Reading/writing events

I’m not sure if it’s a late new year or an early Valentine’s here on my blog, but I’m excited to be celebrating any day with a poetry book giveaway. The book is THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS, a new collection from Irene Latham.

The Color of Lost Rooms by Irene Latham

In The Color of Lost Rooms, author Irene Latham examines themes of love and loss through art, history and nature.

I’m a big fan of Irene’s first full-length poetry collection, WHAT CAME BEFORE, which was named Alabama State Poetry Society’s Book of the Year and earned a 2008 Independent Publisher’s (IPPY) Award. More recently, she’s been attracting a lot of attention with her debut midgrade historical novel LEAVING GEE’S BEND (G.P. Putnam, 2010), a Depression-era story that stole my heart – and, perhaps more significantly, Booklist called “authentic and memorable.”

Imagine how the cup/misses the weight of tea Irene writes in “Blue Still Life,” one of the poems in THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS. These lines hint at much of what this book is about: love and loss, desire and duty, regret and the return of hope. But if this book is about life and love, it’s of art and history and nature. After I read the book, I was very curious to learn more about the genesis of many of these poems, and Irene graciously answered a few questions.

KW: In the acknowledgments of this book, you thank the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) for the inspiration you found in their “stunning collection.” I know from your book that this includes Georgia O’Keefe, Mary Cassatt, and Berthe Morisot, just to name a few. Tell me more about that.

IL: When I was on book tour for LEAVING GEE’S BEND, I did a signing at Sherlock’s Books in the Nashville area. Right beside the signing table was a rack of postcard books. I picked up a set called “Women in the Arts” that featured art pieces from NMWA. I decided to use that postcard book as a prompt for the poem-a-day challenge I do every April for National Poetry Month. Twelve of those poems made it into the collection.

KW: Have you written poems inspired by other art?

IL: It has been my great fortune to have been part of two poetry/art shows with artist Liz Reed. We call it “Which Came First – Poetry or Paint?” Some of the paintings have been inspired by my poems, and some of the poems inspired by her paintings. In fact, a poem in the collection, “Black Dress,” was featured in one of those shows (Liz’s painting is so evocative!). So I am no stranger to ekphrasis. I love using other people’s art as a jumping off place for my own creations.

KW: In other poems throughout the book, you assume the voice of both fictional and historical characters, such as Hester Prynne, Guinevere, Lady Churchill and Einstein’s daughter.  What makes you decide to take on the voices of certain characters? How is it, for example, that you picked Abe Lincoln and Mary Todd, instead of, say, George and Martha Washington?

IL: It’s kind of like falling in love — I feel like the historical characters chose ME more than I chose them. But I did have some help. My father is extremely well-read (he reads on average a book a day!) and has a particular interest in history. So as soon as he was aware of my project on historical women, he began sending me tidbits and names of interest. Other friends did the same. I wrote more than 50 historical poems — 15 made it into this collection. (As for George and Martha, I did write one from the perspective of Ona Judge, who was one of the Washington’s slaves. Maybe it will find a home in the next collection!)

KW: Irene, I’m already looking forward to that next collection!


If you’re not familiar with Irene’s work, or you don’t yet have THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS, I know you’ll want to enter here. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing on the evening of Monday, February 7th from all who have commented here or on my Facebook pages (including the Kory and Kelsey Wells fan page) by 6 PM CST on the 7th. And if you’re not the lucky winner, you can order your own copy here on Irene’s site.


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. (more…)

Heaven Was the Moon As some of you already know, my poetry chapbook, Heaven Was the Moon, is out! It’s a little perfect-bound collection of 28 poems, published by March Street Press, and of course I’m very excited about it.

My first public event for the book will be at the Southern Festival of Books on Sunday, October 11th, from 2-3 pm, with a signing to follow. I hope to have a big hometown crowd – but those of you who may be in for the festival from other parts of the state or the Southeast, I’ll be glad to see you, too.

My session partner is Brett Eugene Ralph, a poet and musician who leads the Kentucky Chrome Revue band. Between Brett and my daughter Kelsey, we’re hoping to have a little music to go along with the reading.

Our session is listed as The Every Day in Words-New Voices in Southern Poetry : Brett Eugene Ralph, Kory Wells, in the Capitol Library. See for the full schedule.

I’m in the process of scheduling other readings, both in middle Tennessee and further away – any place there’s a poetry-friendly crowd! I’ll be keeping folks posted about new events. If you’re interested in me giving a reading and/or “talk” or workshop for your group, either in the balance of this year or in 2010, let me know.

My books are not yet in stores or online, but they are in the trunk of my car. Update: see my website for a current list of ways to buy Heaven Was the Moon. And of course they will be at SFOB. If you can’t make SFOB and would like me to mail you a signed copy, the cost is $11 – $9 for the book plus $2 S/H.

Visit the home page on my website for more about the book, including a few nice things Bill Brown, Linda Parsons Marion, and Darnell Arnoult have said about it:

Thanks for joining me in celebrating this little milestone on the journey. I hope to see you soon!

Coming Tuesday: Which Sessions to Attend Other than Kory’s? Our Lady’s Primer and Picks for the Southern Festival of Books