The Southern Festival of Books – Why I Won’t Be Going

Humanities Tennessee

Hi All,

I hate writing and reading posts like this ( I really do ) but I’m getting quite a few people ask me if I’m going to the Southern Festival of Books this year so I’d like to put the question to rest once and for all because quite frankly, it kinda hurts to talk about it. I’d rather people come to the website and find out than me having to explain it.

The first year I attended I had a great time. I went as a part of a writer’s group who was kind enough to share a table with me. I sold a good number of copies of the graphic novel, Haven and my wife and daughter had a blast. If you’ve not met my wife Kristen, she’s beautiful, friendly and as a librarian she’s very much at ease with making contacts. So while I was at the table, she went out and made some connections with the folks that run the event.

One person expressed excitement over having a graphic novelist come back the following year so we initiated contact over the following months. I specifically wrote to Serenity Gerbman who never returned my e-mails so I thought I’d try someone else.

Here was was that e-mail:


On Wed, May 11, 2011 at 3:47 PM, Leonardo Ramirez wrote:

Last year I exhibited along with the xxxxx selling copies of my graphic novel titled, Haven. While I was there my wife (who is a librarian) contacted Serenity Gerbman in person to see if there would be an interest for me to participate in something more extensive for this year’s event. I also tried contacting her via e-mail but after a few months of trying and never receiving a response I gave up.

I’m not able to afford a table of my own and since the Council will not have a table this year I thought I would offer to come and perhaps do some kind of presentation or lecture as far as what the process is for putting a graphic novel together. If there was another way I could sell copies of the graphic novel that would be wonderful too. There is extensive information on my website listed below if you’d like to peruse.

My cell number is XXX and I’ve included a press packet for your convenience.

Thanks so much. Hope to hear from you.

Leonardo Ramirez, Writer

On May 12 I received this e-mail:


On May 12, 2011, at 12:36 PM,> wrote:

Hello Leonardo,

Thanks for your e-mail and I am sorry that you did not receive a response sooner. That is quite uncharacteristic and our sincerest apologies. There may be a couple of options for you this fall at the Southern Festival of Books in regards to Haven and your other works.

I have recently spoken with xxat the xxxxx, and I believe that he is organizing a group of writers to exhibit at the Festival. You may consider getting in touch with him about that.

Additionally, if you would like to be considered as an author on the Festival program this year, I will pass on your attachment to the Program Committee. They will be meeting after the June 1 submission deadline and will be back in touch with you after that date. Please let me know if you have other questions.

All the best,

I, of course, said yes! But after submitting my application weeks went by and I heard nothing. I checked in once in June to see what the status was but I didn’t want to pest so I left it alone after that.

Later that year (September), I checked the website. My name was not on there. It’s not that they didn’t choose me (these things happen all the time) but it was the lack of response.

Here’s how it ended up:


On Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 1:35 PM,> wrote:

Hi Lenny,

Thanks for your e-mail. I am so sorry to hear of your frustration, but I’m glad you’re telling me. I assume that I am the Program Officer you are referring to and my sincerest apologies for any miscommunication, or lack of communication, on our part towards your application. We had been working to find an appropriate panel slot for you and it seems that as we were finalizing the schedule we neglected to reach out to you to let you know what was going on.

I wonder if you would be interested in a solo presentation on the Chapter 16 stage on Friday, October 14 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. We could set up something like ‘a conversation on graphic novels’. I know that you are not the artist of Haven, but if you do draw for your other works we can set up a big easel pad for you.

Please let me know if this is something you’re interested in. Again, my apologies for the way this has been handled.

All the best,



Thanks for responding. I don’t think that a Friday event at that time would be fruitful. High Schools will have just dismissed and traffic in downtown will be a nightmare for anyone coming to see a writer they know so little about.

Thanks for the offer.



Even though the contact was polite about it there would have been no reason to commit to a time slot when high school had just dismissed and the target audience would not have even made it there in time. It just doesn’t make sense. I never heard from Ms. Gerbman.


We all have to start at the bottom. I get that and actually appreciate it. Starting at the bottom and climbing our way up builds tenacity. Would I go to the Southern Festival of Books? Not at the table price they’re asking now. Am I still angry? I think I’m more hurt than anything. If you know me personally, I find it easy to forgive but it’s hard to forget when someone has a track record. Fool me twice, shame on me?

The 2nd time actually did make a pass. Earlier in the year I asked Humanities Tennessee if I could be a part of their programming with Jupiter Chronicles.

My request was denied. They won’t work with self-published authors. It could be because of the sheer number of applicants. If that’s the case then it totally makes sense.

Perhaps someday I will go back. And if that happens I’ll gladly write a follow-up in their favor. But here’s thing; I tend to have a leaning loyalty towards those who were with me from the beginning. I’m a loyalist who will stick with whoever stuck with me from the start.

They did not. Even so, I wish them the best as always.

Chat soon,

Leonardo Ramirez is an author of Science Fiction and fantasy. Visit for info! Jupiter Chronicles is available in paperback now.

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