Seven Questions

Seven Questions for Angela Ledgerwood

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we talk to Angela Ledgerwood, host of the popular literary podcast Lit Up, a weekly conversation with some of the world’s most celebrated writers. She’s chatted with Ann Patchett, Maggie Nelson, and Colson Whitehead, with episodes featuring Trevor Noah, Affinity Konar, and Jade Chang on the way. Ledgerwood is also Cosmopolitan’s Books Editor-at-Large, where she’s  interviewed some of her favorite women including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and her writing has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Marie Claire, Interview, and more.

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(Photo credit Sidney Benson)

What books are open on your desk right now?

Siri Hustvedt’s upcoming book, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind and a galley of The Idiot by New Yorker staff writer Elif Batuman. It’s described as a portrait of the artist as a young woman, so I’m intrigued. Human Acts by Han Kang coming out in early ‘17 is there too.

Who is your dream podcast guest, living or dead?

Siri Hustvedt. That dream is coming true later this month. I’ve been amazed by her intellect and the breadth of her knowledge about art, neuroscience, and psychology for many years. My ultimate wish would be to witness Siri, the artist Louise Bourgeois, and Charles Dickens chatting amongst themselves. I’d simply be a fly on the wall.

What emerging author or first book are you most excited about?

I’m eager to read Julie Buntin’s debut novel Marlena, about two girls who go feral and embark on a year that explodes their lives.

the-womanName a book you bought for its cover.

The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir—I’ve still not read it because I think I’m afraid of what I’ll find inside. I look at it daily—one day I’ll take the plunge.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A quiet spot overlooking the ocean on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I’ve never been, but in my fantasy I’d wake early to write and drink coffee from a room overlooking the ocean. A daily swim and walk would be mandatory. As would limited internet.

What strategies do you have for encouraging writers to open up on Lit Up?

I was given excellent advice from a dispute resolution specialist about how to get people to relax in certain situations. Not that the writers I have on are in conflict with me, I hope! Building a rapport begins with eye contact and touch. Often having a casual chat about what’s going on in the world to break the ice is helpful, as is trying to find common ground early in the conversation. I never start with the most personal questions. I have to get a sense of who the person is in front of me and what they’re comfortable with before I delve more deeply.

Lightning round:

Typing or longhand? Typing for work, longhand for pleasure.

Morning or night? Morning.

Coffee or tea? Both!

Beer or wine? Wine.

Mountains or sea? Sea.

Hardcover or paperback? Paperback.

Novel or short story? Novel.

Highlight or underline? Underline.

Seven Questions for Steven Church

img_4064In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we interview Steven Church, whose fiction “Exhibit #8: The Peach Pit Rodeo Half-Time Show (Temporarily Out of Order)” appeared in Ecotone Issue 5 (available to subscribers in the archive). He is the author of The Guinness Book of Me: a Memoir of Record, Theoretical Killings: Essays and Accidents, The Day After The Day After: My Atomic Angst, and Ultrasonic: Essays, and has published in Brevity, The Rumpus, AGNI, Colorado Review, and Creative Nonfiction, among others.

The Normal School is approaching its tenth year. As its co-founder and nonfiction editor, what has surprised you in your work there over the past decade?

Honestly, I’m often surprised it’s still alive and kicking. I mean, when we started the magazine we were ridiculously ambitious, but I’m not sure any of us could’ve imagined that, nearly ten years in, it would have the national reputation that it has, particularly in nonfiction. The best, most surprising thing, though, are the regular surprises I get as an editor. It’s just really fun to discover an essay in my “to read” pile that just blows me away; and I feel extremely lucky to get the opportunity to help shepherd the writing of others into the world.

Name a book you bought for its cover.

I don’t know if I bought it for its cover, but Nick Flynn’s first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, with that title and the strikingly cool black and green first cover for the book, with the tree, really appealed to me. I still like looking at it. I’m still bummed they reissued it with a new title and cover.

img_3616Your fifth book of nonfiction, One with the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters between Humans and Animals, comes out November 15. It explores the liminal space separating being human and being animal. What fascinates you about the distinction, or lack there of, between us?

