Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Karin Gillespie on Cover to Cover

Tonight's broadcast of Cover to Cover was once again a satisfying experience for me, and I hope for you, despite some behind the scenes "issues."

I had met tonight's guest, Karin Gillespie (pictured left), back in 2004 when she came into the GPB studios for an interview with me about her very first book, Bet Your Bottom Dollar, which aired on GPB's Georgia Gazette (Fridays, 3PM repeating Sundays, 10AM).

Karin arrived at the studios from Augusta with her husband, David Neches. David is a musician and was intrigued by the grand piano situated in the lobby of the GPB building. It's a Mason & Hamlin, and although I knew nothing about the instrument other than that it is used at receptions in the lobby, David told me that Mason & Hamlin pianos are considered excellent instruments. The company is one of the oldest American piano manufacturers and was founded in Boston in 1854.

David rather sheepishly asked me, as we walked back to the studios, if he might be allowed to play it on the way out. The answer of course was yes.

Disaster struck at about 7:30PM. With half an hour to go before the show we discovered that there was a major problem with our computer system. No one was able to log in to their computer accounts. This meant I couldn't print up the show script, and Susannna Capelouto, who directs the show, couldn't access the email I had sent her from home with the Cheatsheet script attached. Without the Cheatsheet she couldn't record it to drop into the show at the appointed time.

I usually write the Cheatsheet at home over the weekend and email it to Susanna so she can print it out and record it before the show starts on Sunday evening. Fortunately, I also print a copy at home so that I have a hard copy with me when I get to the studios just in case the email doesn't make it into Susanna's in-box.

Susanna was able to get the Cheatsheet recorded before the show began, but I could not get a script printed. It was time to improvise, so I pulled the script for last month's show from my file cabinet and collected copies of July's and August's Preview, the GPB program guide and member magazine. Each edition has a write-up about that month's Cover to Cover and I was able to use the wording I had put together for each Preview article at the beginning and end of the show to describe tonight's book and next month's (Memory's Keep by James Everett Kibler).

So, when the video of tonight's show is posted to the website, don't be surprised if I look panic striken and am shuffling lots of papers; I was just trying to sound half way decent by cobbling a script together from three or four different sources.

I think overall the show went very well. Karin seemed very pleased with the listener calls, and I thought she did a great job answering their questions and engaging them in conversation. That's what Cover to Cover is all about after all: readers getting the chance to talk to the authors they've read.

As Karin was signing the prize copies of Dollar Daze for the first 5 callers after the show, she was telling me about her next book. It's titled Earthly Pleasures and is due out in February 2008. It's not a Bottom Dollar Girls story and so won't be published under Karin's name. However, I neglected to ask what pen-name she'd be using. More about that later, I'm sure.

So, despite a little drama, tonight's show went off well. If you weren't able to listen, don't forget that it repeats next Sunday, August 5 at 10AM.

As Karin and David left the studios to drive back to Augusta, David seized the opportunity and lifted the lid on the Mason & Hamlin piano in the lobby, sat on the stool, and begin to play a jazz tune. He's an excellent pianist and enjoyed the chance to tinkle the ivories of such a storied instrument.

If you'd like to respond to this, or any other Cover to Cover blog entry, you can email me at I look forward to your comments and questions. And, as an incentive, I have a signed copy of Dollar Daze I'll send to the first person who emails me at the Cover to Cover address with a comment or question about this new blog.

Hope to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Get 'em While They're Young

I spent this past Saturday morning with a large group of "energized" kids and their parents. GPB hosted a Between the Lions traveling event which brought members of the PBS series's most famous family of lions to Atlanta.

Between the Lions is part of the PBS Kids schedule of TV programs and can be watched on GPB TV weekdays at 1PM. The program promotes reading among kids aged 4-7 with a family of puppet lions who live in a magic library. There's mom and dad, Cleo and Theo, and their children Lionel and Leona. Theo and Leona were able to join us at GPB.

I was asked to be the "Designated Reader" for the performance and had to come up on stage and, with Leona looking over my shoulder, read the kids in the audience a story, Is Your Mama a Llama?, by Deborah Guarino, with illustrations by Steven Kellogg.

I love kids even though I don't have any of my own, but I've always been very aware of the old showbiz adage "never work with animals or kids." Here I was working with both!

It really was a great event; the kids loved it; the puppets were hilarious; and the whole Between the Lions team were a joy to work with. Theo and Leona even agreed to have their photograph made with me afterwards (see photo above. Me between the lions: l-r--Theo, me, Leona).

This event came hours after what may well prove to be one of the biggest literary events of the century: the release of the seventh and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

At 12:01AM on Saturday, July 21, bookstores all across the world opened their doors to millions of kids and their parents who wanted to be among the very first to buy and read the very last installment of one of literature's great characters.

I have a friend, Wil, who is the community relations manager for a Barnes & Noble store in Atlanta, and what he told me about what he was planning for last Saturday morning turned my hair grey. He was transforming his store into Platform 9 3/4 at London's Kings Cross Station (Potter aficionados will understand!). Thousands were expected to camp out outside the store in order to be sure of getting the new HP book.

