Dear Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Club members and book lovers everywhere!
You know I said in my first book, “The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life” that books saved me. They did, as they gave me an escape and a positive addition to improving my life. I found myself through reading. The first book that my 4th-grade teacher personally handed me as she thought I would relate to the character was “Honestly, Katie John” by Mary Calhoun and I devoured that book. I was Katie. She was a tomboy just like me and never felt that she truly fit in with the other girls who were started to be attracted to boys. I was a really late bloomer.
Then later after watching “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee on our Curtis-Mathis black and white television, I found myself in Scout. I was every the tomboy in a world that wanted me to wear itchy crinolines with dresses when I would have preferred dungarees. I read that book every year. Then even later I discovered the books and world of Pat Conroy. I could really relate, he too had a father who was a military man, hot-headed and quick to throw a punch. I never saw it coming either. “The Great Santini” was the book that made me worship Pat Conroy for life. I was not alone.
So when after years and years of trying to get Pat Conroy to come to my annual Pulpwood Queen book club convention which we call Girlfriend Weekend, the call came. Pat Conroy was coming. I knew I had arrived. What Pat did that year was help me start my annual Author Dinner where all the authors waited the tables. It never occurred to me that Pat would. He was to be our Keynote Luncheon Speaker, to me he was above that task. But as always, Pat surprised me by coming up with his arm around my shoulder. He politely inquired in that voice that will be in my head forever, “Would you like me to serve the sweet tea?” I was aghast that he would offer but he assured me, he was there to serve. And he did…the look on the book club members faces was as mine, in utter shock as he went table to table, “More sweet tea ladies.” We were all smitten, shoot, we were all in love. I will never forget that night at the Excelsior Hotel when Pat showed us that there is no greater honor than to serve others.
Pat Conroy called me after that weekend, in person about a month later, and again I was caught by surprise. He said, “I know this is probably not want you are supposed to do but I was wondering if I could invite myself back to Girlfriend Weekend next year and bring my friend Bernie Shein.” It took me a minute to get a hold of my senses. “Are you kidding me, of course, you can both come.” Little did I know what I was in for as those two it is not telling. “Yes, I said, “Let’s do it again, but will you have a new book?” He assured me he would and he did.
Now for a man who is known for taking his merry time in getting a book finished and published, I was just in awe that he did it. That book was “My Reading Life” and I devoured it too. Where my book reminded me in comparison to his of a Kindergarten story, Pat’s was a Master’s thesis. The parallels were there and it is no wonder I adored and worshiped him. He was the poster child for how reading and writing can change your life. Then Pat Conroy died, I will never forget when I learned the news of him having pancreatic cancer. The news knocked the wind out of me. I lost both Harper Lee and Pat Conroy, what, in the same year. I was devastated.
Then word got to me that The Pat Conroy Literacy Center was about to be born. I have never been more excited in my life. We need a literacy center and one that will support authors, their books, literacy and reading more than ever. How could I help? Truly, how could I help!
Well every year of Girlfriend Weekend I have an Author Silent Auction to go to a not-for-profit and others who need some help in promoting literacy. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, My Orange Duffel Bag Foundation are two of my favorites, but I also have comp’d leaders of my book club chapters to come to our annual convention when they could not afford to come. Some of them have done more to promote literacy than I ever have, I had to help them in some way. One year it was to provide bicycles to those who could not pass the TASK tests at our local elementary school. I told the kiddos that could not pass, (they had one more shot), that if they showed improvement on their TASK test I would enter them into a drawing so one boy and one girl could win a bike. I have to tell you all 20 children passed that TASK test and I wish I could have given them ALL bikes, they deserved them. Another time it was to provide new library shelves for the recently restored Carnegie Library children’s area. You get the picture, books saved me so I am on a mission to get as many books as I can into the hands of people everywhere. It is my life purpose to promote literacy.
I have always said that if you can read and read well, you have all the tools you need to lead a productive life. So I wanted to help this organization, I would have all the profits from our Girlfriend Weekend Author Silent Auction go to the Pat Conroy Literacy Center. I believe this will be our third year. All the authors autograph something to donate that ties in with them or their books. Here is a photo of what author, Janet Oakley of”Tree Soldiers”, is making for our auction this year, a hand-loomed shawl.
Author, Judy Christie sent me the aprons I provided that very first year and signed by the authors, including Pat Conroy, for this year’s auction. Both of the authors above will not even be here this year but they still gave the auction. What would I do without the love and support of my Pulpwood Queen Book Club Authors!
With all the many incredible authors we have coming this year just another reason to come to our weekend, we pay it forward my friends, big time! The program is up on top of website home page and day and night tickets and packages are still available at www.thepulpwoodqueens.com. But you can contribute at any time to this very worthy cause by going to www.patconroyliteracycenter.org and click on Donate button. Make a difference this coming new year! Support the Pat Conroy Literacy Center!
I have always said “Books saved my life” but in fact, life is a choice. I saved my own life by becoming a real reader and all because of the wonderful books I have read each year and who i showcase each January during my Girlfriend Weekend. After taking a risk, and going back to college to educate myself I am never been more broke as paid for most of it myself. At the same time, I truly feel I have never been richer as I have educated myself through a lifetime of reading. I have the tools and the choice to do anything I please but I choose to pay it forward to those less fortunate than me. I have had to a wonderful reading life. Thank you for all of you that have supported me in my causes through the years. I plan to work until my dying day as Pat Conroy, in sharing this wonderful world of reading.
Truly, Tiara Wearing and Book Sharing,
Kathy L Murphy
P.S. And BIG BREAKING NEWS, photographer, Ron Munden is coming back this year after all these years to cover our event, YEAH! Here is a link to a slideshow he just sent me from the last Girlfriend Weekend he covered: http://iexposed.us/ieSwissArmy2.php?db=gf2009. Woo Hoo, here we go!
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