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"Early Sunday morning is when the magic happens" according to Denene Millner. The New York Times bestselling author has released her first picture book. It’s called “Early Sunday Morning” and centers on a young girl named Sarah who one Sunday is called upon to sing a solo with her youth choir during church services. The book follows as she goes to different people for advice and tries to calm her nerves.

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The literary cannon has lots of examples of children stranded on islands, from "Lord of the Flies" to "Peter Pan" and beyond. Atlanta-based author Laurel Snyder offers her take on the idea in her new novel "Orphan Island" from Walden Pond Press.

"The goal was to write a book where there were no grown ups," Snyder tells "City Lights" host Lois Reitzes. "But counter to something like 'Lord of the Flies,' I wanted it to be a kind of utopian world where the children really to care for each other."

"The Lemon Jell-O Syndrome" cover courtesy Unbridled Books; photo credit Mattie Bell

Tuesday on "City Lights with Lois Reitzes":

Wes Browning / Sema Films

Every once in a while we need a change in setting to get a fresh perspective and, hopefully, to be inspired. Enter “the retreat,” a tried and true way to get away from the daily grind.

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It isn’t reserved for just the office worker though, artists often use retreats to improve upon their craft. In this edition of “Writer to Reader,” best-selling novelist Joshilyn Jackson explains how.

Jackson goes on three to five retreats per book, typically with a group of close confidants.

Reed Saxon / Associated Press

Tuesday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Polly Buxton

The acclaimed author Pat Conroy endeared himself to many readers, perhaps southerners most of all. His love for Charleston and the Low Country provided ongoing inspiration for his work. Shortly before he died last year, Conroy wrote the forward for “The Cigar Factory: A Novel of Charleston” by Atlanta-native Michele Moore.

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Ga. Festival Celebrates The 'Lost' Southern Authors

Mar 24, 2017
Associated Press

Georgia State University assistant professor of English Andy Rogers wants people to remember more than Faulkner, O’Connor or Williams when they think of Southern writers. So he organized Revival: Lost Southern Voices Festival, which aims to do just that.

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On this edition of "Writer to Reader," novelist Joshilyn Jackson looks at what’s in store for the festival.

Eric Charbonneau / Invision for Twentieth Century Fox/AP Images

Wednesday on "City Lights with Lois Reitzes":

Atlanta Poet Pens Memoir About Bank-Robbing Dad

Oct 14, 2016
Stephanie Dowda

Molly Brodak is a poet based in Atlanta, and her latest literary work is a memoir about her dad.

It's fittingly called "Bandit.” In 1994, her dad went on a bank-robbing spree that landed him in prison. Once out, he landed himself back in prison after robbing more banks.

In "Bandit," Brodak digests her own feelings about her dad and attempts to understand him: both as a boy born in a refugee camp for survivors of the Holocaust, who grew up in poverty in the United States and served in Vietnam, and also as a sociopathic adult with a gambling addiction.

Courtesy of the Vega Quartet

Tuesday on "City Lights with Lois Reizes":

Brittany Lauback

Gabrielle Fuentes' debut novel “The Sleeping World” arrives on the shelves today. The novel is set during a tumultuous time in Spanish history.

It’s 1977, and Spain is transitioning from the brutal Francisco Franco regime to an uncertain democracy. Elections are on the horizon, and protests erupt throughout the country.

Al Such / WABE

Thomas Mullen’s biography opens with the confession that while his neighbors near downtown Atlanta “suspect not a thing, he commits murders, spins wildly convoluted conspiracy theories, travels through time, [and] reinvents the past.”

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Monday on "City Lights with Lois Reitzes":

Matthew Mead / Associated Press

Wednesday on "City Lights with Lois Reitzes":

Holly Sasnett

Three-hundred authors will descend upon downtown Decatur this weekend for the Decatur Book Festival. And the festival makes sure that local authors are well represented.

Julia Franks is one of those local authors. She will be discussing her debut novel "Over the Plain Houses.”

In a commentary about the novel, arts writer Gail O'Neill commends Franks on her ability to tap into the diction and zeitgeist of Appalachian North Carolina along with her ability to delve into the intricacies of relationships.

How Novelists Stay Busy When They Aren’t Writing

Aug 3, 2016
Felipe Dana / Associated Press

When novelist Joshilyn Jackson finally turned her book “Origin Story” in to her publisher she could see relaxing summer days right around the corner.

“I had this giddy, high week of prancing about being generally disgusting and full of myself,” Jackson admits.

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When best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson started writing her latest book, “Origin Story,” she had William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and the biblical story about Leah and Rachel on her mind, not race. Now that she’s written it, however, race seems to be the main theme running through the novel.