I remember returning to the U.K. several years ago for a vacation. One of the Harry Potter books had just been released a day or so prior to my arrival, and my sister Caroline, who has 5 children, had managed to procure one single copy of the book which my nephews and nieces were having to share.

The household rules were that each of the kids could have the book for an hour a day and they were strictly forbidden from blurting upcoming plot details to those brothers and sisters who hadn't read as far. You can imagine the nightmares that ensured during the weeks that the five kids were attempting to share the book!

I mention these two recent events because of the critical importance of getting children to get into the habit of reading as early as possible. Between the Lions is committed to instilling the joys of reading and of words in children from an early age. Bravo!

Likewise, I have nothing but eternal admiration for J.K. Rowling whose HP books have almost single-handedly revived the desire to read among kids all over the world. Not only are these young 'uns picking up her books to read them, but they are completely oblivious to the fact that these HP books are generally 600-700 pages in length. Let me tell you that I would think twice before committing myself to a book of such length if I didn't have to!

IMHO, J.K. Rowling is a special type of hero (heroine?) and has a special circle of literary heaven reserved for her when she turns in her final manuscript and is received into the great book club in the sky!

They say children are our future. True. If they aren't in the habit of picking up a book and reading (as opposed to playing violent computer games) then societies all around the world are in trouble. It's all about what Barton Fink calls (in the movie of the same name) "the life of the mind."

If you have young children, record/TiVo Between the Lions (weekdays at 1PM on GPB TV) and plop them down in front of the TV when they get home from school and let them enjoy Theo, Cleo, Lionel and Leona. I certainly did, and I know how to read already (just!).

Monday, July 23, 2007

What's In a Name?

As you can imagine, with a name like St.John my life has at times been tough (that's an example of litotes). Constantly having to explain that it's pronounced [SIN-jun] not "Saint John" at places like Starbucks, where they apparently can only deliver your drink if it has your name on it, can be draining, humiliating, annoying etc.

St.John as a name can be linguistically compared to Sinclair. Both are vestiges of the French language. Sinclair is a corruption, both orthographically and phonetically, of the French "St. Clair," pronounced [SAN-clair] which passed into English at "Sinclair," the [SIN] being an anglicized equivalent of the French [SAN].

For St.John the process was essentially the same, although the orthography was anglicized while phonetically the name remained closer to the French. Thus, French "Saint Jean" [SAN-zhon] became [SIN-jun] phonetically while adopting a thoroughly anglicized orthography.

Everybody got that? Good. Test on Friday!

From the day I learned that there is a character in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre called St.John Rivers (pictured above from the BBC/WGBH Masterpiece Theatre production of Jane Eyre), I liked to think that I had a literary pedigree. However, upon reading Miss Bronte's book, I came to discover that Mr. Rivers is perhaps not someone I would want to claim as a namesake. The Jane Eyre edition of Cliffs Notes describes St.John Rivers like this:

While Rochester is a prototype of the fiery, passionate man, St. John Rivers is his opposite: cold, hard-hearted, and repressed. His handsome appearance indicates moral and intellectual superiority—he has “a straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin”—and contrasts with Rochester’s more rugged features. Although St. John initially appears perfect, Jane soon detects a restlessness or hardness under his seemingly placid features; he is “no longer flesh, but marble” and his heart seems made of “stone or metal.”
Anyone who knows me knows that this is certainly not me (I hope!).

Truth to tell, my parents named me St.John because they couldn't name me Mark.

When they were considering names for their first born, and this was back in the days before ultrasound scans could let you know if you were having a boy or a girl, my parents decided they wanted to give their children names that couldn't be shortened. Their rationale was that they were choosing particular names because they liked those names and not any diminutives thereof. So, James, Richard, David, Peter, Samuel, Thomas, Steven, all the usual names, were out.

My parents liked the name Mark, but made the mistake of mentioning it as a possible choice were I to be a boy (and I am). My mother's sister then implored them not to name me Mark if I turned out to be a boy as that was her favorite boy's name and she wanted to name her son, when she eventually had one, Mark.

My parents, kind souls that they are, went back to the drawing board and somehow, God alone only knows how, came up with St.John. Their thinking was impeccable: there's no generally-acknowledged diminutive of St.John.

My mother had a friend at school whose brother was called St.John and that's where Mr and Mrs Flynn got the name from (not from Charlotte Bronte, thank goodness!).

So, on that fateful day in September of 1962, I became St.John Edward Flynn. (My maternal grandfather, upon learning what his first grandchild was to be named replied gruffly, "I'm going to call him Ted." He never did; it was always St.John.)

Imagine my surprise when, about 12 years later, my aunt gave birth to a healthy, bouncing boy whom she named...Adam!

I tell myself all things happen for a reason and I just haven't yet worked out what that might be in the case of my given name!

There is a Cover to Cover related purpose for all of the preceding.

Over the decade or so that I've been interviewing authors for GPB, several have made a point of commenting on my name.

Most recently was Joyce Carol Oates (see the Monday, July 9 blog entry). When the interview was over and I asked Ms Oates to sign my copy of The Gravedigger's Daughter, she commented that she'd never met a St.John before.

