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What I tell my Emory students

My Emory kids are so smart. They are going to start turning in their stories soon (first batch up is next week), so in honor of that I wrote out my thoughts around what makes a successful story. If this sounds like a list of rules, well, don’t take it that way. This is more a list of discoveries:

10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing:

1) Concrete details are always better than abstractions.

2) The first draft is the spill draft—focus on an image, or a character, or a setting, and see what you end up putting down on the page. The second, third, fourth, fifth drafts are where you revise: add details, take away unnecessary words that bog down the prose, organize your thoughts, switch around paragraphs. In the first draft you “spill” ideas about what you are going to write about. In the following drafts, you look at those ideas, and then figure out what it is you are really trying to say. Then you arrange and re-arrange the words until they articulate your thoughts in an interesting and compelling way.

3) When writing a story, you—the writer—should be surprised by the ending. And yet, if the story is successful, the ending will also feel inevitable. (Flannery O’Connor articulates this idea of the surprising but inevitable ending in her book of essays, Mystery and Manners.)

4) The best writers are those who are willing to work and re-work on their prose. It’s really as simple as that. Sure, some people start off with an extra slice of talent, but talent doesn’t go very far if you aren’t willing to revise, revise, revise.

5) In order for a story to be successful, you (the writer) need to be interested in the story you are telling. If it bores you, it’s going to bore the reader.

6) The characters in your story need to have lives that began before they entered onto the pages of your story, and that continue after the story ends. This is to say that we the reader should feel as if we are peeking into a life that is in motion, rather than feel as if the characters have been brought onto stage only for the purpose of a scene in the book. We want to feel as if the characters go on living after we turn the page.

7) Writer Tony Earley says a story must be about “the thing and the other thing.” This is to say that nothing in fiction is one-dimensional. For example, dialogue between two people might convey specific information that a reader needs to know, but it can’t only convey that information. There is a subtext below every text: for a crude example, think of the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are talking on her balcony. They have just met each other, and they are discussing the art of photography, but Allen provides the viewer with subtitles below their conversation, showing us their real thoughts. “Do I sound stupid?” she thinks. “God, I’d like to go to bed with her,” he thinks. Meanwhile, they discuss Diane Arbus. This is an exaggerated version of “the thing and the other thing,” but the point is: there needs to be something else going on beneath the conversation.

8) Implicate your characters, implicate your reader: This is a terrible thing to have to do, but it gets right to the heart of “cutting the strings” from your fictitious characters and letting them be people, not puppets. We are fallen creatures, and at least a third of our brain is lizard. Much as we try to be good, try to do right, our lizard brain often gets the best of us, and we end up hurting other people. This is the crux of fiction. We have noble desires, but our lizard brain gets in the way. You must allow your characters to be flawed, to be self-delusional, to hurt others, and to get hurt. You cannot protect them from life.

9) Often the thing that has best helped your hero navigate his life will be the thing that brings him to his knees at the end of the story. He will have to “shed” that old skin and become someone new in order to make it through life. Think of the alcoholic. Alcohol has helped her, for years, to deal with her parents’ divorce, to deal with her awkwardness in social situations, to deal with her insecurities about her looks. But at a certain point, alcohol becomes the problem, not the solution, and it is making her black out, making her have devastating hangovers, making her lose friends, making her endanger herself. She has to find a new way to cope in the world, after shedding her dependence on alcohol. What was once a friend—alcohol—is now a foe. This is true of so many inherent qualities about people. In fiction, characters must face those parts of themselves that have always helped them navigate their world, but are now getting them stuck and in trouble. Characters must grow, and usually that is by shedding some skin that no longer fits.

10) A story is an organic thing that grows as you write it. What I have found is that the best fiction is controlled by the story, not the writer. You are figuring out what happens to these characters as you write the story. As best you can, let go of what you think should happen, what you think the ending should be, and discover what your characters’ story is through the process of writing. A novel takes you from point A to point Z, but you can’t discover the map until you actually start writing.

Patti Callahan Henry’s Coming Up for Air. Plus grilled sandwiches: one savory, one sweet.

Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan HenryI read a wonderful book this week: Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry.

