I was so delighted to get an early copy of this buzed-up novel by the amazing young writer Justin Torres. I met him a few years ago at Breadloaf and was knocked out by his reading. And since then he has been racking up all kinds of awards. So far, this novel is a very short book that packs quite a punch. Cannot wait to finish it.
So, Silver Sparrow is a novel about James Witherspoon who has two wives. The other day on twitter, the people involved in the #silversparrow on-line book chat unearthed this amazing gem. Jimmy Witherspoon, a true bluesman, singing about his two lady friends. Enjoy!
This weekend, I traveled to Amelia Island, Florida to attend Mama Fancina’s Fancy Hat Literary Luncheon. Simply put, it was a magical event. The host, Jennie Blue (wearing a white hat), explained that the annual event is named for her gradmother who loved reading– and hats. Once a year, Jennie (aka Jay Bee) invites dozens of women wearing fancy hats to gather at the Ritz Carlton to discuss a new novel and honor the memory of Mama Francina. This year, she chose Silver Sparrow. I was there at the luncheon enjoying the delicious spread, but no one knew that I was the author. We came up with an elaborate cover story to explain my presence. I used the name “Zaria” in honor of my adorable neice.
This was no ordinary book club meeting, This was an extravaganza, full of surprizes for Jennie Blue’s guests. She pulled out all the stops! Instead of usual place card, each table setting included a hand-painted goblet with the luncheon logo and their guest’s name. There were lots of prizes given away, but the most sought after award was for “fanciest hat.” (The winner was a gorgeous woman named Celestial. I love that name, so Morrisonian!) And wait to see you the gift Jennie gave me. *faints* And then after the luncheon, she sent me to the spa! *faints again*
Since I was not identified as the author, I was on pins and needles as the group began discussing Silver Sparrow. The conversation was kicked off with a pageant. Jennie hired actors from Stage Aurora in Jacksonville to act out a crucial scene. They went all out with costumes and everything, totally earning the standing ovation offered when they left the stage. All the guests, including me, were beside ourselves because the stage show was not on the program. It was just the first of Jay Bee’s surprize gifts to this very special gathering.
After a rousing conversation, my identity was revealed. Jennie Blue announced that she was holding a raffle for “lunch with Tayari Jones.” She then called the names of the women sitting at my table. They approached the stage, looking a little confused. Then, Jennie announced that they had already won and that had, in fact, had dinner with Tayari Jones already. Then I took the stage and removed the black hat which shielded my face.
There were a lot of fun and games that day, but there was a more serious side, too. One invited guests revealed herself to be a silver sparrow daughter. We also talked about the importance of reading and the significance of building community. I know “Mama Francina” would be proud of her descendants.
I was incredibly honored to be invited by the members of Mama Fancina’s Literary G.U.I.L.D (Gifted, Uplifted, Inseparable, Literary, Descendents). The GUILD members and the invited guests embody the core values that we all hold dear– family, community, reading, and joy.
Pearl Cleage’s lastest Blue Hamilton novel stays #winning. This novel combines all the noir-ish intrigue of Baby Brother’s Blues and the optimistic romance of Some Things I Never Thought I Do. And you would think that would be plenty. But then, she adds vamipres. Black women vampires living in the West End area of Atlanta. I wanted to save this book for when my book tour took me far far from home, but I just couldn’t wait.
On May 25, Greenlight Books hosted the launch party for Silver Sparrow. It was a magical night, as you can see from this wonderful photo collection taken by Rachel Eliza Griffiths who was kind enough to shoot the event. Thank you, thank you, to everyone who came out to bless this boat.
My publicist, Lauren Cerand, recently shared with me an email I sent her back in 2005 when we were first working together on PR. She asked me to put together a wish-list that would serve as our working goals. With Silver Sparrow, we’ve been able to mark almost everything off the list. Yesterday, I received an email from an “aspiring” writer who had one simple question, “How did you do it?”
It’s a question I have asked myself. My philosophy goes against of almost everything that I have ever read about having a successful writing career. I don’t want to have a one-sentence elevator pitch. I don’t want to go anywhere just for the sake a making connections. I don’t even subscribe to Publisher’s Lunch. I am not saying that all those how-to books are wrong, but I do believe that there are other ways to go about having the literary life you want.
I use the term “literary life” instead of “career.” About four years ago, I was feeling very frustrated because my books were not selling enough. I don’t know what “enough” was, but I knew that I was nowhere near it. This worry was taking the joy out of my writing life. When I gave readings, I was looking at the bookseller when I should have been looking at the audience. This is not to say that I don’t want to sell books, but I didn’t become a writer just to move units.
A writer friend of mine told me, “This is an ugly business, but a beautiful life.
For the most part, I am usually a pretty do-it-yourself kind of person. In the past, I have been able to send out all the postcards, emails, or what have you to prepare for the launch of a new book. This time, the promotional activities cover so much ground that I am constantly on the move. To be really honest, I’m totally exhausted and the tour hasn’t even started yet. (Why did I fall alseep at the dinner table yesterday??) Now, I’m finally facing the fact that although I have a terrific team and I am doing everything I know how to do, I need to ask for help.
My idea is that I would ask you to help me get the word out about my book signings. My graphic designer has made lovely a invitation for each event which can be easily sent as an email attachment. If you have friends, sorors, family members, bookclubbers, etc, you would like to invite, you can just let me know what city you would like help out with and I’ll send you the .pdf invitation. The events are going to be posted in all the local media, but a personal invitation from a friend can do more than any impersonal notice in a newspaper.
My events are all at libraries and independent bookstores, two of the most imporatant support systems for writers and readers. (Read my love letter to the indies.) If we work together, we can help pack the house. If you vouch for me (and Silver Sparrow) to the readers in your life, I promise that I will bring my A-game to every event. The Silver Sparrow tour is flying all over the country– from Atlanta to Albequerque and everywhere in-between. You can help out in the city you call home, or just a place where you have people.
The last time I reached out to this blog community was about a year ago when I needed help listing media contacts for my author questionairre. I was so knocked out by the responses– and don’t think for a second that it didn’t impact all the great media coverage for SILVER SPARROW. So I hope that you don’t mind if I come to you again.