I was flattered and wondered to myself if, in the future, a character named St.John would turn up as the protagonist in one of her novels which would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, and would finally convince the Nobel Committee that Ms Oates deserved the Nobel Prize! I could then boast that I was the inspiration for a real literary hero and not have to make do with St.John Rivers.

Way back in 1998 I interviewed Southern humorist, and Decatur, Ga., native, Roy Blount Jr. when his memoir Be Sweet: A Conditional Love Story came out. Anyone who listens to such public radio programs as A Prairie Home Companion and Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me knows how funny he is.

After the interview was over I asked Roy to sign my copy of Be Sweet, and here's what he wrote in the book:

To St.John --

Be saintly (or, more phonetically, be sinful)

Roy Blount Jr.
I still think it's incredibly smart and funny, and every so often I take the book down from the shelf in my library at home just to reread it.

Finally, in June 2000, James Martin Rhodes of Homerville, Ga., was my guest on Cover to Cover when we talked and took calls about his wonderful South Georgia novel In My Father's Generation (iUniverse, 1999).

After the show, James presented me with something very special. It seems he has a talent for writing limericks and had written one just for me. Here it is:

To St. John
(In case I turn out to be someone you want to claim you know)
There was a young bloke name of Flynn
Whose primary sin was gin.
When he had a good snout full,
He was often quite doubtful,
If his moniker was St. John or Flynn.

Brilliant! Thank you, James.

I guess being called St.John isn't all bad after all!

Friday, July 20, 2007

We Get Mail...

It seems my plan for Cover to Cover's literary world domination (see my Tuesday, July 3 blog post) is now beginning to take shape [...maniacal laugh...]!

On July 12, my blog post concerned Stan Lindberg and the award named for him. Stan was a longtime editor of The Georgia Review, which is generally acknowledged to be one of this country's best literary journals. He died in 2000. During Stan's tenure the Review won a National Magazine Award and, in the post, I went on to say "Today, the Review is still regularly nominated for the National Magazine Award in competition with such publications as The Atlantic, Esquire, and The New Yorker."

Well, that comment elicited an email response. Hallelujah! People are reading the Cover to Cover blog...and responding to it! The response was from the Georgia Review's Business Manager, Brenda Keen, and although it took me to task for not being totally accurate, I like to think that, fundamentally, it was a nice reply. Here it is:

Hi St. John,
Thanks to Google Alerts, I just discovered your CtC blog. Very cool! Reading your July 12 entry, though, made me think that perhaps you didn't hear that The Georgia Review won a second National Magazine Award this past May for the essay "Russell and Mary" by Michael Donohue in our Fall/Winter 2006 issue. Carrie Fisher handed Stephen the award, so we're probably the only literary magazine ever to receive an elephant from Princess Leia! =)
I need to explain that "Stephen" is Stephen Corey, the Review's longtime Associate Editor who is currently serving as Editor, and (I didn't know this) the elephant reference is to the "Ellie," the National Magazine Award Elephant statuette, designed by Alexander Calder, presented to winners.

I apologize for overlooking this most recent accolade, which is a very big deal, and I thank Brenda for bringing my oversight to my attention.

I should say, for the purposes of full disclosure, that for the last year The Georgia Review has been a Cover to Cover underwriter. I'm sorry for short changing it!

Of course, my embarrassment is overshadowed by my pleasure at having received a response to something posted on this new Cover to Cover blog. You can register your comments and reactions at

I look forward to hearing from you.

A Literary Godsend: The NGE's Companion to Georgia Literature

Once in a blue moon a book comes across my desk that I can really use. I mean "use" as opposed to "read"; a book that will become part of my reference collection and will serve me well in my literary work.

The most recent of such books was, ironically,
The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature published in April of this year by the University of Georgia Press. I use the word "ironically" because, perhaps for the first time, a book has been produced from online content rather than the other way around, the New Georgia Encyclopedia being an online resource rather than something in print.

As the book jacket says, "Georgia has played a formative role in the writing of America." This state has produced such essential writers as Conrad Aiken, Erskine Caldwell, James Dickey, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Joel Chandler Harris, and Alice Walker, and this volume celebrates this impressive array of 19th- and 20th-century authors. For someone like myself who deals intimately with these writers, this compendium is a true godsend. The book describes itself thus:
This volume contains biographical and critical discussions of Georgia writers from the nineteenth century to the present as well as other information pertinent to Georgia literature. Organized in alphabetical order by author, the entries discuss each author's life and work, contributions to Georgia history and culture, and relevance to wider currents in regional and national literature. Lists of recommended readings supplement most entries.
Especially important Georgia books have their own entries: works of social significance such as Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit, international publishing sensations like Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, and crowning artistic achievements including Jean Toomer's Cane. The literary culture of the state is also covered, with information on the Georgia Review and other journals; the Georgia Center for the Book, which promotes authors and reading; and the Townsend Prize, given in recognition of the year's best fiction.
The person responsible for this tremendous resource is Hugh Ruppersburg, the editor. Hugh is
Professor of English and Senior Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia. A former head of the UGA English department, he is the author or editor of many books, including After O'Connor and Georgia Voices, a three-volume anthology of Georgia's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (all of which are published by UGA Press).

