This last Wednesday evening, Donna and I visited one of my favorite bookstores, Lemuria, to attend a booksigning for the prominent local author, John M. Floyd. He was signing his just-published book of short stories he calls, Deception. I know John from having taken his classes on short story writing that he teaches at Milsaps College (as part of their Community Enrichment program). That was about three years ago and those classes gave me the nudge to try to publish what I was writing. It led to, well, this. So I'm always glad to support John's work.
Donna and I arrived at Lemuria on a rainy evening and found a line from the signing table out the front door. I looked around for the stack of John's book. One of the booksellers directed us to the counter in the center of the store where three clerks were selling the book from stacks behind them. So I bought one and we took our place in line.
Lemuria is a locally-owned bookstore and seems to hold its own against the big boxes. The energy in it feels definitely less corporate to me. Shelves of books reach the ceiling in several rooms, nooks, and crannies, and other books are just stacked on the floor. The feeling is of being in a friend's house who has a tremendous library.
Lemuria also has a website and publishes a blog that I've been subscribed to for a few weeks. The booksellers make entries every week that are emailed to subscribers (I picked up on that idea and started emailing my journal to my newsletter subscribers). The blog entries are usually about books and I've found them a good source for recommendations (along with the Writer's Voice podcast).
So we browsed the stocked shelves as the line advanced. Our goal was a raised area in the back where John sat at a stuffed couch behind a table and beneath a wall full of famous author photos. Lemuria hosts booksignings and readings nearly every week and are especially supportive of local writers. I need to follow these more than I do because there are some really good local writers putting out stuff, judging by the weekly podcasts of the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC).
When we reached the signing table, John greeted me and we had a quick "catch up" talk as he signed my copy of Deception (I'll post a review when I finish it) and Donna snapped a few pictures (see above; that's me with John signing his book). I had not seen him since his booksigning for Clockwork which I think was in 2010. He's always been a prolific writer so I expect he'll be publishing collections of short stories pretty regularly. That along with his Milsaps classes and other writerly activities that tend to make him mentioned in any discussion of Mississippi writers (like in a recent MAC podcast).
It was great seeing John again and browsing through Lemuria. It made me consider the art of creative writing that I try to do and how it relates to booksignings. You see, fiction writing is an art that doesn't much lend itself to observation. Watching an artist paint, or a sculptor carve on marble, or even a composer notate riffs strummed on a guitar, can be very interesting. Watching an author write, no matter how gifted the author, is kind of hard to do. I can't imagine an American Idol type of competition for writers where the contestants sit at a desk and write while judges judge. No, the process can't be judged or even be enjoyed in observation, only in the results. Booksignings and readings are as close as authors can get to performing their art. John's got the process down pat for an "audience" of loyal followers.
Of course, reading is not a spectator sport either, though it is (or should be) tremendous fun, enlightening, and inspiring for the reader. A booksigning is, for the bibliophile, the active side to "experiencing" a book by interacting with the author. It's all the more fun in a setting that honors the literary craft and evokes that wonderful spirit of intellectual expression through the written word. And then coming away with a signed copy of a favorite book is icing.
Deception page at Lemuria Books
John M. Floyd's Dogwood Press page and signing schedule for Deception