Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 5 months ago

WB S2E5 Author Allies

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

WRITERS' BLOCK Ron Block and Mary Kay Andrews speak with Linda Ketron about her stellar work with Moveable Feast and becoming a beacon to authors and readers alike.

I thought that was very grave of the young woman and her mother who bought the book store. And we're looking at ourselves as sort of three generations Olivia. One of the new owners is only twenty five and her mother is fifty ish and I'm seventy fivesh and there you'll have it. So I'm the grandmother in this operation. Now, welcome to the friends and fiction writers block podcast. For New York Times Best Selling Authors, one rock star Librarian and endless stories, join Mary K Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Christy Woodson Harvey and Patty Callahan Henry, along with Ron Block. As novelists. We are for longtime friends with seventy books between us, and I am Ron Block. Please join us for fascinating author interviews and inside or talk about publishing and writing. If you love books that are curious about the writing world, you are in the right place. Welcome to another episode of the friends and Fiction Writers Block podcast. We love exploring all aspects of the reading and writing world, and today is no different. We have the honor to speak with one of the brightest connectors within the writing and reading world. I am Bron Block and I'm Mary Kay Andrews and Linda Catron, our guest today, is owner and manager of class class, a multiple prong literary and Arts Mecca on polly's island, South Carolina. She wears multiple hats, as we will hear. In fact, the last time I saw Linda she was wearing an Elf hat. Will hear more of and that she has become known far and wide for being a huge ally to authors as well as readers. Linda, thanks for joining us today. Thank you. It's great to have you here. It's good to be here. I don't know where we are. We're in the we're in the INNERSPACE, right, rob, right, excellent, in Retro Grade. Yeah, that is an outer space. So let's start in the beginning, Linda. How did your path lead you to being the amazing icon you are today? What were your early passions that drove you to this address? Reading, reading and reading, like so many of the authors that you have and so...

...many of the people who attend the movable feast, friends and fiction, all of these wonderful library events that are offered, reading is the link among us all, and that was no different for me. I loved reading as a child. went on to English major because I said, well, this is great, I can just read, I don't have to do calculations or scientific experiments, I could just read and read some more. So that that was the educational background and I expected that I would be teaching, but it didn't turn out that way. It didn't need well, I guess we're all the better for it, from what I hear. That's it's so great to meet you today. I've heard so much about you for so many years from all of these amazing authors and people that attend your event. So it's it's my honor here to have you here today. I am most intrigued by your class organization what I've been reading about it. Can you tell us about each of the parts of that and and how they all came together, because I know that's quite a story. MMMM well, class started. The acronym stands for community learning about special subjects, because essentially the world is my oyster. I can I can do anything I want. Everything is a special subject. So when it began I was a volunteer for the local library. My husband and I had moved here from New Manhattan and I volunteered at the library and what I found were there were so many retired women educated, interested in so many things, active involved and there really was not that much beyond Majong Bridge Golf for them to do. And so I began little classes. I investigated people who came to the library and who might want to teach something that they knew. And we had paully's island is quite the destination for retirees, and so we had university professors in all manner of subjects and fine artists and wonderful musicians, and I started putting together courses and borrowed space here and there and finally had a space of my own. And the one of the classes that I put together was called the movable feast, because Hemingway is a favorite of mine and I love his collection of short stories, the movable feast, and so...

I partnered that with the local restaurants, most of whom closed the day after New Year's they closed for two or three months and they went south. They went to Florida with you, Cathy, and and absolutely escaped and the place was dead as a doornail. There weren't there was no place to eat, there was no nothing to do. So I put together interesting people in the community, some of whom were authors, some of whom were musicians, some of whom were historians, and we would go. I set it up as a six week class and for six weeks every Friday we would go somewhere to one of the restaurants that we convinced to stay open and serve us and we would listen to a talk and then we would all eat together. And I still have a few people who are coming to the Feast who came twenty five years ago to that very first one in one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight. But they loved it and so we expanded that and it got bigger and big her and couple of years later it was every Friday year round and I was running out of people. I mean it's not a huge community. So we were really we were reaching far afield with even ask some of my husband's theater people to come down from New York just to entertain us. So the upshot of that was that the little local independent book store, the owners sold the book store to a new couple, Tom Warner and Vicky Crafton and Mary Ka knows them well, very well, and so tom was really handling the bookstore part of it and he said, you know I could get you some authors. I've got contacts with all of these publishers and agents and perhaps you should just let me get you the authors and you continue to plan the events and deliver the events and we'll bring the authors in and we'll be happy to sell their books. And I said, well, that sounds good. He said, but I don't want you to do musicians and people that don't have books because there's nothing in it for the book store. I said, okay, we'll do that. And that was tom he was always looking at the bottom line, bless his heart, and so we did do that for a very long time. That started in two thousand and two and so this is...