Dr. Ruppersburg has done an immeasurable amount for Georgia literature, not only in the anthologies he has edited, but also as a teacher of Georgia literature to countless students at UGA. This past May his endeavors were recognized when Gov. Sonny Perdue presented him with a Governor's Award in the Humanities for his contributions to the humanities in this state.

So, from now on, I will be browsing the pages of the NGE's Companion to Georgia Literature to check my facts and learn new ones. Any mistakes I may make will be purely my own and cannot be attributed to this fine new volume.

As a literary professional, let me say a very big "thank you" to those who made this volume possible. You have made my job an awful lot easier...and I'm very grateful.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Karin Gillespie's Dollar Daze

This month's Cover to Cover (July 29, 8PM), features Augusta author Karin Gillespie (pictured left) and we'll be talking and taking your calls about the third volume in her Bottom Dollar Girls series, Dollar Daze: The Bottom Dollar Girls in Love (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

Karin's Bottom Dollar Girls series is set in the fictional town of Cayboo Creek, South Carolina, and follows the high jinks of the "girls" who work at the Bottom Dollar Emporium. The Bottom Dollar Girls are "the kind of Steel Magnolias who would make Scarlett O'Hara envious" (Atlanta Journal Constitution). Dollar Daze asks the age-old question, "Is it ever too late to find one's heart's desire?" as the ladies of Cayboo Creek are blindsided by schoolgirl flights of fancy when unexpected romance enters their lives.

Here's how the publisher describes Dollar Daze:

Moons and Junes are the flavors of the month for the Bottom Dollar Girls, whose sudden fondness for wooing and cooing has them in a Dollar Daze. From the night of the Sweetheart Dance, love begins blooming all over Cayboo Creek. Attalee, soda jerk at the Bottom Dollar Emporium, and her beau Dooley seem headed for the altar via Thrill Hill. But Elizabeth is pining for her newlywed days when she felt more like a wife than a mother, while widowed Mavis has been up nights nursing a case of loneliness. Not so for newspaper woman Birdie. "I'm glad my dating days are done," she claims, and Gracie Tobias agrees that she, too, is "done with romance." They couldn't be more wrong.
Karin says these infectious women, Attalee, Mavis, Gracie Tobias and Elizabeth, are "as Southern as crowder peas and Jimmy Dean sausage. My characters eat cathead biscuits. They shop at the Winn-Dixie, drink their sweet tea under the shade of a magnolia, and know that "shagging" means dancing to the Swinging Medallions."

The first two books in the Bottom Dollar Girls series are Bet Your Bottom Dollar and A Dollar Short.

Born in Minnesota, Karin moved with her family to the South when she was 13. Her given name is pronounced "CAR-in," and before she turned to writing she was special education teacher at an inner-city school, and a magazine editor. She married to David and has a son named Brandon.

To find out more about Karin, visit her website,, and tune in for this month's Cover to Cover July 29 at 8PM.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Philip Lee Williams's Mornings

Every so often a book comes in that, as soon as I pull it from the envelope, I know I have to read.

The latest book by Philip Lee Williams, In the Morning: Reflections From First Light (Mercer University Press, 2006), is one of them.

It came into the office toward the end of last year but, due to my hectic reading schedule, I haven't been able to get to it until now. It is one of those rare books that sat on a shelf in my office and glared at me every day as I sat at my desk; its spine nagged me constantly, reminding me that I had told myself I have to read it.

Philip Lee Williams is a friend. Regardless, he is one of Georgia's most underrated writers, IMHO (that's blog(g)ese for "in my humble opinion"), and has yet to be as widely recognized as he deserves for the excellence of his writing.

As an author he has both breadth and depth. His 2004 Civil War novel, A Distant Flame, won the 2005 Michael Shaara Award for Civil War Fiction for the Best Civil War novel published in the United States; his first novel, The Heart of a Distant Forest, won the 1986 Townsend Prize, Georgia's highest fiction award; The Song of Daniel won him the Georgia Author of the Year for Fiction in 1991; and just this year In the Morning garnered Phil the Georgia Author of the Year award in the Essay category (beating out President Jimmy Carter!).

Phil has also been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize by the Chattahoochee Review; his poetry has appeared in numerous journals; and, to cap it all, his memoir, The Silent Stars Go By, is one of this radio host's best-loved books by anyone!

What strikes me about In the Morning is the originality of its theme. As the book jacket (pictured above) proclaims, "Morning is a part of everyone’s life. But relatively little has been written directly about morning itself because it is a background rather than a major theme." And Williams, in his opening pages, explains his attraction to the subject:

Morning. Each day the world yawns with light as the planet comes out of its spin away from the sun. It heralds the wedding day of two lovers, the funeral of a beloved father or mother, the hope of good news, the punishment of a hangover, or the start of a journey.
And yet morning has had few books all its own.
In the Morning is a series of what might be termed meditations on this transitional time of day, and it showcases many of the facets of Phil Williams writing that make him one of our best. It's a touching, insightful memoir; it's highly-observed nature writing; and it's pure poetry in it's use of language, metaphor and juxtaposition. All in all, this book is writing at its very finest, by one of Georgia's finest.