I supposed one of the things that fascinates me about the distinction between human and animal is that, like genre in literature, it is both meaningless AND meaningful. It’s a boundary that shifts depending on the circumstances and our desires; and perhaps it’s a boundary that is drawn most sharply in moments of inter-species violence and savagery (also true with genre). Maybe the biggest difference between us is that humans have a more expansive morality, shaped by considerations beyond survival; and in these sublime moments of violence, that expansiveness collapses and we are faced with only one morality—the morality, or lack thereof, that a grizzly bear or a tiger lives by. The book takes the story of David Villalobos as a jumping off point for a consideration of what it means to not only court a violent interaction with an apex predator and the desire to “cross over,” but also what it means to obsess over these archetypal stories of savagery.

If you could adopt an animal you’ve encountered in literature, which one would you choose and why?

That’s a tough one, but I’d probably have to go with Frightful, the peregrine falcon from the novel, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, if only because of the nostalgic place that book holds in my heart. I loved the book as a kid and was inspired by it to live in the woods some day with my own pet falcon. It sounds silly, but I wasn’t alone. The protagonist of the novel, Sam Gribley, leaves his family home in NYC voluntarily and retreats to the woods in upstate New York to live off the land. Growing up in the 70s and the Reagan 80s, this kind of escape from the wider world seemed like a pretty good plan.

When do you feel most confident as a writer?

I mean, it’s nice to see your work in print. It feels good. But I’m not sure there’s a bigger rush of confidence or excitement than what I feel when I think I’ve nailed a great sentence. I’ve been known to fist-pump and whoop to myself when I get it right, when the words seem to do exactly as I want them to. These are often rare and fleeting moments, but I think they’re the reason I keep going.

You have a superpower: You can immediately give to every person on earth one piece of information. What is it?

I’m not sure that’s a superpower. It feels more like a curse . . . ONE piece of “information”? I’m waffling between a return to the existentialists (i.e. God is dead, radical subjectivity and freedom, etc.) or a return to 80s pop culture (i.e. primarily quotes from the movie, Red Dawn), both of which seem oddly relevant to our current political climate. So let’s go with a mash-up of the two: “God is dead, we’re all radically subjective humans responsible for making meaning and morality, and all that hate is gonna burn you up, even if does keep you warm inside. Wolverines!”

Lightning round:

Coffee or Tea? Coffee, of course. Now, please.

Morning or night? Morning.

Typing or longhand? Sadly, typing now . . . but there was a time when all first drafts were longhand.

Earthquakes or hurricanes? Earthquakes.

Music or quiet? Music.

Highlight or underline? Underline.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Dog-ear (even if I scold my kids for doing it)

Steven Church is also the Founding Editor and Nonfiction Editor of The Normal School. If you’re not reading and submitting, get with it. This fantastic literary magazine, a staple on bookshelves for almost a decade, coming out of California State University at Fresno, where Steven teaches in the MFA program. In anticipation of his new book of nonfiction, One with the Tiger: Sublime and Violent Encounters between Humans and Animal, we tracked down Steven for a Seven Questions. One with the Tiger hits shelves Nov. 8, 2016.

Seven Questions for Erik Reece

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we feature Erik Reece, whose story, “A Week on the Kentucky River: Reading Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Which Nobody Reads Anymore (But Should)“ appears in Ecotone’s tenth anniversary issue. Reece’s work also appears in Harper’s magazine, the Nation, and Orion. He is the author of two books of nonfiction and one collection of poetry. His book Utopia Drive, about the promise, failure, and enduring visions of utopian communities throughout U.S. history, is forthcoming form Farrar, Straus and Giroux in August.

Erik Reece - photo - taken by Lee Thomas

(photo by Lee Thomas)

What books are open on your desk right now?

Thomas More’s Utopia, because this year is its five-hundredth anniversary and I’m supposed to write something about that. Joseph Stroud’s excellent collected poems, Of This World. Robert Bullard’s Dumping In Dixie. A few old notebooks.

Apart from the week you spent on the Kentucky River and the boat you built, are there other ways you have attempted to bring aspects of Thoreau’s life into your own?

I raise a large garden and I know how to make raisin bread.

Where did the idea for your essay in Ecotone come from?

Honestly, I just wanted to find a way to get more people to read that book. And I think I was looking for a way to write about the poetry of wooden boats, and wooden boat-making. I was rereading A Week when I was building my boat, and I’m sure the idea for the essay took root then. Plus, I just love to read in my boat (I’m not much of a fisherman; I don’t like the hours).

