Park Road Books
Address: 4139 Park Road, Park Road Shopping Center, Charlotte, NC 28209
Owner: Sally Brewster
The staff over at Park Roads Books has been so supportive of me and my work – hand selling Dairy Queen for years – already spreading the word about Bezellia – and I can’t wait to get there. According to owner Sally Brewster, it’s a store you can’t help but love. In fact, she was a sales rep for a publisher and called on the previous owner of the store and it was love at first sight. She ended up working for them at Christmas for 10 years. She eventually bought it when the original owner decided to retire.
The location is a dream come true. Park Road Shopping Center is the oldest strip center in the Southeast and the gentleman that currently owns the property was the lawyer of the original owner! Sally is happy to say that Porter Byrum is the best landlord in the world. He loves Mom & Pop stores and does all he can to encourage local business.
Fiction is the main draw for Park Road Books with children’s books being a close second. Current top selling books by Southern authors include “The Queen of Palmyra,” “The Sweet By and By,” “The Well & The Mine,” “South of Broad” and “The Help.”
A key element that keeps customers coming back for more is Park Road Book’s commitment to Southern hospitality. Sally and her team will do anything we can to help anyone out, whether it be a ride somewhere, deliver a book or help with their increasingly forgetful father. To top it off, they are also dog friendly and now dog-staffed. Yola (isn’t her picture cute!?!) has been working there since last November and she has quite a fan club of both humans and canines. She also recommends a book every month. This month is “The Little Pink Pup” by Johanna Kerby.
The galleys of The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove arrived yesterday morning. I had hoped to hug the FedEx man, but he dropped the box and ran before I had time to properly thank him. I had wondered if the second time around would be less exciting, but it wasn’t. Not at all. In fact, I have to say it was just as thrilling holding this almost-official book in my hand as it had been when the Dairy Queen galleys arrived more than two years ago now.
And for some reason, all day yesterday I kept thinking about the birth of this book, and the on-going balancing act I strike between writing and living. It’s very easy to settle into a routine of sitting behind my desk and writing about the world and not taking the time to go out and be a part of it.
When I was writing Dairy Queen, I started working two days a week in a small gift shop in San Marino, California. It kept me part of the real world and even dealing with the very occasional rude customer was a welcome experience.
When I moved to Nashville, I immediately started volunteering in an inner-city school, again, to be a part of the world — to hear things, see things, know things, I wouldn’t otherwise have experienced sitting at my desk looking out the window.
And my dear sweet Bezellia was born at a dinner party. I still remember what was on the menu from the jasmine rice to the Chilean seabass. (You will hear more about this later!) The woman across from me introduced herself as Zee. I told her that was an interesting name. She replied, “Well, if you think that’s something, my name is Bezellia!.”
“That is something,” I admitted.
“Well, if you think that’s something, I’m fifth-generation Bezellia.”
“That is definitely something!” I told her.
But I knew at that very moment that Bezellia was more than an interesting name — she’d be a girl that that would take me on an exciting and memorable journey.
Last week, I spent some time with a Nashville book club. As always, I totally enjoyed myself and even ate another Dilly Bar — not sure how many that makes since Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen came out in hardcover in February 2008 but imagine I’ve come close to eating my weight in DQ treats.
But for me the highlight of the evening was meeting Hinckley, the reading dog! OK, he really doesn’t read but he loves to be read to. In fact, Hinckley, a standard poodle, is an official Reading Education Assistance Dog or R.E.A.D. dog. The READing Paws program utilizes nationally registered animal-owner/handler Therapy Teams who volunteer to go to schools and libraries as reading companions for children.
How cool is that? For a child struggling to read, what could be more comforting than to read to a non-judgmental friend like Hinckley?
I was well aware of therapy dogs but was completely unaware of this creative, gentle, effective reading program. To Hinckley and his devoted owner, Dianne May, thank you for taking the time to help a child discover the wonderful world of words.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been collecting blurbs for The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt really. You approach an author you know and respect and ask if he/she would be willing to read your book and write a glowing (definitely glowing!) statement about it that your publishing house can then proudly display on the back of the jacket cover.