Philip Lee Williams has been a guest on Cover to Cover on three occasions. The August 1998 show featured his first novel The Heart of a Distant Forest; in November 2000 we discussed his memoir The Silent Stars Go By; and in March 2005 his award-winning Civil War story A Distant Flame was the topic of conversation.

There is so much more to say about Phil, but I hope I've given you a brief taste of the wonders this man's writings contain. To find out more about him, visit his website,

And, of course, look for Phil to return to Cover to Cover in the not too distant future, when we might be talking and taking your calls about all things matitudinal!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cover to Cover the Video

I mentioned in my very first posting to this blog that Cover to Cover is now being videotaped each month and posted to the website for on-demand viewing. If you haven't yet taken a look at what I'm now calling "Cover to Cover the Video," you can see the debut effort on the GPB website; look for the April 2007 edition of the show featuring Jackie K. Cooper and his book The Bookbinder. Other show pages offer you the chance to "Listen Online," but this page let's you "Watch Online."

I have to admit that when the idea was first floated I wasn't at all keen on it. I was scared that adding a camera into the studio would somehow alter the show; I've done enough television to know that it's a completely different animal to radio. For TV the emphasis is always on the visual with the result that content plays second fiddle to form.

I've always been proud of Cover to Cover because of the simplicity of its concept and the fact that form is less important than content. What is always preeminent in each show is the conversation between readers and an author. I was concerned that videotaping the show would detract from it as both myself and the guest would be conscious of the camera which might make us more nervous or make us go over the top.

Eventually after much prompting from well-meaning colleagues at GPB (including my boss!), I decided that I should put my concerns aside and give the visual a chance. If I didn't like the results, or if the show suffered because of the camera's intrusion, I could always call the experiment off.

What I didn't count on was Raegan Hodge (pictured above, looking "alluring"!). This force of nature was given the "short straw" assignment of producing the first Cover to Cover video. Raegan impressed me right from the get-go and continues to do so.

The first thing that made me realize she wasn't just going to set up a camera and give me the tape after the show was the appearance of two cameras in the studio--a "two-camera shoot" as those in the business call it. I had never even considered this possibility. It's like adding a second character to a story; suddenly you have the potential for dialogue and this makes the narrative so much more interesting.

As well as working for GPB, Raegan is a graduate student at Georgia State University studying for an MFA in film, so she brings to the Cover to Cover the Video task a certain artistic vision and flair, not just in videotaping but also in post-production.

After the April 2007 show with Jackie K. Cooper, Raegan began to work her magic and invited me up to her cubicle to view a rough cut of the shoot. I was dumbfounded. Not only had she succeeded in making my well-worn face look good (a sine qua non!), she'd also done a spectacular job of adding in visual elements to make the entire show eminently watchable. It wasn't just fixed camera shots of myself and Jackie cut together; Raegan had added B-roll footage and marvelous editing techniques that made the finished product a work of art. It can be watched and enjoyed just like a TV show.

Raegan did a superb job of interpreting the Cheatsheet, Cover to Cover's synopsis of the featured book. I had never considered how this part of each month's show would be handled. The Cheatsheet is recorded ahead of time and played back during the live broadcast. That means that both host and guest don't have anything to do for those several minutes other than listen to the synopsis. Doesn't exactly make great viewing. But Raegan's genius turned the Cheatsheet into a work of art.

She's now working on June's show when Powder Springs author Joshilyn Jackson joined me to talk and take calls about her second novel, Between, Georgia. I've seen the "almost final" cut and think it's even better than the The Bookbinder video. It should be posted to the Cover to Cover pages of the GPB website ( within the next few days and I urge you to watch it and email your reactions to

Thank you Raegan Hodge for adding a new and engaging element to Cover to Cover and allaying the irrational fears of a curmudgeonly British host!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Saga of the Pregnant Cow Continues...

If you listened to last month's show with Joshilyn Jackson you will remember the call we received from Andrea in Moultrie who told us she had a cow that was getting ready to give birth at any moment. In the 10 years that Cover to Cover has been on the air, we've never had a caller with a pregnant cow before!

As I said good-bye to Andrea at the end of her call, I made the suggestion that if the cow gave birth to a female, she might name the calf "Nonny" after the protagonist of Between, Georgia, the book we were discussing.

My actual words to Andrea were, "If it's a female cow, you could call her "Nonny." That one innocuous sentence got me into trouble with Paul in East Alabama. He emailed me with the following comment:

I am a cattle farmer in eastern Alabama on the Georgia line and listen to GPB. Some how I missed the original broadcast of Cover to Cover Between, Georgia. I did hear the rebroadcast and was shocked to hear you talking to a caller that was expecting a calf and you refer to a "female cow". All cows are females. Male bovines are Bulls. A female calf is called a heifer until she is bred when she is called a "cow."

I replied to Paul expressing my deep regret for such a linguistic oversight. Let me share my comments to him with you:

I am ashamed of my bovine blunder. Please forgive me. I do of course know that there's a difference between a cow and a bull, but obviously under the pressure of a live broadcast I forgot my gender distinctions and instead lapsed into tautology!
Thank you for pointing out my error. I hope that, as I'm a city lad, you'll forgive me for making rural folk all across Georgia roll their eyes and give a disgusted laugh. I will make amends during this month's show.

Now, having eaten crow, let me say that this cloud does have a very silver lining. As I went on to say to Paul in my reply, I am grateful that there are folks listening to Cover to Cover whether they be in Georgia, Alabama, or Timbuktu! And I'm also grateful for the fact that some people care about linguistic accuracy enough to take those to task who don't!

In case you're wondering about Paul's continued support of Cover to Cover, here's how he ended his email:

I still enjoy your show.
Home is where your cows are,


So, I guess I haven't lost Paul as a devoted listener--thank goodness! And as for his close, "Home is where your cows are," I absolutely love it!

To Paul, Andrea, and everyone else who listens to the show and calls in or emails me, thank you for making what I do so worthwhile and rewarding.

And remember...home is where your cows or bulls are!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Lindberg Award

I traveled to Athens, Ga., yesterday to attend a meeting of the board of directors of the Stanley W. Lindberg Award, on which I serve.

The Lindberg Award is given biennially to someone who has contributed to Georgia’s literary culture through sustained excellence in writing, editing, publishing or teaching; I guess you might say it's a "lifetime achievement" award for the field of Georgia letters!

Stan Lindberg (pictured above) was the longtime editor of The Georgia Review, and a UGA professor of English. Under his guidance, the Review became one of the nation's most respected literary magazines; its circulation jumped 250 percent during his first 10 years as editor, and today stands at nearly 6,000 worldwide. In the 23 years of his editorship, the journal received numerous awards, including the prestigious National Magazine Award in 1986, and it won widespread praise for publishing fine writing by famous authors and promising newcomers. Today, the Review is still regularly nominated for the National Magazine Award in competition with such publications as The Atlantic, Esquire, and The New Yorker.

The Stanley W. Lindberg Award was established in the late 1990s by a group of noted writers and members of the Athens literary community who wanted to honor Lindberg's superb editing skills and keen eye for literary talent. The first award was presented in 1999 to author Pat Conroy.

Unfortunately, Stan was unable to attend that first award presentation due to a debilitating illness that was eventually the cause of his premature death in January 2000 at the age of just 60.

It was around the time of Stan's death that I was invited to join the board of directors of the Lindberg Award. At the time the other directors included such luminaries as Terry Kay, James Kilgo, and Philip Lee Williams, as well as non-writers such as Judy Long, editor-in-chief at Hill Street Press in Athens, and Charlotte Mealor who was for many years the business manager of The Georgia Review and a colleague of Stan's.
Since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed my work for the Lindberg Award. Some of the directors have left to be replaced by other literary notables, but we continue to seek out award recipients whose literary legacy in Georgia embodies the ethos of excellence Stan Lindberg brought to The Georgia Review.

Other recipients of the award include longtime UGA English professor and writer Marion Montgomery (2001), former Georgia Poet Laureate Bettie Sellers (2003), and acclaimed novelist and Macon native Tina McElroy Ansa (2005).

Yesterday's meeting at the State Botanical Gardens outside Athens was to consider nominations for the 2007 award. Over lunch we had great discussions of various long-standing members of the Georgia community of letters and were able to narrow down the field of candidates to one person.

Naturally, at this time I cannot divulge who that person might be, but in time all will be revealed in this blog, (I'm being coy, aren't I!). The award ceremony will be held towards the end of the year in Athens.

In yesterday's blog entry I wrote about "the incredibly high number of accomplished authors we have living and writing in this state." The Lindberg directors' meeting only reinforced this view.

Other prestigious awards, such as the Townsend Prize for Fiction, given biennially to an outstanding novel or short-story collection published by a Georgia writer during the past two years, recognize single works. The Stanley W. Lindberg Award is the only award in this state given for "lifetime achievement" in the field of Georgia literature.

The spirit of Stan Lindberg lives on in those presented with the award named for him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

So Many Authors...So Little Time!

I have been a member of the Atlanta Press Club for a few years now and have always wanted to get involved in its annual Holiday Author Party.

Held every year at some swanky location in Atlanta at the beginning of December, the Holiday Author Party brings invited authors in to sign their recent books for APC members and non-members who can buy the books at the event. It's a great opportunity for guests to get some nice holiday gifts, and the authors get to sell some books.

With my background in books and authors, I thought I could contribute to the success of the annual event and maybe bring some less well-known writers to the attention of the media-types involved in the APC.

This year I have finally gotten involved and attended the first meeting of the party committee yesterday. I was one of about 10 folks who showed up; among them was Don O'Briant, longtime book reviewer and feature writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and Esther Levine, the Atlanta doyenne of media escorts, and Wil Ennis, the engaging young community relations manager for the bookstore we were meeting in.

It turned out to be a really good group of people; when the process of suggesting potential authors for the party began, there were no knock down drag out fights and no one threw any punches. In fact, it was a lively and informative discussion.

