Bren McClain

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Biography

Bren McClain’s debut novel, One Good Mama Bone, from Pat Conroy’s Story River Books, was named Pulpwood Queen 2017 Book of the Year, a 2017 Great Group Reads by the Women’s National Book Association, an Okra Pick, longlisted for the Southern Book Prize by the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Alliance, and a finalist for the 2018 Crook’s Corner Prize. She is at work on Took, which received the gold medal for the William Faulkner Novel-in-Progress.

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Schedule

1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
State Capitol Building, Senate Committee Room A
Book Talk
Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy

2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.
State Capitol Building, House Committee Room 1
Book Talk
The Power of Two

3:15 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Barnes & Noble Bookselling Tent
Book Signing


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One Good Mama Bone: A Novel

Set in the early 1950s rural South, One Good Mama Bone chronicles Sarah Creamer's quest to find her "mama bone" after she is left to care for a boy who is not her own but instead is the product of an affair between her husband and her best friend and neighbor, a woman she calls "Sister." When her husband drinks himself to death, Sarah, a dirt-poor homemaker with no family to rely on and the note on the farm long past due, must find a way for her and young Emerson Bridge to survive. But the more daunting obstacle is Sarah's fear that her mother's words, seared in her memory since she first heard them at the age of six, were a prophesy: "You ain't got you one good mama bone in you, girl."

When Sarah reads in the local newspaper that a boy won $680 with his Grand Champion steer at the recent 1951 Fat Cattle Show & Sale, she sees this as their financial salvation and finds a way to get Emerson Bridge a steer from a local farmer to compete in the 1952 show. But the young calf is unsettled at Sarah's farm, crying out in distress and growing louder as the night wears on. Some four miles away, the steer's mother hears his cries and breaks out of a barbed-wire fence to go in search of him. The next morning Sarah finds the young steer quiet, content, and nursing on a large cow. Inspired by the mother cow's act of love, Sarah names her Mama Red. And so Sarah's education in motherhood begins with Mama Red as her teacher.

But Luther Dobbins, the man who sold Sarah the steer, has his sights set on winning too, and, like Sarah, he is desperate, but not for money. Dobbins is desperate for glory, wanting to regain his lost grand-champion dynasty, and he will stop at nothing to win. Emboldened by her lessons from Mama Red and her budding mama bone, Sarah is fully committed to victory until she learns the winning steer's ultimate fate. Will she stop at nothing, even if it means betraying her teacher?

McClain's writing is distinguished by a sophisticated and detailed portrayal of the day-to-day realities of rural poverty and an authentic sense of time and place that marks the best southern fiction. Her characters transcend their archetypes and her animal-as-teacher theme recalls the likes of Water for Elephants and The Art of Racing in the Rain. One Good Mama Bone explores the strengths and limitations of parental love, the healing power of the human-animal bond, and the ethical dilemmas of raising animals for food.

Mary Alice Monroe, a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of eighteen novels and two children's books, provides a foreword to the novel.


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Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy

New York Times best-selling writer Pat Conroy (1945–2016) inspired a worldwide legion of devoted fans numbering in the millions, but none are more loyal to him and more committed to sustaining his literary legacy than the many writers he nurtured over the course of his fifty-year writing life. In sharing their stories of Conroy, his fellow writers honor his memory and advance our shared understanding of his lasting impact on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literary life in and well beyond the American South.

Conroy's was a messy fellowship of people from all walks of life. His relationships were complicated, and people and places he thought he'd left behind often circled back to him at crucial moments. The pantheon of contributors includes Pulitzer Prize winners Rick Bragg and Kathleen Parker; Grammy winners Barbra Streisand and Janis Ian; Lillian Smith Award winners Anthony Grooms and Mary Hood; National Book Award winner Nikky Finney; James Beard Foundation Award winners Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart; a corps of New York Times best-selling authors, including Ron Rash, Sandra Brown, and Mary Alice Monroe; Conroy biographers Katherine Clark and Catherine Seltzer; longtime Conroy friends Bernie Schein, Cliff Graubart, John Warley, and Walter Edgar; Pat's students Sallie Ann Robinson and Valerie Sayers; members of the Conroy family; and many more.

Each author in this collection shares a slightly different view of Conroy. Through their voices, a vibrant, multifaceted portrait of him comes to life and sheds new light on the writer and the man. Loosely following Conroy's own chronology, the essays in Our Prince of Scribes wind through his river of a story, stopping at important ports of call. Cities he called home and longed to visit, along with each book he birthed, become characters that are as equally important as the people he touched and loved along the way.

Volunteer

Book-loving volunteers are essential to the Louisiana Book Festival's success. Whether it's escorting authors, guiding visitors, selling refreshments, working with children in the Young Readers Pavilion or other fun and rewarding assignments, the Louisiana Book Festival wants you to join the volunteer team.

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