Good Ideas This Week at the Booksellers

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How’s this for a good idea? Pair a debut novelist, who is on a cross-country book tour, with better-known local writers to round out the bill at each tour stop. That’s the idea behind the event on Wednesday, September 10th, at 6:30 p.m. at The Booksellers at Laurelwood, which will be hosting out-of-towner Eric Shonkwiler and Memphians Tara Mae Mulroy and David Wesley Williams.

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You’ve heard of Southern gothic? Shonkwiler’s debut novel is called Above All Men, and it’s from MG Press, a “micro-press” and extension of the literary journal Midwestern Gothic. For an introduction to Shonkwiler’s work, check out Above All Men here, which includes a link to an excerpt.

Local fans of local poetry should recognize the name Tara Mae Mulroy. She earned her MFA in poetry from the University of Memphis, served as managing editor of The Pinch, the U of M’s literary journal, and today teaches Latin at St. George’s Independent School. That classical background plays a major part in Mulroy’s own work. She has one chapbook, titled Philomela, and based on a report earlier this year, she has a mythologically informed (and Philomela-inspired?) full-length manuscript, Swallow Tongue, ready to shop to publishers.

Readers of The Commercial Appeal should have no trouble recognizing the byline of David Williams, because he’s the CA’s sports editor. But he’s a novelist as well (Long Gone Daddies) and past winner of Memphis magazine’s annual short-story contest. And if Mulroy is shopping her latest collection of poems, Williams is hard-headedly shopping his latest novel, which is set in and around Memphis and West Memphis. As he wrote in a recent email:

“I’m still trying to get a publisher for it,” Williams said of his new novel. “A few publishers, mostly smaller houses, have it, although I wouldn't say anything is anywhere close to happening. My agent search went nowhere. Damned hard business, but I've got a damned hard head!”

And this week, the Booksellers has another major event planned: The night after the readings and signings by Shonkwiler, Mulroy, and Williams, the store is hosting multiple-award-winning, young-adult-fiction icon Barbara Shoup. On Thursday, September 11th, at 6:30 p.m. Shoup will read from, discuss, and sign her latest novel, which is a coming-of-age search in 1964 for an earlier literary icon: Looking for Jack Kerouac (Lacewing Books).

But if you can't make it to the Booksellers on Thursday, check out Shoup's "creative process" blog entry for July 24th. It's where she explains the background to her writing Looking for Jack Kerouac. As executive director of the Indiana Writers Center and co-author of Novel Ideas: Contemporary Authors Share the Creative Process and Story Matters: Contemporary Short Story Writers Share the Creative Process, Shoup knows her stuff — not the least of which, this "crazy thing to do, writing novels." And another thing:

"It’s all about being able to recognize not just a good idea," Shoup writes of the creative process, "but my good idea." •

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