Reading is more than words on a page

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2019

To celebrate South Main Book Co.’s third anniversary, and the 21st anniversary of its predecessor, Literary Bookpost, owner Wendy Alexander-Persse brought in Trio, an amazing concept that has just one more year of existence.

Trio is a group of authors, artists and musicians, who started with an idea to expand readers’ experience by creating artwork or composing a song inspired by books.

Here’s a May 23 post from their Facebook page that sums it up:

“We are preparing now for Trio 2020. It will be our last year and we are going to do it up big. The story that I’ve told many times is absolutely true. Trying to think of how to creatively motivate people to buy and read books I remembered that I bought three books about vampires, a subject I care nothing about, because Sting wrote Moon Over Bourbon Street, inspired by Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. The imagery in that song made me want to know what he “heard” when he read the book. I thought if we could do that, ‘hear’ a book through the voice of songwriters, ‘see’ a book through the eyes of visual artists we just might be able to get more people to buy books and read them.

“And we did.

“There were three people I first told about the idea. One said ‘It’s great’, one said ‘That will never work’, and one said nothing.

“Then, I called Wanda Jewell. She saw what I saw in the potential of the project and wanted it exclusively for SIBA member bookstores. And that’s exactly where we went. We’ve been from the Outer Banks to Nashville, from Orlando to Raleigh, from Mobile Bay to Boone, North Carolina to Charleston and back.

“Songwriters loved the idea first. I was honestly surprised at how quickly they jumped in. They donated songs to the idea of selling books, songs that they could have sold for a lot of money. Not only did they donate the songs, they spent their own cash to show up at bookstores to play those songs charging us nothing to sing. Folks that normally get a nice paycheck to sing and play came to bookstores and their fans came out to see them often walking into a bookstore in their communities for the first time giving those stores an opportunity to make them a return customer.

“Artists who could have sold their work let me haul it around in the back of my truck or a U-Haul trailer for a year. Beauty and vision hung in the bookstores representing the words on the pages and inspiring folks to take those pages home with them.

“We are humbled, I am awed to tell you that by the time we wrap up this love fest, this collaboration of three genres of artists, visual artists and songwriters will have donated over $546,000 of their time, music, and art to help bookstores sell books.

“Five Hundred and Forty- Six thousand dollars.

“If bookstore owners and authors felt alone in The Dream before, they don’t anymore. We learned that the music and art world has our back.

“All we had to do was ask.

“ ‘Hallelujah, a little Revival, Amen to love,

‘Deep in my soul, a little Revival, Amen to love.’ ” R. Foster”

On Friday night, several authors, artists and a songwriter/performer did a fun show-and-tell of their works. Most of the authors you’ve never heard of, so it was good to learn about them and their work. The artists talked about how the books inspired their creations.

I went to the party just to celebrate, but was then captivated by Trio’s concept, and intrigued by the authors there.

Authors read from their work, too, including Shari Smith, who read a hilarious and sweet Christmas story from her collection, “I am a Town.” Smith is the creator of Trio and lead the presentations Friday night.

Jo Watson Hackl read from her middle grades book, “Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe” and intrigued all the adults. It could be  the ideal summer read for a family. And it was a summer 2018 Kids Indie Next Pick.

Nicole Sarrocco read the first few paragraphs of the first book in a planned trilogy of “The Occasionally True Novels.” In “Lit by Lightning,” she starts off talking about her third and last husband, who, it turns out, puts up with some odd behavior. The subtitle is “An Occasionally True Account of One Girl’s Dust-ups with Ghosts, Electricity and Granny’s Ashes.”

Artist Joan E. Gardner of Terrell came to talk about her artwork for the book “The Hundred Story Home,” by Kathy Izard. Izard, of Charlotte, is helping homeless people find a place to live, and the book is a collection of their stories and Izard’s. Gardner’s painting showed a hand holding a key — the key to a life-changing event, having a home.

Gardner is an artist who uses her work to confront complex political and social themes.

Rod Picott sang his original composition, “Wasteland,” based on the book “Like Lions” by Brad Panowich, whom Picott called an amazing writer. “Like Lions” is Panowich’s second book. The first is “Bull Mountain.”

Taken together, the presentation opened up a world of possibilities. It showed a book is more than words on a page, if you’re willing to explore and think outside the binding.