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Like many people, I got used to attending events on Zoom. I even went so far as to convince myself it was better because I didn’t have to change out of my soft pants or drive across town. For two years I filled my social calendar with online author events and watched from the comfort of my couch. But then the Southern Festival of Books announced that its 34th annual event would take place in person for the first time since 2019. I immediately went to their festival app and started adding events to my calendar with reckless abandon. Two author events at the same time in two different locations? That was a problem for future-me. Onto the calendar they went!

So many authors traveled to Nashville for this festival. Hundreds, in fact. And I was lucky enough to meet and talk with many of them. I got to hug Margaret Renkl. I got to show Mary Laura Philpott my gold turtle bolo tie. I befriended Maud Newton with promises to show her around the weird parts of Nashville on her next visit. I attended panels with Tara M. Stringfellow and Imani Perry. I got the chance to ask Isaac Fitzgerald how he writes such great first sentences. (Reader, it’s by having a poet for a best friend.) I introduced myself to Malaka Gharib and we made loose plans to meet up for coffee soon.

I left the festival with tired feet, a full heart and a lot of new pals. To everyone who makes the Southern Festival of Books happen — staff, planners, volunteers, booksellers, panel moderators, authors — thank you for bringing us all together in real life again. 

Kim Baldwin

Digital Editor, Nashville Scene

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