It's been the kind of regular old life that gets away from you. All the details in the doing. So here's a few of my doings and runaway thoughts and wandering hearts consternations.
Last week I had the awesome honor of being with a group of women that have been a taproot in my life for two years. It was a fast and furious weekend as I was speaking at the Anglican Church event in Alexandria, VA. What a BEAUTIFUL PLACE. And how many photos do I have from the event? Not one. Not one of the gathering of women at their annual event. Not one of the beautiful neighborhoods. Not one of the country club where I spoke that was decorated for Christmas and the Holidays from top to bottom and beyond. Not one with my friends and most important of all - not one with the beautiful faces of the women there and with them as they were buying books! All my new friends! Where is my self-promotional selfie mode? I just don't have it. One of these days as Shellie Rushing Tomlinson and I joked on book tour we will have that brilliant kid from the genius bar somewhere that does a great job covering those things. You'll have to believe me when I say - the women were beautiful. I looked out on that crowd while speaking and thought what beautiful faces of all ages from all places. Next time I promise myself I'll do better. (I have promised myself this at the last five speaking engagements I've had.)
This semester I have had the great honor of teaching students from A Novel Idea program for their Pen and Paper Writing Clubs. I've grown attached to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. How can young people be so smart now? Why wasn't this program a part of my growing up years? It would have changed my life back then to be so involved and encouraged as a writer. This has been one of the highlights of my 2017! How many photos do I have with these students? None. Just one shot from visiting them this Summer at A Novel Idea. I'm looking for that one.
Capturing the Christmas Tree for Mom
We come from a big, live tree family. I was determined to get Mom a real, big live tree. One big enough to hold her thirty years of ornaments. I haggled and bagged the tree in subzero weather - ok - it felt like subzero - the wind was blowing. I drove home twenty miles an hour the long, slow way up River Road with it on top of the car. It was eight feet tall. The only problem is my ceilings are NOT eight feet tall. Somehow I was imagining our old ceilings at home in Panama City. We basically lived in - the Den which was an add-on with higher ceilings than the rest of the house and a big fireplace. I miss those ceilings. I miss that fireplace. Not an inch more than Mom though. Which is why I was trying to get the big tree. That is now smaller. It looked so perfect out in that big, wide open field. Now, if I can only find all those ornaments it will finally be finished. We will leave it up until it is a real fire hazard and has to go. (I have not taken any photos for social media of the work in progress. I am promising myself that soon and very soon I'll do this)
Oh, then this happened. Tom Hanks dropped by Parnassus Books in Nashville on the day I wasn't happily in the store helping customers purchase great gifts for the giving season. REALLY. He went shopping and signed a few copies of his new collection of short stories, Uncommon Type. I actually have cried, teared up, had a moment, about this because HE is one of my favorite famous people. He writes stories. He collects old typewriters. He's still married to his wife. He made a movie about baseball. What's not to love? I DO HAVE THIS PHOTO of me missing Tom Hanks. Who is not in the picture? ME, me, me.
In light of this and keeping it in perfect perspective - I've been reading the Facebook posts almost daily of my friend author Kaya McLaren who is battling and winning the war on Cancer. She writes honest, funny, heartbreaking, raw posts like long letters. She is so much braver than I am. I wrote her and told her this. That I have a diagnostic mamogram next week and I hate that. Kevin the rescue dog starts his official heartworm treatment the same day now that he has finished meds and is strong enough for treatment after his near death scare. We are going to the doctor the same day and then I am attending a Christmas party with my sister and then my son has tickets for me to see Star Wars with him later that night and I think this is a good way to reward myself for doing something I hate doing but must do. There are only two things I hate more than the mamagram. One involves a doctor. One involves a dentist.
I wrote my friend Kaya and told her how stupid it was for me to cry about missing Tom Hanks because her posts about losing her hair and fighting for her life put everything in perspective for me. She wrote back that she loved me. And that missing Tom Hanks is still missing Tom Hanks.
The reason I am able to love Kaya so much is because I know her. I know her because of this little thing called The Pulpwood Queens and their annual celebration known as GIRLFRIEND GETAWAY WEEKEND. There is nothing in the world like this experience. It happens again January 2018. I will be there. If it is not too late to get a package I encourage to try to do so although it may be sold out. It always is. I have made more lifetime friends - both writers and readers - at this event than any other event or happening in my life. The founder, Kathy Murphy is also a writer, a world changer, a ball of fire and energy and is officially this year known as The Comeback Kid. She went back to college when life tried to take her down and out of the game. Tomorrow she earns her degree in Art and the work she has been creating and posting on Facebook the last two years BLOWS MY MIND.
