2019 southern book prize

READ THIS! BOOKS WITH STREET CRED...

The Secrets We Kept by Lara PrescottThis is the story of a covert operation to smuggle the banned manuscript of Doctor Zhivago out of the Soviet Union and into print. It’s a story of art and power, identity and trust. Perfect for fans of The Americans or anyone who likes a page-turner.

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott ($26.95*, Knopf), recommended by Parnassus Books, Nashville, NC.

*List price. Store price may vary.

THE LATEST FROM LADY BANKS' COMMONPLACE BOOK...

by Andrea Bobotis,
author of The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt

MiddlemarchTo the LighthouseThe WavesThe Complete PoemsRemains of the Day
GileadElizabeth StroutCall of the Wild and White FangCold MountainUnderground Railroad

Middlemarch by George Eliot
At heart, I’m a Victorianist. Give me a baggy nineteenth-century British novel any day. This classic taught me how to apply a sympathetic imagination to characters (and people), even the loathsome ones.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The emotional eloquence of this novel can’t be overstated. I learned how to grieve from Woolf’s masterpiece.

The Waves by Virginia Woolf
When I started to write seriously, in my twenties, I was writing poetry exclusively, but I had the itch to write fiction. Woolf’s book, with its extended and evocative descriptions of light and shadow, showed me that I didn’t have to choose between the two genres.

The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 byElizabeth Bishop
Bishop’s poems are dazzling in their range. Bishop evokes a guarded woundedness while electrifying us with her formal stamina. Her poem “The Filling Station” taught me more than most novels have about how to work with narrative voice.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This novel sparked my enduring love of first-person narration. Ishiguro masterfully employs the mechanics of first person so that the narrative itself teaches us how to read Stevens, the voice guiding us through the novel.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
For me, this novel is tied with Robinson’s Housekeeping, but my mind drifts to Gilead again and again because of its first-person narrator, Reverend John Ames. This was the first novel I read in which I fully understood that, while villains might be fascinating and instructive, there is much to be gained by following the path of a virtuous mind.  

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
In this book, in all her books, Strout showed me it was possible to elevate characterization to a form of grace. Her scrupulously observed details about her characters reveal her deep and abiding compassion for them.  

The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London
As I child, I loved adventure tales. These two London books were childhood favorites. I wanted to live inside of them, to be those characters, human and animal alike. These books marked the first time I understood how transporting literature could be.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
About every month or so, I think about the moment when Ada Monroe scoops her two fingers into a jar of blackberry jam and dips them into her mouth. And while Frazier’s use of language is captivating and swoon-worthy (he might just be a genius with metaphor), I admire how the novel is also suspicious of its own luscious language, how words can paper over violence.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This novel has most recently changed the way I look at both fiction and the world around me. I’m still processing its brilliance, especially the reach of the book’s narrative voice, in which allegory and realism coexist and the sweep of history makes room for the intimate. Whitehead has such formal command of his novel that his gorgeous prose doesn’t mitigate the horrors of slavery, but instead sears that horror onto the page.

Andrea BobotisAndrea BobotisAndrea Bobotis was born and raised in South Carolina and received her PhD in English Literature from the University of Virginia. Her fiction has received awards from the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, and her essays on Irish writers have appeared in journals such as Victorian Studies and the Irish University Review. She lives with her family in Denver, Colorado, where she teaches creative writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is her debut novel.

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FROM THE NEWEST CROP OF FRESH OKRA PICKS...

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The Substitution Order by Martin Clark Kevin Moore, once a high-flying Virginia attorney, hits rock bottom after an inexplicably tumultuous summer leaves him disbarred and separated from his wife. Short on cash and looking for work, he lands in the middle of nowhere with a job at SUBstitution, the world's saddest sandwich shop. His closest confidants: a rambunctious rescue puppy and the twenty-year-old computer whiz manning the restaurant counter beside him. He's determined to set his life right again, but the troubles keep coming. And when a bizarre, mysterious stranger wanders into the shop armed with a threatening ""invitation"" to join a multimillion-dollar scam, Kevin will need every bit of his legal savvy just to stay out of prison.

A remarkable tour of the law's tricks and hidden trapdoors, The Substitution Order is both wise and ingenious, a wildly entertaining novel that will keep you guessing--and rooting for its tenacious hero--until the very last page."