What struck me the most about the meeting was the incredibly high number of accomplished authors we have living and writing in this state. Georgia must have more writers per capita than any other state in the Union! Naturally not all of these were born and raised here, but a very good number of them were. And while the Holiday Author Party is not limited just to Georgia authors, it's very difficult not to find homegrown talent for any of the various categories of books the APC likes to showcase.

Those of us assembled round the table at the Barnes & Noble on Peachtree Street were able to suggest authors of literary fiction, popular fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, self-help, poetry, coffee table books, children's literature, business--anything you could think of.

While I'm not at liberty to divulge which authors had their names bandied about, I can say that the Holiday Author Party will probably be held during the first week in December. The favored location, while not yet finalized, will be somewhere very attractive (two years ago it was the newly-opened Georgia Aquarium), and there'll be a great bunch of authors to meet and talk to whose books you will be able to purchase for signing.

I have once again been reminded how very fortunate I am to live in a state like Georgia that is home to a plethora of superb authors. This is a privilege that no one should take for granted. Writers are special people who function as the guardians of our culture; they express it; they integrate it; they develop it. To be surrounded by so many cannot but have a salient effect upon us. Do you know the writers in your community? Have you read them? Have you been to hear them speak or read? Have you hugged a writer today?

I'll keep you updated on the progress of the plans for the APC Holiday Author Party, and I hope the line-up of writers will wow you so much you'll make plans to attend. Books make great gifts...and they're wonderful things to read too!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Interviewing Joyce Carol Oates

One of the great joys of my job at GPB is the opportunity to interview some of the world's greatest writers.

This happened recently when I sat down with Joyce Carol Oates whose latest novel, The Gravedigger's Daughter, has just been published by Ecco (a division of HarperCollins). Pictured above: Joyce Carol Oates congratulates me on the best interview she's ever had!

The Gravedigger's Daughter, Oates's 36th novel, is billed as "an intensely realized, masterful epic of a young woman's struggle for identity and survival in a post-World War II America."

In 1936 the Schwarts, an immigrant family desperate to escape Nazi Germany, settle in a small town in upstate New York, where the father, a former high school teacher, is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. After local prejudice and the family's own emotional frailty result in unspeakable tragedy, the gravedigger's daughter, Rebecca, begins her astonishing pilgrimage into America, an odyssey of erotic risk and imaginative daring, ingenious self-invention, and, in the end, a bittersweet—but very "American"—triumph. "You are born here, they will not hurt you"—so the gravedigger has predicted for his daughter, which will turn out to be true.

The 582 pages of the hardcover edition tell a story that is at times as morally dark as any Thomas Hardy novel. In protagonist Rebecca Schwart, Oates has created a character as attractive and yet as cursed as Tess Durbeyfield of Tess of the D'Ubervilles. While both characters are strong in a timid way, Rebecca is able to triumph against her surroundings in a way that Tess is not.

The pleasure in reading a book that is so well written is almost indescribable, and I relished the occasion to sit down and talk with its author, who is undoubtedly one of America's most distinguished living novelists.

Joyce Carol Oates's frail exterior belies a mind and a vision of steel. Although now 69, Oates admitted during our interview to running everyday. It is that discipline and perseverance that have enabled her to reach the literary heights she has.

Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls, which was also a New York Times bestseller. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

The hour I spent talking with Ms. Oates was fascinating, and while she may not agree, she was intrigued by my name; she said I was the first St.John she had ever met!. I consider her among the very best authors I've interviewed; the others who have made me gush like a teenage girl are Martin Amis, Alice Walker, Edmund White and, of course, Jimmy Carter!

Listen out for a shortened version of my interview with Joyce Carol Oates sometime soon on GPB, either on Georgia Gazette or during Morning Edition.

Friday, July 6, 2007

June's Cover to Cover Encores this Sunday

Tune in to your GPB station, or listen online, Sunday morning at 10 for another chance to hear last month's Cover to Cover featuring Powder Springs, Ga., author Joshilyn Jackson talking and taking calls about her second novel, Between, Georgia (Warner Books, 2006). (Pictured left: Joshilyn and myself after the show)
Nonny Frett understands the meaning of the phrase "between a rock and a hard place" better than any woman alive. She's got two mothers. She's got two men. And she has two families: the Fretts, who stole her and raised her right; and the Crabtrees, who lost her and won't forget how they were done wrong. Now, in Between, Georgia (population 90), a feud that began the night Nonny was born is escalating, and a random act of violence is about to ignite a stash of family secrets. Ironically, it might be just what the town needs...if only Nonny weren't stuck in between.

This show originally aired live on Sunday, June 24, 2007, and is archived on the Cover to Cover pages of the GPB website ( for on-demand listening. The show was also videotaped and, once the post-production has been completed, this will be available to watch on the website also.

Listen out during the show for the drama of a pregnant cow! Sound puzzling? You'll just have to tune in Sunday at 10AM to find out what it's all about.

And now a quick word about this month's show:

On Sunday, July 29, at 8PM (repeating Sunday, August 5, 10AM) I'll welcome Augusta author Karin Gillespie to the Cover to Cover studio. We'll talk and take listener calls about Karin’s latest novel Dollar Daze: The Bottom Dollar Girls in Love (Simon and Schuster, 2006), the third in her Bottom Dollar Girls series.

