Sherry Kafka Wagner stands amid her book collection in the Hotel Emma library. Photo by Scott Ball.
Sherry Kafka Wagner stands amid her book collection in the Hotel Emma library. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Sherry Kafka Wagner, San Antonio-based author and urban planner, will read short stories by four important writers on four consecutive Tuesday evenings as part of Hotel Emma’s Dinner and A Book Series.

The work and lives of Katherine Anne Porter, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor will be discussed after the readings at the hotel’s library.

“When I was growing up, summer was a time for sitting on the porch and listening to stories,” Wagner, who was born in Jonesboro, Ark., told the Rivard Report. “All these writers are great because they show the many layers of the Southern experience, the complexity of living in the South brought to a universal level. They push through the layers to light shining through the darkness.”

Attendees are invited to have an early dinner at the hotel’s Southern-inspired restaurant, Supper, before the walking over to the library. The readings are free for hotel guests and $15 for everyone else. Tables at the hotel’s bar, Sternewirth, will be reserved to continue literary talk afterward.

Wine and snacks will be served in the library for the series on Aug. 15, 22, 29 and Sept. 5 from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. The handsome room located off of Hotel Emma’s main lobby, recently featured in the New York Times, contains a 3,700-volume library from Wagner’s personal collection. Hotel guests are allowed to check them out during their stay, and Wagner hopes many will take part in the reading and discussion.

“I think it’s important to have hotel visitors and local people mix together and hear each other,” she said.

Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Anne Porter, known for her short stories and the novels “Ship of Fools” and “Pale Horse, Pale Rider,” will be featured during the first Tuesday, Aug. 15.

Wagner said she has missed hearing the voices of early 20th century writers who lived in places where storytelling was part of life: Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia. For her, their common sense and wisdom is needed this summer.

In addition to having published a novel, play and three children’s books, Wagner was a founding editor of Texas Monthly Magazine and wrote the first edition’s cover story in 1973, on the then-emerging union of TV and professional football. She is a former Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

While the first evening is sold out, bibliophiles should reserve a spot for future readings by emailing rsvp@thehotelemma.com. The Welty discussion will take place on Aug. 22, McCullers on Aug. 29, and O’Connor on Sept. 5. All events begin at 6:30 p.m.

Nancy Cook-Monroe

Nancy Cook-Monroe is a local freelance writer and public relations consultant. She has written about San Antonio arts and civic scenes since she could hold a pencil.