This week Book & Bottle features The Long Way Home By Gail Caldwell and a Virgin Peach Bellini.
Of course, you can add a little Proseco, Cava, or Sparklng Wine if you prefer! Either way, perfect for a weekend brunch with friends.
This week A BOOK & A BOTTLE features WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS by Terry Tempest Williams and 90+ CELLARS CABERNET SAUVIGNON.
It’s heating up down South so this is the time for some Ron Rash. Of course, you’ve got to go red if reading Ron, my panty-worthy author!
A BOOK & A BOTTLE features WHEN WOMEN WERE BIRDS by Terry Tempest Williams and 90+ CELLARS CABERNET SAUVIGNON.
On Monday, I hit the SEND button on my laptop, and my manuscript flew away. After three years and countless hours hunched over my desk, it was gone, winging its way to my agent and a fellow writer.
When I sat down to craft my first novel at 42, I never dreamed that eight years later, I would have completed my third. But I have. And I finished this one, tentatively titled THE FUNERAL DRESS, much as I did the first – sad that it was done.
Sure there are rewrites to do. But then I need to consider other’s perspectives, concerns, dislikes, likes, etc. And although there’s great good to come from that process, it will definitely be different for me and Emmalee, Nolan, Cynthia Faye, Leona, and the others from Cullen, Tennessee.
Family members have told me to take a break, rest for a while, do nothing. But I feel at a loss. My days are a little lonelier now, even though I have time to chat with friends and prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Fortunately, there is another story begging for my attention, but I know I need to linger in this moment just a while longer, even if it is a bit uncomfortable. I need to say a proper goodbye to this process, this journey, that carried me over a mountain and delivered me into a world that I love.
In July, I launched the GREAT BEZELLIA BOOK CLUB GIVEWAY. And today I announce the winners, READ BETWEEN THE WINES, a book club from Cleveland, Tennessee.
Now every book club that discussed THE IMPROPER LIFE OF BEZELLIA GROVE will receive a little something (should arrive next week!) But our grand prize winners, the club that hosted the most authentic luncheon or dinner with a 1950s or 1960s theme, wins the following:
#2 A Name of the group’s choosing (approved by the author) included in my third novel.
#3 A Skype, i-Chat, or Phone Call with Random House Sales Rep and Books on the Nightstand co-host Ann Kingman. Ann will highlight the best books of 2011 for book club reads and give you a peek into what’s coming in 2012.
#5 Advanced Reader Copies (limit 12) of my next book. Be the first to talk about it!
READ BETWEEN THE WINES has been meeting once a month for nine years. They don’t have a favorite genre but love any book that encourages lively discussion. They pick a classic every Spring and loved to be pushed beyond their “normal” taste zone. And with a name like READ BETWEEN THE WINES, I have a hunch they aways have a very good time.
Congratulations to this most wonderful and enthusiastic book club!
My third novel (the one I am still writing, the one with a looming deadline, the one that is consuming all my waking thoughts) is set in Dunlap, Tennessee, at the very tip of the Appalachian chain. A fellow writer said that now I can call myself a mountain writer. But I’m not worthy of that title, not if my sisters are the likes of Emma Bell Miles.
Jim Minick, a dear friend and author of the critically acclaimed, The Blueberry Years, introduced me to Emma Bell — a turn-of-the-century writer who lived only miles from my home here in Chattanooga. She painted and wrote both fiction and poetry, but it’s her daily writings documenting her hardscrabble life on nearby Signal Mountain that move me the most.
She wrote of mountain mornings, the heavy fog and lingering cold. She wrote of the birds that warbled their songs and kept her company on lonely days. And she wrote of losing her two-year-old son and the responsibility of preparing his body. These words left me grieving her loss nearly 100 years later.
So I went to lift him in my arms for the last time. But what a surprise met me when I lifted the cloth from his face! The dreadful agony was gone; according to the Gaelic phrase, the Smoothing of the Hand. The piteous gasping, straining mouth had eased into the old sweet petal-like curves; it was the mouth that had drawn his first life-milk from my breast, the lips that were always kissing me. Such a fain mysterious smile, as when I have herd him chuckle in his sleep, and turned to wonder what he could be dreaming about.
As I spend day after day writing about the characters that move through the pages of my book, I turn to Emma Bell for encouragement, for knowledge, for inspiration. I’ve been to her home place, to her grave, and to the library that holds her books and paintings and journals.
I feel her with me at times, and I can only hope she is guiding my hand as I tell my own story about a mountain woman who struggled to make a better life for her family.
