Well, it's that time of year again. I've just returned home from three glorious days in the small town of Jefferson, Texas, ground zero for the Pulpwood Queens. The event: the annual extravaganza,Girlfriend Weekend. I stayed at the beautiful Alley-McKay house, and I had a blast.
It all started Thursday evening, with a dinner where the authors, including moi, waited on the PQs who gathered at the Jefferson Convention Center. The amazing Kathy L. Patrick, founder of this mushrooming book club (400 chapters and growing), fed the authors first, then we each claimed a table. I served dinner to the fine ladies from Southwest Louisiana's chapter. Wonderful women with ready smiles and good hearts who put up with my well-meaning if rather inept attempts at serving sweet and unsweetened tea, a barbecue dinner followed by yummy bread pudding. There were free autographed books and everyone went to their hotel or B&B with a smile.
On Friday, we were all back early, and the weekend kicked into gear with Kathy and her co host, the superb Robert Leleux (author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy) front and center. For the next two days, they moderated the panels, asking questions and keeping us all laughing. That morning, Mark Childress (Crazy in Alabama) was the keynote speaker, and he was so funny. I loved the reading from his new book, Georgia Bottoms. Lucky for all of us he gave everyone copies.
I won't attempt to list all the authors who spoke on Friday. There are simply too many, but here are a few: Helen Simonson (Major Pettigrew's Last Stand), Judy Christie (Goodness Gracious Green), Denise Hildreth Jones (Hurricane in Paradise), Janis Owens (Cracker Kitchen), Kathy Appelt (Keeper) and Melissa Conroy (Poppy's Pants). If I'm counting right, there were about 20 discussing their work and their lives on the stage that first day.
The talent show that night was great fun. So many imaginative acts. I heard Nashville's Marshall Chapman sing and play her guitar for the first time and loved it so much I sprung for a CD. Marshall also has a new book out: They Came to Nashville.
The following morning, Saturday, the great Fannie Flagg began the day with a rousing talk about dyslexia, writing, and the surprises live brings. She was charming and heart-warming, detailing the process that began imagining the ghosts that inhabited her family's dilapidated and abandoned homestead and ended in a beloved book: "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe."
Two more panels, including mine, followed her. Wouldn't you know that Kathy would name my panel "Stories that are Killer?" On the stage, I was a bit nervous. (There were lots of folks there. At least 300, my guess.) But BobKat(Robert and Kathy) put us all at ease, giving us the opportunity to discuss our books and answer questions. I read a short passage from THE KILLING STORM, the Pulpwood Queens' main selection for July 2010.
It turned out that my panel was the opening act for the inimitable Pat Conroyand his BFF Bernie Schein. Our entertainment as we lunched, these two old friends didn't hold back, shooting barbs at one another. I would have felt sorry for them if they hadn't looked like they were having so much fun.
I bet you think that's about it? Not a chance. That afternoon, three more panels and awards were handed out. In between listening to the other authors, I circulated around the tables meeting old friends and making new ones, talking to the PQs who'd traveled from across the country to attend and authors like Jamie Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet), Shellie Rushing Tomlinson (Suck in Your Stomach and Put Some Color On), and Karen Harrington (Janeology).
That night, I did something I never would have predicted. All I can say is that Marsha Toy Engstrom (The Bookclub Cheerleader) can be pretty convincing. What did I do? Well, I dressed up as the Cheshire Cat and did a dance routine with authors and friends dressed as characters from "Alice in Wonderland" to Jefferson Airplane's classic "White Rabbit." It was wild! (If anyone has a video, please don't YouTube it.)
The beauty of all this is that it was incredible fun and all for a great cause. Kathy Patrick and the PQs are champions for literacy, and the money raised in a silent auction, more than $6,000 and counting, will go to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Literacy Project.
The bottom line (as my character Sarah Armstrong loves to say): I had an outstanding time. I drove home on Sunday singing along to my new Marshall Chapman CD and smiling all the way. You know, I can't wait for next year!
January 18, 2011
January 18, 2011 5:42 PM ESTSo much fun, Kathryn. Great post. What a great time we had!
January 19, 2011 3:57 PM ESTI can't improve on your description of our wonderful weekend. So glad you came, so glad I came. Already have reservations for a room for next year. WooHoo!!!
January 21, 2011 8:59 AM ESTKatrhyn,
As always, I go away from my Girlfriend Weekend Author Extravaganza with my batteries recharged for yet another year of promoting literacy! This year is special as we premiered my NEW partnership with Random House Publishing for my very own online book club talk show that we call appropriately, Beauty and the Book Show! So if I can get everybody to go to that website, www.beautyandthebookshow.com, to LIKE and please COMMENT, perhaps we can truly get even more people on the same page that reading is the best entertainment in the world!
I can't thank you enough for helping me champion our cause and also paying it forward by contributing to our Silent Auction for our Dolly Parton Imagination Library Marion County Project! My hope and dream is everywhere will get on Dolly's train at www.imaginationlibrary.com as this is not for profit that helps pre-school children get reading ready for school!
Nothing pleases me more than putting together our Girlfriend Weekend each year and this year marks the first time we SOLD OUT so early so now inspired to create yet another reason to book party with the authors, introducing my brand spanking NEW, Fred McKenzie Storytelling Book Festival, May 13 - 15, 2011 right her in historic Jefferson, Texas. I created this event for the overflow of those who could not get in to Girlfriend Weekend, to feature authors who are also great speakers and oral storytellers, and to honor and remember my bookselling buddy, the late great Fred McKenzie so he will always be rememembered. Tickets for that event are on sale now and bed and breakfasts are booking up fast. Keynotes will Frank Delaney, Rhys Bowen, and Neil White who all blew us away with his story of being at the penal leper colony in south Louisiana!
God Bless YOU Kathryn as a continuous Pulpwood Queen favorite and thrilled "The Killing Storm" is in the shoot as an Official Pulpwood Queen Book Club Selection with entire list posted at www.beautyandthebook.com!
So now on with the show as I continue to find new and creative ways to showcase the fantabulous authors I hand select for each event, such as, our favorite Kathryn Casey!