As a quick side-note - you can check out the teaching page on this site for more info on the writing class I've been teaching, The Mastermind Path: Following Your Muse and Finding Your Audience. What a sweet surprise to work with these writing creatives as they explore their voice, write their words, and walk the path of their writing journey. We've had great conversations with other writers including Bren McClain, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Michael Moore, and Joy Jordan-Lake and it's not over. We have a few weeks left in the course and a new one will begin in February.
That's my Wednesday Wild Card! Which didn't go out on time. And is now posted on Thursday. I have no pictures to prove it was actually written on Wednesday.
Sometimes you miss out on meeting famous people but the most important thing is to not miss out on loving the wonderful people in your everyday life.
Love and peace!
It was all Mercy and Magic last night as The Porch, a Nashville writer's collective hosted it's 3rd annual fundraiser. The Green Door Gourmet opened it's doors to board members, supporters, writers and fans and rolled out a great evening in support of the fine art of storytelling in both spoken word and song.
I had a fine 'backstage' seat as the official Parnassean on duty womaning up the Parnassus book table. Wally Lamb took a seat beside me in the darkened corner as we listened to Mary sing, "We all could use some Mercy now, which seemed like the most appropriate anthem for the country. As a mother of two sons who are veterans from different wars I was more than a little moved by Mary's work with soldiers in a special songwriting project dealing with images from where they've been and what it's like back home.
Sometimes you don't know what an author is like when you happen to fall in love with their work, read them from afar. It's always a pleasure to meet the personality behind the page and delighted to report that Wally Lamb is down to earth, patient, kind, with a genuine smile and father's heart. He spoke of this 18 years of work teaching a writing group at a women's prison and closed the evening reading a piece written by a 'lifer' that described the concept of time from a perception most of us will never understand except through works like that. I love a man who has so many bestsellers and dares to close the evening reading words from another.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the good work going on at The Porch check out their website, classes, offerings and happenings. The brainchild of Katie McDougall and Susannah Felts, The Porch provides a space for writing development in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. One of the things that is used often in conversation regarding the classes is the wide diversity of ages, backgrounds, education, lifework and so forth that the students bring to each class. I've had the pleasure of teaching a few classes at The Porch and I agree. This wild diversity for each workshop brings with it an incredible enriching experience for all those who attend.
Watch for news of an upcoming podcast launch in partnership with Nashville's NPR station. It's going to go all kinds of crazy National before we know it.
It's this kind of creative work that Nashville produces at its best. The kind that promotes not only storytelling but story listening. Resulting in a compassionate, diversely rich, deeply enriching experience. There's never been a better time for that Nashville type of unified, collaborative storytelling to take the National stage.
OKay - it is T-days away from that wild Texas Book Event known as The Pulpwood Queens Book Club Girlfriend Weekend. Kathy L. Murphy always make's sure there is lots of pink, pink, pink and that there are COSTUMES in demand. The first year I thought costumes were just for the readers and boy was I shocked to discover that the AUTHORS in the know were in full flower of every kind. The author photo from that year shows 20plus authors looking creative and amazing and me in black pants and a blank turtleneck. Someone tried to make me feel better and say you just came in costume as an author. Shellie Rushing Tomlinson was kind enough on the year after she met me to realize I had issues where costuming was concerned. She brought extra from La and dressed me (that was the year of the pinned up/fat back/popcorn locked in my dress alone in the haunted b&b night event) and since then I have tried to pull myself together and get in the spirit. My best effort yet I think was coming as the book title War and Peace and a lot of fun! However, this year I have tried to THINK costume and research costumes on line. Have you put in adult female costume (fill in the blank) lately? Well, let me tell you - you can put in Lion Tamer and you get - HO. You can put in School teacher and you get HO. You can put in pilot, nurse, librarian, waitress, cook, dog washer, grave digger, day care worker and you get HO. WHAT'S UP AMERICA? Can an adult woman order a costume of any kind where she doesn't have to be a HO? OK, CAN A TEENAGE GIRL still order a costume where she doesn't have to be a HO? HOHOHO. ALL I can say is somehow the Pulpwood Queens pull it off every year coming up with some of the most amazing creative costumes around. And, I swear there are always in that huge crowd only a minority of HO costumes. :) Here are a few photos from years past. I'm still digging around. The only thing I found that worked well was in England and they don't ship to the US. Back to the drawing board. But regardless. I bought my special pink, pulpwood queen event t-shirt months ago. It's still hanging in my closet waiting. I'm grabbing a tiara and a feather boa and in just a matter of days somehow, someway, crossing that Texas border where rain or shine, the literary event of the year is going gather some of the greatest writers and readers alive together and throw down a good time.