But to float and loaf, Whitman-style, that’s my jam. So I wanted to communicate that satisfaction of reading an “unroofed book” in an unroofed place where the kingfishers of the text found their counterparts in the kingfishers alighting around me on the river. Each amplified the other to make both the experience of reading and the experience of floating much more intense.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. All Syrian refugees would be welcomed, and given ample water and provisions. Who knows, perhaps we would try to enact the blueprint of Plato’s Republic. But with poets. Our constitution and national anthem would be Auden’s “In Praise of Limestone.”

Name a book you bought for its cover.

Probably Edward Weston’s Book of Nudes. And not just for the cover.

alimon_brightdeadthingsWhat emerging author or first book are you most excited about?

Ada Limón’s book of poems, Bright Dead Things. It is an incredibly big-hearted collection that will—should—establish her as a major American poet. And it also have a very cool cover.

Lightning round:

Typing or longhand? Longhand in the morning, typing in the afternoon—and at night if necessary.

Whitewater or flat water? Since I almost drowned on whitewater last year, flat water for a while.

Morning or night? See above.

E-reader or print? As John McEnroe would say, you can’t be serious.

Vowel or consonant? Ohio is the most beautiful word in the American language. Draw your own conclusions.

Canoe or kayak? Whichever has the most beer in it. So, canoe.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark, usually a parking ticket from the intolerant campus police where I teach.

Cake or pie? Ice cream.

Mountains or sea? If I decide, mountains; if my wife decides, sea. 

Seven Questions for Jamie Poissant

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we talk to Jamie Poissant, whose essay “The Story of a Year” appears in Ecotone’s tenth anniversary issue. His debut short story collection, The Heaven of Animals, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2014 and is just fantastic. Jamie is also just an all-around great guy and model literary citizen. Seriously. Follow him on Facebook–he’s the best.

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What books are open on your desk right now?

I read so many things all at once, it’s embarrassing. I just reread Molly Antopol’s The UnAmericans and James Salter’s Last Night, both of which I’m teaching this semester, along with John McNally’s book on writing, Vivid & Continuous. I’m reading several novels, including Magnus Mill’s The Maintenance of Headway and Andrei Codrescu’s The Poetry Lesson, and I keep dipping in and out of a few different story collections, including Shawn Vestal’s Godforsaken Idaho and Danielle Evans’s Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. Next up in my pile are Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies and Percival Everett’s Half an Inch of Water.

If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?

My favorite novel of all time is The Great Gatsby. I’ve read it a dozen times. And I understand, toward the end, that Tom and Gatsby have to switch cars for the plot to carry forward. But that moment always feels forced to me, contrived. I wish Fitzgerald had found a better way to handle the car swap. Even as a power play, it seems out of character for Tom to want to drive Gatsby’s car or for Gatsby to let Tom drive it. The only real explanation is that Myrtle has to mistake Gatsby’s car for Tom’s at the end. It’s a plot device that could have been handled more gracefully, in my opinion. Otherwise, the novel—again, in my opinion—is pretty much perfect.

What emerging author or first book are you most excited about?

My answer to that question changes every week! The best thing about literature right now is that there are so many beautiful debuts every month, and the range of voices is expanding and becoming more inclusive, which is exciting to watch. I have not read it yet, but I have my eye on Claire Vaye Watkins’ first novel, Gold Fame Citrus, which was just published last year. (Her first collection, Battleborn, blew me away.) I’m also looking forward to Shann Ray’s first novel, American Copper, which was published this past November.

61KVY5YWMJL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_Name a book you bought for its cover.

Padgett Powell’s Aliens of Affection. The paperback has a picture of a frog copied nine times, so it makes for a really trippy cover.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Paris. Or Iceland. My wife and I spent a week in Paris this summer and, clichéd as it may be to say, we absolutely fell in love with the city. Alternatively, Iceland is a place I’ve never been, but I’m obsessed with the idea of going there someday. The pictures I’ve seen are stunning. The landscape is lush. The architecture is gorgeous. I imagine it would be an inspiring place to live and write.

How well do you have to know a place, if at all, to recreate it in writing?