Knopf | 9780525656326 | The Substitution Order by Martin Clark

FROM THE 2019 SOUTHERN BOOK PRIZE...

 

The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table by Rick Bragg

 2019 Southern Book Prize Winner: Nonfiction

From the beloved, best-selling author of All Over but the Shoutin', a delectable, rollicking food memoir, cookbook, and loving tribute to a region, a vanishing history, a family, and, especially, to his mother. Including seventy-four mouthwatering Bragg family recipes for classic southern dishes passed down through generations.

Margaret Bragg does not own a single cookbook. She measures in "dabs" and "smidgens" and "tads" and "you know, hon, just some." She cannot be pinned down on how long to bake corn bread ("about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the mysteries of your oven"). Her notion of farm-to-table is a flatbed truck. But she can tell you the secrets to perfect mashed potatoes, corn pudding, redeye gravy, pinto beans and hambone, stewed cabbage, short ribs, chicken and dressing, biscuits and butter rolls. Many of her recipes, recorded here for the first time, pre-date the Civil War, handed down skillet by skillet, from one generation of Braggs to the next. In The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg finally preserves his heritage by telling the stories that framed his mother's cooking and education, from childhood into old age. Because good food always has a good story, and a recipe, writes Bragg, is a story like anything else.

The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table by Rick Bragg (Knopf)

BUY FROM A SOUTHERN INDIE

SOUTHERN BOOKS | AUTHORS | LITERARY NEWS...

Wiley CashWiley Cash, the New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind than Home, This Dark Road to Mercy, and The Last Ballad, has been selected to receive the 2020 Conroy Legacy Award. Created in honor of the example set by the beloved Southern author Pat Conroy, the Conroy Legacy Award recognizes writers who have achieved a lasting impact on their literary community, demonstrated support for independent bookstores both in their own communities and in general, created written work that focuses significantly on their home place, and supported other writers, especially new and emerging writers. 

“We are so delighted to see that booksellers have chosen Wiley Cash as their Conroy Legacy Award Recipient,” said Wanda Jewell, Executive Director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, which oversees the Award. “Wiley is a generous southern friend to bookstores and writers.”

In addition to his novels, Cash is the creator of the Open Canon Book Club, which seeks to introduce readers to “voices and portrayals of the American experience they may not have otherwise encountered” and which is supported by independent bookstores in the South and nationwide. He is also a founder of The Land More Kind Appalachian Artists Residency, a week-long residency program for writers, visual artists, musicians, songwriters, and photographers who are either from Appalachia or devoted to creating art representative of the region.

"Pat [Conroy] was one of those successful writers who was also pushing others ahead of him,” said Cash when he was told he would receive the award,  “I've heard story after story from writers whose work he shouldered and shared with the world. He did that for me. We all need to do that for the writers who are coming behind us. He didn't pull the ladder up. He reached a hand down." 

Of the role the Southern independent bookstore community has played in his career, Cash was emphatic: “It's only because the independent bookstores and booksellers embraced my debut that my books have had the success they've had. Indie bookstores put me on the literary map, and they've kept me there. Independent bookstores are the literary, social, cultural, intellectual, and ethical lifeblood of our communities. We go to indie stores to meet authors, discover books, discuss ideas, find community, exchange new ideas and challenge old ones."

A Land More Kind That HomeThis Dark Road to MercyThe Last Ballad

Suzanne Lucey, co-owner of Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC says the regard goes both ways: “We had Wiley to our store and for each book sold he donated a dollar from his own pocket to send to the ACLU. Who does that?”  

“He also has asked to do a writing class at our store,” she added, “and applauded a Clay County, NC high school teacher for introducing Appalachian writers like Ron Rash and David Joy. He really is trying from the bottom up to make our state and country better.”

SIBA will make a donation to the Pat Conroy Literary Center and to the UNC Asheville Foundation in the name of Wiley Cash.

Books by Wiley Cash

  • A Land More Kind Than Home (2012)
  • This Dark Road to Mercy (2014)
  • The Last Ballad (2017)

For more information visit SIBA at sibaweb.com

John ShoreI needed a job, badly. I was as broke as Wimpy on a Monday. (Young people: google “Popeye the Sailor,” and enjoy learning about that cartoon character’s pal, Wimpy, who was clearly a homeless alcoholic.)

