Bringing Pages to Life: How Cindy Burnett Created a Literary Community

Cindy Burnett has always had a passion for books. As a child, she stayed up late into

the night with a flashlight under the covers immersed in her latest read. Books were her

most loyal companion, as she and her family moved frequently when she was young,

landing in Houston, Texas; Westport, Connecticut; Rio de Janeiro, Brasil; and then back

in Houston. Following college at Northwestern University and law school at Duke, she

practiced health care law until she had the first of her three children. After volunteering

at her kids’ schools for over fifteen years, she decided it was time for her to pursue a

personal passion: books.

Around that time, a friend mentioned a Facebook group where authors and readers

come together to discuss all things bookish. Cindy joined and was thrilled to discover a

whole new online world related to books. Soon after, she created a “bookstagram”

account (a book account on Instagram) to share her thoughts on books using the

moniker Thoughts from a Page. She also started working at Murder by the Book, an

independent bookstore in Houston, and attended BookExpo in New York City.

Wanting to share her love of reading with her friends, she hosted an event for Houston

author Katherine Center. She had a great turnout followed by lots of inquiries as to

when she would host her next event. Cindy believed there was a niche to be filled

and approached her close friend Krista Hensel about hosting a regular salon-style

author event. Thus, Conversations from a Page was born (using a variation of the

Thoughts from a Page name).

For Conversations from a Page, Krista and Cindy host authors at Krista’s home for

coffee and light bites. They pair authors together, most often with books in different

genres. Cindy interviews the authors, focusing on his or her inspiration for writing,

the origins of the books’ cover and title, and the portions of each book

which resonate with her most. In the casual setting, the authors mingle with guests

before and after, singing books and chatting with readers. Notable authors that she has

 hosted include Elin Hilderbrand, Mary Laura Philpott and Mary Kay Andrews.

Although the pandemic has forced Conversations from a Page online through Zoom, the

two women have started a monthly newsletter and an online book club called “As the Page

Turns.” Nine to ten times a year, a devoted group of readers from around the country  

gather on Zoom to discuss a book which they have all read in advance.

Following the launch of the literary salon, Cindy began writing two columns for The

Buzz, a large Houston publication. She writes a weekly online column called Page

Turners that highlights new releases, favorite books by genre, reader recommendations,

and author interviews. In a monthly print column called Buzz Reads she selects her top

five book picks for each month. Each month, she also reviews a book or two for

Bookreporter, and frequently drafts historical fiction and nonfiction round-ups for She

Reads.

Cindy’s interviews with authors at her literary salons and at Murder by the Book,

prompted friends to suggest that she expand her love of books into a podcast. Her initial

reaction was to refuse, based on her lack of time and knowledge of the podcasting

world. However, once the pandemic hit, stressed by the world’s grim news, she found

herself in need of a distraction. After months researching how podcasts work and what

was needed to make a successful podcast, she took the plunge and launched the

Thoughts from a Page podcast.

Cindy’s podcast uses her signature interview format, similar to that of her literary salon.

Initially, she relied on authors she knew personally, with an airing schedule of two

episodes per week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. While she had to work hard to fill the first

few weeks, the podcast took off quickly and Cindy is now booked up many months in

advance.

Listeners report that they love hearing the author’s book recommendations at the end of

each interview. Cindy has found many great new reads and authors to interview that

way. The most listened-to episodes are Judithe Little discussing her historical fiction

novel The Chanel Sisters, Alice Henderson discussing her mystery A Solitude of

Wolverines, and Lisa Gardner talking about her new mystery Before She Disappeared.

Cindy never tires of talking about books. Weekly messages from readers request book

suggestions, share their personal favorites and some just want to talk books.

While Cindy enjoys reading across a wide range of genres, her go-to’s are historical

fiction, mysteries, contemporary fiction, and narrative nonfiction. Jane Harper, Amor

Towles, Fiona Davis, Nick Petrie, and C.J. Box are her must-read authors, and her

favorite books are A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, The Lost Man by Jane

Harper, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

and The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai.

With each new addition to her bookish activities, Cindy finds that she learns more about

the book world and reaches a new group of readers and lovers of literature. She is

always on the lookout for her next great reading adventure.

 

By Kathie Bennett

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