Place is essential to my fiction, and all of my settings are presented exactly as I remember them. Once I visit a place, it never leaves me. Even after spending only an hour or two somewhere, I can usually call it up pretty quickly. My wife remains a little freaked out by how my memory works. For example, when we were in Paris, I really grew attached to this one painting at the Musee d’Orsay. A few weeks later, I couldn’t recall the name of the painting or the painter who painted it. But, I could remember the floor and the room where we saw the painting (out of several floors and many, many rooms). So, I went to the museum’s website, navigated the online floorplan, and there it was, the painting, right where I’d left it. I don’t know what this says about me. I wish my spatial memory translated to, like, being better at math or finances, but no such luck.

Lightning round!

Morning or night? I hope you’re asking about writing. If so, morning.

Hardcover or paperback? Both! I love to collect hardbacks, but I also love what publishers are doing these days with paperback originals, especially the high quality ones with French flaps and deckled edges. I’m a sucker for book design.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Bookmark, but always an improvised bookmark (index card, sugar packet, toilet paper). I don’t think I’ve owned a real bookmark in my life.

Highlight or underline? Underline. With double underlines when something really speaks to me.

Novel or short story? Both. Novellas, too! Plus, I actually read a lot of poetry, though I seldom write it.

Coffee or tea? Coffee all day long.

Dog or cat? A thousand times dog.

Sandals or slippers? Sandals, but only at the beach. Say what you will, but I’m definitely a shoes and socks kind of guy.

Team Edward or Team Jacob? I don’t know what that means. Okay, of course I know what that means, but I forget which one’s the wolf and which is the vampire. I like wolves, so Team Wolf? Sounds like Teen Wolf. Now there was a movie.

Seven Questions for Barbara Hurd

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we talk to Barbara Hurd, whose essay “The Ear Is a Lonely Hunter” captivated us when it crossed our desks for Ecotone’s sound-themed Issue 20. Hurd teaches in the MFA in Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction, Sierra Club’s National Nature Writing Award, and three Pushcart Prizes. Hurd’s writing launches into meditation from landscapes (caves, bogs) and animals (bats, sea stars).

barbara hurd photo

What books are open on your desk right now?

Loren Eiseley’s Night Country, Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature, Louise Gluck’s Wild Iris, and another half dozen or so.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’d stay right at my desk. I love to travel but I work best at home.  

If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change one word of the book itself, but I’d wish that the course of environmental history since 1962 would allow us to reclassify Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring as a good science fiction book whose worries would have turned out to be needless. In other words, I wish the book weren’t still so devastatingly accurate.

518aF2u95AL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_-1Your book, Listening to the Savage: River Notes and Half-Heard Melodies, was released in March and another of your titles, Tidal Rhythms: Change and Resilience at the Edge of the Sea, will come out later this year. What can readers expect from these books?

Though both books have undercurrents of worry about environmental degradation, I hope for the reader certain pleasures come first: the pleasures of language, of imaginative musings, of immersion in sensual details of the natural world, and the conundrums of how to live a moral life in such a damaged world.

One of the challenges of writing Listening to the Savage was how to weave the sensibility of a quirky child—my granddaughter, who pretends efts are dragons and is delighted by mud– with my own increasing worries. It was tough and has made me want to think more about how to genuinely be with children in endangered places we cherish.

The Tidal Rhythms book was a stimulating opportunity to work with a master photographer, Stephen Strom. Because I had no interest in merely writing captions, the challenge in that project was to see the tidal regions as he saw them through his camera’s lens, to re-see them through my own lens, and then to re-see them once again through the lens of climate change impact.

So both books, I hope, offer readers the sense of multiple ways of seeing simultaneously, which is, I suspect, how we usually experience the world.

How would you describe the relationship between your writing and environmental activism?

One of the aims of almost all environmental activism is the preservation of biodiversity. Equally crucial, I would maintain, are diversity of voices and ways of calling attention to the natural world. We need the scientists, journalists, activists, etc. to research, testify, protest, publish data, lead inquiries—all the actions that might clarify and perhaps alter what’s happening to our local and global communities. And we need the artists, too–musicians, writers, etc. whose work probes the hidden thoughts and the complex responses of the heart that are so often so difficult to express, which can also clarify what’s happening. We need them to sing the songs and tell the stories that can help us to see the present more clearly and to imagine possible futures.

Though I do some minor work with a local environmental group, my primary labor is with the written word. If the natural world is endangered, in part, because of our willingness to manipulate and exploit it for various political and economic reasons, I’d say language is endangered for similar reasons. Its precision is often diluted and its pleasures twisted for purposes of advertising and group-think. Part of my job as a writer—and reader–is to try to resist that degradation and to see whether the effort of paying scrupulous attention to one may enhance our attention to the other.

