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Taters, the second novel . . . and artists in the Age of Celebrity.

A few Fridays ago Bob and I drove beyond Metro Richmond’s megamalls and condo complexes, past the state penitentiary and the cow pastures to the wee little town of Goochland Court House to hear our favorite local band play in a TINY coffeehouse. The “Music Café” is in a strip mall, one of those faux-upscale brick places with bright boxy letters above each store saying Kinko’s! China King Takeout! Molly’s Gifts!

Full disclosure: I’m a snob. I live in Richmond’s endless ’burbs but still think of myself as an urban expat intellectual. I was horrified. Music in a strip mall?

Then I walked inside. And the Music Café (big bright letters above the door) is the real thing. Owned and run by musicians, who also give lessons right there in the coffeehouse. And that Friday night, the Music Café was packed with Tater groupies.

The Taters deserve to have groupies. Because the Taters are that good. They play roots and pop and they play it amazingly well. And on this Friday night, artists in an age of celebrity, they were playing in a rural strip mall to an audience of maybe two dozen people.

If you’re an artist, you work your butt off to be good at your art. The Taters know that. Every Taters show I’ve seen is upbeat, professional and polished. They work hard at it. They drive god-knows-how-many-miles to perform for a $5 cover in a strip mall. The Taters aren’t celebrities, but they sure as hell are artists. They work until they’re the best they can be, and then they share the gift. Their art. The music.

If you, like me, are an author and finding that second book tougher to write and sell than the first, the Taters are worth thinking about. At the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference on Saturday, Tina Wexler, an agent at International Creativity, spoke to us second-timers directly. “Write better,” she told us. “Reinvest in what got you there in the first place – read, go to conferences, know the bestseller list. Push yourself harder.”

Like the Taters do.

We live in the age of celebrity books, of franchises, of novels that spin off nail polish. (Truth. Hunger Games nail polish.) Tell someone you’ve published a novel and they wonder why they haven’t heard of you like they’ve heard of J.K. Rowling. No duh. But the world is full of artists who aren’t celebrities. Folks who play music in coffee houses or sell paintings in funky little shops. We’re artists, too, but only if we do what Wexler said. If we write better and work harder. If we do whatever it takes to reach our readers. Twenty-four people in a little coffeehouse in Goochland that Friday didn’t care if the Taters had a big record company contract.

We just wanted to hear the Taters play.


  1. Merrill Geier says:

    This is a fabulous find–I had no idea you were blogging, now I’m an even bigger fan!

  2. Fran Pashman says:

    Love this…and this writing just proves to me that my sister has the talent to do it and just needs the time. One of these days….

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