Just Passin’ Thru author Winton Porter was just passin’ thru himself when he breezed into Greenville, South Carolina, recently to debut his first book (Menasha Ridge Press, Fall 2009). But unlike a debutante, Winton sported Chaco’s Z/2 Vibram Unaweep sandals, forest-green brushed-denim jeans, and a checkered shirt from Nordstroms. And unlike the other three writers on the “Before We Were Authors” panel, Winton walked around the audience telling true-life tales from his book. Sizing up this former outdoor retailer were pros gathered in Greenville for the annual Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance—SIBA—tradeshow.
One listener tagged Winton “Hiker Dude.” Was he just lucky to get his book out, she wanted to know, with no background in publishing or writing? (All of his panel mates—a photographer, a bookstore manager, and a former publisher CEO—were cozy with the book business.)
After Winton’s knock-em dead presentation, the woman’s rhetorical question popped up again over dinner with a small SIBA group at Greenville’s American Grocery Restaurant. And BTW, is this town of 60,000 folks the best-kept secret in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains? The dozens of trendy cafés and hip art galleries along tree-lined Main Street are a far cry from Winton’s backwoods Mountain Crossings store. That’s the setting for his Just Passin’ Thru: A Vintage Store, the Appalachian Trail, and a Cast of Unforgettable Characters.
But the sandal-footed yarn-spinner looked right at home dining on duck and sharing a table with New York City author Joseph Kanon, another SIBA panelist. (His latest novel is Stardust, Atria Books/Simon & Schuster.)
A natural raconteur, Winton enthralled the group until closing time at the restaurant. As for whether or not he was “just lucky” to get JPT published, he offered his book recipe:
“First, quit your job that makes a lot of money. Raid your bank account, cash in your 401k, and sell your nice suburban house. Then buy a funky old store on the Appalachian Trail in the Georgia mountains. Move your wife, four-year-old daughter, and two-week-old baby into an old hostel next to the store. Do business with just about the strangest, kindest, saddest, funniest, wildest, wisest people you never thought you’d meet. Take notes.”