Monroe: Barbara Barth and The Southern Pen Bookshop


Two years ago, Barbara Barth traded the traffic, noise, and never ending, ever expanding cement byways of Atlanta for a life in Monroe, Georgia. She never looked back. Actually, she transitioned seamlessly, continuing to do what she’d done before–write books, walk dogs, and gather a community together.

Cup of Love

Let’s take those one by one. Barbara’s last book was A Cup of Love (in which thirty authors share stories of love, not coincedently released for Valentine’s Day in February 2018). All proceeds from the book’s sales go to First Book, the country’s largest network of educators serving kids in need. Prior books include A Cup of Christmas (short stories, poems, and recipes for the season, an anthology of thirty-one authors, 2014), Finding Love is Magic (tales of romance and second chances at love from nine authors, 2015), Danger in her Words about a dog-columnist (hmm, how close to home might that be?, 2014), and all the way back to 2010 The Unfaithful Widow—Fragmented Memoirs of My First Year Alone.

My favorite is perhaps Barbara’s 2015 release A Dog Dreams of Paris, because I know from the cover, we’re really talking about one of Barbara’s own—her sixth rescue!

You know where Barbara’s heart is. She subtitled her website “Writer With Dogs; Author, blogger, dog whisperer . . . although there are days I have to bark loud to be heard.” And, if you poke around the site, you’ll see one or the other or several of her six four-footed companions, along with adorable April with Barbara on the home page.

And then, there is the community Barbara has been instrumental in making happen. When she moved to Monroe, Barbara jumped right in the middle of things, never mind that she had to walk for months with a cane due to hip surgery–nothing was stopping her. Barbara joined the Board of Directors of the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts as the Literary Arts Chair, working with local authors, aspiring writers, and of course readers. She also started Walton Writers to foster collaboration among anyone in Monroe or the surrounding communities interested in writing, regardless of their skill level, or choice of writing format.  At the group’s meetings, Barbara hosts an open mic for storytelling, author readings, a book club, music, and more. There is an open invitation to speakers to participate in book signings, book launches, and to peruse the Book Nook which carries local authors’ works.


One Open Mic Nights Participants

You might have imagined sleepy, quaint Monroe would be populated by those who like to sit back and relax on their wide verandas and sip sweet tea? Not on your life. Barbara is hard at work seeing that writing and reading are at the center of the Monroe arts community while working on her next book (due out momentarily), planning another writing event with the local Art Guild, and visiting and encouraging the local bookstores, the Story Shop and The Southern Pen Bookshop.

Learn more about Barbara Barth and her books and activities here:

Check out Walton Writers on Meet-Up and the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts (with its open mic nights the second Saturday of each month from 7 pm to 9 pm

The Southern Pen Bookshop

South Pen

Brainchild of Tori Bailey, The Southern Pen Bookshop started as a bookshelf inside the large Monroe Mercantile building. There, local authors could display their books for a modest fee—gaining what has proved difficult in today’s crowded literary space. Tori touched a nerve, in short order the bookshelf grew and grew and grew. The Southern Pen needed more space.

Tori, the author of a string of books she calls the Coming Home series knows her community and what readers like to read. She’s made her space comfortable with a spot to browse for books, relax and read, and on occasion meet and chat with local authors, or attend a live event, including this year a writers’ conference on May 18. There is still time to sign up.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to display a book on World War II that I co-authored with Jack Smith a World War II veteran and artist. And when I have visited I have been very impressed by the buzz around the bookstore, yes there is much more than one bookshelf now.

Visit the store to see for yourself at 113 North Broad Street, Monroe Georgia 30655 or online at Sign up for the writers’ conference at:





Macon and Ulaanbaatar: Jonathan S. Addleton


Jonathan S. Addleton

Jonathan S. Addleton – A Man for All Regions

Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan.

Most people would be hard pressed to identify these countries on an atlas, much less name their capitals, or describe their lands—except for the narrow slice of a landscape they might have glimpsed from Hollywood or the occasional news broadcast on the war in Afghanistan. But these countries, their land, their people, their customs and their values are very familiar territory to Jonathan Addleton.

