Literary community looks to Ellison for inspiration, support

Friday, March 4, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 10
By Zack Barnes

While author J.T. Ellison’s career has skyrocketed, she has remained true to her Nashville ties as friend, mentor and literary activist.

With her first book series taking place in Nashville, Ellison had a huge impact on the Nashville’s literary scene.

In 2011, Ellison and fellow author River Jordan created Literary Libations, monthly meetings that bring together authors and readers to celebrate reading. The meet-up is at the Union Station hotel bar.

“J.T. has helped the Nashville writing community, and I think she’s very modest about it,” says Roy Burkhead, editor of 2nd & Church, a literary journal based in Nashville.

The first issue of 2nd & Church featured Ellison on the cover. “Just being able to say that J.T. was on the cover of our first issue opened a lot of doors for us.”

Ellison has opened doors for many others, including Chuck Beard, founder of East Side Story, a Woodland Street local bookstore that sells only works by Nashville writers.

“J.T. was one of the first people I had come to East Side Story to talk about her books when I had a few book club meetings back in 2013,” Beard says.

When Beard put together an anthology, Ellison signed on.

“J.T. Ellison does everything with other authors because of her love of writing and does so without any inkling of an ego,” Beard adds.

From East Side Story to the famed Parnassus Books in Green Hills, Ellison is the ideal author for a bookseller.

“J.T. is every bookstore’s dream,” says Niki Coffman, director of events and marketing for Parnassus Books. “She works as hard as we do to ensure that her events are hugely successful.

“Much of that is a tribute to how open and giving she is of her talents to other authors in the community, and how hard she’s worked to build positive relationships across our fair city.”

But it’s more than just book events, Coffman says, that makes Ellison different.

“We’ve always seen Ellison as a cornerstone of the author community in town, and as the community of literary-minded folks have grown, she’s continued to establish herself as a leader and mentor for new writers.”


Nashville-based journalist and author, Paige Crutcher, has had the support and mentorship of Ellison.

“The incomparable J.T. Ellison is a writer’s writer, and one of a kind,” Crutcher says.

“She champions her fellow authors endlessly, and has been a pillar of support for my writing and journalism career. I am privileged and grateful to call her friend.

When Crutcher’s first book, “The Odyssey Of Falling,’’ was released, Ellison was there to offer a written blurb, writer’s lingo for pre-publication praise to help sell the book.

Ellison’s drive and friendliness has changed many lives along the way and has created many friends. Burkhead had disappeared from the Nashville literary scene for years until he met Ellison.

“J.T. has made all the difference in my literary life,” Burkhead says. “J.T. was kind enough to invite me to some literary events, like Literary Libations, and help me get reconnected to the local literary community.”

Many Nashvillians call Ellison a friend.

“Nobody in Nashville has earned the title of being called a New York Times best-selling author with more friends and fans and talent and local support,” Beard says.

“Whether she writes 10 more books or none in 2016, she will still be the brightest literary light that Nashville can and should shine to the world at large.”