People of Literacy Mid-South: Meet Courtney

Wednesday, Jun 01, 2016
Courtneymillersanto 1

Our column People of Literacy Mid-South has introduced you to several of the staff members that make Literacy Mid-South tick, but we want you to get to know some of our board members, volunteers, and partner organizations as well. We wouldn’t be nearly as awesome without them and their work.

This week we’re profiling Courtney Miller Santo, a native Oregonian who’s made Memphis her home. Courtney is an English professor, a prolific author, and an all around great person. Find out more about her below.

What kind of work do you on behalf of Literacy Mid-South?

I am currently a member of Literacy Mid-South’s advisory board and I serve as co-chair of the Mid-South Book Festival.

How did you start working with Literacy Mid-South?

I spoke at the Literacy is Key Luncheon a few years ago, and I became aware of the organization and the fantastic work it does in our community. I immediately volunteered to help Literacy Mid-South in any way I could. Shortly thereafter I was approached to help with the Mid-South Book Festival.

What has been your favorite Literacy Mid-South related project or event?

Hands down the Mid-South Book Festival.

How do you think we can foster a love of reading and writing in Memphis?

Don’t apologize for what you’re reading. Embrace it. Are you reading about dragons to escape? That’s fantastic. Are you reading about how to be a better parent? That’s fantastic. Are you reading to impress someone? That’s less fantastic, but at least you are reading. Are you reading video game magazines? That still counts. Did you read an article on Buzzfeed today? Totally reading and totally awesome. This idea that the world is divided into people who like to read and those who don’t enjoy it is nonsense. Reading happens all the time. Find what you love to read and do more of it. I wish we would stop telling young readers and new readers that there are REAL books and once they tackle Ulysses or Moby Dick, then they’ll understand. Books are not hierarchies, they are oceans you swim around in.

What’s the last book that you read?

Do audio books count? [They totally count. – Ed.] I listened to Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence recently during a long drive and I was blown away by how incredible it is and how relevant. I’d only ever readEthan Frome, which while well-written isn’t the same sort of book. It’s a little like seeing Atlanta and thinking you’ve seen all that the U.S. has to offer. The Age of Innocence is New York City, literally (it is set there) and figuratively.

Is there any book that you’d like to recommend to our readers?

I also just finished Landline by Rainbow Rowell and it was one of those perfect, happy, sweet little books that are so satisfying. It is charming and would be a great read for just about anybody—especially a somebody headed off for vacation.

What’s your favorite thing about being a Memphis-based writer?

This city! I am one of those writers who begins and ends and fills all the space in the middle with setting. Living in this vibrant, authentic, delicious city makes it easy to write. Sometimes, especially during that beautiful spring we just had, I have to sit by an open window and write. Or I curl up out on our patio, which backs up to the greenline and a golf course and I listen to all the people riding their bikes, walking dogs, running, along the trail and just let that seep into my sentences. There is such a tradition of storytelling in this city—musicians have known this since the first bluesman walked our particular stretch of the Mississippi river, but artists know it too, and there are so many great writers here.

Is the book always better than the movie?

Yes, but I always go and see the movie. What does that mean?

If you haven’t marked your calendar for September 10th, go ahead and do it now! The Mid-South Book Festival is only months away, and it’s going to be amazing! It’s also free and open to the public, and children are welcome. For more information, visit