When do you feel most confident as a writer?

When that pesky sentence finally becomes clear and graceful and says what I didn’t know I was trying to say.

You have a superpower: You can immediately give to every person on earth one piece of information. What is it?

Everything’s connected. Everything changes. Pay attention. (Oh, wait. That’s three pieces of information. But they’re all connected. )

Lightning round:

Typing or longhand? First longhand and then typing.

Silence or music? Silence, so long as it’s not deafening.

Morning or night? Morning.

E-reader or print? Print! I love the physicality of books.

Vowel or consonant? Diphthong.

Train or plane? Train.

Bookmark or dog-ear? Dog ear, which I also use to mark pages—no matter how many–that I want to return to.

Cake or pie? Pie.

Bog or cave? Bog—it has better sounds.

Sea star or bat? Sea star.

Seven Questions for the Country Bookshop

In mid-September, Lookout Books and author Matthew Neill Null went to the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) conference, held in Raleigh, NC. There, we had the privilege of meeting and talking to many booksellers from across the South. At the conference, one of our staffers sat down and chatted with Kimberly Daniels Taws, owner of the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC. Earlier in the week, Matthew Neill Null had led a workshop on writing historical fiction at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities as part of his North Carolina tour, and the Country Bookshop sponsored a book signing after the event. We had such a good time meeting Kimberly, hearing about her store, and then taking a trip to see it, so we were grateful to sit down with her again at SIBA to get all of the official details about books, Southern Pines, and quarkbeasts.

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The Country Bookshop was founded in 1953, and when Kimberly bought the store in 2010, she resurrected the original logo, which she found in newspaper ads. She also shared with us how successful Honey from the Lion has been at the Country Bookshop, hopping right into the top spot for paperback fiction sales after our visit.

book-talk-dry-augusten-burroughsName a book you bought for its cover.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs. It’s dry, but it’s dripping wet. It’s fabulous, just so well done.

What are some of the qualities that make the Country Bookshop unique?

Probably the town. Southern Pines is a hidden gem of a town. A lot of places try to recreate what our town is organically. It has guitar shop and a cheese shop, a wine shop, a bike shop, a knitting shop, an art gallery, two coffee shops, a great independent theatre, an ice cream shop, tons of women’s dress shops, and a toy shop. There are great restaurants, all within the two blocks of our cute downtown. It’s walkable. And the North Carolina Literary Hall of fame is there in Weymouth.

If you could adopt any fictional animal, which one would you choose and why?

Like a snuffalufagus? I read this book, The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde. I needed something different. This girl, she was an orphan and became an indentured slave to this house of wizardry. And she has a quarkbeast. So, a quarkbeast.

9781594634475_custom-a1c60d0db7c4d3d9fce99ec338b463c8ea95ca03-s400-c85What book are you recommending most to customers right now?

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

It changes the way you look at things. Like how you and I could be sitting here but we would have totally different experiences. It hammers down on that kind of different experience and it is mind-blowing.

What songs are on your store’s playlist?  

Funny enough I do not regulate the music. It’s based on mood and whoever gets there first. The Pandora stations we are listening to are Jimmy Buffett and Macy Gray. I usually put on Tedeschi Trucks. And jazz. We like to keep it varied.

What do you see as the Country Bookshop’s role in the community?

We are one of the oldest consistent storefronts. So the continuity and the stability as the town has evolved is something greater than the shop. Our goal is really to make our town a literary destination. There are stories: F. Scott Fitzgerald used to come here on the train, and townspeople would have to help him stumble his way up to Weymouth from the station. As locals, we all know those stories, but if somebody is coming through the town, they are not going to know it and they would never see your town as the place where these stories happen. So to make that accessible, I think is one goal and then to advertise our town as this destination is our job.

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Lightning Round:

Coffee or tea? coffee

Hard cover or paperback? hardcover. And let me preface that with an autographed first-edition hardcover.

Vowel or consonant? vowel

Highlight or underline? underline

Bookmark or dog-ear? dog-ear. I’ve worked for a long time with older people and their books, and one of my favorite things is how books have been used.

