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.
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.
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.
When people ask me what is one of the great benefits to come from the writing life that I did not anticipate, I have a quick and easy answer – meeting people like Lisa Patton that I now call my friend!
First of all, I want to say congratulations to the very talented, Susan Gregg Gilmore. She certainly deserves a spot on Target’s Emerging Author list and BEZELLIA is the perfect book to place on the shelf. I loved that book the minute I read it and I can’t believe it’s already out in paperback.
It’s not every day that two authors connect and bond as easily as Susan and I have. Since meeting each other less than two years ago we’ve become fast, steadfast buds. We’ve road-tripped together on several occasions and even tried to plan a bus tour around the South. We might not have the details down for that one, but I have no doubt we’ll be singing camp songs down the Dixie trails soon enough.
My favorite memory with Susan was at the SIBA convention last year in Daytona Beach, Florida. SIBA is the acronym for Southern Independent Booksellers Association and Fannie Flagg (my literary hero) was the opening night, keynote speaker. I imagine that I must have been the first person to send in my check for the dinner (I sent it the day SIBA made the announcement – six months prior) and after it was over I told Susan that I was going to stand in line to meet her, no matter how long it took.
Susan who knew of my life-long admiration and awe for Miss Flagg, offered to go with me and the two of us lined up behind many other book lovers, each eager to take home a memory, an autographed book or a photograph with the one and only Fannie Flagg. Forty-five minutes later and just seconds away from my big moment, out of nowhere and much to my horror and downright mortification, I burst out crying.
I can’t tell you why or what in the world came over me but I could not stop the tears to save my life. Right before it became our turn to say hello, I scurried off through the crowd, informing Susan that I would not meet Fannie Flagg acting like a star-struck nincompoop. I was carrying on like I was preparing to meet Paul McCartney, for goodness sakes.
While hiding behind a column and chomping on the inside of my jaw to make the tears just stop for crying out loud, I hear my name called over the crowd. The next thing I know Susan has dragged poor Fannie over to me and now there’s nowhere to run. Naturally, Fannie could tell by my mascara smudges and red face that I was overcome with emotion but she never let on that she noticed. Susan and I were both bowled over by her grace and southern gentility.
I have no idea how but something came over me and I wrestled up all my courage and asked if Fannie would consider reading my second book and possibly offering a quote if she was so inclined. After all, a blurb from Fannie Flagg would be my ultimate dream come true and this was my only chance to ask. As is the case with most happy endings, I am happy to report that not only do I have my Fannie Flagg blurb for my latest book, Yankee Doodle Dixie, but I have one from Susan Gregg Gilmore, too! After it was all over, Susan quipped that if she had known that all she had to do was break down crying in front of Fannie for a blurb, she would have done it first.
P.S. Don’t mind my red eyes and red nose in the picture. I’d just made a fool out of myself boo-hooing in front of Fannie Flagg.
Lisa’s first book, Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’Easter is available in paperback now. Her second and the enchanting sequel to the first, Yankee Doodle Dixie, is due out in hardcover on September.
Rebecca Schinsky is a much-loved book blogger known for her sharp-witted, point-on commentary about books and just about anything in life that piques her interest . . . including super-scary shopping to Babies R Us. I met Rebecca, aka That Book Lady’s Blog, at the first Blogger’s Convention in NYC when I offered to run and pick up a cappuccino for the caffeine-depleted young woman. (I understood that pain all too well.)
Now when someone asks me, “What is one of the best things to come out of being published?”, I have to say it is the privilege of calling people like Rebecca my friend.
Meeting people in person whom you’ve only known online is a lot like going on a blind date. You hope they’ll be as charming as their tweets and as clever as their blog posts and that they’ll think the same of you. When the person you’re meeting is an author whose work you’ve enjoyed, the anticipation is even more complicated. You love the work and want the person to live up to what you’ve imagined. When I first met Susan a couple years ago, I knew instantly that I didn’t need to worry. Susan IS the southern sweetness of her novels, and like her characters, she is willing to go beyond the idealized imagery of front porches and rocking chairs to explore the truth of southern experience, even when it’s not so pretty.
