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Alabama Great

It is hard to put into words how much fun I had at the Alabama Book Festival. I ran late getting out of New Orleans (car problems) and did not make it to the Author's Party, but I did make a later event, when we dined at A & P Social. I had the pleasure of tasting Alabama Bouillabaisse. It was delicious. I am told that Alabama is known for its good cooks overall, and I agree wholeheartedly.

So, I woke up early the next morning, the day of the festival, because I wanted to catch my new friend, Abraham Smith, read at The Church, and my, oh my, was I surprised and delighted. Abe doesn't simply read; his poetry storms out of him, as though he is poetry possessed. It was a beautiful experience. I was happy and excited to buy his book of poems (Ashagalomancy, 2015).

After Abe's reading, I was further delighted to hear Shanti Weiland, another new friend, who is as humorous a poet as she is a thoughtful and amazing talent. Her book, Sister Nun (2015), has already won an award, and I am sure she will win many more in the future. I now have a signed copy of Shanti's poems.

I spent time at the Author's Lounge, and picked up an wonderful gift bag (filled with literally everything from Alabama (from macaroons and potato chips to local books, and a festival t-shirt). I ate some incredible sandwiches that had been ordered from a local deli. I am still thinking about that chicken salad and wondering if they could ship me some.

Jeff Weddle and I hosted a panel, "Adventures in the Short Story," at Molton House. Jeanie Thompson was gracious enough to introduce us. I read from my story "Even in New Orleans" because it was one of the shorter stories. I enjoyed the questions from the audience, as well as having a chance to read my work overall. One of the best questions was whether or not we, as story writers, know our endings, and how do we know when a story is complete. I brought up Morrison and how she says she often knows her ending before she begins (of course these are novels that she writes). I rarely do know, as a story writer, and I prefer to start with an idea or image or character and allow the story to develop on its own. The best stories tend to come at their own pace, and if they are forced, they read like they have been forced. I also said that it is still difficult to know when the story is finished, but as a writer, it is something I need to know. Every writer needs to know that she/he is offering a finished, best quality story to the reader. Later, Jeff and I signed some books, then I rushed over and got a seat for Natasha Tretheway's reading and interview. I've been an admirer of Nathasha's work, so it was a pleasure to hear her read, especially "Myth," a favorite.

I must say of the Alabama Book Festival that the hospitality was more than anyone could expect, and greatly appreciated. Even the weather seemed to be special Alabama weather, and this is a Louisiana girl talking; everyone knows we LSU fans are always at odds with the Crimson Tide. The festival grounds were well situated and everything was easy to find. Great atmosphere. I even ran into Olivia, one of my niece's childhood favorites, walking around taking pictures with the kids.

Thanks again, Kirk Curnutt and the other festival directors, for inviting me to the festival. This picture of Alabama roses, hanging on the fence at the Children's Garden, is a reminder of the beautiful experience of the 2016 Alabama Book Festival.

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