I’ve wrapped up my Southern tour, y’all!
And I couldn’t have asked for a better companion bookend to my opening reading in Boerne: the audience at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith was as big, as enthusiastic, as full of family and friends but also as full of community members and students, and as eager to buy the novel! It was a perfect finale to the Southern leg of this fall book tour I’m doing for Hagridden!
There were so many highlights of the Arkansas reading, so I can’t just point to one best thing. I have to point to four, in chronological order:
The first best thing was meeting up with my cousins the Bouldens, some of whom I’ve met before but some of whom I met for first time. And they are a hoot! Tom, my fellow scotch aficionado; and Bob, my fellow jazz fan; and Ben, my fellow author (you should seriously get a copy of his Hidden History of Fort Smith, Arkansas) — these guys were all amazing fun to hang out with over delicious Vietnamese food! And their mother, my great-aunt Katy, was an absolute delight, full of the wry zingers and keen observations I so love in her sister, my grandmother!
Then I got to campus and reconnected with my old college friend Lindsy Lawrence, now a 19th-century lit scholar and English professor at the university in Fort Smith. She was part of my literary crowd back in our undergrad days at Schreiner University, working with the newspaper and the literary magazine and a fellow member of the English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta. It’s fantastic that she’s found such success at her current university, and by all accounts, she’s doing a killer job there, with both her colleagues and her students, and I loved seeing her in action!
She also hooked me up with poet Christian Anton Gerard, who invited me to join his Imaginative Writing class, and wow, was that a treat! The students there were both ambitious and inquisitive, and I was amazed at the variety of interests in their work, from traditional poetry and essays and novels to film, late-night television, even stand-up comedy! We had an invigorating discussion, and Christian gave me some great ideas for new approaches to my own creative writing classes. (Plus, we swapped books! I’m looking forward to reading his collection, Wilmot Here, Collect for Stella.)
And then there was the reading, which was so well attended that people were pulling out extra chairs!
And I wasn’t the only one taking selfies! The faculty there had a brilliant idea of giving extra credit to students by requiring them to take a selfie with the author (that’s me!) and post it to Twitter. So keep an eye on the UAFS Read This! Twitter account to see who’s going to get their credit!
But that wasn’t even the best part; the best part was the Q&A, in which the audience asked dozens of insightful, craft-focused questions that really put me through my paces and turned the whole Q&A into a genuine discussion, and I loved that!
Overall, it was a fantastic evening.
But wait! The Southern leg of the book tour is over, but that doesn’t mean we’re finished! There’s still the blog tour, which this week has included write-ups by Al McDermid and J.J. Ulm, and a terrific interview with Lin Rice, in which we talk about the practice and pitfalls of dialect and why the idea of “home” can sometimes be so emotionally risky.
And don’t forget that while I’m leaving the South this weekend, the book tour carries on!