...twenty years later and I'm still partnering with Litchfield Books. After Tom passed about seven years ago or so, his wife, Vicki took over and she became the contact with all of the publishing houses and the publicity agents and whatnot, and she invited the authors and she had a particular interest in non fiction. So we had quite a number of it really was like one of my courses again. We had a lot of non fiction authors who came through, but that wasn't necessarily the population. What the population wanted to hear. They really loved the entertainment aspect of it, that fiction, imagination, fantasy, all of these things give the readership and an audience. And so we did another five or seven years with Vicki and then she sold the book store only only last May, right in the plunk, in the middle of the pandemic. I thought that was very brave of the young woman and her mother who bought the book store. And we were looking at ourselves as sort of three generations Olivia. One of the new owners is only twenty five and her mother is fifty ish and I'm seventy fiveish. And there you'll have it. So I'm the grandmother in this operation. Now, who was Linda? Do you remember who your first author was for the mood the movable feast? Alberta Cuaddelbaumb, not a name that everybody knows. I don't think I don't. I know that was not, but that was so many years ago. So Alberta caudelbaumb wrote as her master's thesis a book about the plantations on the walk them on neck called the Georgetown rice plantations. This was over fifty years ago, probably sixty years ago, and from that book was created the plantation tour from for the Prince George Whin Yaw Episcopal Church in Georgetown, and every year she would edit and revise and update. And when the plantations sold and some new person took it over and said they were going to restore everything, and she would watch them and she would record on it in the book and it got I think it had seven editions, probably probably sold probably hundred thousand books because because...

...she it has. I mean it's had a lot of years. It's sort of like a Bible. It's sort of had a lot of years to sell. But Alberta, we linked that together with the tour itself. So often we would have we would have Alberta come and give a little talk and then people would go on the tour. Right. Who was your first novelist? Who was your first big name, I mean other than me, other than you? Yeah, you're not. You're not that old. So you can't spend my first one. No, I don't. You know, I honestly. I figured out that we've had over one two hundred presentations, twelve amazing and at least seventy two thousand people have attended these. That's just taking sixty people as an average attendance, but we did fifty a year. There were only two. We would only miss two Fridays every year. So it was fifty presentations average of sixty. But we've had some that had three hundred and sixty. Delia Owens and even Alexander. These two people had three hundred and sixty people stuffed into the ball room at Pauli's plantation. So and some just have thirty there. I mean we still bring poetry books in, people with sort of tough subjects. That's a good way to put it. Yes, tough subjects. What about the makeup of the audience? Has It changed over the years? There? Is it been consistently the same type of people that attend the events? We all there are more and more people who are doing this as a group activity. At the beginning it really was an individual, often a widow, who didn't know what to do with herself and you know, under to share her interest in reading and what she had read, and so we would have those and it would be mostly those people, mostly women. But as time has passed, there are in this small community more than sixty book clubs and it's a lot of book clubs. In a small we have maybe tenzero people in the area. So lots of readers and they are they tend to be in these communities developed all at the same time. People would come down from New Jersey and then all of their neighbors would retire down...

