What was the first reading you ever went to? Tell us the author, book, and bookstore on our Facebook page (or, if you’re not a member of Facebook, here on our blog) and we’ll reward two people with an Algonquin book of their choice.
Below, our newest hire–publicist extraordinaire Megan Fishmann–offers up her report on a recent New Stories from the South, 2010 event at Quail Ridge Books.
I’ve never been to Raleigh.
Scratch that. I’ve been to the Raleigh airport once. And now that I think about it, the first weekend I moved here I found myself in the Crabtree Valley Mall, taking part in the $30.00 prime rib special at Flemings. But the Raleigh that I’ve read and heard about, its food and its culture, has been experienced mostly via my computer.
Before I came to Algonquin, I worked at another publishing house in New York City. This meant that I used to set up a lot of book events here in North Carolina. Names like The Regulator and McIntyre’s were exactly just that: names on a page. However, now one of those names–Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh–was going to be a place where I experienced my first Algonquin event.
Algonquin is an intimate company; and by intimate, I mean that we truly are a team. When one author reads, it doesn’t matter if you’re working on the book or not: You not only show up to the reading, you want to show up to the reading. Even on a Monday night. Even on a Monday night, the week before Labor Day weekend.
We drove to Quail Ridge in a caravan, our line of cars snaking down 40 West into the Raleigh traffic. The event on tap was for NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH: 2010. Kathy Pories, the series editor, would lead the discussion and contributors Wells Tower and Aaron Gwyn would read from their collective stories “Retreat” and “Drive.” Wells was a Chapel Hill native. Aaron and his girlfriend would be making the two-hour trek from Charlotte.
People were already milling about by the time we got to Quail Ridge. I found Wells over by the magazines, perusing an issue of Garden and Gun. Aaron swept me into a bear hug when I approached him by the podium. These were friendly writers. These were good writers.
“It’s important,” owner Nancy Olson began, “to remember the independent bookstores. It makes a difference purchasing from them versus the chains. Coming here and supporting us really does matter. We appreciate your being here.” Nancy’s enthusiasm bubbled over and swirled around the packed audience. Kathy stood up and pointed out Ana Alvarez, another Algonquin team member, who previously sifted through hundreds upon hundreds of literary journals and magazines–locating Southern stories in general that Amy Hempel, the guest editor, would later choose for the final collection.
We listened as Wells and Aaron read about sex in cars and feuding brothers, death wishes and purchased mountains. People in the audience raised questions about revising short stories and what made Southern literature particularly Southern. Someone in the front row pointed out Wells’s recent accolades in a certain publication and he blushed. “That’s my dad,” he interrupted. “And I think that’s about enough for now.”
The short story was dissected and soon, it became a group discussion with the audience. The energy level rose as people fought for the short story, for the novel, for physical books, and for independent bookstores. Who could even propose the notion that literature was dead?
The books signed, the chairs put away, we–the authors, the editors, the publicists, and the entourage–trudged over in the darkness to a nearby restaurant where Travis, our waiter, feted us with warm baked bread and mile-high piled burgers. Sated, our plates empty, we slipped back separately into our cars and disappeared into the night.
–Megan Fishmann, Publicist