Southern Festival of Books logoOne of Our Lady’s favorite events of the year is the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, coming up October 9th – 11th. Admittedly, October is a busy month with hayrides, apple festivals, football games and so forth, but Our Lady is always surprised when friends here in middle Tennessee who enjoy reading confess they’ve never attended SFOB.  She wants to ask them, “WHAT are your priorities?” She holds up as an example her friend Peter and his twin Laura, who plan their birthday celebration around the 3-day event each year. Southern Fest is way better than any birthday cake and  ice cream.

For the uninitiated, here’s how the festival works: There’s a schedule online, but you’ll want to check the printed schedule at the festival for any last-minute changes of sessions. Some sessions will feature just one author; others may feature a panel of two to four authors. Sessions last either an hour or an hour and a half. Sessions may include readings and/or Q&As. Immediately after a session, the authors go to the signing colonnade on the Legislative Plaza, where you can get them to sign the book you just purchased from the handy-dandy Southern Fest bookstore also located on the Plaza.

Publishers, booksellers and other writing-related organizations have booths at the festival. There are also food vendors and a few stages for entertainment, including a children’s stage and a cooking stage.

The only problem with Southern Fest is that at any given hour, there are just too many good sessions to attend. Our Lady has poured over the schedule and has these recommendations based on her own biases for poetry, music, faith and religion, many of the  “little names”  at the festival, as Ms. Cheap said in her column yesterday, and all things Southern. You’ll note she sometimes has more than one recommendation for the same time slot, leaving the really hard decisions to you. This is a good time for her to mention that it’s not out of the question for you to quietly enter or leave a session in progress, as long as it is not hers. For her session, you’d better get there on time, sit and smile the whole time, and offer generous, thunderous applause throughout the session.

Attend and enjoy!

OUR LADY’S PICKS follow, complete with links to the authors’ or books’ websites, when available. (The benefits of this blog! Even Southern Fest doesn’t give you that!) If you’re an author and Our Lady didn’t use your preferred link, just post a comment or let herknow.


12:00 – 1:30 pm Latino Writers in the American South: Lorraine Lopez, Blas Falconer, Judith Ortiz Cofer

1:00 – 2:00 Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor: Brad Gooch

2:00 – 3:00 Thoughts and Observations – The Traditional Essay: Bill Peach, Judy DiGregorio. Our Lady knows both these lovely people. Bill’s a philosopher and Judy’s a humorist; they should make a fun and interesting session.

2:00 – 3:00 Toward the Moment of Reckoning – Masters of Southern Gothic: Ron Rash, William Gay. These writers really are masters, and definitely an experience to hear.

3:00 – 4:00 Mullets, Mamas and Magnolias – Memoir and Misadventure: Lauretta Hannon, Stephanie Snowe

4:00 – 5:30 Afraid of the Dark? An Examination of the Use of Fear in Horror and Thriller Novels: Laura Benedict, J.T. Ellison, Meredith Cole.


10:00 – 11:00 AM School Desegregation and Civil Rights – Stories of a Black Male Radical and White Women Activists: D’Army Bailey, Rebecca Dartt

10:00 – 11:00 AM 99 Things to Save Money in Your Household Budget: Mary Hance (Ms. Cheap)

10:30 – 12:00 New Stories of the South: They Year’s Best: Madison Smartt Bell, Kevin Wilson, Jill McCorkle

11:00 – 12:00 Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues: William Ferriss

12:00 – 1:00 The Prince of Frogtown, Rick Bragg

12:00 – 1:30 Stone and Light – The Natural World in Verse: Ted Olson, Joan Gelfand, K.B. Ballentine

1:00 – 2:00 Home Safe: A Novel: Elizabeth Berg

1:00 – 2:00 Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon : Buzz Aldrin

1:30 – 3:00 Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal: Silas House, Kathy Mattea, Jason Howard. An important book. Don’t miss this session if you’re not familiar with the story of mountaintop removal.

2:00 – 3:00 The Help: Kathryn Stockett (Our Lady just finished this book and really enjoyed it.)

2:00 – 3:00 Against the Wind: The Moderate Voice in Baptist Life: Carl Kell

2:00 – 3:00 The Shelby Bottom String Band performs on the Cafe Stage

Our Lady is VERY conflicted by the next time slot, as these are two of her favorite writers (although they’re very different!)

3:00 – 4:00 Serena: Ron Rash

3:00 – 4:00 Going Away Shoes: Jill McCorkle

4:00 – 5:00 Profane and Profound – Books of Distinctive Southern Characters: John Pritchard, Kevin Wilson


Sunday starts with plenty of conflicts to become more familiar with the work of many Tennessee writers:

12:00 – 1:00 Of Home and Home – New Poetry Collections: Bill Brown, Jeff Daniel Marion. Both are friends, and Bill is a mentor.

12:00 – 1:30 The Adventures of Self-Publishing: Maggi Britton Vaughn, Veita Jo Hampton. Veita Jo is a friend.

12:00 – 1:30 Gathering: Writers of Williamson County: Bill Peach, Madison Smartt Bell, Kathy Rhodes, Currie Alexander Powers. Williamson County is rich with good writers represented in this new anthology.

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2:00 – 3:00 The Every Day in Words – New Voices in Southern Poetry: Brett Eugene Ralph, Kory Wells More details

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3:00 – 4:00 The Power of the Pulpit in Literature and Society: G. Lee Ramsey, Richard T. Hughes

Our Lady asks: What sessions are you most looking forward to at SFOB 2009? Can you share any tips for pacing yourself through three days of literary bliss? If you’ve never attended before, what questions do you have?