A few nights ago, I attended a signing at the wonderful Parnassus Books in Nashville. The signing author was Ariel Lawhon, who was launching her brilliant story chronicling the doomed flight of the Hindenburg, Flight of Dreams. As Ariel and I hugged and kissed hello, bookseller extraordinaire Bill Long-Innes smiled benevolently and asked, “Do you guys have a writer tribe? It seems like Nashville authors really make an effort to support one another. I wonder if any other cities have such a tight knit group?”
Ariel and I nodded, because we do have a tribe here in Nashville.
Our literary community, dubbed the Nashville Literati, is tight. There are cliques within it‑young adult writers in the SCBWI, crime fiction in Sisters in Crime, romance writers in MCWR, literary authors big with Salon 615 and Humanities Tennessee and The Porch Writers’ Collective. But when it comes to supporting another author, we cross genres like a boss. We lunch together. We attend each other’s signings. We hang out in East Nashville at East Side Storytellin’. We pull together all our writing buddies when a writer friend comes to town. We even go on writing retreats together.
And now one constant we all have in common is our indie store, Parnassus. I think the store’s staff has made it such a welcoming, open place for writers of all genres, of all stripes, that we can’t help but want to gather there.
When our beloved former indie, Davis-Kidd, closed its doors in 2010 (and Parnassus didn’t yet exist), it suddenly became much harder to get everyone together. We have the annual Southern Festival of Books, which is always well-represented with local authors. We did lunches and cocktails, drove out to other counties to attend signings, but not having an indie store that represented and celebrated all the writers in town was hard. A town without an indie store is a sad one indeed. It’s been very fun to watch Parnassus take hold in our community, to see stories being made there.
Davis-Kidd had a long history in this town. As a matter of fact, it was one of the reasons I was okay with moving here. When my then boyfriend (now husband) brought me to Nashville in 1993 to meet his parents, he drove me around, and our last stop was Davis-Kidd. “See?” he said. “This is the best bookstore in town. You’ll have plenty to read if we ever move here.”
(I’m not sure if I was more entranced by the idea of books‑books!—or the fact that my boyfriend had just hinted strongly he wanted a long future with me.)
Davis-Kidd was everything you could ask for in a bookstore: great staff, great events, a huge, diverse collection of titles. I attended my very first author signing there (John Connolly! My writing hero!). At that signing, I met a woman who became my other mother, who mentored me through years of writing, getting an agent, getting a deal. I did one of my first signings at David-Kidd. I hit my first bestseller list while I was launching my fourth book there. I attended Sisters in Crime meetings there. I wept with everyone else when it closed.
So to have an indie in our midst again is incredible. The Nashville Literati grows stronger day-by-day, with new writers coming up to join the established ones. And Parnassus is our hub. Several writers are booksellers there (And one co-owns it. You might have heard of her . . . her name is Ann.). This lends a verisimilitude unmatched anywhere else.
Yes, Nashville has a writer tribe, just as strong as Chicago, New York, and L.A. And thanks to our favorite indie, we have a place to call our own, too.
Writer J.T. Ellison lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen critically acclaimed novels, including WHAT LIES BEHIND, WHEN SHADOWS FALL, and ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, and is the coauthor of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Her latest novel, NO ONE KNOWS, is available March 22.