HerKentucky Happenings

We're pleased to present HerKentucky Happenings, a roundup of things we love from across the Commonwealth.

  • My hometown's favorite band, Sundy Best, will be returning to the Grand Ole Opry tomorrow night. Really makes me wish I were in the Music City this weekend to see my high school football coach's son (whom I'll always think of as a gorgeous toddler... Sorry, Nick!) rocking the Home of Country Music
  • Saturday in Louisville is Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Market's Resolutions Solutions Fair. It's a great time to quit smoking, work on your fitness goals, or focus on cleaner eating. Rainbow Blossom has experts to help!
  • Also in Louisville is Craft(s) Gallery's exhibition by Shawn Garrison, entitled "The Fruits of Rashness." I just adore the whimsical colors and use of motion of this piece, "Let's Go Shopping", and I can't wait to stop by Craft(s) to see the rest of the show!
Image via Craft(s) Gallery
  • Another exhibition I can't wait to see is the Eye of Napoleon at the Frazier Museum. This Saturday night, they're offering a special "Date Night in Paris" event that includes the exhibit as well as a cash bar, entertainment, and more!
  • The Kentucky Governor's Mansion turns 100 later this month. Celebrate at Frankfort's Grand Theater next Wednesday and Thursday with special showings of a documentary of the historic home, or schedule a trip to see the Mansion. I'll bet you haven't been there since a class trip in grade school!
    The Governor's Mansion
  • Louisville's Fleet Feet Sports recently met the challenge of logging miles for charity. A running team representing the store earned a $2,500 donation for Girls on the Run Louisville, a nonprofit which inspires elementary school girls to be healthy, joyful, and confident while engaging in fun and age-appropriate lessons on topics such as healthy living, self esteem, and how to handle bullying.
What's happening in your nook of the Commonwealth?

If your organization has an event you'd like to see featured on HerKentucky, please email details to heather@herkentucky.com.

Half an Hour in Nashville? Five Must-Go Places

It's a random, last-minute story, but I found myself traveling through Nashville Wednesday night. My beau and I decided to stay in the Music City rather than pushing on, since it's one of my very favorite cities of all time.

We wound up staying downtown and bemoaning the fact that we couldn't stick around for the Tournament with all the other SEC fans. There were plenty from all over the conference in our hotel. The older, die-hard UK fans were already in town, of course. The Tennessee fans were really nice and courteous. In fact, all the fans were nice except one big ol' guy from the far reaches of the SEC-West, but that's a different story...

Anyway, we had about 14 hours (including sleep) in Nashville, which is about the amount of non-game time that BBN members will have in town. We dropped in on a couple of our downtown (or adjacent) favorites. Here are a few suggestions, in case y'all are in town and looking for something to do between games.

1. Noshville. (1918 Broadway) Amazing deli food. The Matzo ball soup is amazing. So are the silver dollar potato cakes. My beau had an open-face roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach, which looked terrific.
2. Provence at the Library. (601 Church) The Dancing Goat blend is the best coffee you'll ever drink. Seriously, if you walk past this place and go to Starbucks, we can't be friends. I had the three-cheese grits cake for breakfast. I'm kind of kicking myself that I didn't grab a package of the homemade marshmallow peeps for the road.
3. Santorini Greek Restaurant. (210 4th Ave N) This was one of our regular places when my beau and I both worked downtown. Huge portions, awesome food, and a great value. If you're downtown and don't want to move your car,spare yourself the lines for the mediocre chain tourist joints.
4. 417 Union (417 Union) Southern-style fare in a little downtown diner. Fantastic, hearty breakfast. The lunch is pretty darn good, too. If you find yourself missing Ramsey's, stop here.
5. Hatch Show Print. (316 Broadway) You have to go to one touristy place. Buy one of their old-timey posters.

Southern Festival of Books: Sunday Recap

This weekend, I went down to Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books. I wrote about the Festival for Ace Weekly magazine, describing the sense of "place" that arose time and again during the festival's programs and events. I also wanted to share a more informal "travelogue" with y'all. We had such an amazing time taking in both the festival and one of my very favorite cities. Here's my recap of Saturday’s events. You also can read recaps of Friday and Saturday, if you'd like. – HCW 
I wasn't really feeling any of the Sunday sessions at the Southern Festival, so I opted instead for brunch at my very favorite spot in Nashville -- Provence. Oh, y'all. Their food. Their coffee. And Hillsboro Village -- just the cutest little neighborhood imaginable. It was among our very favorites when we lived in Nashville, and I love going back there!

Not sure what this means, but Lordy I've missed hipsters!
After we ate, we moved to the sidewalk to enjoy our coffee and dessert. I had a cinnamon macaron that was simply heavenly. We sipped our Dancing Goats coffee (our very favorite blend anywhere!), and took in the sights of our old 'hood. The people-watching in Nashville is fantastic; I've always said we play a game we call "Hipster or White Stripe?", and Sunday didn't fail us. In the most Nashville moment ever, a bespectacled hipster walked past our table. When he was safely out of earshot, I asked my beau "hey, was that Ben Folds?" We finally decided that the actual Ben Folds would probably have been dressed a little better.
Vandy Children's Hospital

We walked around our old 'hood a few more minutes, remembering funny stories of walking Max through the neighborhood, the hours of training I put in while training for the half-marathon, and the joy I got from volunteering at Vandy Children's Hospital. It was really wonderful to revisit so many fond memories.