I was also living with a girl named Cat, with whom I was swooningly in love. So I was fairly desperate to prove to Cat that I was the kind of man upon whom she could always depend to at least be a stoner with a JOB.

We were living in San Francisco. There was only one place in that whole city where I wanted to work: the venerable, three-story, glass-fronted independent bookstore in the heart of downtown called Stacey’s.

But the people who worked at Stacey’s seemed to have as much in common with me as I did with David Niven. (Young people: David Niven was . . . oh, forget it.) They were serious, bonafide, hardcore intellectuals. They knew things. They knew a lot about a lot, and were no doubt learning more every day.

Meanwhile, the last thing I had learned was how to open a beer bottle with my teeth. (The key to which, in case you’re wondering, is to deeply and truly give up finding your bottle opener.)

What a young and/or lost person needs most is people around them who have given themselves over to something greater than themselves. And that’s what I found when I entered the world of independent bookstores.

But I told myself that the people who worked at Stacey’s, for all of their formidable gravitas, were lovers of books and words. Well, I was a freak for books, and felt born to be a writer. I used those two rods o’ truth to stir up the pot of courage I needed to walk into that bibliophile’s Disneyland, and ask for a job application.

That night, in neat little letters, I wrote on literally every blank micro-inch of that application. When it was finished, my “Please Hire Me” manifesto looked like an experiment to see how much ink a typical sheet of paper can absorb before it disintegrates.

Having taken in both sides of my mondo-missive, Cat said, “Well, they’ll call you, or they’ll call the police.”

Luckily, they called me. And before I knew it, I was working with three other guys in the shipping and receiving department at Stacey’s, where I spent my days preparing new books to be wheeled out onto the sales floor, ogling publishers’ catalogs, and rushing to be the first to open the latest case in from Random House or Simon & Schuster.

It was 1980. I was 21 years old. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know where I belonged. I’d spent the previous year being a working student at San Francisco State University, and the year before that working the graveyard shift at a chewing gum factory. I couldn’t see one day into my own future.

I wasn’t exactly prepared for life, is the short of it.

I knew I loved Cat (to whom I’ve been happily married since 1981); I knew I loved books; I knew I was a writer. Beyond that, life for me was all it could be, which was basically a brilliant, blinding fog.

Over the next few years I worked at Stacey’s and one other independent bookstore. Those were the two jobs that saved my life. Because they took an idea I had—which was that books and writing, in and of themselves, were worthy of dedicating one’s life to—and made it real.

Today it’s so obvious: of course books and writing are worth dedicating one’s life to. But back then, I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t sure of anything having to do with the relationship between life and purpose, life and will, life and hope.

Everywhere She's NotBut being around so many books—and mostly being around so many people who had made their passion for books foundational to their lives—changed all of that.

What a young and/or lost person needs most is people around them who have given themselves over to something greater than themselves. And that’s what I found when I entered the world of independent bookstores.

The people who worked in those stores cared. They cared about ideas. They cared about literature, about history, about sociology and science and art. They cared about how positively books can affect the lives of children.

They cared about understanding the world. And through their caring they helped me to understand not just the world, but my place in it.

I moved from working in independent bookstores, to writing for magazines and newspapers, to editing and ghostwriting books, to writing “Everywhere She’s Not,” a novel about a lost young man living in San Francisco in 1980 (whom, we learn in the final chapter, has landed a job at — you guessed it! — Stacey’s).

It’s possible that if things go well with “Everywhere,” I’ll soon be visiting independent bookstores throughout the South. That will of course be so good for sales. But, even more than that, I know how much good going into each and every one of those stores will be for my soul.

--------

John Shore is the author of “Everywhere She’s Not,” and writes a popular advice column for “The Asheville Citizen Times” newspaper.

Bobbie PyronConstance Lombardo talks with Bobbie Pyron

Bobbie Pyron’s sixth middle grade novel, Stay, publishes on August 13. An NC resident as of last year, Bobbie is an incredible writer with a strong voice. Dogs are frequently featured in her novels (including Stay.) I once heard Bobbie refer to herself as a dog savant, so…:

CL: Why ‘dog savant,’ and what are the origins of your puppy love?

BP: Ha! I call myself a “dog savant” because I know pretty much every dog breed out there. When I was about nine, my mom bought us a set of World Book encyclopedias, which we could not afford. Being the passionate reader I am, I spent many hours reading and re-reading the section on Dogs in the D volume and studying the illustrations of all the different breeds. Like anything you learn at a young age, it stuck!