Hopefully, if someone is contemplating whether to buy my book or the one next to it on the shelf, these wonderful blurbs will convince them to buy MINE! MINE! MINE!
I am really excited about the people who have agreed to read my book but at the same time I am incredibly nervous — feeling very much the same way I did right before Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen was released — this sudden realization that people are actually going to read the book you spent two or three years writing and then freely offer up their opinion.
For now, I’m keeping the blurb-givers a secret. Hmm. Maybe if you can guess three of them correctly, I’ll name a character in my next book after you. Good luck . . . and more to follow!
The other day I was doing some painting around the house – this time walls — when I came across one of my favorite books of all time, A Woman of Independent Means. This book was written more than 30 years ago, but it is one that I go back to time and time again. It’s a beautiful collection of letters from one woman, spanning most of her adult life.
I am very drawn to books written in letter or journal form. The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the first books I truly fell in love with — and most recently The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen originally included some twenty pages of letters back and forth from Catherine Grace and Martha Ann. My editor felt that the voice was too similar in the sisters’ letters and suggested I return those belonging to Catherine Grace to first-person narrative.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself why I am so drawn to this form of writing, and I think the answer is very simple. His name was Nolan Nuckles. He was a family friend, and when I was a very little girl, he was already well into his eighties. Oh, but Mr. Nuckles would write me the most wonderful letters, full of information and stories and scribed with a penmanship that was nothing short of artistic. I remember feeling so special that he had taken the time to write me. I saved each and every one of of his letters for years, and unfortunately in one of my many moves, they disappeared.
But that’s just it. In a letter, we all have the opportunity to become story teller — to share with our reader a part of our life that has been worthy of writing down. And receiving that letter is, in my opinion, an honor — especially now in the age of emails and texting and tweeting when writing by hand seems like a laborious task.
I, too, love a good 140-keystroke message message and sometimes forget to stop and take the time to write a friend a letter. (Although a few years ago I wrote my 7th-grade teacher, Lee Smith, a very long letter inside an exam blue book — only seemed appropriate!) But as my head spins with ideas for a fourth and fifth book, don’t be surprised if it’s a collection of letters — each one a special moment shared between a writer and her reader.
Today was not about writing but painting. I am not a painter. I rarely paint, and I will never show anyone anything that I have painted. But sometimes I think it’s good for the writer to pick up the brush and probably for the painter to pick up the pen. Huxley, Vonnegut, Yeats, Sandburg would probably all agree.
I feel no stress when I paint — no pressure, no expectations — nothing but joy. It reminds me very much how I felt when I was writing Dairy Queen, before I learned something about the business of publishing. But the really great, wonderful part about painting, when I’m done and return to the written word, I find that joy lingers on the page!
I haven’t been out on the road much lately. Remember, my butt’s been in the chair. But today I drove up to Clarksville, TN, to speak to a book club. Got me thinking about book tour 2010. It’s about eight months away, but I’m already starting to plot it all out. It’s like working a jigsaw puzzle — a maddening, complicated jigsaw puzzle.
For the most part, publishing houses don’t send their authors out on the road, well, not mid-list authors like myself. But I think it’s absolutely critical for a writer to get to know the people selling and reading your book. That’s why I traveled 18,000 miles in total with Dairy Queen and can tell you with great accuracy the very best trucks stops on I-81.
An atlas, calendar and #2 pencil are waiting for me on my desk. Here I go again.
ps – next time I am definitely wearing more make-up!
Until Dairy Queen was published, I honestly never thought much about the interior design of a book. But it’s as much an art as writing one. And I wanted to give you a sneak peek inside THE IMPROPER LIFE OF BEZELLIA GROVE.
Theses pages are the creation of Random House designer Lynne Amft.