The Bottom Dollar Girls are back with a sugar-spun vengeance in Dollar Daze. Broaching the age-old question – Is it ever too late to find one’s heart’s desire? – these feisty ladies (of a certain age!) of Cayboo Creek, South Carolina, are suddenly blindsided by schoolgirl flights of fancy when unexpected romance enters their lives.

The toll-free number to call during the show to join the conversation is 1-866-RADIO GA (1-866-723-4642).

Thursday, July 5, 2007

New Release from Karin Slaughter

Best-selling crime fiction writer Karin Slaughter's new book has just come across my desk. Hot on the heels of her Cover to Cover appearance in Hawkinsville this past May, the Atlanta author now has to prepare for a national tour.

The new book is Beyond Reach (Delacorte Press, July 31, 2007) in which Slaughter returns to her ficitional Grant County. Once again the story features pediatrician/medical examiner Sara Linton and her husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, and his sometimes reckless partner Detective Lena Adams.

Karin Slaughter's fiction has always tackled society's real-life issues (violence against women in Triptych, for example), and Beyond Reach is no exception; the novel examines the devastating ripple effects of drug abuse on families and communities.

Beyond Reach is the sixth in Slaughter's Grant County, Ga., series that includes the #1 internationally bestselling A Faint Cold Fear, Blindsighted, Kisscut, Indelible and Faithless.

Although Karin has been my guest on Cover to Cover on three occasions in the last five years, and I'm well aware of the quality of her writing, I was blown away last December when, on vacation in Britain, I saw copies of Karin's books on sale in almost every bookstore I went into. I realized then that the Karin Slaughter phenomenon was not confined just to the U.S.. And I impressed several friends when I mentioned that Karin was a friend back in Atlanta!

I hope to interview Karin Slaughter in the fairly near future and to talk about Beyond Reach, so look for the interview on a Georgia Gazette or during Morning Edition sometime soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

A day to celebrate this unique nation and also to remember those who live without the benefit of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution; a day to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family; and maybe a day to catch up on some reading!

It was on July 4th, 1862, that Englishman Charles Dodgson was rowing on the River Thames at Oxford with the three young Liddell sisters, daughters of family friends. To keep his young charges amused he began to tell a story which would eventually become Alice in Wonderland. Dodgson was, of course, the real name of Lewis Carroll.

The middle Liddell sister, Alice, aged 10 at the time, badgered Dodgson to continue and finish his marvelous story. For Christmas in 1864, he presented Alice with a leather-bound book of his completed story, which he had also illustrated. The following year, Alice in Wonderland was published to widespread acclaim.

To end today's blog entry, some patriotic verse. This excerpt is from one of the poems clipped by Thomas Jefferson and added to one of his four scrapbooks when he was president.
Song for July 4th, 1805

Wide o'er the wilderness of waves,
Untracked by human peril,
Our fathers roam'd for peaceful graves,
To deserts dark and sterile:
No parting pang -- No long adieu
Delay'd their gallant daring;
With them, their Gods, and Country too,
Their pilgrim keels were bearing.
All hearts unite the patriot band,
Be Liberty our natal land.

--R.T. Paine, Jun. Esq

(As quoted in Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks, Jonathan Gross, ed. Steer Forth Press, 2006)

Happy 4th!

And remember...home is where your books are.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Welcome to the Cover to Cover Blog!

Cover to Cover continues its quest for literary world domination with the advent of the Cover to Cover blog.
Through this online communication tool I hope to keep fans of the program, and those interested in Georgia writers and their books, up-to-date on what's happening in the world of Georgia letters.
Because Cover to Cover is a monthly show, there's much that happens that is old news by the time the next show comes around. Through my postings on this blog, I can pass along news about authors around the state, new books that have come across my desk, and juicy gossip from my "embedded sources," (well, two out of three!).
In the last year we've taken great pains to make Cover to Cover more accessible on more platforms in order to reach a broader audience.
Not only can you listen to the monthly over the air broadcasts on your radio the last Sunday of the month at 8PM, you can also listen to past shows on your computer at your leisure as each broadcast is archived on the website for on-demand listening.
In the fall of 2006 we began offering a weekly Cover to Cover podcast available for download from the GPB website ( As Cover to Cover has been on the air now for almost 10 years, there's an extensive archive of past programs to draw from for each podcast.
And now our latest innovation is the videotaping of each show. The first videotaped edition was the April 2007 edition which featured author Jackie K. Cooper and his most recent book, The Bookbinder. You can watch the program on the website; it's archived exactly as the audio would be.
Videographer Raegan Hodge has done a fantastic job of turning what could be a tedious fixed camera shoot of me and Jackie into an hour-long production that is visually engaging, even surprising, and her genius is laid bare for all to see!
Take a look at the video version of the April 2007 show and see what you think.
Welcome to the Cover to Cover blog. I hope you'll come back often to read these postings, and I hope you'll tune in and maybe even call in during a live show sometime soon!
And remember...home is where your books are.