But, on April 20th, I found myself on a Delta Airlines overnight flight from Los Angeles to Memphis, my hometown, for my first book fair. It’s more than a book fair; Memphis Bookstock is a library event that showcases authors with roots to the Mid-South. You have to be invited to take part. Each year more than three thousand authors apply but few are chosen. Weeks before the April 23rd event, I received my invitation via email:
“Congratulations! You and more than 40 Memphis area authors will be participating in the 6th Annual Bookstock event sponsored by the Memphis Public Library.”
I was thrilled to be chosen, yet nervous. I’ve been in media three-quarters of my life, generally behind the scenes, where I’m most comfortable. It was a hectic three-day schedule, which included an interview on the local CBS morning show, a “Sip and Sign” book party thrown by one of my sisters, and the book fair on Saturday.
My friend and part-time assistant Lynora accompanied me. I knew I could lean on Lynora for encouragement and support. Our plane touched down more than an hour late at 1:30 a.m. As we approached the baggage carousel, a sign welcomed us to ‘Memphis Bookstock’. I took this as a good omen. The Bookstock event was being promoted all throughout the airport, on local radio and TV. My sister Beverly and brother-in-law Howard live only minutes from the airport. We got to their home, briefly chatted and went straight to bed around 2:30 a.m. We got a late start on Thursday. It was great to have the day to rest and prepare for what lay ahead. Earlier, I had mailed the books and promotional material and Lynora and I spent most of the day getting things in order.
Friday was a big day. It started with a morning interview on WREG TV News Channel 3 Live at 9 with Marybeth Conley and Alex Coleman. They were easygoing and gracious hosts and immediately put me at ease. The whole thing was over in minutes. We went to the house to change into something comfortable, then on to shopping for the “Sip and Sign”. I was instructed to buy wine, sodas, water, fruit, cheese and crackers, cookies for about 15 to 20 guests. Beverly made salmon salad and a spaghetti salad. Howard made his famous chicken wings. We laid out our books and prepared the food table. The house looked festive. By 5 p.m., we were ready for our 20 or so guests. But over 50 people came. Relatives, friends I grew up with, folks I went to school with, former church members and friends of my sisters and my niece. I did a brief reading and sold and signed over 50 books. It was a lot of fun. I loved catching up with my favorite cousins and old pals and making new friends. It felt good getting together over something celebratory as opposed to family tragedies or funerals. I was tired and starved and headed up to grab a bite, but the table was cleared– all the food and drink gone. I went to bed hungry but spiritually fulfilled. It had been a good day.