Train or plane? plane

Cake or pie? pie

Mountains or sea? sea

Dog or cat?  dog

Seven Questions for Quail Ridge Books

This week on our virtual road trip, we’re visiting Quail Ridge Books just up the road in Raleigh, NC. Since 1984, Quail Ridge has served readers across the Triangle and beyond with its thoughtful selection of books, author events, and book clubs, as well as a sumptuous rack of literary magazines! Their knowledgeable and friendly staff is always eager to help customers.

Helen Stewart, who generously answered our questions, has been the floor manager at Quail Ridge Books & Music for an impressive twenty years. As she reminded us, “What other job would have given me the chance to meet Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright, Rick Atkinson, Rick Bragg, and Pat Conroy!”

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Quail Ridge’s author portrait gallery, a.k.a. their famous bathroom

What are some of the qualities that make Quail Ridge unique?

We have been in business for thirty-one years. We have a big atlas case of award-winning books with current and past winners of all major book awards—Pulitzer, Nobel, NBA, Edgar, etc. It’s near the front of the store. We keep the current winners as well as the past winners in stock. And we have a fireplace! And big comfortable chairs!

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Seven Questions for Hub City

Next stop on our virtual road trip: Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC. Unique among the stores we visited, this store is also home to a thriving independent press and literary arts organization. Founded in 1995 by a trio of writers who wanted to preserve a sense of place in their rapidly changing Southern city, the Hub City Writers Project hosts workshops and a summer writers conference, contributing to the vibrant literary scene in Spartanburg.

The award-winning Hub City Press publishes high-quality works with an emphasis on the Southern experience. Celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year, they’ve included more than five hundred writers in sixty-six books, aided in renovating several historic buildings, and provided residencies and scholarships to emerging writers. The bookstore itself is the result of a renovation of the eighty-three-year-old Masonic Temple in Spartanburg’s blooming downtown.

Lookout’s publisher, Emily Louise Smith, was the organization’s inaugural writer-in-residence in 2006, and its deputy director, Meg Reid, was one of Lookout’s first, faithful staff members. All to say, we’re big fans of this organization and the terrific work they do.

We spoke with the charming Anne Waters, bookshop manager, to learn what all the hubbub’s about.

 

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The Hub City crew, including founders John Lane and Betsy Teter (front and center) and Meg Reid, Anne Waters, Michel Stone, and Rachel Richardson

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Seven Questions for Parnassus Books

After returning from this year’s Winter Institute, where we met hundreds of dedicated booksellers from across the country, we decided to take a virtual road trip to learn more about their stores. For the next several weeks, our interview series, Seven Questions, will spotlight some of our favorites—including Parnassus Books, Quail Ridge Books, and Hub City Bookshop, among others. You just don’t find better people than the good folks who own and work at them.

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The impressive book selection at Parnassus

Parnassus Books, which opened in 2011, is named after the sacred Grecian mountain known for its poetry, song, and knowledge. And the Nashville bookstore is indeed a home for literature and learning, with regular author readings and weekly story-time events for children. Co-owned by bestselling author Ann Patchett and publishing veteran Karen Hayes, the beautiful store offers an intimate and thoughtful selection of books.

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Seven Questions for Cary Holladay

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we welcome Cary Holladay to the blog. Her story “Horse People” first appeared in Ecotone’s evolution issue and was reprinted in New Stories from the South 2009. It now has a home in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

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What books are open on your desk right now?

American Hipster: A Life of Herbert Huncke, The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired the Beat Movement, by Hilary Holladay, my younger sister.

Where did the idea for “Horse People,” your story in Astoria to Zion, come from?

A story my father told when he was old, or as he put it, “way up in years.” He kept saying, “When I was about eight, my father took me to get a cook. We rode on horses, way back in the woods.” The cook, Philip, was a young black man from a big family. He cooked for my father’s family for fifty years. That recollection, together with what I knew of my father’s life, Philip’s life, and of the place—Rapidan, Virginia—became “Horse People.”

If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?

Barren Ground, a novel by Ellen Glasgow, published in 1925, is a wonderful story of a woman’s triumph over failed love and rejection. Hardworking protagonist Dorinda Oakley becomes a successful dairy farmer. However, she ossifies into a joyless Lady Bountiful. I’d change the ending so she finally falls in love again and has fun.

Which fictional character would you choose to go on a road trip with, and where would you go?

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