CL: Stay has received a starred review from Kirkus, it’s a Junior Library Selection, and an Okra pick. Did you know Stay would be a winner?

BP: You hope, hope, hope all your books will be “winners.” But all you can do as a writer is write what’s in your heart. That being said, it’s a pretty safe bet that a book featuring an adorable dog named Baby is going to get a little attention.

CL: Your move to the South from Utah is a kind of homecoming, right?

BP: Yes, I’m definitely a southern gal—sweet tea, pimento cheese sandwiches, and screened in porches! Utah was very good to me: my professional life as a public librarian really took off there, I made great friends, met my husband there, and wrote all my books there. But it never felt like home, even after 30 years. The minute I came back to western North Carolina, I felt right back home.

"I think kids are interested in the world in a way teens and adults aren’t."

Stay by Bobbie PyronCL: Stay deals with big topics, i.e., homelessness and mental illness. Why is it important to write about meaty issues?

BP: I think kids are interested in the world in a way teens and adults aren’t. If STAY makes just one reader look differently at someone living on the streets, or maybe the kid in their class who lives in a shelter, I’ll be very happy. I also want kids who live in shelters with their family, or whose life is touched by mental illness, to feel less alone when they read STAY.

CL: Stay switches POV between 12 year old Piper and a dog named Baby. Why did you choose to write Baby’s chapters in free verse?

BP: It seemed to me that dogs probably think this way: spare, yet with a lot of emotion and sensory detail too. And of course, in the present tense. Once I got going on it, it just worked!

CL: Your dog, Sherlock, became a Facebook sensation when he became separated from you during a hike and went missing for seven days. Was Sherlock inspired by your book A Dog’s Way Home?

BP: LOL, I think Sherlock was “inspired” to go off on his own in the woods by some intriguing scent! But yes, the irony was not lost on me that my life was imitating my art. My book A DOG’S WAY HOME, is about a Shetland sheepdog (sheltie) who gets separated from his family on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and has many harrowing adventures finding his way home. Like Tam in A DOG’S WAY HOME, Sherlock did make it home, thanks to the kindness of strangers.

CL: Why write for kids?

BP: When kids love a book, they love it passionately. They will write you long emails (and actual letters decorated with glitter) telling you exactly why they loved your book and the characters. And really, don’t you find that the books you remember best are the ones you read between the age of, like, eight and twelve?


Bobbie Pryon has worked in libraries and bookstores in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah and has been active in local animal rescue work for many years. She’s the author of A Pup Called Trouble, A Dog’s Way Home, and Stay. Bobbie lives in Ashville, NC, with her husband, Todd, and their dog, Sherlock. www.bobbiepyron.com

Constance Lombardo is an author, illustrator, and cat expert who can say meow in several languages. She is the creator of a middle grade series, Mr. Puffball, about a clever group of Hollywood cats. Stick Dog creator Tom Watson called Mr. Puffball “freaky, furry, and first-rate fun!” When she isn’t drawing or writing, Constance likes to visit the many waterfalls in Western North Carolina or rummage through Asheville’s local indie bookstores. Plus, she likes carrot cake. Visit her at www.constancelombardo.com.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 1, 2019

Okra Picks(Asheville, NC) –Southern indie booksellers have announced their 2019 Summer Okra Picks, a baker’s dozen of the titles they are most looking forward to telling their customers to try. Taken together, the Okra Picks are not your average summer reading list – each book was chosen because it is Southern in nature and has devoted fans in the Southern indie bookselling community. The Summer Okra Picks release in July, August, and September, and every book on the list has a Southern bookseller ready to put it in the hands of readers with that most exciting phrase in the English language, “You’ve got to read this!

Southern independent bookstores – we grow good books!

