Tom Bell

Tom Bell

Tom is the co-founder and program director of the
Decatur Book Festival, one of the largest and most popular book festivals in the nation. He is also a book critic, veteran journalist, and a gifted writer and insightful editor with extensive experience in speechwriting, book editing, fundraising copy, marketing copy, Web copy, political campaigns, and a wide variety of content specialties including health care, environmental science, diversity, education, the performing arts, and technology.

A Lifelong Love Affair with Language

Tom published his first newspaper article when he was in second grade, a vivid report on what he saw when looking out his classroom window. Despite the revelation that he was not maintaining an intent and uninterrupted focus on his teacher, she enjoyed it enough to send it along to the Springville (New York) Journal for publication. Tom has had a love affair with language ever since.

He went on to major in English, with a minor in Education, at Carleton College, which is consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation. Carleton is particularly renowned nationally for its emphasis on writing.

A Journalist and Arts Critic

After a few years teaching high school literature, creative writing, and drama, he earned an MA in Florida State’s Program in Interdisciplinary Humanities, a degree well suited to his voracious curiosity and cross-disciplinary mindset. He then got his first writing job as a senior writer for Tallahassee’s Break Magazine.

Soon after, he moved to Atlanta and became the book and performing arts critic at Creative Loafing, where he was known for his ability to make sense of genre- and media-crossing artists who didn’t fit comfortably inside any established artistic categories. A sculptor and a choreographer who work together to create large-scale musical instruments, then play music by dancing with them? A conference about the influence of mythologist Joseph Campbell on psychology, spirituality and the arts? Editors knew that Tom could make sense of the most singular creations, telling their story to readers clearly and effectively using an innovative voice always appropriate to the story.

"The last days has begin." I think I just saw apocalyptic lol cat graffiti on a real building. Look east from MARTA train just north of Oakland station.

Thomas Bell likes how the fallen cherry blossoms float in the puddles of rainwater.

Compulsively Creative

Compulsively creative, Tom often tells his subjects’ stories in unconventional ways. He reviewed “The Nutcracker” as an embedded reporter in the Rat Kingdom War, told the meaning of Christmas through quantum physics in “Yes, Shirley, There Is a Wide Body of Evidence Suggesting There May Be a Higher Order to the Universe,” and brought alive the Atlanta Home Show for his readers with a musical number.

Tom frequently puts himself inside his stories in order to understand them from the inside out. For a story on boxing, he trained for a month at an Atlanta boxing gym run by a former Olympic boxer. For a story on the Atlanta tango community, he spent six weeks taking tango classes, attending tango events, and, one night, performing at an Argentinean restaurant in Atlanta.

Political Work

In 2003, Tom became the press secretary of Georgia for Dean, the Georgia campaign to elect presidential candidate Howard Dean. He worked closely with Governor Dean’s national campaign on all Georgia appearances by Dean and met the candidate on several occasions. At one appearance by the candidate, he body-blocked two very large, network cameramen who were crowding in too closely. When Dean withdrew from the race, Tom co-founded Georgia for Democracy, serving as the organization’s press secretary. In 2004, he served as communications director of two state campaigns, one for the Georgia State Senate and one for the Georgia House of Representatives.

Thomas Bell is trying not to hit the refresh button on the election results more than once a minute. Not succeeding, but trying.

Thomas Bell had apple pie ala mode with Senator Max Cleland tonight, sitting with him in a booth at Manuel's. How perfect is that?

On the Air

In 2005, Tom became a regular contributor to The Spoken Word, a nationally syndicated public radio program about books and authors. He is also an occasional guest contributor on WABE, Atlanta’s public radio station.

A World-Class Book Festival

Also in 2005, Tom joined forces with Daren Wang and several other literary leaders to co-found the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival, which launched in 2006. The festival greatly exceeded all expectations its first year and has since grown to become the fourth largest book festival in the nation, a festival that internationally bestselling author Lee Child identified as one of two can’t-miss book events in the country. (The LA Times Festival of Books is the other.) Tom serves as the festival’s program director.

The Decatur Book Festival gets a very nice shout-out in today's Huffington Post, as an example of what's right in publishing these days. I bet Richard doesn't even realize that Arianna Huffington was the keynote author at the inaugural festival in 2006. Go books!

Thomas Bell denies all these scurrilous rumors that he was the man claiming to be Cormac McCarthy at “Night of the Recluse Authors”.

A Versatile Writer

Tom’s commercial writing and editing work has taken him into many diverse fields. Projects have included editing a textbook on forestry practices, writing a speech for a CEO accepting a national award for mixed-use development, writing websites for an international program management firm and a company offering an environmentally responsible process for waste water treatment, and editing a book on breast cancer.

His publishing credits also include pieces in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Paste, the English Journal, the Journal of General Education, The Chattahoochee Review, The Atlantan, Gambit Weekly, Skirt, and elsewhere. He is the production editor of The Duck & Herring Co., which publishes seasonal, literary Pocket Field Guides.

An Artist and Arts Advocate

Tom’s expertise and interest spans across many art forms. An opera aficionado, Tom has for several years given a very popular series of pre-show lectures for productions of the Atlanta Opera. He is also a semi-professional modern dancer, performing with Crossover Movement Arts and Brooks and Company Dance. He sits on the boards of directors of Several Dancers Core and Emory Friends of Dance.

Thomas Bell just verified that she is right: every kid in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” does have her or his own unique dance.

Thomas Bell is listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela and can't keep his feet still.

An Athlete and a Husband

A former competitive cyclist and triathlete, Tom recently started running marathons and enjoys many endurance sports. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Lilia, a brilliant lawyer and a beautiful human being.

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