December has brought two opportunities for book signings. First on December 7, Currie Alexander Powers and I participated in Davis Kidd’s authors’ night series, Home for the Holidays, featuring the anthology Gathering: Writers of Williamson County. This was our first opportunity to take the book across county lines into Nashville. Several people stopped by to chat, we sold a few books, and we claimed the experience of being an “author” at DK.
December 12-13 brought the annual Dickens for a Christmas celebration in downtown Franklin. Characters from Dickens’ stories dress in period costumes, and folks enjoy music and food and displays of life as it was during Dickens’ time. I was thrilled to eat sugar plums and to watch Irish dancing on the stage by City Hall.
CWW hosted a booth this year for the first time. I’d suggested this during our first publicity committee meeting for the book Gathering: Writers of Williamson County — after all, Franklin is home, and Dickens brings 50,000 people to its streets for this weekend event. I thought we’d be able to sell some books. And we did jolly right well at that!
In 2006 I had a vision of publishing an anthology. An old English teacher, I couldn’t seem to get away from encouraging others and empowering them to step to the next level in their work — in this case, writing. I enjoy working with writers, watching them catch the excitement of the written word, standing beside their glowing faces as they see their stories on the pages of a book. I feel blessed to have published the works of 28 writers, myself one of them, some of us already solidly published, some published for the first time. It was a dream come true — for me, for them. I was proud to hear reports of the writers sharing the anthology with their friends, their co-workers, their college bookstores, in their home locations, in the universities they served, in different regions of the country, having their own book signings in their hometown bookstores. What a joy for all! It may sound as though I am tooting my own horn, and maybe I am, but as someone once said, if you don’t, nobody will. It fell to me as editor to set up the local launch party for the book — a mass signing on a Saturday afternoon at the Cool Springs Barnes & Noble with all authors invited. Nineteen were close enough to come. We made store history — the most authors ever in the bookstore, signing at the same time. A story about us was sent out in the B&N corporate newsletter. We still hold the record! (And while I’m tooting, I also hold another store record for my book of essays — most books sold ever at a local author signing. I sold all the books the store ordered, all I had brought in my car, and ended up having to give out vouchers and deliver books to buyers the following week.)
That book was Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology. The writers were veterans of the first year of Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal. Up front, the writers were told how many books they needed to sell in order to recoup their costs of this print-on-demand process. We all had the knowledge needed to be successful. It was up to each individual writer to promote and sell books he/she ordered to claim that success. I think we all made it happen.
While I’m just a lowly English major, I worked as Business Manager of the small company my husband owned. He was an engineer, a UT graduate, with a twenty-year career in management at the Alcoa headquarters in Pittsburgh and an MBA from Pitt. I had someone to run my own business dealings through if I needed to, I learned a lot from him, and a lot is just plain common sense. There are costs of doing business. There are editorial costs; there’s money laid out for artwork and book layout. There’s inventory — the stock of books on hand. It’s a constant seesaw — books ordered, books sold, costs repaid, profits made. It was as much fun to plan the business and marketing aspect of the project as it was to do the gathering and editing of stories.
In 2008 others and I had a vision of publishing an anthology. This anthology, published in 2009, was sponsored by a literary org, CWW, of which I was a member and president at that time. It was all accomplished through committees and members in celebration of CWW’s tenth birthday. It’s a benchmark — a literary work of the literary org of Williamson County. Thirty-one writers are included in the book, some famously published, some published for the first time. The writers are somehow connected to CWW, whether through membership or literary Hall of Fame recipients. The book is a marketing tool for the organization; it contains valuable history of CWW, available to local citizens for the first time. It explains and defines what the organization does; it gives meaning and life to the work of a very small group of people who have labored diligently and sacrificed much over the course of the org’s short life to leave a legacy. It also fulfills the org’s mission: to encourage, educate, and empower writers. A writer’s organization now has its own beautiful book!
This book is Gathering: Writers of Williamson County.
A plan for success was explained to the membership; every detail was spelled out — sell every book of the original order at full price!; status reports were given monthly. CWW ordered books; members ordered books. Excitement ruled as our launch party and purchases the following week generated enough sales to pay for our order. Sales at other events, including the Southern Festival of Books, began to chip away at amounts the leadership considered “costs of doing business.” Individual writers were encouraged to make their own sales calls, to have their own signings in their own corners of the county, to make press contacts and gain publicity for their works — and many did! We were on our way to success!
I am proud to be one of 31 writers in Gathering. I am thankful for the opportunity of serving as co-editor, a thankless job that nobody else wanted, a job that required me to give days and weeks and months to editing stories, making sure the writers shined and voices came through, to ordering the stories, to composing the other components of the book, to writing the Introduction, to putting all the individual stories into one document, ready for a final proof and layout. Yes, it was hard work, and this was precious time I could have applied to my own writing, my own business of editing and publishing, my own work on a state and regional level. I am proud to have had a part in producing this literary legacy for my county and proud to be one small part in this fabulous book that belongs to us all.
Now, I have passed on from leadership and moved onward with my work, I have passed the baton to others, and I had high hopes that they could also catch the vision and view this legacy with favorable eyes for the positive tool it was designed to be and is on track to be, and take it to the Promised Land.
Tomorrow, I am happy to be included in an author gathering at Davis-Kidd in Nashville. I look forward to promoting this anthology of 31 writers and the org that empowered them and gave them voice.
On an August Saturday between two and four, more than two hundred guests showed up at Otey Hall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Franklin, Tennessee, to celebrate the release of a new Williamson County anthology.
“In celebration of our tenth birthday, CWW presents Gathering: Writers of Williamson County as our literary legacy, offering a showcase for the creative works of our members and Hall of Fame honorees — a blend of emerging and established authors. This volume is a gathering of writers, all 31 of them distilled into this one Place in time — those who are homefolks and those who came here with experiences of elsewhere, those who are published and those previously unpublished. ‘Above the slumbers’ of this once-tranquil, now teeming town, their voices rise and mount the hills and ‘ride astride the swells of dwindling pastureland.’ ”
“This volume is a gathering of words and lines that form fiction and creative nonfiction — 42 titles rich in qualities readers treasure in Southern literature: a sense of place and character; a love of the land; an appreciation of language, humor, and tradition.”
This book reflects the richness and depth of talent in Williamson County. It is my hope and desire for Gathering to become an ambassador for this Place we love and live in, and that the book will travel well outside the borders of our county and show and tell who we are.
“May Williamson County be proud to proclaim of our gathering: ‘These too are yet mine.’ ”
I will long remember how Otey Hall buzzed with excitement on a hot Saturday afternoon, as folks flowed in and through and lingered at author tables for signatures. I will remember the energy generated, the smiles and laughter, the support of loved ones and townsfolk, and the shiny cover of a new book that will long be with us!
Gathering. Buy it, give it, treasure it. It is mine, it is yours, it is ours.