The crazy thing about attending as many writers conferences as I have is that there are cities where I know quite a few people that I’ve never actually visited. I only knew Atlanta’s airport (fly Delta much?) up until August 24th, but I’m so glad I got to know the city and see my friends who live there, who I have to say are as gracious and generous a bunch as a guy could ask for. It was thanks to my friends who know Elizabeth Anderson over at Charis Books that I managed not only to get a reading there but also to be on a panel as part of the AQLF (Atlanta Queer Lit Fest) track at the Decatur Book Festival.
My first weekend in Atlanta I stayed in Midtown and read Friday night at the awesome Charis Books in Little Five Points. It’s an adorable bookstore, the oldest feminist bookstore in the country (38 years and counting), and Elizabeth and Sara and the rest of the staff were very welcoming. Only a few people showed up for the reading, but as Elizabeth said, I was competing with Loretta Lynn and Mary Chapin Carpenter in concert that night, which meant a lot of the Atlanta gay folk were busy elsewhere. We still managed to enjoy ourselves, and I read a newer story not in the collection, “Imaginary Bobby.” Afterwards my friends took me to the Porter bar across the street, which just so happened to have my favorite beer on tap: Rodenbach Grand Cru (a feat repeated at the Brick House in Decatur: Atlanta knows it beers!)
Other highlights in Atlanta were a fabulous sushi dinner and a visit to the World of Coke, which, cheesy as it sounds, was totally worth it as I got to pretend I was 9 years old again and sample something like 60 soft drinks from around the world. (I probably only managed 20 before a serious sugar headache kicked in)
I went back to Hambidge for the week and returned to the Atlanta area on Saturday for the Decatur Book Festival. DBF is the largest independent book festival in the country and was just a joy from beginning to end. Talk about making a guy feel important: the book festival put us Authors up at the hosting Marriott hotel for two nights, but also gave us free merchandise, $50 to spend at local eateries/shops, threw us a VIP party and even gave us access to a hospitality suite where we could eat and drink as much as we want all day on both days of the festival. It was a lot of fun to walk around and visit the booths, and just to be surrounded by so many authors and lovers of independent books. My panel was called “Identity and Self in a Shifting Landscape.” Carter Sickels, author of The Evening Hour, and I both read from our books and then Elizabeth, the moderator, asked us a few questions about how place can inform identity, particularly in gay culture. The room was packed, which was such a relief, and the audience asked us a lot of questions—really great questions, actually, quite a few of which I could only come up with good answers to after the panel was over. Oh well. Then Carter and I signed books.
I was excited to hang out with my author-friends Kristen-Paige Madonia (whose novel, “Fingerprints of You” is just out this month) and Michael Montlack (editor of “Divining Divas”) as well as see the Atlanta crew again. Thanks so much to Will Kenyon, Linda Tzoref, Ray Squires (aka Rachel Bailey), Linda Sands, Kat Johnsen, and the marvelous Julia Fenton, for coming to see me and showing me a good time.
Last but not least: Will Kenyon was kind enough to be my guide at Dragon Con this year, which was SUCH a trip. I’m not a fan boy but I totally understand why people go gaga for Dragon Con. Look at some of the photos below to see what I mean. It lasts four days, and events run well into the wee hours of the night. I was lucky enough to catch a screening of my friend Barrington Seetachitt’s husband’s movie, Rock Jocks, which actually had its world premiere at Dragon Con. Thanks, B, for inviting me–it was such a funny movie.