I’m thrilled to call Susan a friend and to be here celebrating the paperback release of The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove and Susan’s inclusion on Target’s Emerging Author list for summer. It’s been a real pleasure to watch Susan’s writing develop from Dairy Queen to Bezellia and into the novel she’s working on now (yes, I’ve read the manuscript, and she is really going somewhere new), but the real joy has been in forming an in-real-life friendship that not only met but exceeded all of my expectations. Happy Paperback Birthday, Bezellia Grove, and here’s to many more years of bookish joy, late-night French fry runs, and mid-afternoon margaritas with one of my favorite friends in the industry.”
I am over the moon that Chris Bohjalian is my featured guest author today, a big day for me with the paperback release of “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove.”
When my super talented, french-fry eating blogger friend Rebecca Shinsky, creator of The Book Lady’s Blog, asked for names of panty-worthy authors (a term for literary adoration), Chris was my pick. I’d loved him since Midwives.
Who knew a few months later, I would actually meet him at the BOOKS ON THE NIGHTSTAND retreat in Manchester, Vermont. He did not disappoint. A great talent, for sure, but he’s also, and more importantly, a really great guy.
When I asked Chris about one of his most memorable book club moments, this is what he had to say.
I speak to a lot of book groups via speakerphone or Skype, and I always have a terrific time. It wasn’t all that long ago that my books sold briskly, but only among people related to me by blood. I try never to lose sight of that.
And the thing I love best is how candid readers are. The sort of women and men who commit themselves to book groups tend to view reading as a communal experience and are not especially reticent. They tell me precisely what they think of my books: What works and what doesn’t.
Not too long ago, I was speaking with a group that had just finished my 2004 novel, “Before You Know Kindness.” It was one of those discussions that would have made English professors proud of the way their students could put Tolstoy or Wolff in their place. (“The problem with Anna, Professor, and why she doesn’t succeed as a character. . .”) Even my reasonably healthy ego was a little ragged by the time the group had finished eviscerating my characters, my pacing, and my prose.
The next day I got an email from the group’s leader, thanking me for spending a half-hour with them the night before. Apparently, this group rates every book they read for posterity on a ten-point scale, as well as the author’s persona on the telephone or Skype screen.
“You were so charming with our group and so insightful,” the leader wrote. “We gave your book group presence a 9.6 to be precise.”
I noticed there was no rating for the novel, and so I wrote back, curious how the book had scored.
“Do you really want to tug at that thread?” the leader emailed me. I wrote her that I did.
“The book only earned a 4.1,” she confessed, and then added – apparently trying to make me feel better – “but isn’t it more important to be a good person than a good writer?”
I am not completely sure Hemingway would have agreed. But I appreciatedthe candor.
My sense is that if your book group dives into Susan Gregg Gilmore’s “TheImproper Life of Bezellia Grove” – new in paperback this week – you’llgive both her and her book a perfect ten.
Chris Bohjalian’s thirteenth novel, “The Night Strangers,” arrives on October 4. Beware: It’s a ghost story.
And you can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisBohjalian.
A few weeks ago, I put a call out to my author and blogger friends asking them to write a guest post about a favorite book club moment. This following post arrived from Kathy Roberts, a devoted and talented book blogger from South Carolina. You can find Kathy on Twitter @bermudaonion and at her fab site, Bermuda Onion Weblog.
I must issue a disclaimer here! Kathy and I are friends. We met through books. And she is very generous in her words about me. My husband could give you a much more balanced perspective! But I love the way her book club came to be and wanted to share that with you.
When Nashville was devastated by catastrophic flooding last year, authors and other bookish people banded together to auction off items to benefit those affected by the tragedy. When I learned about the auction, I decided to check it out. I was excited when I saw Susan Gregg Gilmore was auctioning off a book club set of her upcoming book, THE IMPROPER LIFE OF BEZELLIA GROVE, plus an author visit or phone chat, and I decided to make a bid. After all, I had met Susan the year before and loved her, and her first book, LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN.
