First Draft Book Club with azcentral and Changing Hands Bookstore

By Matt Lewis
Executive Editor & Multimedia Reporter

PHOENIX – Barbara VanDenburgh discussed Kent Haruf’s devastating final book, “Our Souls at Night.” The event was sponsored by azcentral. The event drew a pretty standard crowd, according to one employee, Kathryn, a bar tender at the First Draft lounge.

VanDenburgh fielded lots of questions almost right away, rather than do the typical talking-head, conference style presentation that has a lead-in that can be off-putting to the audience. This engaged the capacity crowd and kept them asking questions throughout. Some of the questions/comments even elicited a “that was a good [thought]” from VanDenburgh.

She was a lively microphone host, roving around the room, so that those asking questions or making comments could use the mic.

The crowds seemed to be thoroughly invested in this piece of literature. They not only talked book-specifics but other topics pertaining to those in the litosphere (a made up term for those in the literary World).

If you arrived even a few minutes late, you were subjugated to the back of the bar (as with any good bar and/or person telling a bar story – the crowd flocks to them and doesn’t leave the bubble until they have been satisfied. Like a bee to the honey, the buzz was nearly palpable.

Of course, there was a plug to “come next time” from the keynote speaker.

Fitzgerald and Faulker’s names were dropped, like a mic at after a rapper just dropped the mic after performing a hit, to a hungry crowd.

The pretension of most writers and book clubs was not as apparent in this group. They seemed (at least on the surface) accessible to those who may not have even read the book or were familiar with the author.

This was a great event for new and old authors and fans of the written word alike. It was great for new authors because they need to break out of their shells and experience new authors. They say the best writers are the best readers.

“The fact that he starts the sentence with ‘and’ … is a poetic touch,” VanDenburgh.

A mother and one of the guests said they were arguing about when the book was set. A cell phone was not explicitly mentioned in the novel; but there was a part in the book where a child played with his phone, so VanDenburgh estimates the authors intent was for the work to be set in modern times.

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More coming soon. Please stay tuned.

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