...from New Jersey and they all get together. They'd have a book club, that have a bridge club, that have a golf game. And then now the the book clubs come as groups and we often I've had as many as three tables full of thirty people from one book club that are coming to see Mary K Andrews, for example. Right. But now you sometimes get the gentleman too. I mean usually, usually it's a lot of ladies, but I always tease the gentlemen that they're the soul rooster in the house. Yes, yes, yes, we do get we do get Zellas and many event and you plan events also to draw more audience. Like talk about that. Well, we've had people like Rick Bragg and Brag also while we cash has come. We've had oh they've just been a bunch of them. Christopher dickey brought a ton of people when he came with his book. By the way. Huh, I said for those who don't. Maybe the name doesn't mean anything to that's James Dick. James Dicky, says the deliverance. Yeah, that's his yeah, yeah, yeah, so we had like Robert Jordan. He brought a lot of manion. Pat Conroy, of course, course, everybody meant patent of and he he was, you know, just a universal that everyone loved him and came. John Meets Him. I'd say John meacham brought the largest cohort of males to one of these and he was excellent as well. So I would say that my intent really was to provide quality education and quality entertainment and quality passing of time, because for some of us we found that retirement has gone on entirely too long. We had plenty of time in there for a whole second career and should have done it. And that's where the movable feast actually in evolved from all of these classes that I still have, some of the classes on in art and retreats, women's retreats. I have a number of things like that that are still going on. But it did move into another career for me, which was publishing, and there were at any number of these events that we would have there would be people that would ask questions of the authors. How did you get your agent, how did you get published? How did you get to anybody's attention? And...

...they would say things like I'm sixty three, I have one book, I have tried and tried and I can't get anybody interested in me, and so I started saying, well, I'm interested. What have you got? And and one of the things a couple of friends of mine had books that they had shopped around and they said, I don't have enough time to do this. One of my authors is ninety two of them are eighty seven. None of them is younger than fifty and what they have is something that means a tremendous amount to them. Right. They aren't. They've done that, you know, the career thing. They're primarily retired and they they either have loved mysteries all their life and took a crack at writing it and think they did a pretty good job, and so they don't want to go through the seven hundred and twenty rejection slips in a drawer that a twenty two year old is willing to do, because they know they've got plenty of time out there well to pursue it. So I started publishing. The first two books I published were one was a novel about the south called walk them on gold, and it really was about the one percenters before people were all writing about the one percenters. This was about eight years ago and it's very good. We gone into a second edition of it. The author is working on his on the follow up, the sequel to it. You want to see when it why don't you tell us the author's name so our listeners, but if they want, you can look it up and they can. They can. I will tell the author's name. It's William Woodson, the calling billy, and Billy Woodson lives in the upstate and used to live down here and worked at Coastal Carolina University and at Brook Green Gardens and you know a number of places around here and this is really a wonderful book. I I recommended. Thank you. And they can. They for instance, can they order it from litchfield books or all of my books? All of my books can be ordered from the field books. Yeah, that's something that people really want to know and they of course we have friends of fiction. Part of what we're about is, as you are as fostering our love of our indie booksellers. So Ron was going to ask you about the movable feast. He hasn't been to one and I have. So Oh, hit it wrong, hit it well. I have heard about this for so many years and it's my goal to get...

...to one, but I haven't yet. But tell me what goes into it. What are the steps whether what are all the moving parts that come to go? Moving part to make it happen? Well, the Book Store essentially has contacted the publicity agent or the publicity agent has contacted the book store. Or, as you know, the publishers send out these grids and the grids are sent about three to six months ahead of the release of books. So they've marked off all the people that they want, they would like to come for a feast and then slowly they start filling in the schedule. So we usually have reservations made for authors three months at least in advance. I know that Olivia is already working on some that are in October, because with covid people are knowing far and far in advance when they're going to have their next book out and so they're nailing down dates for presentations. So once Olivia tells me the date and the author. Then I look up the author. I find out what I can about the new book that's coming out and get an estimation from their past if they've if there's somebody that's come to us before, then I know what kind of a crowd they attract. And if it's brand new, I look at, you know, best seller debut, what kind of reviews they've had and try to match one of the restaurants. And I've got about sixteen to twenty restaurants to pick from. That's one of the key things. There have been a lot of people who have wanted to do this somewhere else and what they don't have? There are a couple of things they don't have, but one of them is a lot of really great restaurants that are closed at lunch time, that are open to having people come with a party and that have parking. I don't know how important parking is, but it wouldn't work in Manhattan. It wouldn't work. It doesn't work in Charleston. Charleston can do this once a month, once or twice a year. They just can't pull it off every Friday without fail, and some Tuesdays, because we we get so many now that we are adding Tuesdays. So this week we've got Fiona on Friday, on Tuesday. We'll GADS, did you say Joian Canter? No, he had Julian. Kids are sorry. YEA, no, that's okay, but we do have well, I can't even remember. We we're just calling today for all the people to make sure that...