I was lucky enough to win the auction, and I found myself faced with a problem. I had a set of books, an author willing to visit, but no book club. I sent out an email to several of my friends and most of them agreed to a one time book club meeting at my house. I contacted Susan, set up a date, and then worried for weeks. What if my friends didn’t show up? What if no one read the book?
I worried in vain! Everyone read, and loved, the book and we had a fabulous book club. Susan was a delight and charmed every single person there. We talked about the book for two hours and then visited for another two and a half and it was like we had all known Susan forever!
We had so much fun, we decided to continue with our book club. We’ve met every month since, and have had an author call in via Skype, but I don’t think we’ll ever be able to top our meeting with Susan!
Some have called me a road warrior. OK, my husband calls me that. But I think it’s a title I’ve rightfully earned. Since Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen came out in February 2008, I have traveled more than 30,000 miles to meet new readers and talk books. From Florida to Maine, from North Carolina to California, I have put in the miles to meet welcoming readers.
I’ve visited homes, bookstores, churches, schools, nursing homes and more. And it’s very fitting that I’m writing this post today as I prepare to get back into the car and drive from my house in Chattanooga to Dickson, TN, to visit with some of my book-loving friends.
Our meeting tonight will be at Reading Rock Books at 6:30 pm. The first book club I ever visited was in Dickson and hopefully many of my friends from that meeting will be there tonight.
That was really a special time for me. This book club extended such hospitality and such warmth. Special foods, special drink, a special scrapbook made just for me. It was all so wonderful and touching, and I remain friends with Renee the powerhouse behind this club. In fact, she and I are meeting tonight an hour before the bookstore event just to do a little catching up.
All book clubs are different. Some read only the classics. Some only Southern Lit. Some talk little about the books and more about their lives. Some talk only about the books. Some travel to hear authors. Some serve elaborate meals. Some only cracker and cheese.
But they’re all wonderful and this is what I love about traveling. I have friends all over the country now. I don’t mean passing friends. I mean good friends. Friends who have invited me into their homes time and time again. Friends who share their life’s special moments with me.
Book clubs really are about much more than books. They truly are about lasting friendships.
So as I prepare to celebrate the paperback release of The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove (August 2), I’m making another call to book clubs. Let’s Talk! It’s the beginning of a great friendship.
I met @bibliosue on Twitter. And then I meet Suzanne Weiner in person at the Books On The Nightstand retreat in Vermont this past April. She’s a great reader, blogger and friend and now she shares her thoughts about belonging to a book club!
One of my favorite things about belonging to a book club is that I am exposed to books that I would not likely select on my own. Sometimes I am disappointed with a particular choice – that happens with books I’ve chosen for myself, too – but more often than not I have been thrilled to discover something wonderful.
A recent selection at my book club at the Read Between the Lynes bookstore in Woodstock, Illinois comes to mind. The book was The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, a novel about an aging math professor with only 80 minutes of short-term memory, his housekeeper and her son. I admit to not being too excited about reading it – on the surface it did not appear to have a story that would interest me – but because I strongly believe book group discussions are as good if not better when there are people involved who did not like the book, I read it with an open mind.
And I could not have been more wrong! The Housekeeper became one my favorite novels read in 2010. The writing is so simple and so beautiful, the story is the same; and I even found myself with a pencil and paper at hand attempting to solve some of the math problems described in the narrative (Oh to have had this book around when I was in school to make math more interesting!)
When it came time for the discussion, the novel was declared a unanimous hit; which even in our relatively small group is not common. Despite that, the conversation was lively and did not lack for topics to discuss – math (really – it was fascinating!), caring for seniors (comparing the Japanese culture with the West), the power of memory, the definition of family, just to name a few.
At the end of the discussion, a general question came up as to who selected this book for the group (we usually select the books as a group in the fall for the following year). Surprisingly, not one person admitted to recommending the book or remembered who did. It still remains a mystery, but we were all glad to have had this book present itself to us.
Be sure and visit Suzanne on her blog!