Brewer, Sonny

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BREWER, Sonny

PERSONAL: Married; children: two boys.

ADDRESSES: Office—Over the Transom Bookstore, 9 N. Church St., Fairhope, AL 36532. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer and editor; Over the Transom Bookstore, Fairhope, AL, owner, 1997–. Mobile Bay Monthly, Mobile, AL, former editor-in-chief; Eastern Shore Quarterly, former publisher and editor; Red Bluff Review, former editor; Southern Bard (literary magazine), University of South Alabama, Mobile, coeditor; has also worked at a variety of odd jobs, including construction company owner; Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts (not-for-profit group), chairman.

WRITINGS:

(Editor) Stories from the Blue Moon Café: Anthology of Southern Writers, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2002.

(Editor) Stories from the Blue Moon Café II: Anthology of Southern Writers, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2003.

(Editor) Stories from the Blue Moon Café III: Anthology of Southern Writers, MacAdam/Cage (San Francisco, CA), 2004.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park (novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Like Light around a Bend in the River (novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), in press.

Also author of Rembrandt the Rocker, A Yin for Change, and a ghost-written biography of Clarence Darrow.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Editing The Alumni Grille, a series of anthologies.

SIDELIGHTS: Sonny Brewer is well known on the Alabama cultural scene. Not only does he own his own book store, Over the Transom, help to run the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts, and promote up-and-coming young writers, he also helps to organize the annual Southern Writers Reading conference every November. This last activity led to Brewer's first published book, Stories from the Blue Moon Café: Anthology of Southern Writers. Three years after Brewer began the Southern Writers Reading conference in 1998, he had the idea of creating a chapbook containing stories submitted by the writers at the 2001 conference. "There was a publisher … in the audience when I spoke the idea," he explained to Southern Scribe interviewer Pam Kingsbury. "He came up to me afterwards and told me to save my money, he'd like to publish the story collection. That was easy."

The first volume of Stories from the Blue Moon Café contains pieces by thirty writers, including best-selling authors W.E.B. Griffin and Pat Conroy and several lesser-known names. The works include stories set during the U.S. Civil War, including "Final Spring" by Marlin Barton and "Killing Stonewall Jackson" by Michael Knight; and tales that take place in the present day, including C. Terry Cline, Jr.'s "S. Trident," a humorous story-in-letters about a man who wins an auction for an abandoned Army base and gets more than he bargained for. In addition to the fiction pieces, there are also essays by Conroy, who writes about the Citadel military academy, which he attended, and Rick Bragg, who discusses the "delta blues" music genre; and the prose poem "I Would Like to Go Back as I Am, Now, to You as You Were, Then," by Beth Ann Fennelly. "This is an uncommonly even and rewarding collection," concluded a Kirkus Reviews critic, while a Publishers Weekly contributor described it as "quixotic and eclectic."

Since the success of the first volume of Stories from the Blue Moon Café, Brewer has put together volumes every year. Stories from the Blue Moon Café II: Anthology of Southern Writers features the comic tale "Rome, Italy," by well-known author Fannie Flagg; two stories about failing marriages, "Choose Your Travel Partner Wisely," by Michelle Richmond, and "Orphans," by Donald Hays; and "Homecoming," a story by William Gay about a man of moderate means and his rich relatives. Gay returns in Stories from the Blue Moon Café III: Anthology of Southern Writers with "Charting the Territories of the Red," a blood-soaked tale about a riverside battle. Previous Blue Moon Café contributor Bragg is also featured in this volume, this time with an essay about Mississippi State University head football coach Sylvester Croom, the first such African-American coach in the Southeastern Conference. Stories from the Blue Moon Café II and III also met with positive reviews. Booklist contributor Karen Jenkins Holt, writing about the second volume, thought that "readers should find their visit to the Blue Moon Cafe more than satisfying," while John Green, also writing in Booklist, praised the "delightful mix" of pieces in the third volume.

Brewer is also the author of the novel The Poet of Tolstoy Park, which was described by Library Journal contributor Beth E. Andersen as "a powerful prayer to a less complicated way of being in the world." The story begins in 1925, when widower Henry Stuart (an actual, historical figure) is told that he will die of consumption within a year. Henry decides that he does not want to die in Idaho, where he has been living; instead, he packs up his life and moves to Fairhope, Alabama. This town has a reputation for progressiveness, and Henry hopes to spend his time there living in solitude, studying great literature—particularly the works of his favorite author, the nineteenth-century Russian writer Leo Tolstoy—and finding inner peace. His two sons and his best friend, Preacher Will Webb, protest this plan, but Henry will not be dissuaded. He gives away his possessions right down to his shoes and sets out to live the most simple life possible in Fairhope, building his own house (a round concrete-walled cottage that can still be found in the modern-day town) and growing his own food. Two people whom Henry meets along the way, however, pose a serious threat to his solitude, and as much as he tries to push them away he eventually finds that he needs them. The Poet of Tolstoy Park was praised by critics. A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that Brewer's "heady blend of literary and philosophical references and some fine character writing make this a noteworthy debut," and Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley thought that "fans of quiet, philosophical novels will find much to enjoy in Henry's musings and revelations."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 15, 2003, Karen Jenkins Holt, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café II: Anthology of Southern Writers, p. 212; October 15, 2004, John Green, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café III: Anthology of Southern Writers, p. 380; February 15, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of The Poet of Tolstoy Park, p. 1058.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café, p. 971.

Library Journal, August, 2002, Pam Kingsbury, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café: Anthology of Southern Writers, p. 96; December 1, 2004, Beth E. Andersen, review of The Poet of Tolstoy Park, p. 97.

Publishers Weekly, July 22, 2002, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café, p. 158; September 9, 2002, Bob Summer, "Over the Moon Gathering," p. 20; July 28, 2003, review of Stories from the Blue Moon Café II, p. 80; February 14, 2005, review of The Poet of Tolstoy Park, p. 53.

ONLINE

Bookbrowse, http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (February 28, 2005), "Sonny Brewer."

Over the Transom Web site, http://www.overthetransom.com/ (May 27, 2005).

Southern Scribe Online, http://www.southernscribe.com/ (May 27, 2005), Pam Kingsbury, "Literature as a Spectator Sport: An Interview with Sonny Brewer."

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