January 6, 2020 | Issue #23
Five Facts From Our Friend,
Diane Chamberlain
The one thing you’ve learned you can’t live without during the pandemic: My weekly guitar group! I’ve been playing since I was 14 and even though I STILL play like I did when I was 14, I love getting together with others to play and sing. We’ve met for 6 years . . . until this past March. My Tuesday nights are pretty sad now.  

Your perfect day: A day where nothing is required of me! No book deadline, no housework, no cooking, no gym, no appointments. But I think I’d be bored with more than one day like that. 

Your favorite independent bookstore: I live a few miles from Quail Ridge Books, a beautiful bookstore that is known to everyone in Raleigh, NC, where I live. It’s the store where I always launch my books and I appreciate how supportive they’ve been of my career.  

The last book you raved about: The Vanishing Half, a novel by Brit Bennett. It’s the story of two very fair-skinned Black sisters, one who leaves home and “passes” as white throughout her life while the other retains her Black identity. I found their journeys intriguing. 

Your next book in ten words or less: (The Dark End of the Street) Two women find the courage to confront the evils of the past. 
Bookseller of the Week
Our guest this week, Diane Chamberlain, chose her favorite local indie—Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC—as our featured independent bookseller of the week. Browse their specially curated web page on their store website featuring Diane's two most recent books, the Fab Five's forthcoming 2021 titles (all available now for pre-order!) and one highlighted backlist title each of the Fab Five. You can get a discount on these and other titles (plus more perks!) by joining the Quail Ridge Readers' Club. See you Wednesday night!
Up Close and Personal with Mary Kay Andrews


           It was a year of uncertainty, of profound loss and sadness and isolation. But if there’s one thing I learned in 2020, it was that I was not alone. Lonely, certainly, but not alone.

 As an extreme extrovert, I’m one of those who seek out and thrive in the company of others. Which is an anomaly for a writer—whose work depends on long periods of solitude and contemplation. For me, the publication of a new book is a celebration, the reward for all those hours and hours of scribbling and struggling to get a story down on paper. It’s the chocolate layer cake I’ve earned after all those months of eating lima beans. (I LOATHE LIMAS.)

When our world went into lockdown last March, I was speeding toward the much-anticipated launch of my newest novel, HELLO, SUMMER. We’d planned my usual splashy launch party and a six-week tour, but in what felt like the blink of an eye, the plug was pulled.

The launch went virtual and the tour was cancelled. Suddenly, I was home alone.

As I reached out to fellow authors who were in a similar dilemma, we resolved that the only way to get out the word for our about-to-be-published novels was to work together, to create an online community that would celebrate not just our novels, but fiction in general.

To be honest, we didn’t know what we were doing. We thought we knew what we needed—which was to connect with readers, but we didn’t know what our readers needed—which, it turns out, was to be a part of a vast network of book-loving word nerds.

One of the biggest gifts of this past dark year was realizing that most of us need to feel a part of something. Community, even a virtual community, can be a lifesaver. Are most of us exhausted from Zoom meetings? Are we tired of motioning for our colleagues to un-mute themselves? Absolutely.

But the recognition that there are others out there—with similar struggles, dreams, obsessions, needs—and that we could connect and network with them, that was a game-changer. And I’m not just thinking of books. I’m thinking of all the ways we reached out this year, to frontline workers around the country to make sure they had the personal protective equipment they needed.

I’m thinking about the hundreds of organizations that have sprung up around the U.S. as good people find ways to help their neighbors. Like an amazing grassroots organization in Atlanta called Free99Fridge that has placed community refrigerators in public spaces around town to enable food to be shared, at no cost, to anyone. Yes, anyone can put food in, or take it out, with no questions, no paperwork, no shaming. Commercial bakeries and farmers and restaurants and charities donate excess goods, volunteers (like my daughter Katie) pick it up and distribute it to Free99Fridges. Volunteers can prepare heat-and-eat servings of soups or casseroles with those excess groceries, and stock those fridges. To my mind, it’s the best kind of mutual aid networking.

My challenge in 2021—and maybe yours, too—is to remember the value of community. Because we truly are stronger, together.
Latest News From "The Fab Five"

MARY KAY ANDREWS just handed in her last edits for her May release, THE NEWCOMER, and is excited about fixing up yet another old Tybee Island vacation rental beach house. Coquina Cottage is also due for completion this spring. (You can follow her progress on Instagram!)
PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY is starting the new year by interviewing her Surviving Savannah podcast guests: from a shipwreck hunter to a museum curator, she can’t wait to share them with you!
KRISTIN HARMEL got a bread machine for Christmas, and has been making bread, bagels, pretzels, and pizza dough like her life depends on it. Find her favorite bread machine bagel recipe HERE.

KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY  is so excited to be starting the year with the news at BookTrib chose UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY as a Most-Anticipated Read of 2021! She can’t wait to share the stories of Greer, Parker, Amelia and the unexpected discovery that changes all of their lives with each and every one of you.

MARY ALICE MONROE pushed “send” on the final copyedits for THE SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND. She’s taking a day off…before jumping into her next novel.
Listen to the F&F Podcast!
Our very first audio-only episode—produced exclusively for the F&F Podcast—is NOW LIVE!

LISTEN NOW to our first episode on:
or wherever you listen to podcasts.

We hope you will have a listen as Mary Kay and Kristin sit down with two incredible independent booksellers. They talked to Tim Ehrenberg of Nantucket Book Partners (Mitchell's Book Corner & Nantucket Bookworks) and to Laura Taylor of Oxford Exchange in Tampa, FL. Hear all about their stores, the creative ways they are finding to not just survive but thrive during the pandemic, the importance of shopping local, and their favorite recent reads. We hope you enjoy it. If you do, please subscribe, rate, share, and leave a review. We might feature your review on a future episode! 
News from the F&F Official Book Club
Happy New year! Please join us for the following book club events: 

INFORMAL CHAT — Monday, January 11 at 7pm ET (zoom link to be shared on the book club page)

Our next BOOK DISCUSSION will be on Monday, January 18 at 7 PM Eastern, where we will discuss Ladies Night with Mary Kay Andrews. RSVP HERE.

We had the best time discussing A Lowcountry Christmas with Mary Alice Monroe on Monday December 21st. If you missed it live, click here for the replay.