How Cindy Burnett Created a Literary Community

by Elysian Magazine

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 that resonate with her most. In the casual setting, the authors mingle with guests before and after, signing 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 that 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 of 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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