Writing from a small city

Not quite the NYT Bestseller list, but When We Were Strangers made the list at Knoxville’s Union Avenue Books, our local and very fine independent. Here’s the list, FYI:

Celebrating Our Favorite Local Authors and Special Friends Who Ranked Among the Top 25 Bestsellers at Union Ave in 2011
Michael Knight, The Typist

Pamela Schoenewaldt, When We Were Strangers
Hugh Acheson, A New Turn in the South
Ros Taylor, Confidence at Work
Jack Neely, Market Square: A History
Bill Landry, Appalachian Tales

Norma Watkins, The Last Resort

Bobbie Ann Mason, Girl in the Blue Beret

Amy Greene, Bloodroot

Jake B. Morrill, Randy Bradley

Susan Gilmore, Improper Life of Bezellia Grove

Knoxville has a thriving writers community and a great support group, the Knoxville Writers Guild. We’re a small city, 179,000 souls as of 2011. And for debut writers, this is an advantage, according to my agent, Courtney Miller-Callihan. Why?

First because in a small city there is still enough home town pride and press if a local anybody gets noticed on the outside. There are also enough readers, book clubs, fellow writers and civic groups who want speakers to get a little traction in sales. Then these people may have reader friends elsewhere. Book sales can grow organically through book clubs and in a city our size, people in clubs tend to find each other out,

In a small town, however, a writer soon exhausts the universe of potential readers, even with the home town advantage. There just aren’t that many people to recommend your book elsewhere if there isn’t a marketing push from the publisher, which, statistically, there probably isn’t. In a big city, there are bound to be some literary heavyweights and it’s hard to get noticed without a pr machine at your service or really terrific reviews. Of course to be the buzz in the Big Apple is one very huge buzz, and if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere (as we know) but how often does this happen to the debut novelist?

Naturally, there are a zillion (well many, many) exceptions to this theory but still, worth considering if you are footloose with a laptop.




Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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