and obvious joy in what they were doing.  I have never experienced such friendly and helpful people at an event.  You talk to any author who participates in a Southern Voices Festival and they will tell you what a treat it is to be there. 

The authors this year were fabulous.  Every single one of them was open and charming with the audience.  They all appeared to be genuinely pleased to have the opportunity to share their stories and experiences with the readers. They were more than happy to spend time answering questions and simply chatting.  I simply would not be able to pick one presentation and say that it was my favorite.  I had too many favorites!

This year, as with the two previous years, Hoover Library opened up the Plaza area for additional guests and I will admit that this is my choice spot to sit instead of the Theatre.  The weather was wonderful, the sun was shining in the tall windows, we were surrounded by books and at the same time nearly in the author's laps in this more intimate setting.  While the Theatre is gorgeous and comfortable, to be so up close and personal with the authors in a bright room is my preference.

Amanda and Erik, Tom and Carrie, and Linda and Laura, #SV2016
Now the plaza does require extra work on the author's parts as they have to speak twice during the day, but I think we're worth it.  :)

 Click HERE to see all the great photos Staff Photographer Lance Shores took!


Now, let's talk about the authors.

Erik Larson
Erik Larson is an incredibly effervescent  and accessible speaker.  He filled his conversation with lovely personal anecdotes interspersed with pieces of historical facts, showing how he takes true life stories and creates thrilling narratives that grip the reader.  He had a lively and open personality, sparkled with intelligence and was more than willing to answer any and all questions.............except for one.

Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin
The next set of authors I saw were simply adorable together.  They are authors that are not only married, but they manage to work together - and even wrote a book.  They created an intimate conversation together in front of the audience with gentle back and forth bantering and items presented for discussion. Beth Ann Fennelly and Tom Franklin were a delight to watch and listen to.  Not only were their stories incredibly interesting, but Beth Ann may have actually taken a person that avoids poetry as much as possible and converted her, just a little.  (They were definitely in my favorite category.)

Jamie Mason
Mark Pryor
The next dynamic duo are two authors who have been friends for several years so there was an easy camaraderie between them that let you feel as if you were in a somewhat intimate dinner social with them. They spent time talking about their creative writing process and where some of the ideas come from, be it location or the local headlines.  They were very open in sharing their process with the audience and Mark even passed around his notebook of ideas for all to see.  Again a engaging pair who kept the listeners intent and enthused.

Natalie Baszile
Laura Lane McNeal
Next on stage were two lovely ladies with Southern stories to tell.  Natalie Baszile is from California but has family in Louisiana.  Her book's journey to life took more than 10 years and it was a fascinating journey to hear. Her telling of the story was animated and engaging and I was most pleased to have her book find it's way into my suitcase for the ride home.  Laura Lane McNeal's home is in Louisiana and her book's journey took a completely different route to life, which was just as fascinating to listen to.  Don't let anyone tell you that getting a book published follows a straight formula to success.

Craig Johnson
Finally a genuine cowboy made his way to the stage.  Craig Johnson was just plain fun to listen to.  He was lively and entertaining and had great stories about how his books developed and then landed in Hollywood.  He was incredibly open to questions and responded enthusiastically.  Definitely one of those authors that will have readers who usually pass by his genre snap up his books after meeting and hearing him, on his likability factor alone. 

Once more I will say that this was a wonderful festival this year.  I adored meeting authors whose books I had already read and having the opportunity to speak with them, but also relished the opportunity to find out more about authors I had not read and to have a chance to broaden my reading a bit more. 

 Below you will see an example of the art portion of the Festival this year.   I love what the "hookers" did with the creation of this cow!
Heart of Dixie Rug Bees, Artists Reception

Every year I make a Southern Voices Must list after an event. This is my Must list for 2016.
  • Read Poetry. Mainly Beth Ann Fennelly's poetry. She may have converted me.
  • Wait for Tom Franklin's possible horror story to come out and grab it immediately.
  • Read a Longmire novel by Craig Johnson and then watch the show.
  • Read the Natalie Baszile book Southern Voices gave me, which sounded fantastic.
  • Check out Mark Pryor's Hugo Marsten series and pretend I also went to Paris.
  • Read Jamie Mason's Three Graves Full, which I heard so much about I am dying to pick up.
  • Wait for Laura Lane McNeal to present a new book which I will eagerly grab.
  • Finally, Erik Larson makes me want to read non-fiction again.
  • Wait for next year impatiently!!!!!