A Literary Night Out at Brazos Bookstore

by Victoria McClendon-Leggett

We arrived at Brazos Bookstore in Houston early and had time to leisurely scan through a few books….

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

…before authors Barbara Shapiro and Tim Johnston showed up.

They arrived in a happy mood, introducing themselves and talking a bit about their latest books. For Johnston, this was The Current, a novel centered around a car accident which is conceptually similar to his previous  work, Descent. Shapiro’s latest work is The Collector’s Apprentice, a novel set in 1922 that deals with art theft, mystery, and “a bit of romance.” After speaking briefly about their newest works, they talked a little about themselves and their careers. Johnston shared with us that he has an MFA, but was working as a carpenter prior to writing his first breakout book…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

and Shapiro who has a PhD in Sociology told us that she quit a high-pressure job to pursue writing novels after a conversation with her mother.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

The two got along very well, and seemed to enjoy each other’s company and the crowd.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

Shapiro is a planner, outlining her novels extensively and even creating a color-coded notecard system.  Johnston described himself as a “pantser,” which is an author who flies by the seat of his pants.  He begins the novel with an event and characters, and then works through things to see how they turn out.

They were also different presenters.  Shapiro was very demonstrative…

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…expansively emphasizing her points with hand gestures and facial expressions.

Meanwhile, Johnston was a minimalist…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

…more introspective and displaying an economy of movement.

But the two meshed well.  When Shapiro described her publication history, noting that her first several books didn’t sell, she was thankful for her husband, and emphasized that beginning writers need a partner who “has a salary and benefits.”  Johnston quietly said, “Ah, I need a partner with a salary and benefits.”

Alas, both a highly successful now, making quite a nice living from the royalties on their books, although Tim Johnston still teaches Creative Writing at the University of Memphis.

After the discussion we had a chance to get a few books signed by the two authors who were also kind enough to pose for a group photo with us!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

indeed, with the event being so much fun, the book store manager asked the entire audience to pose for a photo with the authors.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

With Shapiro’s book being (partly) set in France, we headed a few streets over to dinner at nearby Sweet Paris Crêperie, which offers excellent service, good crepes, and amazing milk shakes.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

We filed in and ordered our crêpes at the register, and they were brought to us at our table as they were ready. There was a variety of sweet and savory crêpes available at the restaurant, but as it was well into dinnertime everyone among us decided to go with savory.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

Makayla tried ham and gruyere, and I had the Alaskan crêpes, which were stuffed with smoked salmon, pickled red onions, capers, and scrambled eggs, and were topped with dill sour cream and scallions. For dessert, we ordered milkshakes to go.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

The best flavor by far was Makayla’s Nutella graham cracker shake or the Reese’s shake, enjoyed by Professor Yawn and Stephanie.

With sweet treats in hand, we headed back to Huntsville a little bit smarter and a lot more full.

 

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to news stories, having contributed more than 50 pieces in the past year. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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