Alison Law doesn’t travel light. When she shows up to Proof Bakeshop in Inman Park, her bag is loaded down with no less than five books — novels, a short story collection, a biographical tome of Shirley Jackson. Law is a natural bibliophile, it’s true, but keeping up with everything literary is also part of her job as the host of the podcast Literary Atlanta.
Since its launch in 2017, Literary Atlanta has hosted the likes of Mitch Albom, Chuck Reece of The Bitter Southerner and Georgia author Delia Owens, whose novel Where the Crawdads Sing was chosen as the September 2018 pick for Reese Witherspoon’s book club.
ARTS ATL caught up with Law to get her take on Atlanta’s vibrant literary culture and to learn more about what we can expect from Literary Atlanta in 2019.
ARTS ATL: How did the Literary Atlanta podcast begin?
Alison Law: In just the eight years that I’ve been working with book clients, I’ve witnessed the number of media outlets covering books decrease while word of mouth and fervor for books increase. I wanted to create a place where my clients, friends and other interesting, lit-inclined people could talk about books. Podcasting is a growing industry and seemed like a good medium.
ARTS ATL: What gap were you hoping Literary Atlanta would fill as far as the lit scene here goes?
Law: I don’t know that I’m filling a gap so much as I am amplifying the thriving literary community that’s existed here for some time. I want people to attend live book and storytelling events. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than when I see someone at an event and hear that they’re there because they heard about it on the podcast.
ARTS ATL: And speaking of our book scene, how do you respond to the misconception that Atlanta isn’t a literary city?
Law: I actually had the leader of a large arts and cultural festival in Atlanta tell me, “I don’t think of Atlanta as a well-read city.” She was responding with surprise to my telling her that Atlanta was one of the top five most literate cities in the U.S. It was disheartening to hear that from one of our city’s arts leaders, but demonstrates one of the significant challenges that our community faces — we are often so silo’d and stuck in our own social media-curated worlds that we aren’t aware of the other artistic and cultural experiences available here.
Atlanta is home to New York Times best-selling authors and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who can often be found not only reading from their own work but sitting in the audience at their peers’ events or teaching intimate workshops. Atlanta is also home to world-class universities and libraries that attract amazing poets, writers and literary critics.
ARTS ATL: How do you decide who to feature on your podcast?
Law: The criteria for guests of the podcast is that they are residents in the metro-Atlanta area, have subject matter ties here or that they are appearing here on book tour. Personally, I’m also more interested in elevating the voices of mid-list or debut writers, women writers and people of color.
ARTS ATL: What books are you currently reading?
Law: I always have several books going at once and sample from them at various times, depending on my interview schedule and reading needs. I am currently reading:
- You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” and Other Stories by Kristen Roupenian;
- Unmarriageable: Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan by Soniah Kamal — I’m interviewing Soniah live at Georgia Center for the Book on January 28;
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen;
- Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin — I was reminded to read this when I taught Jackson’s famous short story “The Lottery” last semester at Georgia State;
- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace — I’m listening to this audiobook by one of the founders of Pixar because Janelle Monae and her team at Wondaland cited it as a business book they all read.
ARTS ATL: What can we look forward to from Literary Atlanta in 2019?
Law: I’ve been doing more live author interview events in the past year, which we record and share as episodes of Literary Atlanta. I love it when the author and audience are “off script” and riffing with me and with each other — it’s fun! Listeners will hear more of those episodes. We’ll also be doing more to engage our listeners and make them feel like they’re part of the podcast. We’re looking at establishing an editorial board and will FINALLY be responding to requests for Literary Atlanta merchandise.
ARTS ATL: And finally, if you had one piece of advice for someone looking to get involved in Atlanta’s book scene, what would it be?
Law: Visit your neighborhood independent bookstore and introduce yourself to the booksellers there. They will sense you to the right books based on your tastes, match you with a book group or writing partner and serve as your intellectual tour guides. Even if you are new to the city and just want to quietly peruse the shelves, you will never be lonely in a bookstore.