Emma Bell Miles died too young, at 39, but our friendship has only begun.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to a book club in one of Nashville’s area retirement homes. It was down the street from my childhood home. This was not my first visit there, and I always look forward to spending time with my more aged friends. (Besides, they treat me to fabulous lunch with the best banana pudding.)
Only one or two of the residents had lived their entire lives in Nashville, the setting for The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove was set. Most, however, did spend their adult lives there. It was fascinating for me to gain their perspectives about this story, placed in those final dark hours before the Civil Rights movement really took hold. They were interested in looking back. Instead, they wanted to discuss how things had changed in their lifetimes, for the better. They were open minded and forward thinking, and I left wishing I could spend more time with them all.
At end of our discussion, a woman came up to me and wanted to ask a question that she had not felt comfortbale asking in front of the group.
“I just want to know if there is some romance in this book?”
“Yes,” I promised her. “More than in my first.” Then I shared with her a story about writing the love scenes for this book. I explained how my daughetrs do not like to think of their mother knowing anything about a passionate sexual encounter. I explained that I sent all of the love scenes to a friend and asked if she thought I had explained them appropriately, accurately, but a bit poetically. My friend reported that I had hit the mark but that my girls were so going to know that I’d had sex now!
The elder woman and I laughed. And she said, “Good, I still like a little action.”
I’m still thinking about that day and don’t know that I quite have the words to describe what it meant to me. But I do know that I’ll be going back.
I had planned to write a post today about my recent visit with a Nashville book club. But then I woke to find that Shelf Awareness had featured a fabulous update on the effort to put books back in the classrooms in both Ringgold Middle and Ringgold High Schools after April’s devastating tornado.
Two students were killed and the town was destroyed. Several of us formed a small group, called RINGGOLD READS, and we have found hope and healing in books. On this hot and humid and wonderful Friday morning in the South, it just felt much more important to share this with you.
Note: My first novel, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, was set in Ringgold. The Chow Time, the actual dairy bar in town, was also destroyed.
I remember my first tweets with Jennifer Lawrence of JENN’S BOOKSHELVES. It was winter, 2010. A blizzard had slammed into Washington, DC, and Jennifer posted a tweet commenting about the white outside her window. A longtime resident of the city myself, I tweeted back @jennsbookshelf. We exchanged a few more comments and that was that.
Then The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove was released some six months later, and Jennifer posted a review. She wrote, “I can’t recommend this book enough to you. If there is one book you must buy this summer, this should be it. I will forever cherish the gift Gilmore has given to me, through the characters in this book and her overwhelmingly powerful prose.”
Of course, this caught my attention. And of course, I loved it! As did my my mother! I posted a tweet and thanked her for her generous words, and it was only then that the real conversation began – one that has touched on race, prejudice, interracial relationships, children, and yes, the weather!
As a lover of books, it’s not a surprise as to how many book clubs I’ve belonged to over the years. When Susan asked me to write about my favorite book club experience, it really was hard to limit it to just one. That said, I opted to write about the book club I moderate at my local independent bookstore, One More Page Books.
This book club doesn’t have a fancy name, it’s pretty simple: OMP Book Club. That’s where the simplicity ends. At each of our meetings, we have approximately 8-10 members joining us, the perfect size group for a book club discussion, in my opinion. Our group is very dynamic; we have women of all ages and from all different backgrounds. Some are single, some married, some widowed, some divorced. Despite our different backgrounds, we are all able to come together and discuss something we all have in common: the love of books.
In the five months we’ve been together, we’ve discussed some pretty outstanding books, including Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen, Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt , These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.
My favorite experience would have to be our first meeting, the one in which we discussed These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf. I admit, I was impressed with the turnout! We announced the book club and gave customers just two weeks to pick up and read the book. I’ll admit it, I prepared myself for failure. I was certain that it would be just me and Eileen, the store owner, discussing the book. When eight people showed up, I was floored. Considering the store had only been open for a few months I thought this was a tremendous turnout!
Since then, our book club has continued to grow, not only in size but in the friendships and relationships that have blossomed over the past few months. It’s great to come to an event at the store and see other book club members in a social setting, or to talk to one another on Facebook or Twitter. It’s a bond that I hope continues to blossom; I am forever thankful to this group of women. They give me an outlet to share and talk about books that I love. They trust my selection in books and I’m always impressed about the lively discussion we have surrounding each of the books. They allow me to see other perspectives on the books we discuss, viewpoints I would have never discovered otherwise.
Now that Borders bookstores are closing, now is the time to take advantage of the wealth of independent bookstores many of us have in our community. It is in these stores that readers are introduced to a completely unique community of readers and have the opportunity to form relationships like the one I have found at One More Page Books.