7 Questions with Ariel Lawhon
Today marks the paperback release of the (based on a true story) mystery,
he Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon and we are delighted to bring her to the Bona Fide to visit.
Q1. You have written this knock-it-out of the park novel. I don't know if you wrote as a child but did you ever find that you were 'thinking in story'?
Thank you! And yes, I did write as a child! I can remember knowing from an early age--maybe five--that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. So I would scribble my own stories any chance I got. But more often I'd act out the stories that my mother read to me at night. The Hobbit. Anne of Green Gables. All the Narnia tales. I truly believed that Story and my deep, desperate belief in it, not only changed my life but saved it.
Q2. What makes a story one for you personally that you don't want to put down?
I can usually tell from the first page, often the first paragraph if I'm going to love a book. There's something about the tone in those first words that says so much. But beyond that it's about characters and heart and that deep sense of being carried away that a good novel brings. I think of The Thirteenth Tale. Or The Book Thief. Or Outlander. Or Water For Elephants. Or Peace Like A River. All of those books have a soul to them. Something so close to the surface that you can FEEL it when you begin to read. I want a novel to break my heart and then patch it together again at the end. The Time Travelers Wife did this for me. As did The Kite Runner. I want to care so much about the people on those pages that I can't put the book down. I want to think about them when I'm not with them.
Q3. What was it about this particular story, a true crime fact, that made it one you didn't want to put down or leave alone but bring to the page?
It was the judge's wife, Stella and her yearly ritual at a bar in Greenwich Village. Every year on the anniversary of her husband's disappearance Stella would go to a bar called Club Abbey. She would sit in a corner booth, order two shots of whiskey, and raise one in salute of her missing husband. "To Joe! Wherever you are!" Stella would drink her glass then she'd get up and leave the bar, the other shot of whiskey untouched on the table. She did this every year for thirty nine years. Even though she remarried. Even though she moved on with her life. When I read about Stella Crater doing that, she took up permanent residence in my mind. I had to understand why.
Q4. You have written this sexy, sassy novel with three powerful lead female characters that are simply wowzer. Just for the fun of it if we were playing cast a movie, who would you choose for the three main leads?
Ha! I never know how to answer this question. Truly. The women in my mind don't share a face with anyone else. They are their own persons. And if the book was ever made into a film I would have to let go of my idea of who they are. Not that I would mind of course!
(Just for the record we will now have to work on casting this one in our free time. Hollywood hope you're paying attention because there are 3 powerful women out there ready to grab these leads.)
Q5. This is very special time period story but there is something that is candidly alive about it. When reading it I never felt I was reading something historical set in the days of the prohibition but that I was actually there, in the story, in that nightclub, hearing that music. Can you tell us a little of what went into the writing to make that true?
Tears and gnashing of teeth. That's what went into it! I'd never been to New York City before I wrote the novel and I almost didn't write the book because of that. I was afraid I'd get it wrong. And getting a city like New York wrong just isn't an option. It's so iconic. It's so gritty and dark and exotic. Especially at that time. Or at least that's how it seemed to me. But then, a slight miracle happened. I discovered that Stella Crater published a memoir in 1963 (published by Doubleday, ironically--who know I'd end up at the same publisher?). And suddenly I had much of the story in her own words. Stella was able to bring NYC alive for me. I was finally able to see it through her eyes and translate it to the page. What you read in the book truly is Stella Crater's NYC.
Q6. One of our characters is a dancer and there is quite a bit of sashay going on in the novel. Just wondering, can you dance?
Sadly I was born with a tin ear and two left feet. I can not sing, dance, clap in time with music, or write poetry. I'm a one trick pony. Novel writing is all I have.
Q7. If you could have written any work of literature by another writer from any period in time what would it have been and why?
I want to answer this question a thousand different ways. I can think of so many novels that moved me on a deep, primal level. But if I had to pick just one I would say The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It's the first book I ever loved. Lucy Pevensie was the first character I ever wanted to BE. Hell, I still want to be Lucy. She was the one who always saw Aslan first. She was the bravest, the kindest, the most tender, the most honest. And because of Lucy I remember thinking, as a very young child, that if Jesus was anything like Aslan I would love Him too. That's a powerful thing if you think about it. I'm thirty-six years old and I remember that thought, word for word. A book made me feel that. Just paper and ink the thoughts of one man. Never, ever let it be said that books don't matter. They change the world because they change people first. They make people better. They make people hope and laugh and love. They make children aspire to things beyond their reach.
Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (Doubleday) is based on a true missing persons case from 1930. Ariel believes in coffee, stories, and friendship. You can find her online at www.ariellawhon.com