Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spartanburg 7 Reads!

A few months ago, I was invited to come to Spartanburg, South Carolina to talk to some students who had read my book. I've never been south of NYC on the east coast, so I said sure, not realizing what an amazing event this really is. This post is mainly for other authors who might be invited to participate in Spartanburg Reads so that you will know what to expect.

Rodney Graves is the Director of Secondary Education in Spartanburg and my contact throughout the process. What he really is, is the reading guru of South Carolina. I've never seen so much effort put into a literacy program that is run so amazingly well. The program basically gives a book to every student in the fairly large Spartanburg 7 school district to read over the summer. The elementary kids are given picture books, while the higher grades are allowed to choose the nominees and then pick the final seven books they can choose to read. I didn't realize what an honor it was to be chosen until Irene who works in the media center showed me the original nomination list - so many books I love had been nominated, it was amazing that my DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS landed in the final seven. In the end, over 400 high school students read my book, and for me, that's reason enough to show up.

When you fly in, you are picked up by one of the staff working the event. I got to ride down with Susan Myers who pointed out the sights (giant watertower in the shape of a peach -or a derriere, depending on your perspective - anyone?) and then took me to Wade's for what is billed as a meat and two veg (who knew that mac and cheese was a veg?) for an authentic NC lunch and my first fried green tomatoes ever. After some great conversation, I was driven to our B&B for a few hours rest. And what a place! The Inn on Main is a 1904 house run by Susan and Wade Sease and it is gorgeous.

I'm not a morning person, but I'd get up at 6:30 all over again for their amazing southern breakfast - grits, homemade biscuits, baked apples, bread pudding, maple-pecan bacon...I could go on. The authors took over the place and they couldn't have been nicer. (Yes, that is E.B. Lewis sitting next to me at breakfast.)

A community event featuring wonderful authors Kelly Starling-Lyons, Kathy Patrick, Johnathan Miller and Hester Bass. 


Me talking about something onstage at The Showroom, a converted Nash dealership.

Me with author Kathy Patrick and the amazing media center staff.

If you're invited to Spartanburg Reads, you'll work hard. I did two community events and four speaking engagements in front of groups of high school students and teachers in less than two days. But you'll also be treated exceptionally well. Every event was well publicized and attended both by people involved in the school district and community members. The kids at my presentations were quiet and polite and asked some really thoughtful questions. They are really glad to have you there and it shows. Just this morning, I got an email with a writing question from one of the kids at the high school.

There were a few hours of downtime every day, and I spent the second warm afternoon on the upstairs veranda of the hotel watching a thunderstorm roll in. It was the perfect ending to a seriously rewarding day. If you get asked and you don't mind a little hard work, Spartanburg, South Carolina is a great place to be.

*Thanks to Rodney Graves, Kathy Patrick and The Inn on Main for the photos!