None of the other writers at Saturday’s Authors in Apalach book fair have had a rock star life like Rita Coolidge.
They haven’t sang with Joe Cocker or been married to Kris Kristofferson. True, they may have gone to Florida State, as did Coolidge, or even been a sister in the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority there, as she was.
But none of the other authors have ever won two Grammys, or sang backup for Dylan, Hendrix, Clapton, Nash or Stills.
But while you can’t take it literally, each of these 33 authors that filled the Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and the Arts, and the Robert Lindsley Gallery across the street, was a rock star, figuratively speaking.
Coolidge’s memoir, Delta Lady (HarperCollins, 2016) was likely a big reason the event downtown drew double what it has in the past. She was available for glimpsing, taking selfies with, talking one-on-one about FSU, Woodstock, record albums, how you wore your hair back in your hippie days.
Each of the authors who took part had a book, too, that they had written, and most all of them stayed busy all day chatting, selling and signing.
“I was very pleased, I was over the moon,” said Caty Greene, librarian at the Apalachicola library, the new location of which is set to open in mid May. “I’m hoping we can do as well next year.”
Dale Julian, owner of Downtown Books, said she sold 260 books, for a total of just under $6,000. “Of this, roughly $3,500 was paid back to the authors whose books I sold. Another chunk paid for books I ordered on authors’ behalf,” she said.
Julian said her numbers don’t include the dozen or so authors who brought their own books and handled their own sales. “Every author sold something, and several, headliners and newbies both, sold out,” she said.
Robert Lindsley, a member of the library board, donated his gallery space for the event, and in addition to more of the authors’ booths, the large studio gallery room was devoted to a series of talks given throughout the day. The last one of the day, featuring Coolidge, was standing room only, following on the heels of one given by her newfound beau, naturalist and filmmaker Joe Hutto, whose wildlife books hgave been made into two award-winning documentaries by BBC’s Nature TV series.
Hutto was one of two wildlife authors to speak, the other Bruce Means, a foremost expert on snakes and other reptiles of the Southeast, whose book “Diamonds in the Rough,” is his compilation of his 30-year study of the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
On hand to get her copy signed was Janet Bowman, from Tallahassee, who 30 years ago went on one of Means’ rattlesnake field trips in Wakulla Springs and watched then as he throttled a rattler with a stick. “I still have the rattle,” she said.
“I’m not encouraging every young boy to go out and do this. There’s a clamp stick for that purpose,” Means cautioned, describing how to hold the snake behind its rear jaws. He said Franklin County is roughly in the center of the snake’s area of distribution, and that it likes dry, sandy soil, with open pine forests and grasslands nearby.
He noted these snakes are not aggressive and will not chase people, but it is wise to keep your distance. In the event of a bite, first aid is no longer advised, of any type, and that the urgency is to get the individual to a emergency room.
The author who drew much enthusiasm from a band of devoted fans was Dawn McKenna, whose seven-volume Forgotten Coast Suspense Series is set in Apalachicola and surrounding environs.
“I get to call this my other hometown,” said the South Florida native who now lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.
“It’s just a magical place. When I’m away from here, I pine for it,” she said. “This is the Florida I remember.”
She said that when she was a young screenwriter, she first drove through Apalachicola at age 20, and she knew then it was somewhere she would never forget. “I knew envetually I would write about Apalachiocola,” she said.
McKenna shared many of her writing habits, which is now switching to night time as she busies herself homeschooling her two youngest children, twins Becca and Matthew Reeves, who were both with her on the trip.
She said she puts in at least four hours each day on her desktop computer at home in Tennessee. “I’d love to do more of the writing here in Apalachicola,” said McKenna.
Not intending to write a serial novel, she gambled on the success of her first four books, hoping they would pay the bills, and published them independently. Without a hint of brag in her voice, she shared how fortunate she has been.
“They have been way more successful than I was praying for them to be,” she said. “I am incredibly grateful. They are available all over the world.”
Not yet translated outside of English, she said she would prefer the first be in French, “It’s a tax-deductible reason to go to Paris,” she joked, But, she added, since she doesn’t fly, it would have to be on a ship across the Atlantic.