Then we undertook the journey home. I was pointed toward the mountains to retrieve the dogs. My beau had to get back to work. I strongly wished that I'd planned to stay down another day; I'd seen on Facebook that they were looking for people to sit at the Bluebird all day Monday as extras for that Nashville TV show. 

On the way home, I was amazed by how much the fall foliage had popped out over the weekend. I stopped to photograph some amazing trees near Somerset.  I hurried on home, because I knew that my dogs would take "grandparent rules" a little too far.  But, most of all, I thought about the lessons of place that the Southern Festival of Books provided me. I felt a little more ready to tackle some writing of my own.

Southern Festival of Books: Saturday Recap

Thai Food Truck at the Capitol.
Last weekend, I went down to Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books. I wrote about the Festival for Ace Weekly magazine, describing the sense of "place" that arose time and again during the festival's programs and events. I also wanted to share a more informal "travelogue" with y'all. We had such an amazing time taking in both the festival and one of my very favorite cities. Here's my recap of Saturday’s events. You can read about Friday's adventures here. – HCW

I don’t know why, but the Central Time Zone kicks my behind every single time. Every. Single. Time. I lived in Nashville for two years, and I never got used to Prime Time television starting at 7 p.m. This day was no exception. I gotup really early for a Saturday, and yet somehow I was still running late.

Now, I've always jokingly called the strip of I-65 from Southern Kentucky past Nashville "The Cracker Barrel Corridor" because it seems you can find one at every exit. As we pass the signs for a few of those, it felt like a good excuse to avail ourselves of some biscuits and hashbrown casserole. At first, I was a little concerned that we'd miss the session on the politics of SEC football, but then I realized that we were surrounded by that very topic. From the Volunteers dog collars and baby clothes in the gift shop to the Gators fans who've driven up for their game against Vandy, the politics of the Southeastern Conference were everywhere, so we just sat back and enjoyed our carbs.

We arrived downtown, surveyed the vendor booths, and headed in to an auditorium a few minutes early for the Grit Lit panel. As we sat down, we realized that we'dcrashed another session. Turns out, we were sitting in on a Q and A session with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, who talked about how she chooses settings for her work. It was neat and unexpected. 

The panel I was really there to see was comprised of the editors and featured authors of the anthology Grit Lit: a Rough Southern Reader. It was a funny, gritty, and real presentation. I was transfixed by the stories told by Rowan County native Chris Offutt. He's from nowhere, Kentucky, just like me. He's written for some of the smartest shows on TV. He was also as funny and offbeat and fascinating as I expected. I reached for my phone to tweet about the awesomeness, and found that Southern Living staffers were in the Grit Lit audience as well. Around the same time, the panel members started talking about the articles they've written for Oxford American. People who write for the very publications I read most closely -- the ones for which I dream of writing -- were are all around me, participating in the same conversation. It was a great feeling.

After the panel discussion, my beau and I walked around the booths of some of the University Presses  exhibiting at the Festival. We talked with booksellers and lit review editors. We discussed interesting books. We got some ice cream. (Jeni's, to be precise. Salted caramel, which is okay, and whiskey-pecan, which tastes like some sort of fantastic milky Christmas punch made with Early Times.)

After we took in more booths, musicians, and authors, we headed back to the hotel for a nap and some college football. It is a Saturday in the South, after all. Between the nap and the evening's big games, we headed out for some low-key dinner. There, in a suburban chain restaurant, I found my confidence bolstered by the day's events. I'd spent the day among writers who, as is often said, started out with an idea. I began to tell my beau the story of the novel I want to write. I'd never really discussed it with anyone before, but now it's out there. It's real. It was a terrifying and liberating moment.

Back in the hotel, I fell immediately asleep. Les Miles had to coach without me. I had big dreams of first drafts and the fantastic cup of coffee I'd be drinking in the morning.

Southern Festival of Books: Friday Recap

Last weekend, I went down to Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books. I wrote about the Festival for Ace Weekly magazine, describing the sense of "place" that arose time and again during the festival's programs and events. I also wanted to share a more informal "travelogue" with y'all. We had such an amazing time taking in both the festival and one of my very favorite cities.  Here's a little about my trip down to Nashville on Friday and the first night of the event. -- HCW

It was just one of those days that goes right. That's a very good thing when you undertake a five hour trip. After the dogs got in a lengthy morning playtime, I left them with my parents and I drove. And drove. And drove. I noticed the fall foliage. I bemoaned the lack of cell phone signal in rural Kentucky. And I drove some more. Finally, I found myself on the Tennessee border. I excitedly tuned the radio to Jack 96.3 (only the best radio station ever -- take my word for it!) and took in the sights.  Lordy, I love this city.
I had a few minutes to spare before the first event I wanted to attend, so I drove down Broadway. It's so quintessentially touristy, and yet such a terribly fun area. At 2 o'clock on a Friday afternoon, the honky-tonks and shops were just swarming with people. There were lines outside Tootsies, Margaritaville and Hatch Show Print. That's one of my very favorite things about Nashville: there are always people lined up to have a good time.

