Shortly after the snow started, Bill Eakin, our host, called to update me on the weather there and make sure all was well. I told him I'd met with only flurries and that I'd never been particularly terrified of driving in the snow—so, yes, all was well. Half an hour later, though, as I hit Little Rock, my attitude changed somewhat. The roads turned tricky with icy off-ramps and overpasses. As traffic slowed to a 20 m.p.h crawl, I passed a handful of unfortunate brethren motorists on the side of the highway whose car or truck bore a crunched front, a crunched back, or in some cases, both.
Past Little Rock the scenery became simply pretty rather than treacherous. If you ever have an opportunity to drive up into the Ozark Mountains during a snow shower, I strongly recommend you do so. In fact, driving around Clarksville that afternoon reminded me of a couple of towns in Maine I know and love—especially with all the snow. Part of me kept expecting to crest a hill and find the ocean lying beyond. I reached the hotel with no further fuss, and looked forward to the events ahead.
Friday night, at the University of the Ozarks Walton Fine Arts Center, I joined fellow writers Roland Mann, Stephen Zimmer, and the aforementioned Bill Eakin for readings. Roland read from his novel, Buying Time; Stephen read from his new work Dream of Legends, and Bill entertained us with a wonderful unpublished piece from his equally wonderful Redgunk series of stories. I opted for a selection from my book, A Mage of None Magic, which seemed to be pretty well-received. I had the pleasure before and after of meeting and talking with a lot of really friendly folks; a fairly nice-sized group turned out despite the rapidly-gathering snow, and I think a good time was had by all. At least, it was by me.
Saturday morning, Roland and I held workshops for the attendees; mine focussed on how to professionally present your work to the marketplace, while Roland gave a terrific talk on graphic storytelling. Afterward, we caravanned to Bill's gorgeous home where he and his wife, Kody, had prepared a wonderful lunch to help send us all off again on our respective ways—with all of us agreeing on how much we hoped to do it again very soon.
|On the road to Clarksville, a rest area vending machine clean tore the wrapper off my bottle of water. You can see it hanging there on the row. Never had that happen before so, of course, I took a picture.|
|A podium-eye view of the group of extremely photogenic folks who braved the snow to listen to Roland, Stephen, Bill and me read some of our stuff.|
|Hey, kid. C'mere. Wanna buy a Y ... ?|
|Outside the Walton Fine Arts Center, on my way to the car Friday night.|
|Just something I saw on a bulletin board that made me smile.|
|A shot from Bill's tragically plain and uninspiring property near the Ozarks.|
|And, headed out of town, back to insufferably flat Memphis.|