When I lived in Tallahassee,
I managed The Bookshelf in midtown, just a few blocks from where we lived. I loved walking to work, loved the convenience of Whataburger and Red Eye, loved living in my hometown. I also loved sitting on the committee for Word of South, a literature and music festival then in its very earliest stages.
After closing up the shop in midtown and moving to Thomasville, I wondered if I'd still get to play a role in Word of South, wondered if I'd get to see that festival to fruition. It's fun to help start things, but in my opinion, it's even more fun to finish them. I didn't just want to be in on the planning stages; I wanted to help see Word of South come to life! Thanks to the kind coordinators, The Bookshelf was named the primary bookseller for the festival, even 45 minutes up the road in Thomasville.
It's been a privilege, these last couple of years, to watch Word of South grow and evolve. It's been huge for our business to head to Cascades Park every April, to sell books to festival attendees and meet big-name authors. It's done wonders for The Bookshelf, and it's helped me, too, develop confidence as a business owner. Word of South is good for us, and for the third year, we'll be the festival's primary bookseller.
That will change a bit, of course, in the coming years, as Tallahassee's own indie bookstore grows. I know they'll need to shift the balance a bit, to make room for both of us on the festival's stages. I'm okay with that, because I firmly believe Tallahassee and Thomasville can support two stores. We're a couple of literary communities, and Word of South celebrates that fact. To have not one, but two indie bookstores on hand? That feels special to me.
Jordan and I firmly believe we get to create the kind of city we want. When I grew up in Tallahassee, I heard friends talk about how boring and bland it was. Maybe it's my parents' adventurous example, or maybe I was trying to convince my Birmingham-bred husband of Tallahassee's cool factor, but we were never bored in our years there. We went to concerts and good restaurants; we explored parks and museums. The same is true now that we live in Thomasville. We shop downtown and attend as many community events as we can afford.
Festivals and museums and art and restaurants determine the culture of a town, and just because we're 45 minutes up the road from Cascades Park doesn't exempt us from supporting the work Tallahassee is doing. I know from experience how hard those Word of South festival chairmen and chairwomen work to bring quality literary and musical talent to our neck of the woods.
I hope we'll see you next weekend, and not just because you love The Bookshelf (though, of course, I hope you do). I hope you see how important having literary events in our part of the South is, how supporting Word of South is good for all of us. It's good for our business and our economy. It's good for tourism. It's good for our brains and our creativity. It's good for our children, and it's good for us.
See you there?
WORD OF SOUTH FESTIVAL
Free and open to the public
Full schedule here
(Want to know who not to miss? Your kids will love Lisa Loeb and Acree Nacam and Natalie Nelson. I adore the Southern fiction of Joshilyn Jackson and cannot believe Tallahassee has James McBride coming to town. That's huge!)