I headed over to the Public Library to hear Jason Howard and Naomi Judd speak about the Kentucky Roots of Country Music. Two things become apparent in a hurry: I want to be BFFs with Jason Howard, and Naomi Judd knows how to work a room. Amidst an interesting discussion about Appalachia, culture, and creativity, Mr. Howard and Ms. Judd worked in some hilarious quotes. Reading from his own description of a dinnertime scene at Ms. Judd's home, Mr. Howard deadpanned "It's her kitchen medicine cabinet. Every Appalachian woman I know has one." Later in the hour, Ms. Judd reached into her décolletage and dramatically produced a tissue -- "I think there's a Kleenex gene. I think it's a hillbilly thing."

I left the session with an interesting perspective on my own Appalachian heritage and drove down to meet my beau at the Barnes & Noble on Vanderbilt's campus (he's been in town for work). We grabbed some dinner, then decided to check out the holy grail of Nashville bookstores, Parnassus Books. 

I've been dying to visit Parnassus forever. Located in an unassuming strip of shops and restaurants in the Green Hills neighborhood, the store boasts one of the best fiction selections I've seen in ages. Because we were in Nashville, there were also more than a few country music and sporting dog titles to make us feel at home. I knew there was little chance of getting to meet owner Ann Patchett on a Friday night; I guess I'll just have to make another trip soon! 

We ended the evening with an apple fritter from the Donut Den next door (oh, how we've missed them!), and called it an early night, because we had many more books to discover on Saturday!

Good Morning from Nashville

Hey y'all!

Southern Festival was amazing and Nashville is as wonderful as always. I'll post a full recap when I get home this evening, but here are a few pics and quotations for you.

"Kentucky is such a special place-there seems to be something in the water." -- Jason Howard

"Appalachia is sacred." -- Naomi Judd

"I wanted to write about the people I grew up with." -- Chris Offutt

A Guide to Literary Nashville

When you hear "Nashville", you immediately think "country music", right?

Well, this week, you may also be thinking about that show that brought Mrs. Coach Taylor back to TV. I can't blame you there; I've already watched the pilot episode a couple of times myself.

When I think of Nashville, though, I immediately think of books. It's not most people's immediate reaction, I know. But, when I lived in Nashville, I was always discovering the coolest bookstores and cafés; it just always seemed like there was a great place to read or write. As I head down to the Southern Festival of Books, I thought I'd share with y'all a few of my favorites.

My hidden gem -- and I sort of hate to let anyone in on my secret -- is McKay's. McKay Used Books is a Tennessee-based superstore of used books, music, and movies. It's also one of the greatest resources I've ever found for odd, esoteric, and just plain awesome books. There are always plenty of interesting texts that clearly once belonged to professors at Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, or Belmont. Over the years, I've found books on the philosophy of sports and a gender-studies reading of Sex and the City.  I've found a first edition of Pat Conroy's "The Water Is Wide" and a signed Ann Patchett. I've also tripled my Junior League Cookbook collection without investing a ton of money into it. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of McKay's.

RhinoBooks is another favorite used book store. With two locations -- one in the quiet neighborhood near David Lipscomb University and one amidst antique, treasure and junk stores -- Rhino just looks like your favorite used bookstore. The staff is always willing to talk Fitzgerald with you for hours. Oh, and the owner is a songwriter as well -- he's collaborated with Shel Silverstein and John Hiatt.

I haven't been back to Nashville since Parnassus Books opened. I hope to remedy that situation this weekend. At a time when conventional wisdom tells us that the brick and mortar bookstore is dead (Nashville boasted the best Borders I'd ever seen, as well as the delightful Davis-Kidd, now sadly both defunct), author Ann Patchett and publishing industry veteran Karen Hayes opened an independent bookstore. It was a bold move that went against the tide of conventional business wisdom. I know this becauseStephen Colbert told me so. Ms. Patchett's works are among my very, very favorites. I can't wait to see Parnassus for myself!

While not a bookstore, the Five Points Starbucks in Franklin is part of literary Nashville for me. Now, when I'm in Nashville, I almost never visit a Starbucks. Provence, a local café chain, has vastly superior coffee and pastries, most notably my beloved Dancing Goats. But, this Williamson County store is where a lovely series of books got their start.Tasha Alexander worked on the first novel in the Lady Emily series of historical fiction mysteries at the Five Points Starbucks after she'd taken her son to school.  As a writer, I love the idea that a suburban Starbucks in Central Tennessee was where an author crafted a story of intrigue among the upper class in Victorian England.

Nashville has so many amazing resources for readers and writers. I hope to take advantage of a few this weekend!