There is a natural symbiotic relationship between writers and libraries, one that will be displayed at the grand opening of the new Bellevue Branch Library on Thursday, January 29.
That’s when 10 Nashville authors will join Mayor Karl Dean and other officials to dedicate the gleaming 25,000-square foot facility located at 720 Baugh Rd.
The 10 a.m. welcoming remarks by Mayor Dean will be followed by day/night meet-and-greet signings, with five authors at each hour-long session. The morning session will immediately follow the opening ceremonies and the evening session will take place at 6 p.m. Seven of the 10 authors write in the genre of thrillers, mysteries, suspense and true crime while two are children’s / young adult writers and one has written a new sports biography that recently made the New York Times bestseller list.
Attending the 10:30 a.m. session are Phyllis Gobbell, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Alana White, Steven Womack and Tom Wood.
The 6 p.m. session will include Tracy Barrett, Chester Campbell, Andrew Maraniss, Jaden Terrell and Lisa Wysocky.
Most of the authors live in the Bellevue area and know how long a new library has been needed.
“Bellevue has long deserved a modern library, and I am looking forward to being there on opening day. Writers need readers, and readers need easy access to books. This is great for the entire community,” said Tom Wood, a retired sports writer and copy editor at The Tennessean whose debut novel “Vendetta Stone” is a fictional true-crime thriller with Nashville as the backdrop.
“Our participation evolved from a September fund-raising event (A Taste of Bellevue) to support the new library. We had six authors there and as the January date neared, I approached library officials about possibly including local authors in the upcoming festivities. They were very receptive to the idea, and then I put out a call to some author friends I’ve made, who responded enthusiastically. We are all looking forward to being at Bellevue library’s big day.”
Other authors feel the same way about libraries and the impact on their writing careers.
“The library is my refuge. It always has been,” said Alana White, who did much of her research for “The Sign of the Weeping Virgin” at the Nashville Main Library. “My life has been blessed by libraries, and so I would be remiss if I did not express my heartfelt gratitude for their calm and constant presence therein.
“In difficult times, they have been my safe place, my haven. In my childhood, they provided me with books—free. Later, they opened up the world of the Italian Renaissance as I began exploring that colorful and complex time in history. Bless Interlibrary Loan, which made it possible for me to place my hands on books written by scholars of the Italian Renaissance, present and past, whose work otherwise would not have been available to me. I want to thank in particular the Nashville Public Library for granting me the private use of one of their lovely, quiet writing rooms: a desk, a lamp, a bookshelf, and me. Heaven.”
Steven Womack, who has published a dozen mostly Nashville-based novels, winning an Edgar Award for “Dead Folks’ Blues” and won a Shamus Award for “Murder Manual,” has always looked at libraries as a second home and safe haven.
“When I was growing up, books were my refuge, the place I went to get away from the problems and dysfunction of life. And libraries were where the books were kept. Libraries became my escape, my resource, my safe place. And they still are,” said Womack, whose latest novel is “Resurrection Bay” was a collaboration with New York City-based screenwriter Wayne McDaniel.
Books and libraries have always been important to Andrew Maraniss, author of the bestselling sports biography about a Vanderbilt basketball star, “Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South.”
“Libraries and books have always been an important part of my life. My grandmother was an editor at a university press, my aunt is a librarian, and my father is an author,” Maraniss said.
“As a kid, I would walk my younger sister to her tap-dancing lessons after school and spend the hour across the street discovering new books at the library. As a college student, I had a favorite carrel in the library where I did all of my studying. As a father, my kids love nothing more than to go to story time at our neighborhood library. As an author now myself, I love the fact that people can check out my book any time they want. Finally, as a former Bellevue resident, I’m thrilled about what this new branch means for the community and honored to be part of the grand opening.”
Tracy Barrett is a YA author whose new book “The Stepsister’s Tale” is a re-imagining of the classic “Cinderella” story from a different angle. She is especially delighted by the new library spaces devoted to children.
“I recently moved to the area served by the Bellevue library and have been missing the branch library in my old neighborhood. I’m thrilled to see the plans for the new Bellevue branch,” Barrett said. “As an author of books for young readers, I’m particularly excited by the children’s and teen spaces, and I hope to make use of the meeting space as well.”
Libraries have always been a part of Kristin O’Donnell Tubb’s life and part of why she became a children’s writer. Her latest book is a middle-grader fantasy (ages 10-14) called “The 13th Sign.”
“I still have my very first library card. It’s from the E.G. Fisher Public Library in Athens, TN,” Tubb said. “I remember picking “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears” and “Bridge to Terabithia” and those perfectly tiny Peter Rabbit books over and over again.
“It shaped my childhood, and truly, because I now write children’s books, my adulthood as well. I’m delighted that the kids in Bellevue now have the same beautiful stories available to them, sitting on brand-new shelves, ready to shape their worlds, too.”
Phyllis Gobbell, who co-authored true crime books about two of Nashville’s more infamous murders, launches a mystery series in March with “Pursuit in Provence.” She, too, is enthusiastic about having a new library in her backyard.
“I have always thought of our little library as a delightful secret, offering so much in such a small space,” Gobbell said. “Now the secret is out, as the unique, spacious, new Bellevue Library opens its doors to the community and beyond. It’s a proud moment for Bellevue!”
Chester Campbell, the author of the Greg McKenzie Mysteries and the Sid Chance Mysteries, is in his ninth decade of visiting Nashville libraries.
“When I was growing up in East Nashville back in the thirties, I was fascinated by the imposing Carnegie Library a couple of blocks from my home on Gartland Ave. I loved to go through all the books, particularly adventure stories for boys,” said Campbell, who recently moved to Bellevue.
“In the fifties, when I started writing non-fiction, I spent many hours at the downtown Ben West Library searching through stacks of old newspapers for interesting stories. That was before the files were microfilmed and you had to turn brittle pages carefully. As a writer, I view libraries as indispensable. I look forward to the new Bellevue Branch.”
Lisa Wysocky hopes the new Bellevue library will have the same profound effect on children today as did libraries of her youth.
“I owe my love of reading to both my school and my public librarian, and my mother who made sure she got me to the library to get books, said Wysocky, who has two equestrian mysteries “The Opium Equation” and “The Magnum Equation” among her many award-winning books.
“My childhood librarians took care to expand my horizons nad pushed me to read wide and deep. I am forever grateful to them and am so excited that Bellevue’s new library will offer similar exciting opportunities to both children and adults,” added Wysocky, who co-authored a book that was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie Front of the Class.
Jaden Terrell is a Shamus Award nominee who writes the Jared McKean series, including the just-released “River of Glass.”