Late MigrationsThe Last List of Miss Judith KrattThe Substitution OrderThe Nickel BoysNever Have I EverBook Charmer

Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl
Milkweed Editions, July 2019

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis
Sourcebooks Landmark, July 2019

The Substitution Order by Martin Clark
Knopf, July 2019

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Doubleday, July 2019

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow, July 2019

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins
Gallery Books, July 2019

Sing a SongStayThe Yellow House

Sing a Song by Kelly Starling Lyons, Keith Mallett (Illus.)
Nancy Paulsen Books, August 2019

Stay by Bobbie Pyron
Katherine Tegen Books, August 2019

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Grove Press, August 2019

My Jasper JuneThe Edge of AmericaRed at the BoneNo Judgments

My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder
Walden Pond Press, September 2019

The Edge of America by Jon Sealy
Haywire Books, September 2019

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Riverhead Books, September 2019

No Judgments by Meg Cabot
William Morrow, September 2019

Find more information about the Okra Picks at AuthorsRoundtheSouth.com/okra

The TravelersThe world is upside down without a book in my hands. Whenever I am feeling out of sorts, it usually means I’ve gone too many days without reading. My mother was a stay-at-home mom for several years, but when she returned to work, she would treat me to a new book on her payday. Books have always figured prominently in my life—high fiction and low fiction. Books are like forts surrounded by moats within whose walls I can retreat, daydream, and become someone else for a while. Many of the places I would travel to as an adult were inspired by novels I’d read when I was a young and voracious reader. (Giovanni’s Room, for example, sent me in search of Baldwin’s Paris. By the time I got there, both Baldwin and his Paris were long gone.)

I have this habit of roaming the aisles of bookstores and lingering at display tables, of running my hands along the covers of books and the seams

There are a handful of independent bookstores in Savannah, Georgia now, but when I was growing up, E. Shaver Booksellers was the main bookstore in town.  The little bookstore, tucked behind the imposing Desoto Hilton, is where my mom treated me to my first copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and, later, Song of Solomon. I have this habit of roaming the aisles of bookstores and lingering at display tables, of running my hands along the covers of books and the seams, of turning the books over to read the jacket before opening the book and reading the first few passages.

This ritual of browsing began as a child and it is one I’ve passed down to my daughters with whom I would later read Ferdinand and The Giving Tree and Amelia Bedelia in the children’s nook at Shavers. The Travelers bristles with the stuff of history and the stuff of fairytales: chance encounters, sudden changes of fortunes, tall tales. Savannah is a port city, a lot of people have come through, free and in chains. Much of its loveliness and complexity owes to the very issues of race and class that are part of its existence. It’s not a coincidence that two fine writers—Flannery O’Connor and James Alan McPherson—both hailed from Savannah and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. (Their works are in conversation with one another.)

“And what have you read lately?” was the question

The TravelersThe South has a rich literary tradition, despite the low literacy rate. And as a child, I grew up with an awareness of the importance of books.  The late W.W. Law—a mailman and the President of the local branch of the NAACP—documented Savannah’s African-American history and was active in the Civil Rights Movement. He lived around the corner from our house and my family held him in high esteem. He also loved to gossip with my mother and sometimes asked after her oyster stew. Dr. Law kept a living room run amok with books that students could come and pick through to help them with their studies. “And what have you read lately?” was the question.  One of my favorite books, which in some ways informed the chapter in The Travelers, “The Moving Man Stands Still”, is a picture book I found at E. Shaver Booksellers about the Civil Rights Movement in Savannah. I bought that book and read it often to my girls, delighting in the fact that I once knew this extraordinary, everyday man.

 

Regina PorterRegina Porter is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and recipient of a 2017-2018 Rae Armour West Postgraduate Scholarship. She is also a 2017 Tin House Summer Workshop Scholar. Her fiction has been published in The Harvard Review. An award-winning writer with a background in playwriting, Porter has worked with Playwrights Horizons, the Joseph Papp Theater, New York Stage and Film, the Women’s Project, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Horizon Theatre Company. She has been anthologized in Plays from Woolly Mammoth by Broadway Play Services and Heinemann’s Scenes for Women by Women. She has also been profiled in Southern Women Playwrights: New Essays in History and Criticism from the University of Alabama Press. Porter was born in Savannah, Georgia, and lives in Brooklyn.



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Southern Indie Lit Crossword Puzzle Book

Do you know your Southern lit?

The Southern Indie Lit Crossword Puzzle Book

We dare you to use a pen on these crossword puzzles, each inspired by one of the winning titles of the SIBA Book Award, honoring ten years of the very best in Southern literature as chosen by the people who would know...Southern Independent Booksellers!

A great gift for your book club, for puzzle-lovers, and anyone who loves Southern literature. $9.95 paperback. Available at Southern Indie Bookstores. Need some hints or looking for answers? Pssst.