He was born in Pakistan, the son of Baptist missionaries, and spent much of his early life in the area before returning to the US to attend college. He received his bachelor’s in journalism from Northwestern and an MA and PhD from Tufts in the field of law and diplomacy. His background and education led to a career in the foreign service, and it was the foreign service and later the State Department that took him to a series of international assignments, including Jordan, South Africa, Yemen, Cambodia, and India. He served as Ambassador to Mongolia from 2009 to 2012, Senior Civilian Representative for the State Department to southern Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013, and Mission Director to India for the US Agency for International Development in 2015.

Jonathan claims he retired in 2017, though his life today is as busy as ever. He is the Adjunct Professor of Global and International Affairs at Mercer University and travels almost as much as he did before retiring. 

But it is his role as author that brings Jonathan to this blog this day. 


Jonathan is the author of four books, a memoir of his childhood in Pakistan (Some Far and Distant Place), two books that address international affairs and diplomacy (Undermining the Centre: The Gulf Migration and Pakistan and Mongolia and the United States: A Diplomatic History) and, most recently, The Dust of Kandahar: A Diplomat Among Warriors in Afghanistan.

There is much to be learned from any of Jonathan’s books, although The Dust of Kandahar is probably the most relevant to American readers for insight into our country’s longest war and just what goes on in our diplomatic posts.

The book recounts Jonathan’s experiences in southern Afghanistan with text taken from his daily journals for the year August 2012 to August 2013. While much of the entries describe routine (and seemingly endless meetings and briefings with generals, visiting congressional aides, Afghani politicians and tribal leaders), sadly and poignantly the “ramp ceremonies” occur far too frequently in Addleton’s accounting. These are the ceremonies that honor the day’s or week’s sacrifices and send America’s fallen soldiers home.

There are vivid and touching vignettes of the Afghanistan that once was and a moving description of a tragic loss of close friends and a near-death experience that lingers well after the book ends.

Readers cannot but come away with great respect for all those who serve under similar difficulties and thankful to know there are people who are willing—even compelled—to take on these duties in our stead.

Jonathan’s books are available locally and wherever books are sold. He is also a frequent speaker, and you won’t have to travel to Mongolia or India to hear him speak. Jonathan also knows Georgia, where he lives today when not traveling with his wife Fiona or visiting one of his children who follow in his footsteps, in diplomacy, development, and in defense of our country.

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Golden Bough Bookstore. Macon Georgia


Golden Bough Bookstore is an independently owned bookstore located in downtown Macon, Georgia since 1989. The store carries a broad general stock of used and new books on a variety of subjects with emphasis on local and regional history and authors, literary fiction and scholarly history. 

Visit them in Macon at:  371 Cotton Ave., Macon, GA 31201
or on their Facebook page:

Golden Bough Bookstore

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Internom Bookstore, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


And just for fun we’re going to take a trip to the other side of the globe and visit Internom, a bookstore in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia where, if we’re lucky we’ll run into Jonathan Addleton between the stacks.

Think yurts or gers, yaks, and steppes? How about gleaming marble and glass in the Shangri-La mall and you just might stumble on the newest branch of the Intercom bookstore. It’s part of the largest bookstore in Mongolia. Established in 2000, Internom offers a rich selection of magazines, DVDs, office stationeries and of course an abundant collection of books. 

I’ll challenge you to be the next Georgian to attend one of Internom’s hosted book openings and public discussions. Send me proof of your visit and I’ll send you a free book. 

Check Internom out at their Facebook page:

Internom Bookstore

or visit them at: Amar’s street-4, Sukhbaatar district, Ulaanbaatar 14200, Mongolia


Eatonton: Flannery O’Connor and the Georgia Writers Museum

Flannery O’Connor

Despite my degree in economics (even at twenty you have to start think about making a living), a course in southern literature was one of the most memorable of all my college courses. In that long ago semester of 1970, we read and dissected William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Shirley Ann Grau, Sidney Lanier, and Katherine Ann Porter and lost ourselves in moss-draped oaks and along limitless marshes and seashores. Perhaps the reason the topic resonated was my college was situated in the heart of the deep south (New Orleans, with its own special brand of “southern”), or that my professors lectured with authentic southern accents, or that the stories touched readers souls.