I know Patti through the Atlanta writing community. She is one of those lovely, effervescent people full of warmth and laughter. One of those people whom you want to smile at because she’s smiling and looks like she’s having fun and you want to join her. If I were a betting woman (why am I saying “if?”; I love betting), I’d wager that Patti enjoys a shrimp boil, that she slides right up to the newspaper covered table, peels a shrimp, dunks it in cocktail sauce, and washes it down with a beer before settling in to eat her buttered corn on the cob, potatoes and sausage. Which is to say, Patti seems to be a woman who enjoys life.

Shrimp Boil

Shrimp boil from earlier this summer. Patti was not involved. But I bet she would have loved it.

Patti is also a woman who has raised three kids. And before having her kids, she was a nurse. Meaning, Patti has wisdom. And has seen hard things.

All well and good, I can hear you saying, but how’s the book?

Why it’s excellent. Thank you for asking. In it Patti’s warmth, wisdom, and engagment with life–the miraculous and the mundane–is on full display.

Here’s the skinny: Coming Up for Air is the story of 48 year old Ellie Calvin. At the book’s start, Ellie’s mother Lillian dies suddenly, just as Ellie’s only child goes away to college, leaving Ellie alone with her husband, Rusty, a man more interested in his golf game than understanding any part of his wife’s interior life. After Lillian’s death, Ellie reads her mother’s locked away journals, discovering two things: Her mother was passionately in love with someone other than Ellie’s dad, and her mother was involved with the civil rights movement in Alabama during the summer of 1961. Both realizations are shocking to Ellie, who knew her mother only as a Buckhead doyenne, locally famous for her organization and practicality, and not one to feel passion about anything other than following the rules. In fact Lillian, a consummate botanical gardener, discouraged Ellie’s own passionate, wildflower nature. But from reading her mother’s journals, Ellie realizes Lillian was not always like that. At a certain point in her life, Lillian chose safety over love, and then tried to drill that choice into Ellie, an effort that largely succeeded. Until now.

The plot of Coming Up for Air is rich and layered, and I am only giving you a teeny-tiny slice of it, in part because I don’t want to include any spoilers, but mostly because I want to talk about the underlying theology of the book. Because that’s what made me unable to put CUFA down until I had read it cover to cover–the theology that Patti Callahan Henry expresses in Ellie’s reawakening to spirit and love. It is not a theology of rules and regulations and exclusion; in fact it is the opposite. It is a theology of risk over safety, of love over rigidity, of choosing spiritual wholeness over a comfortable lifestyle. It is a theology that says everyone deserves an abundance of love–you, me, even that guy over there picking his nose on the subway. And occasionally divine abundance shows itself in our earthly life, if we are open to it, if we show up.

When you get to the jubilee scene, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

I really loved this book. Was totally immersed in the plot and was moved by the steady wisdom behind it. I even read it on the subway–and I have the hardest time reading on the subway because I’m always so interested in eavesdropping on my fellow passengers’ conversations…but Ellie’s story was more captivating.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Simple, simple, simple. But oh so good.

I got a big spiritual lift from Patti’s book, and then I got a mini spiritual lift by coming home this evening and making myself two kinds of grilled sandwiches. The first was nothing unusual, just a grilled cheese with lots of butter on Pepperidge Farm white bread. My only embellishment was to rub each side of the bread with a raw glove of garlic, and to use good sharp cheddar cheese as my filling. Then, for dessert, I tried a sandwich based on a Donna Hay recipe. For it I also used Pepperidge Farm white bread, each slice spread with nutella, and then one slice dotted with raspberries. When I sandwiched the bread I pressed the two sides together so that the raspberries would flatten a bit. Then I just fried the whole thing in lots of butter, so that the nutella got all oozy and melty and the raspberries warmed up and got all bursty. I sat at my little table in my little apartment kitchen and ate the sandwiches, first the cheese, then the chocolate. It had been a hard day and I needed the comfort. I was eating the grilled cheese, thinking about the Christian tradition of taking bread and wine as a way to experience the divine. It made a lot of sense to me–that God would come to us in such a tactile, necessary package as food and drink. I hunched over my plate, concentrating on what was before me, tasting the crisped butter against my tongue.

What summer is, part 1

Starting with late spring’s harvest of strawberries and going all the way through corn and tomatoes and blackberries and peaches, summer is about forgoing a temperate climate for the pleasure of letting sweet things grown in the sun roll around on your tongue.