...they didn't have covid and that they were wanting to still come. So and then the following we have Tuesday and Friday and Tuesday and Friday and it goes like that. This is now. This is your season, is at right, Londa? Well, this is not. This is really the big season. The big season is well, half of March, the second half of March, around Easter time, March and certainly April, certainly May and definitely June, I mean, and then it tapers off a little bit in July and August and then the historical fiction starts up when school starts. It's an interesting, you know, linkage there. How do you have any idea how many people you have on your subscription list or on your mailing list, because I know that your folks are just so devoted to the series? Well, I have over tenzero that's larger than the population of our area, but that's because of all the snowbirds we get. You know, Canadians and you know. But that's the mailing list and I don't do mailings anymore. I do emails. So of the emails that I have are over five thousand. I have five thousand. So usually every home, I'd say once every month or six weeks, we send out an update because there are changes and with covid there have been a lot of changes voting. Sometimes the restaurant, the staff is all down. With covid we have to move it at the last minute. We did that with just this last week. We had to move but it worked. So we have about five thousand that I send out notices to. So how does one, Oh, I don't know, maybe me, get on that list? You just tell me your email address and I will put you right on it. I have your email address to right on it and you will get it every time. It's now a bucket list event for me. OHR Do'sn't need to be that now. WHENDA, do you work with Litchfield on? Do you ever say to them? You know, I know that our folks love such and such author or is it usually the book store that says, Linda, here's the authors that we want to have? Do you have some saying that? Yeah, I have some say in it, certainly with my own author's I've got forty now that I've pubed, forty books that I've published. So when I've got somebody that's got a brand new book out, I've got a book coming out very soon on Francis Benjamin Johnston's Carolina. Francis Benjamin Johnston was the premier female photographer in the S and all of her photographs are in the library of Congress and they they she has been...

...utterly ignored, while all of these male photographers have gotten great accolades and retrospectives and wonderful shows and books about them. Well, Bill Ball, William Baldwin, billy Baldwin and Bud Hill from mcclellanville have pulled all of these photos of Charleston, Georgetown, Camden and the environs. So it's a lot of photography that she did during the WPA and so she was sent here from Washington DC where up to that point she'd been busy photographing the presidents and the cabinets and the Supreme Court and dignitaries, but she was sent to do architectural photographs. So and the copy that is used in the book is the WPA's Guide to South Carolina from one thousand nine hundred and thirty four and it's so dated but really sweet. It's real, really insolated, wonderful. So I get these kinds of projects that are, you know, as they said, there's nobody wants to publish this book, but we want it published. We think she deserves her do and I do too. So we're publishing the book and that's best. And that brings up a question, though, like what what is it that you look at when somebody approaches you about about publishing their book? What's the criteria that you well, at this point I've found that most of the books are going to be about South Carolina or the south, and although I'm a Westerner, I'm from Oregon originally. I've lived here for thirty five years and I I can see there is a heartbeat that is just either these authors have it or they don't have it, and and what they bring to me. I'm just looking at my bookshelf over here, because it's loaded with all of these books that they have written about. One is called polly's island, an old man's love story, and this is Robert mcallister, goes by Mac Max. Eighty seven. He has spent seventy summer us on polly's island. He built the last pavilion. He was the designer of the last pavilion that was built on the island. He he's just an amazing person and that's what I guess. I just look for heart and I would say none of them has let me down. They're all beating strongly. That's and just scan is one of the things. You look for an author's personality so that they...