I recall laboring through Faulkner’s prose with my fellow students and with a Faulkner Reader by my side—a rewarding exercise that brought the dialogue to life and illuminated the scene, while explaining the masterfully veiled meanings.

“Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence.”

So starts Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.”

Katherine Anne Porter made us look in the mirror and confront our mortality in “Pale Horse, Pale Rider”, as she did the young girls in the opening of “Old Mortality.”

“Maria and Miranda, aged twelve and eight years, knew they were young, though they felt they had lived a long time. They had lived not only their own years; but their memories, it seemed to them, began years before they were born, in the lives of the grownups around them, who had a way of insisting that they too had been young once. It was hard to believe.”

But there was something about Flannery, though she might prefer to be called Miss O’Connor as we haven’t been introduced, that persists. I believe it’s her characters. They are people we’ve met, passed by, or lived with. We know them well.

From the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” wearing her white gloves, navy blue straw sailor hat with “a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print … In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.”

To the small-town busy bodies and do-gooders like the Baptist ladies at the post office, Mrs. Watts, Mrs. Carson, and Aimee Slocum in “Lily Daw and the Three Ladies.” Mrs. Watts with their pink hands, thimbled-finger, and wearing widow’s black and Mrs. Carson who has a tape measure hung over her bosom. They are a whirlwind lost in a cause that sucks the reader in over the scant few pages it takes to tell the story.

Flannery managed to fill her short writing life (from the age of twenty-one until she died at thirty-nine) with a collection of some of the finest short stories ever written—by writers from the South, the North or anywhere else in the world.

Read one. Read two. Read a handful. And enjoy the trip back in time with stories that could be told today, but no more skillfully than in Flannery’s hands.

Born in Savannah, Flannery spent most of her time and writing life in Milledgeville, Georgia where it’s easy to find traces of her life..

Georgia Writers Museum (and Book Store), Eatonton, Georgia

This month, I’ve taken a slight departure on the traditional book store to include a museum—the Georgia Writers Museum in Eatonton (Putnam County), Georgia, which also carries and sells books by local authors.

The museum hosts permanent exhibits to honor three of the state’s most famous authors (Alice Walker, Joel Chandler Harris, and Flannery O’Connor) who lived and worked in the area. Further, of the forty-six authors in the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, nine hail from within thirty miles of Putnam County, and their works and artifacts are exhibited on a rotational basis at the museum.

But the Georgia Writers Museum is much more than a museum and today acts as a center for the literary art in the Georgia’s heartland. Rather than rest on its laurels and those of its featured authors, the museum is evolving to create “a modern day experience using leading edge virtual and augmented reality and 3D technology”—setting the bar for the next generation of Georgia authors.

To learn more or contribute to the Georgia Writers Museum’s outreach efforts, visit the Museum at 109 S. Jefferson St. in Eatonton or go to the website:


Read Georgia

book series 1 map

Introducing my very own personal armchair travel itinerary for reading stories set in Georgia.  There are more authors and books to be added to the map and summaries to be written, but I had to start somewhere.  I’m also, deliberately omitting the “usual suspects,” like Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and John Berendt’s Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil to shine a light on newer, and possibly lesser known works that I have read and that resonated within me and taught me more about my home state.

  • Raymond Atkins, Sweetwater Blues, set in a fictitious North Georgia, and I suspect not too far a stone’s throw from the author’s front porch in Rome, Georgia
  • Pete Dexter, Paris Trout, set somewhere down in the old cotton capitals of Georgia, and a book I read before coming to Georgia, the second time around.
  • Terry Kay, The Book of Marie. I could have chosen any one of Terry’s works but when I asked the author to pick just one, he picked this story of Atlanta’s past.
  • William Rawlings, A Killing in Ring Jaw Bluff. The prolific writer has been on to other things, still southern, still entertaining, but this earlier nonfiction work set in Sandersville back in the day, kept me riveted to the page
  • Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood: A book I might not have picked up had I not heard Janisse speak at a literary festival, her story gripping, her words electric
  • Karin Slaughter, Broken, a must read for all fans of crime, mystery, suspense, and who don’t flinch. Set somewhere not too far east of the big A

I hope you enjoy the list and that you’ll find a new book or new author here or along the trail with me in coming months.