Last weekend I went to Todd Johnson’s house in Connecticut for an intensive writing retreat. We are both working on novels and both in the stage where we need to be writing a bunch of words a day. That said, one still has to eat. We stopped at a strawberry field on the way from the train to the house and bought a quart of just picked strawberries. (Dear Reader, we did not pick the strawberries ourselves, though that was certainly an option.) Strawberries from the field look so different from the cat-head sized ones you buy at the supermarket. And while the catheads are mostly water and white hull, the ones we got in CT were small, bright red, and saturated with deep, red strawberry-ness. The juice tastes like honey, only clear and thirst-quenching rather than viscous and syrupy.

But enough of that. You know what a freshly picked, ripe strawberry tastes like (an argument for the existence of God.) And speaking of the Divine, we also picked up a pint of heavy whipping cream, not ultra pasteurized. Took it home, got to work writing, and then met 3 hours later for dinner. From the city I had brought some of my spinach / artichoke dip. We poured it into a casserole dish, sprinkled the top with Parmesan cheese, heated it then ran it under the broiler. We ate this with toasted French bread. And then we skipped past any thoughts of a main course and went straight for dessert. Strawberry shortcake. I had made a simple biscuit dough using cream instead of buttermilk, and butter instead of shortening or lard. Plus I added 2 T. of sugar to the dough. Todd didn’t have a biscuit cutter so we punched them out with the top of a drinking glass, brushed the tops with melted butter and a little sugar, and put them in a hot, hot oven. Meanwhile I whipped the cream with vanilla and sugar. I had already hulled the strawberries, cut them in half, and added a little sugar to them just to get them good and juicy. We got some mint from the garden, and had our assembly line all set up. As soon as the biscuits came out of the oven, we split them in half, put four halves in each of our bowls, poured strawberries and juice all over the hot biscuits, piled softly whipped cream on top of that, poured on more strawberries and juice, and then sprinkled it all with some mint leaves cut in a chiffonade.

Dear Reader, it was good. And the next day I wrote a scene in which my characters ate strawberry shortcake…

Salad is not comfort food.

I love fresh vegetables. Raw ones especially. One of my favorite suppers is a spin on Judith Jones’ fennel salad: shaved raw fennel (I use a mandoline slicer to get the pieces see-through thin), shaved apple, and shaved radishes topped with little curls of Parmesan and toasted walnuts, dressed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. It’s crunchy and anise-y and light and a little sweet with nice satisfying chews of warm walnut and salty hits of Parm. I also make a raw salad with shaved beets, fennel, radish and carrot, served over arugula, also with Parm, though no walnuts and a lemony vinaigrette instead of a Balsamic one.

Come mid summer almost every meal I eat centers on the tomato. Half the time I just slice a sweet one from the farmer’s market, dribble olive oil and a dash of Balsamic on top, scatter on some s&p and basil leaves and dig in. Sometimes I’ll rip some sourdough bread into chunks, season with olive oil and salt, toast til brown, and throw into the tomato salad, letting the crisp toasty bread soak up the tomato juices. And don’t get me started on gazpacho, which I’m a huge sucker for, especially yellow tomato gazpacho, which is sweet and tart and so gorgeous in the bowl.

My point is this: I am not a finicky child-like eater who turns her nose up at healthy things, spinach and such. In fact, I devour spinach by the bagful, whether raw in a salad or sauteed with garlic and olive oil for a side dish.

Croque Monsieur with blueberriesBut I don’t want to write about healthy delicious food today. I want to write about my comfort food du jour, a white bread, white sauce, ham and cheese concoction that ze French like to call a Croque Monsieur. (Add an egg on top and the sandwich becomes a lady, a Croque Madame).

I’ve been making a boatload of Croque Monsieur lately. A more apt description might be a belly load, because these things are far from low cal. The secret to a great Croque Monsieur is bechamel, which is just a white sauce made of cooked flour, butter, hot milk and a little seasoning. The bechamel is the Cyrano de Bergerac of the sandwich. Most eaters wouldn’t even know it’s there, but boy does it make the cheese look and behave a whole lot better.

You start with the best bread you can find. I think sourdough works particularly well. Cut a thick slice, remembering that this is an open faced sandwich, so you don’t have to worry about getting your mouth around two huge slices of bread. Lightly mustard the sourdough. (Yes, it’s okay to use mustard as a verb!) I’ve been using Miele’s spicy Dijon, which adds a nice kick. Then layer on a couple of slices of ham. (I just use thin sliced stuff from the deli counter at the grocery store.) Now comes the secret weapon: Spread about a tablespoon of bechamel onto the ham, and give it a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. I usually add some chopped parsley at this point too, just because the greenness of the parsley gives the illusion that there is something healthy about all of this. Traditionally you should now top your cream sauce with Gruyere, though I use whatever cheese I have on hand. Today it was a slice of Monterey Jack with spicy peppers, and grated Parmesan. Once you cover the top of your sandwich with cheese you can scoop a little more white sauce on top of that, then cover once more with cheese. But zut alors, that is gilding the lily, and not at all necessary! Slide the sandwich under the broiler for about 10 minutes until the white sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted and darkened and your bread and meat are warmed all of the way through. Serve with cornichons. I ate a small cup of blueberries with my sandwich, too, because blueberries are a SuperFood and I thought they might counterbalance some of the wrongness of the Croque.

Here is the thing: You don’t eat a Croque Monsieur for lunch when everything is going just swimmingly, when you are at the top of your game and you KNOW you’ll write 5000 words that day, and they’ll be good words, inspired words that will find their way into the novel that you are writing and you’re just SO ON FIRE WITH IT THAT YOU’VE GOT TO GET BACK TO IT RIGHT NOW!! You eat a Croque Monsieur when you’ve stared at your computer for 2 hours, tinkered with a paragraph, and are now trying to stop yourself from falling asleep at your desk. You eat a Croque Monsieur when your accountant calls to tell you that you’re going to owe a little more in taxes than you previously thought. You eat a Croque Monsieur when you feel a sort of generalized sadness about things, though you know the sadness is unwarranted. You know if you were to make a list of all you are grateful for that list would be long. But you don’t feel like making that list. You feel melancholy. Which means you feel French. Which means you should eat a Croque Monsieur.

You shut down your computer, turn on the broiler, put the sandwich together. Ten minutes later and you are hunkered over the plate. With each bite you try to figure out why you like it so much. You wonder if it was a nursery food for French children, the way grilled cheese was for you. You think there’s something primal about warm bread and gooey, melted things. You think you are eating too quickly. You think you had better add an extra fifteen minutes to your workout that night, but then you think, oh screw it. Food shouldn’t always be an intake/outtake calculation. Sometimes its purpose is simply that it is delicious and warm.


I spent the day in the apartment, writing. Which is a more gracious way of saying I did not leave the apartment–not once!–until 5:30 pm when I went to meet a friend at the park so her son could swing. It’s been so hot in New York lately that I expected it to be sweltering outside and so I dressed accordingly. But there was a lovely breeze, and it could not have been more than 80 degrees. After my friend and I chatted while the baby swung for about 30 minutes (don’t babies get dizzy?) I left with the intention of returning home. Except it was so nice out I kept walking west, to Central Park. I walked around the footpath at the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. The setting sun reflected pink off the buildings, and I felt so grateful to be in New York. Except for the fact that I felt like an idiot walking around the reservoir. EVERYONE was running. I didn’t know if I should walk to the right or the left or in the middle or what. All I knew was that every few seconds a stampede would come pounding behind me, and I would be transported back to high school, where the male track coach used to bark, “LANE! LANE!” when he and the boys came swooshing around the track. We girls, even if we were running, were expected to get the hell out of their way.

Back home I poured myself a glass of A to Z rose-ay, and ate the rest of the potato salad. That probably should have sufficed for dinner, but I felt obligated to eat a salad. Glad I did. The salad I fixed was good: arugula, pitted bing cherries, toasted walnuts, chunks of Gouda, and balsamic vinaigrette. Granted, the gouda was from a cut up Baby Bella, but it did the trick. Afterwards I watched 1/2 of Manhattan, but got too wierded out by Mariel and Woody’s relationship. (She was 17 to his 42.) The best part of the evening was eating half of a Michel Cluizel chocolate bar. I like the milk chocolate bars best, though the snob in me wishes I liked the darker varieties. But Cluizel’s milk has a 45 percent cocoa content, so it’s plenty intense.And there is no way to describe the experience of eating it other than cliche: it melts in the mouth, leaving behind tiny little cocoa nibs. It’s really fabulous. Almost made Mariel and Woody easier to swallow.


Just returned from a writing retreat in Greenwood, MS with friends Todd Johnson and Kathryn Stockett.  We were in Greenwood for such a cool reason–that’s where they are filming the movie The Help.  Not that I have anything to do with the movie, but it was cool to see the location and meet some of the cast and crew.  Mostly Todd and I just wrote.  And drank bourbon.  It was weird; bourbon is usually way, way too strong for me.  But somehow when it’s 10 million degrees outside, and you are in Faulkner’s home state, you just have to reach for the brown stuff.

You also reach for the fried stuff, and the hot glazed stuff (in the form of donuts) and the barbequed stuff.  And Todd and I stopped at the farmer’s market and got MS field tomatoes, so sweet you could eat them for dessert.  We wanted to make tomato sandwiches (white bread, tomato, salt, pepper, mayo) but had no mayonniase.  It was my bright idea to go through the DRIVE -THRU liquor store and see if they happened to sell Duke’s.  The woman looked right pissed off when I asked, but she begrudingly got me a small bottle of some off brand of mayo.  We went home and made tomato sandwiches.  Now I’m not sure if it was simply the fact that the mayo used wasn’t Duke’s, or if mayo that has been sitting around a liquor store is perhaps not the world’s freshest, but that sandwich was nasty.  I only ate half.  Todd and I went to the supermarket, got our lazy butts out of the car and went inside to refrigerated air where we bought a big ol’ bottle of Duke’s.  An hour later, and I was fixing pimento cheese for everyone.  But listen, I also did some writing.  I swear.


Todd rocks a GRAVY baseball hat along with his YALE shirt.


Todd eats a biscuit, I drink bourbon and prepare for a photo I thought was happening later than it did, and Kitty mugs for the camera.

The womanly art of eavesdropping

When I was little my mom taught me to eavesdrop. “You just pretend you’re reading, or deep in thought, but really you’re listening to everyone around you.”  She would take me to the Magnolia room at Rich’s where we would eat chicken salad and try to pick up on others’ conversations. Or to Gyro Wrap on Peachtree for a chicken gyro with a side of strangers’ juicy details.  

Mom said that part of the fun of eavesdropping was you could make up stories about the people you overheard. That woman eating fruit salad next to you might be telling her friend she was “through with men,” but that wasn’t the real story.  What people said often did not reflect the real circumstances of their lives, but you could garner clues by watching them.  That woman who was “through with men”…was she blinking back tears? Tearing a Kleenex into little pieces? Or spinning her neck in self-righteous indignation? These little physical details told as much about their lives as their words.

The other night I went to hear the fantabulous Joshilyn Jackson speak about her new book, Backseat Saints (which you should go buy if you haven’t yet done so–it’s a wonder.)  Joshilyn confessed that if you were ever sitting next to her at a restaurant, and it looked as if she was just reading a book, enjoying a little solitude, she most assuredly was not. She was, instead, eavesdropping on you, and then making up a story around something you said.  Me too, me too, me too! I wanted to shout, but I controlled myself and stayed quiet in my seat.  But how validating to learn that other writers do it, too.

Today I ate lunch by myself at Watershed restaurant in Decatur, GA.  Watershed is one of my all time favorites, with its indigenous southern menu that always includes a vegetable plate.  I ordered a great little crunchy salad topped with poached chicken and homemade mayonnaise. I nibbled away while listening to the charming conversation of the uber southern ladies next to me. My favorite overheard line? “Well he and I became dear, dear friends after he caught me stealing his gardenias.”

Just watch.  I’ll use that in a book one day.


philosophy, flicks, fiction & food

On the philosophical front: A wise writer friend of mine says that none of the reviews, good or bad, are any of our–the writers’–business at all. That our business is to write the books we are supposed to write and that is that.  I’m trying to internalize her wisdom. 

On the movies front: Saw PLEASE GIVE tonight at the cin-e-ma.  Liked it a lot.  It didn’t rip my heart out, but I was very interested in what was happening on screen the whole time, and was especially delighted to catch the Sarah Vowell cameo!  Especially neat because Catherine Keener’s character was reading a Sarah Vowell book in one of the early scenes.

On the book front: Friday night I met author Aliya S. King whose novel, PLATINUM debuts a week from this Tuesday. Turns out PLATINUM, about the wives of hip hot artists, is published by my house, Touchstone.  Anyway, read Aliya’s book this weekend and was totally engrossed.  The story is juicy and fun and sexy and raw, but also heartbreaking and emotionally resonant.  Way to go, Aliya!

Food front: The SFA (Southern Foodways Alliance) was in town this weekend on a field trip exploring the immigrant restaurants/shops of Buford Highway.  Neat to think how indigenous southern foods of the white and black community affect the foods of east asia and latin america, and vice versa.  Fried chicken taco, anyone?

In Belgium, Biscuit and Egg = Nutella and Pancake!

One of my favorite parts of A Soft Place to Land is the description of the game that Ruthie and Julia played as girls–and that in real life my sisters and I played as girls–Biscuit and Egg.  It’s a nonsensical game, one of the silly things that sisters come up with to keep themselves amused. Here’s the description from the book: 

“Egg and Biscuit was a game that Julia created, and because she created it, she got to make up all of the rules, the primary one being that Julia was always the Egg, Ruthie was always the Biscuit.  Julia would stand on the far side of the room, looking forlorn, casting her eyes about but never resting them on anyone or anything until they rested on Ruthie, who stood across the room, her back to Julia.
“B-B-Biscuit?” Julia would ask, disbelieving.
Ruthie would turn, would look at Julia, would squint her eyes.  “E-E-Egg?”
“Biscuit?” Julia would ask again, hope creeping into her voice.
“Egg!?” Ruthie would ask.
Finally the two girls would run towards each other, screaming, “Biscuit! Egg! Biscuit! Egg!” They would meet in the middle of the room, Julia lifting Ruthie off the floor and twirling her around in a hug while each of them cried, “Oh, my yummy Egg! Oh, my fluffy Biscuit!”

My editor also really liked this scene, so much so that we considered naming the whole book Biscuit and Egg but were scared people might think it was a cookbook.  I’ve heard from a lot of readers about this scene, and how it reminds them of the games they used to play with their sisters, the games they haven’t thought of in a million years.  And just yesterday I got a wonderful email from Kristien, a woman from Belgium who said that she and her (grown) sister have started calling each affectionate food nicknames since reading the book, just for fun. Only they have started calling each other “Nutella and Pancake!”

So my question to you is: what nicknames did you and your siblings have for each other when growing up? Or you and your best friend? And what were some of the ridiculous, nonsensical, silly games you played? Email me at  I’ll send a free signed book to the writer of my favorite response.  And post your nicknames/games on here too, if you’d like!


A Cappella books is 20–let’s sneak it an illegal beer.

I love Frank Reiss, owner of A Cappella Books in Atlanta’s Little 5 Points. He’s smart, funny, humble, a voracious reader, and he’s been running an indie bookstore for the past 20 years. Not an easy feat in our big box world. Two books I bought from A Cappella that changed my life were: Flannery O’Connor’s The Habit of Being and Tom Hodgkinson’s How to Be Idle. THOB is O’Connor’s collected letters. Reading them was like taking a writing course from the master herself. HTBI is a “loafer’s manifesto.” Basically it made me entirely re-think my overly abundant Protestant work ethic, and made me feel okay about lingering over lunch and being a “flaneur.” Problem is, in Atlanta it’s hard to be a flaneur–someone who walks with no destination in mind, letting the city reveal itself as it may. In Atlanta, often what is revealed is: more commercial development!! Yahoo.

So I realize this post is being a bit flaneur-ish. It has a point, though. That is, this weekend A Cappella is celebrating its twentieth birthday by having 20 Atlanta authors come talk about their favorite books. Cool idea, eh? Alan, mi esposo, is speaking on Portnoy’s Complaint. And I am talking about a very strange cookbook called The Supper of the Lamb, written by an Episcopal priest. I think it’s funny that Alan and I are being mixed faith even in our selection of books. He and I are talking on Sunday, Dec. 6, at noon and 12:30. Master storyteller Joshilyn Jackson finishes up the Sunday line-up. On Saturday my buddy Jessica Handler talks, at 4pm. Her memoir, Invisible Sisters, was just chosen by Atlanta magazine as one of the best books of 2009, and they were right.

So. Come to Little 5 Points this weekend and listen to us authors talk about books we like. And eat a piece of birthday cake. And sneak A Cappella a beer. I mean come on, if the bookstore is old enough to serve in the Army, really, we should let it have a drink.