Last November my publisher arranged for me to speak at the Miami Book Fair. When you speak at a book festival, you get some perks — an author's lounge where you can feast on coffee, soda and donuts, bagels things (and the occasional rogue banana; we could be a healthier people). This is also where authors check in for the festival and pick up name badges that signify their status as "AUTHOR."
Leaving the lounge I stepped on the elevator and noticed another AUTHOR badge dangling from the neck of the woman next to me. Earlier in the year I'd had a great time with authors like Shellie Rushing Tomlinson at a bookseller conference in Savannah and so, still warm from that Southern hospitality, I forgot — for a moment — that Miami is no Savannah, and I turned to the woman next to me, smiled and asked, "So where are you from?"
She looked down at me — she was quite tall, dressed in black and white only, with jet-black hair and skin that was in no danger of freckling.
"New York," she said, managing a tone that was both both haughty and amazed. "Where else?"
Her "where else" did not intimate "because I love New York so much"; rather, it dripped with "because one cannot possibly be a published Author unless one lives in New York."
I wish I'd looked at her badge again to get her name so as to ensure I never accidentally bought one of her books, and also so I could address her by name with what I wanted to say next:
Tampa Bay, bitch. That's "where else."
Although I cannot possibly read all the books publishers send me (rock stars get women and cocaine; newspaper editors get books and poorly written press releases), I read a goodly amount this year, and some of my favorite reads came from Tampa Bay authors. Florida — specifically, Tampa Bay — has some wildly gifted authors. Long gone are the days of the sleepy coastal town (although, oh, how I long for those days when I'm navigating rush hour between Ybor and Gulfport) bemoaning its lack of culture. Many cities have writers; Tampa Bay has authors.
That, coupled with CL's passion for eschewing chain stores and corporate 1-percenters, inspired an issue that showcases successful local authors and encourages you to read local. We asked some of our community's magnificent writers if they'd like to write this issue, and in these pages they offer you their thoughts on books, suggest books for you to read, and pull back the publishing veil.
We can heartily recommend each writer, too: This past year I discovered Kris Radish's historical fiction, A Dangerous Woman From Nowhere, absolutely compelling (I never thought of myself as an historical fiction fan, but, well, there it is). Jack Davis touched my soul with his eloquent love song to my beloved Gulf of Mexico with The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea (and how great is it to have a mostly-local writer win the Kirkus prize?). Lee Irby's Unreliable enchanted sufficiently that Scott Harrell said "You talk about Lee Irby so much I thought he lived in Gulfport."
Speaking of which, my little hamlet has its share of notable writers, even without Irby — John Prine shares a zip code with me for part of the year, and Ray Roa reviews his newest book. I can't wait to write my review of St. Pete dweller Lisa Kirchner's memoir, Hello American Lady Creature. Cynthia Barnett horrified our office with her graphic descriptions of how we once "cleaned" shells, and Tamara Lush re-ignited my passion for writing romance. University Press of Florida editor Sian Hunter spills the secrets of the publishing industry. Arin Greenwood — who covers all things furry for CL — lets us peek inside her new book, Your Robot Dog Will Die, out this April. Sian Hunter, a gifted editor at the University Press of Florida (a press, by the way, that's agreed to honor their holiday book sale through the end of the year for our readers — use code XM17) spills the beans on the realities of publishing (and teaches us what a deckle is).
Also, don't miss Kate Bradshaw's review of The Water Will Come and our online-only Books Issue 2017 extras, like Bill DeYoung's article about a new chapter for Wilson's Book World, a special Poet's Notebook from Peter Meinke and Jennifer Ring's list of 10 books that make great gifts for photography fans and enthusiasts.
And, hey, unlike that New York writer, we're not snobs 'round here, so we want to read what you're writing, too — it's time for our annual fiction contest, and this year's theme, love, offers fertile ground in which you can plunge your writerly seed. Interpret love as you wish, but get us your stories by January 11 so we can have husband-and-wife judges Donald Morrill and Lisa Birnbaum (University of Tampa/Tampa Review) recognize your talent. The fiction issue — and awards party — takes place February 7 at the CL Space in Ybor.
Cathy Salustri is the arts + entertainment editor for Creative Loafing Tampa and the author of Backroads of Paradise (UPF, 2016) Follow her adventures at greatfloridaroadtrip.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. She also has a personal website and an Instagram, which has mostly pictures of her dogs. Email her here.