Killer Nashville highlights a busy month for authors, and writing for the Ledger
Star Watch list cites conference founder Stafford, and JKS Communications president DeCuir
By TOM WOOD
Hey folks, it’s been a busy month here in Music City. In less than two weeks, the 14th annual Killer Nashville writers conference takes place at Cool Springs Embassy Suites. In addition, I’ve already got a story on Nashville Sounds pitcher Tim Dillard in his hometown paper, and I’ll have another cover story in the Nashville Ledger on August 30.
Before I get into all of that, I wanted to call attention to recognition of a couple of Nashville publishing executives who have been honored by Publishers Weekly on its 2019 Star Watch list. Author/filmmaker Clay Stafford, the founder of Killer Nashville and someone who has helped hundreds of authors find their writing voice at the conference, including me. (Photo: Killer Nashville)
Clay and JKS Communications president Marissa DeCuir were chosen by a jury composed of editors and managers from Publishers Weekly, Frankfurter Buchmesse, and the American Booksellers Association as “innovators and motivators within the publishing and bookselling communities,” according to Jim Milliot, editorial director of Publishers Weekly and PW Star Watch 2019 juror.
I talked briefly to each of them, and both said they were surprised and excited by the honor.
“I was completely shocked, as a matter of fact,” Clay said. “Someone sent me an email and said ‘congratulations’ on it, and I sat there for a second going ‘I don’t know what they’re talking about.’ So I emailed her back and she said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I get to spill the beans.’ And so that’s how I found out about it, and it was a complete surprise to me. I was really thankful to all the judges and stuff who put me in the top 50 for North America.”
Marissa lives in and works out of the New Orleans office, but spends a lot of time at the JKS Communications headquarters in Nashville.
“I was surprised, and very honored to even be mentioned among all those other wonderful nominees. I love learning from people and their writing. (Photo: JKS Communications)
Like me, Marissa is a former journalist who has edited and written for The Tennessean. She was also at USA Today, National Geographic and other major publications. At JKS, primarily a literary publicity firm that also , she oversees all aspects of the firm’s cover-to-cover reputation for media and book tours, video development, social networking, and other promotional aspects.
“I just feel so lucky to be in this book industry today. It’s such a supportive community and I’ve learned so much in the last decade that I’ve been in this industry, and I’ve certainly enjoyed helping authors share their very meaningful and engaging stories. That’s probably been my favorite part.”
Clay and I also talked about this year’s Killer Nashville event, which spotlights authors David Morrell, Joyce Carol Oates and Alexandra Ivy. Morrell wrote “First Blood,” on which the Rambo movies are based, and is the guest of honor. The prolific author Oates is being honored as the 2019 recipient of the Killer Nashville John Seigenthaler Legends Award while Ivy writes romantic suspense.
And Clay also wanted to highlight the KN / Barnes & Noble Bookstore, where both national and local authors (including me) will be signing copies of their books. It is a free event open to the public, and we all hope you’ll stop by to meet some of the authors.
“This year we’ve got it really easy for people to follow. If they go to the conference drop-down tab and then click on book signings—Barnes & Noble will be there again as the official bookstore—and all of the book signings and who is signing are listed on the website. Those are free and open to the public,” Clay said.
“You can just drop by and visit the Killer Nashville/ Barnes & Noble bookstore and get the books signed. We’ve got the tomes and the dates, the room and where everything is set up, so we hope the community will turn out. If they don’t come to Killer Nashville for any of the instruction, and don’t attend Killer Nashville, then we just hope they will come by and buy books and meet authors.”
While getting ready for Killer Nashville, I’ve also been privileged to talk with two of Nashville’s premier sports figures, Nashville Sounds pitcher Tim Dillard, 36, who has spent most of his 16-year career toiling in the minor leagues, and gifted Vanderbilt senior running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who a year from now should be getting ready for his first season in the NFL.
Dillard is a real hoot to talk with, witty and serious at the same time. He and his family have lived in Nashville since the late 2000s during his first stint with the Class AAA Sounds, but the last four years were spent with Colorado Springs, Colo.
(Photo: Nashville Sounds)
He called being back in Nashville this season in the Texas Rangers organization “a blessing” because his children are able to do something he never got to do … see his father play baseball. Steve Dillard played in the major leagues with four teams before Tim was born. Tim remembers seeing him coach, but never play.
“I never thought my career would be like this. I never thought I’d be playing this long. I think the coolest thing about playing as long as I have a 10-year-old (Brooks), I have an 8-year-old (Camryn) who, she’s about to turn 9, and I have a 3-year-old (Hayes) going on 4, and they’re going to remember this,” Dillard said.
“I didn’t have any memories of my dad playing; I wasn’t born. I have memories of him coaching, but I never got to see him play, really. And so I would like to think that my kids are really going to enjoy that later on, to think about it and just know it was a special time.
“So they’re actually getting to see me, and see how I work and … they see me work out in the offseason and see my mindset on certain things, but to see it day in and day out of what I’m trying to do on the mound, and having that in perspective when it goes right and put it in perspective when it goes wrong, I think the kids can learn from that and enjoy it when they’re older.”
Dillard is thick-bearded, but certainly not thick-headed — as the moniker of his popular Instagram account @DimTillard — might suggest (he’s got more than 46,000 followers).
And then in a moment of self-awareness, he laughs and adds:
“I’m sounding too profound. I’m not this profound.”
Look for the my Vanderbilt story on Vaughn in the Aug. 30 edition of the Ledger. I can’t say a whole lot about it, because I am still in the writing process. But I was very impressed with this young man Vaughn, and his ability to help the Commodores achieve goals beyond what many expect from the 2019 team.
(Photo: Vanderbilt Athletics)
Vanderbilt Coach Derek Mason offered a preview of what fans can expect at the SEC Media Days event in July: “Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a young man who is prideful about his city. He’s prideful about being a competitor. He wants to be the best at what he does. And that’s been spectacular to see,” Mason said.
The Commodores open the 2019 season the day after my Ledger article appears on news stands. On Aug. 31, Vanderbilt will play host to the powerful Georgia Bulldogs. I hope you’ll check out my story then.
As always, thanks for reading.