The chill in the air settles across Macon, and soon glowing candy canes and wreathes hang on the street posts of College Street. The holiday season is upon us and with it the 29th Annual Mercer University Press Authors Luncheon. Hosted at InterContinental Buckhead Hotel, more than three-hundred guests gathered for a day of smiling authors, signed books, and great food.
The Press’ main team arrived at the hotel Friday afternoon to begin preparations and worked tirelessly into the early hours of the next day. I arrived Saturday morning, well-rested and donning an old Santa hat, to find hundreds of books filling our tables and waiting to be cherished.
First slowly, and then all at once, guests and authors arrived, and the festivities commenced. I wasn’t sure who I was expecting, but as I stood behind the stacks of fiction and nonfiction, swarms of young and old bibliophiles circled our tables. Marsha, Heather, and Jenny manned the checkout table, and I bagged the goods.
I heard from several authors present that the luncheon was the most exciting book signing they had ever attended. Each of the fifteen authors waded through a line of eager book-lovers, all waiting for the chance to personalize their copy. A popular destination, Bill Curry was the first to start and the last to stop signing.
As soon as the book madness peaked, a well-dressed man gently struck a bell, and the doors to the Windsor Ballroom. The hungry crowds gathered their orange Mercer University Press totes and spilled into the high-ceilinged ballroom.
First on the menu was a spring greens salad with roasted squash and zucchinis drizzled with pesto. I had never been a salad person, but, truthfully, I struggled to not noisily devour the dish as Richard “Doc” Schneider, master of ceremonies, amused guests with his opening remarks. Afterwards, we were served glazed chicken on a bed of yellow rice, and I struck up conversation with the photographers beside me.
As we began digging into our dessert (either chocolate mousse or a lemon tart—both topped with a single strawberry), the presenting authors, Vincent Coppola, Joseph Crespino, Virginia Willis, and Rick Bragg, each spoke a little about their lives, their books, and what the luncheon means to them. Vincent Coppola, one of our own MUP authors, reflected on his time shadowing trial lawyer Tommy Malone. Bragg was a crowd favorite with many approaching him afterwards to shake his hand and gush about his deft curation of humor. We sold out of Bragg’s book only two minutes after the end of lunch.
I look back not only on that Saturday but also on the months that I have been able to work with the Press as their intern, and I can only say that Mercer University Press is unlike any other publishing house. The amount of care and camaraderie infused into the publishing process for each author is rare, but it pays off in the resulting books and the lasting relationships between the Press and its authors. On more than one occasion an MUP author or friend of an author said to me, “The Press is like family.” The Authors Luncheon manifested this kindness and kinship, and I encourage anyone who likes great books, good people and tasty food to attend next time.
Next year, our 30th Annual Authors Luncheon will be held Saturday, December 14, 2019. See you there!