In this installment of “Writer to Reader,” Jackson explores how the national conversation surrounding race and recent police shootings of unarmed black men has shaped her novel.

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Last time best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson joined "City Lights" for “Writer to Reader,” she was up against a deadline for her latest book, “Origin Story,” had asked her publisher for an extension, and was setting out to revise a lot of her book so the end would be “present and surprising and inevitable from word one onwards.”

After using her month-long extension to its fullest, Jackson has finally turned in “Origin Story” and is back to discuss why she was not proud of her initial draft of the book.

Jennifer Hitchcock

The AJC Decatur Book Festival has announced that for this year's keynote event, it will pay tribute to longtime festival supporter and participant Pat Conroy.

Conroy is the celebrated author of "The Prince of Tides," "The Great Santini," "South of Broad" and many other award-winning novels. He died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 70 on March 4.

Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

With the deadline still in front of her, best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson continues to work toward the end of her newest novel, “Origin Story.” As part of that process, Jackson had two colleagues read the manuscript so she could get an idea of how the book would ultimately be received. While the reviews were generally positive, one sentiment stuck with her.

"When I was growing up in Georgia," Roy Blount Jr. writes in his new book, "we ate till we got tired."

The author, humorist and regular on NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" and "A Prairie Home Companion," draws on a lifetime of eating for his book "Save Room For Pie: Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations." The collection of essays, poems and songs covers everything from Southern hospitality, the proper appreciation of a good steak, to adjusting to – and pushing back on – nutritional concerns.

Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press

There’s a game that best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson likes to play with her readers. When she releases a book, she asks her fans to decide which actors would play which characters if that book were turned into a movie.

As Jackson explains on “Writer to Reader,” creativity is a must when it comes to casting. “If you have a white female from 20 to 30 [years old], of course Jennifer Lawrence can play it,” she says. But casting the greatest actors of the day is just too easy.

Courtesy of Jyll Thomas

The things passed on from generation to generation aren't always precious heirlooms. Sometimes they're quirks of personality or addiction or, in the case of Atlanta writer Jyll Thomas' story, a slightly tacky sweater.

In Thomas' "The Christmas Sweater," a troubled young woman looks back on the perspective she gained by sharing her struggles with her beloved grandmother.

Ansel Adams

Monday on "City Lights with Lois Reitzes":

Wes Browning / Sema Films

Best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson launched her book “The Opposite Of Everyone” on Feb. 18 at the Decatur Library. Despite having published seven novels, this was only the third book launch Jackson has thrown.

“I can’t do it every book. It’s like a wedding. Only soap opera people can go to that many weddings and not run mad,” she explained.

In this edition of “Writer To Reader” on “City Lights,” Jackson elucidated her role in making a book launch successful.

Author, Joshilyn Jackson and her book, Someone Else’s Love Story.


Atlanta author Joshilyn Jackson has an unusual Christmas gift request.

In a previous “Writer to Reader,” she shared how she has been inspired by other art forms which have influenced her own writing. Just last week , she discussed the story within a story that’s taken the form of a graphic novel within her current work-in-progress, “Origin Story.”

Decatur author Joshilyn Jackson seems to be stuck in the middle ... the middle of the novel she’s writing right now, that is.

After a brief look at why the middle is never seen as a good place to be, from the “middle of nowhere” to the “middle child,” Jackson explores what it takes to keep from being stuck in the middle of a book.

“When your middle sags, it’s as if the action is continuing and things are happening and people are doing things but all that motion is just churning … there’s no forward movement,” she explains.

Jennifer Johnston

There's a song many kids in the South learn to help remember the spelling of “Mississippi.” It starts, “M… I… Crooked Letter… Crooked Letter… I” and continues on from there.

This little rhyme is the inspiration for the title of a new anthology that has nothing to do with folk songs or state names.

Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers (Atlanta, Ga.) / Courtesy of Georgia State University Library

Natalie Grude Harrington is a great foil to the belief that Atlanta is a transplant city. She’s lived here all her life, and her recent novella takes the reader to an Atlanta of the past.

The book, “Highland Avenue,” is also a tribute to her father, another lifelong Atlanta resident. His family emigrated from Russia to Fayetteville, fortunately avoiding the pogroms that had yet to devastate much of the Jewish population in Russia.

Dent Myers and his Wildman Civil War Surplus Store in Kennesaw, Ga along the historic Dixie Highway.
Brent Moore /


Decatur writer Joshilyn Jackson is in the process of writing her next novel, which she has tentatively titled “Origin Story.”

In this installment of her “Reader to Writer” series for “City Lights,” she describes how she creates a sense of place, based in the small-town South.

She says it’s important “to write in such a way that the town itself seems familiar to anyone who comes from any small Southern town.”