...can help you once the book is out, sell it and publicize it. Does that matter to us? I probably should have. Yes, they are all alive. That's good. Check. Check. The thing is that is that is my weakness. In my publishing house, I will give you a beautiful book. It will be edited to a fairly well I have a group of people, photographers, illustrators, because I had an art gallery for twenty five years, wonderful editors, both copy and proof, and they're all volunteers. We're all volunteers, right, and that's what we nobody's looking for income. From this. We are looking to get the best possible product that we can out for the author, and it's great if they got the personality to promote it. It is most helpful, because I just want to move on to the next book. I I don't have a big marketing arm, which is why you've got to make you really got to want, just want to have the book published in in your hands, to come to me. Okay, let's go back for a minute to the movable face. M I would love to hear some stories, memorable moments, good moments, bad moments, favorite surprises, kind of can you kind of give us a thumb nail, best of or worst of? I like the worst of part. Let's go. I would never say the worst of it. I can tell you the best. I'll tell you the best. Okay, the very best was a woman and author named Bren mcclaine. Bren Mcclain wrote a book, book one good Mama Bonekay, and when I read her bio and everything, I asked the restaurant that we were going to to fix a vegetarian meal because I saw that she was vegetarian, that she this book was how a cow literally brought her full humanity. Out and it is. It's a life changing kind of book. It's wonderful. And when she came she burst into tears when they brought us Pasta Primavera, because she said, I have never gone to an event where we weren't being served some kind of meat, and so that to me was just a huge plus. Now you want the worst. I can't think of the worst. Think of the worst. Well, you had to...

...get a pivoting and stuff like that in the past. Oh, there was a good pivot. Okay, we had a woman author whose name now I don't recall, Naomi, Naomi something, who was coming from Savannah and when she reached highway seventeen, she turned south instead of north and she called us and she was way too many hours away to get to us in time for the feast and she said I don't know what you're going to do, and I said, well, we'll have to do something, and I slipped open my little book of local authors and I said, Jeez, I haven't leaned on Mickey Spillane in a long time and he lives just up the street, or live just up the street, and I called Mickey and I said, Mickey, can you come entertain in some women for about, oh, just about an hour and then I'll feed you and he said, I'll be right there. Oh my God, I love and it was magnificent. He he sailed in with stories about the Jaguar that John Wayne gave him. I thought he gave him a I thought he gave him. What did he call it? A redneck Cadillac, which was actually a pickup truck? No, well, maybe he gave him that too. But he had a Jaguar that he which he left out in his yard through every climate change, every hurricane, and it was the cat house. It was the house for all of his feral cats and they lived in this Jaguar. So, but he was so entertaining and what a charmer. Just I mean, oh, he was in his element. Loved having all these women doating on him. Was Great. I did the book an author Lunchon and Charleston and Mickey was was all. You know that they do like four or five authors and Rickey had the longest line. All those women talk to Mickey and they all said, I'm just getting this for my husband and just need to sign this for my husband. Yeah, he's what a personality. Yes, totally. Well, Linda, it has been such a pleasure talking to you. I wish we could do this all day, but when I come to the movable feast, we're going to spend some time together. Yes, because there's you're like a human card catalog. I love it. Has So many connections and everything you've done is just so crazy. But and I'll tell people that I have the list that you sent me. Have all the books that you published and all the upcoming things, so we can we publish the podcast. Will also post that too. So thank you to that. Good. So what a community gift you are to just all these things you do for people. It's inspiring and no...

...wonder people have told me all over all these years that how much they'd love you. Thank you. You have a free seat. You have a free seat at the author's table, which it turns out not to be that big of a deal because the authors always in their signing books. That's not actually here. He is not actually sitting at the table with but you hit the author's table, we will come. I heard you have this up and coming author named Mary Kay Andrews that might be there soon. Yeah, well, you know the deal is wrong. If you said at my table. I get your dessert. Yes, I'm okay with that. I have said your table before. Definitely. Anyway. Thank you again so much for joining us, Linda, and for all you do for the literary and creative world, and really you are the ultimate author Alle and if you can, for others, I swear. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you, thanks, lenda. I can't wait to see you in May. Yay, and thank you all for tuning in. It's just fantastic when we get a glimpse into worlds that we don't often think of in the publishing world. We hope you enjoyed this episode and thank you so much for listening. As always, please tell a friend. Remember you can always find all the books by every friends and fiction writers block podcast guest past and present in the friends and fiction bookshop dot org shop. All sales place their help to fund friends in fiction, and a portion of each and every sale goes straight into the pockets of indie booksellers nationwide. Since its inception, bookshop dot org has raised more than sixteen million for indie bookstores. Shop small, shop local from the convenience of your screen with bookshop Dotorg and tell them friends and fiction sent you. Thank you for tuning in to the friends and fiction writers block podcast. Please be sure to subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform. Tune in every Friday for another episode, and you can also join us every week on facebook or youtube, where our live friends and fiction show airs at seven PM Eastern Standard Time. We are so glad you're here.

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