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BOOKS: What’s happening in Richmond’s literary circles this fall



Reading books often is considered a solitary pastime — the realm of introverts and English majors — and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you are a reader who also enjoys occasional company, Richmond offers many opportunities this fall, including public readings and festivals.

Festivals and Ongoing Events

The Richmond Public Library system has run the 100 Days, 100 Books series this summer, with Richmonders choosing books off a list from PBS' the Great American Read and then reading aloud at public places all across the city. The readings, which take 10 to 20 minutes, continue through October.

For example, Angela Lehman — former Style classical music writer and Virginia Commonwealth University English language program teacher — will read from Feodor Dostoevski's "Crime and Punishment" on the steps of the Manchester Courthouse at noon Sept. 29. For information, check out

Also coming in September is the second annual Blue Bee Book Fair and Brunch, noon to 4 p.m. on Sept. 23 at Blue Bee Cider in Scott's Addition. Chop Suey Books, James River Writers, Black Swan Books, Fountain Bookstore — which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year — and Mixie's Antiques will be on hand. The cidery will give you a dollar-each discount on cider for as many as five lightly used books you bring for its Little Free Library. Visit

For writers — especially those with ambitions of becoming published authors — the annual James River Writers Conference on Oct. 13 and 14 is an important weekend for networking and learning from literary agents, editors and other writers. This year's conference features a conversation with award-winning essayist Melissa Febos, author of "Abandon Me" and memoir "Whip Smart," discussing her experiences as a writer with interviewer Roben Farzad, host of "Full Disclosure" and PBS commentator. People can choose different learning tracks during the weekend, including improving their craft, the business of writing and 21st century self-care. For information, visit

On Oct. 20 is the new RVA Booklovers' Festival, from Richmond's Brandylane Publishers and benefiting local literacy nonprofit organizations. Virginia authors will give readings and sign books, and booksellers, including the new Small Friend Records & Books and Fountain Bookstore, will be on hand at Jefferson Park in Church Hill. For information, visit

Readings and Discussions

The current literary economy practically requires authors to give talks and readings to spread awareness of their work. Richmond is especially fortunate in the number of writers who put our city on their schedules. To keep up with future events, there's nothing better than to follow local bookstores' event schedules on their websites or via social media.
Former Richmonder Andrew Beaujon, senior editor at the Washingtonian magazine, will read from "A Bigger Field Awaits Us," his new nonfiction work about Scottish soccer players on the Heart of Midlothian team who fought in World War I.

Beaujon found out about the team while visiting his mother-in-law in Edinburgh 20 years ago. He jotted down the idea and then revisited it in 2015 during a conversation with his literary agent. Beaujon studied newspaper articles from the day, learning about the Scottish athletes who were at the top of their careers when they went to war.

One particular player, Paddy Crossan, has stuck with Beaujon. "He had this remarkable day," during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Beaujon says. About 80 percent of his battalion was killed, and Crossan was hit in the leg by shrapnel, but he was able to crawl to safety and served the full war. "Scottish media was obsessed with him. He was good copy."

Beaujon will read from his book and sign copies Friday, Sept. 14, 7-8 p.m. at Chop Suey Books.

Small Friend Records & Books will screen Stanley Nelson Jr.'s 2015 documentary "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution," followed by a discussion of political and cultural revolution in 1968. Sept. 14, 6-9 p.m.

H.V. "Bo" Traywick Jr. visits Book People to discuss his memoir, "Starlight on the Rails," about his life after serving in the Vietnam War, including stories about riding freight trains and working in oil fields and as a commercial diver. Sept. 15, 1-3 p.m., Book People.

If you're a fly-fishing enthusiast, John Bryan and Rob Carter will speak about their book, "America's Favorite Flies," that features photographs and drawings of fishing lures and quotes from famous fishers, including President Jimmy Carter and Huey Lewis. Profits from the book will go to the James River Association and the Native Fish Society. Sept. 19, noon to 1 p.m., Library of Virginia.

Bestselling fantasy and sci-fi novelist Beth Revis launches her latest book, "Give the Dark My Love," with young-adult author Sarah Glenn March at Fountain Bookstore's Fountain Fan Fair, which includes games and other fun related to books. Sept. 25, 6:30 p.m., Fountain Bookstore.

Also at Fountain will be pathologist Bradley Harper, author of the forthcoming "A Knife in the Fog," a fictional work about Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack the Ripper. Oct. 3, 6:30 p.m., Fountain Bookstore.

The Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration returns in October with keynote speaker Susan Orlean, New Yorker contributor and author of "The Orchid Thief," and bestselling author Adriana Trigiani as host. Oct. 20, 6:30-10:30 p.m., Library of Virginia.

Novelist Virginia Pye, who helped start James River Writers, will return to Richmond to launch her new book of nine short stories, "Shelf Life of Happiness," with the common theme of the elusive nature of joy. Sponsored by Chop Suey Books, Pye's book launch will take place at Page Bond Gallery on Oct. 11 from 6 to 9 p.m.

In a recent interview with Style, Pye said that unlike her earlier novels, which take place in China, her stories are set in the United States and are "a crystallization of life's moments. They're each based on little gems of ideas."

Under the radar pick:

  • Lisa Jane Persky
  • Kembrew McLeod

Known as a media prankster, author, filmmaker and activist, former James Madison University and University of Virginia student Kembrew McLeod always will be remembered in my book for campaigning to change the JMU Duke dog mascot to a three-eyed pig with antlers, as well as for marrying myself and many of our friends to bananas in a strange cultish ceremony in the early '90s. This admission should serve as my acknowledgment that McLeod and I are friends.

A Virginia Beach native, McLeod is an expert on intellectual copyright law, teaches at the University of Iowa, and has written for outlets including Rolling Stone, the Village Voice and the New York Times. Throughout his oddball career he's done things as varied as dropping "Free Blow Jobs for Cops" flyers from Harrisonburg rooftops during a Gulf War protest to trademarking the phrase "freedom of expression" and sending a cease-and-desist letter to AT&T. Not to mention selling his soul in an empty jar on eBay, frustrating the artist Meatloaf during a bizarre call-in show and making national news for dressing as a robot and heckling Bill Clinton in defense of rapper Sistah Souljah. But there's always a method to his madness.

McLeod's new book due out Oct. 23 is one he's been working on for awhile: "The Downtown Pop Underground: New York City and the literary punks, renegade artists, DIY filmmakers, mad playwrights, and rock and roll glitter queens who revolutionized culture." McLeod says he's had the idea since he was 18 and first interviewed Lou Reed — and now more than 100 interviews later and a million transcribed words, he's got a fascinating book that ties together disparate scenes in New York that haven't fully gotten their due. The work has received advance praise from the likes of Jonathan Lethem, Ann Powers, Luc Sante, Lily Tomlin, Tim Robbins and Cynthia Carr — and McLeod will be reading from the book on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. at Chop Suey Books. — Brent Baldwin

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