My Maps Georgia

Let me know who you believe should be added to the list!

And check back soon for the next edition of An Author and a Bookstore in Ellijay.

Decatur: Connie McKee and Tall Tales Books


Connie McKee

“Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind — a scene, a locale, a character, whatever — and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.”
― Anne Lamott  in Bird by Bird

When Connie McKee turned to writing, she took Anne’s message to heart and approached character description “head on” while drawing on her own lifetime of studying people. As a former psychiatrist, what always mattered to Connie most were behaviors, moods, and perceptions, not how tall or short people were or whether they were brunette or blonde. She wanted to understand first what was inside someone’s head. Only after that would she give them skin and bones and clothe them in their world.

With forensic psychiatry – the intersection of psychiatry and law – as her specialty, the natural thing would have been for Connie to write a crime novel with a serial killer or crazed woman at its center. But she didn’t, at least not yet.  Instead, she wrote of near a death experience, parallel universes, and alternate realities–things that bend the mind. Who, other than someone schooled in divinity, is better able to speculate on these topics than a psychiatrist?

The Girl in the Mirror earned Connie the 2016 Georgia Author of the Year Award. And, yes, the story involves a dream. “Of course,” you might scoff, “what else would the stereotypical shrink do but force you to talk about your dreams and then ask you what you think they mean?” Jodi, the protagonist on Connie’s book is a psychiatrist too with dreams of her own and a particular dream that mirrors, no pun intended, Connie’s own life experience. And, in the story, Jodi is forced to confront her dream or what may not have been a dream at all. That’s where the real world, the science part, ends and–I think–the fiction begins. Or is it the other way around? Another mind bending question for the reader.


After winning the award for her book in the science fiction category, Connie explained she considers the work not so much science fiction as a blend of science and fiction. And maybe that is the best explanation of what transpires.

On a personal note, Connie is a soft spoken and self effacing person. She listens more than she talks, that’s expected of a psychiatrist and makes for a good writer even if while speaking with her you might fear she’s making notes for her next character from what’s inside your head.

While not running road races, traveling, or writing, Connie appears around town as one of The Book Widows, a group of four local authors who speak about how men and women read differently and why. While the others talk about the what and how and how many, Connie’s contribution to the group is definitely the why. She gives a lot of thought to the topic and dives below the surface–and maybe into the mirror–for new insights each time.

Read more about Connie at:

Tall Tales Books

tall tales shop

Tall Tales has been in Atlanta for almost forty years, and though construction surrounds the Toco Hill Shopping Center, if you get lost, just stop and ask. Everyone in the neighborhood knows just where the book store is.

It’s a busy place, bookended with a Pike Nursery on one side and a Kroger Supermarket on the other. But step inside and it’s as if you’ve stepped into your living room, albeit one with floor to ceiling bookshelves. It’s cozy and quiet with just the right amount of like-minded guests–book lovers all.  On the day I visited, the Saturday before Easter, moms and dads led small children by the hand to one aisle full of pink and blue and yellow children’s books and left with arms full of books.  Never mind that I was there with two other mystery and suspense writers for a signing, we had an audience too–one loyal Tall Tales customer balanced a stack of her favorite mystery writers in one hand and then piled on a copy of each of our books.

And if you ever need a suggestion for what to read next, Rebekah and her staff are knowledgeable and eager to help–they claim to have majored in book recommendations in college. Plus, you can stop in for one of the store’s many book signings events featuring a variety of genres. You won’t leave empty handed!

Tall Tales is located at 2105 Lavista Road, Atlanta, Georgia 30329. And, for more about Tall Tales, visit the store’s website at: