Dear Pulpwood Queens, Timber Guys, Book Club members, our Authors, and Book Lovers Everywhere!
Honestly, I did not even have to ask, the testamonies on attending our annual book club gathering and fesitval just keep pouring in so sharing what some of our authors and book club members are saying about Girlfriend Weekend 2018. There words speak for themselves.
If any of my friends on FB have seen my FB page and seen Kathy post – well that is only part of the reason I love coming to these weekends. The authors are all fabulous and quite entertaining – as Randy Susan Meyers put it – we will even serve you dinner to buy our books, we love our readers. But the main reason as I talked with Julie Perkins Cantrell – we agreed this is the one place we leave feeling so empowered and uplifted. There is never a harsh word by these women & men who attend- ALL of them – everyone is so positive and if you are not a hugger well you better become one! I love to see author’s eyes light up when they see me and say they are so happy to see me and give me a great big ole hug! I mean is there a better feeling in the world than to be thought of in this manner? But also, chatting with them and knowing they are just like me – same problems even if they have way more literary talent than I can imagine. Most have other jobs – or did have. They juggle life and work and often fit in the writing until they have honed the words into a beautiful manuscript. In all the years I have been coming I can truly say I have made some great friends. Thanks to Kathy and all the hard work she and her team do to make this happen – and if you have never undertaken helping with events such as this – well I can tell you it all does not magically appear nor get done just by wishing it! Tiajuana Anderson Neel – is ever ready with answers and works so hard to make sure we enjoy the weekend. I don’t have the appropriate words to express how much this weekend means to me. Now Bill likes to come – he didn’t make it this year and many authors asked where he was. We already have our packages paid for 2019. Last and not least a shout out to Kathy’s girls! I am so looking forward to the rest of the panels and then the Big Hair Ball. Thanks again Kathy- you are amazing!
Imagine 40-plus authors and 100-plus readers/bookgroup members in one room. Now visualize them in hot pink, leopard print, and tiaras – all talking about books, reading, their favorite characters, their latest discoveries, and how those all those stories got writ, and you’ve got a rough idea. The genius brainchild of the incredible Kathy L. Murphy, the Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend is an annual celebration of readers, a total immersion in a world of fun and reading.
The set-up is simple: Every year, from Thursday through Saturday night of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, all these book people (which includes men, the Timber Guys) gather in the piney woods city of Nacogdoches, Texas (Texas’s first city!) for shared meals, chat, panel discussions, and parties. The fact that it’s a single-track event – all the events (save for one dinner) took place in the beautifully restored retro-chic Fredonia Hotel – means that everyone hears everything. And that means that after Jamie Ford’s emotional address or the panels on Southern Gothic or the stories of motherhood and adoption, it’s easy to turn to the person next to you and say, “Wow! Did you know that writer? What did you think about that?” Thus, conversations begin, and friendships are formed.
(The one off-site event – the Friday night Texas barbecue dinner – was right around the block at Mast Hall. That’s where we authors gathered, in costume as hippies [see the pic above] to go with this year’s theme of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” first to dine among ourselves, and then to greet and serve the readers – all while keynote speakers M.J. Rose and Randy Susan Myers had everyone in stitches.)
By the Saturday night Big Hair Ball – more costumes, each more outrageous than the last – we were all buddies – and that meant the dancing and jokes were wild! (Lorna Ludvik’s salute to Kathy, almost a Mad Libs kind of mockumentary of how they *might have* met in a strange Central European republic, helped set the tone for sure.)
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d fit in with this crew at first. Not only am I a New Englander – a majority of the Pulpwood Queens are Southern – but Kathy’s bookclub choices tend toward historical fiction and the kind of relationship-based books that at one point were called “women’s fiction.” Yes, my World Enough is about relationships – and about my protagonist’s discovery that her memories and nostalgia are, at best, suspect – but there wasn’t a lot of crime fiction at the weekend. Still, I found the crew incredibly warm and welcoming. I had wonderful in-depth conversations with readers (Betty Hunt Koval, I’m looking at you), bloggers (Tonni Callan), authors (Romalyn Tilghman, Judithe Linse Little, Christa Allen, Laurel Davis Huber, Bren McClain), and dozens of others! (Excuse me if I left you out – I’m still a bit dazed.) And both Kathy and her right-hand woman, Tiajuana Anderson Neel, made sure that even this newbie felt at home. Yes, it’s a bit of a trek to get to Nacogdoches, but I honestly don’t know anything like it.
There’s more, of course – like the silent auction of author’s themed gift baskets to raise money for the Pat Conroy Literacy Center, the tiara and costume contests, and prizes given for some truly wonderful books (Bren McClain! Lisa Wingate!). Finally, as this year’s Girlfriend Weekend came to a close amid hugs and tears, the theme for next year was announced: How the West Was Won. Did I whet your appetite? Check out the PQ site at http://www.thepulpwoodqueens.com – early bird discounts are available. And maybe I’ll see you there again. This was one weekend, I’m never going to forget!
When you know you can’t sing on key or in tune, but you sing your heart out anyway, grateful to have found your voice…
When you know your body isn’t the best looking shape on the dancefloor and your moves resemble Elaine’s classic episode from Seinfeld, but you dance anyway, grateful this body still transports your soul through this beautiful world…
When you step outside of insecurities and shed all pain at the door, leaving it for God to carry…
When you trade heartache for joy, grief for gratitude, and loss for a life full of love in all its forms …
Then, you know … you have found your way … into the free.
I’m still coming down from the spectacular literary event called The Pulpwood Queens Book Club Girlfriends Weekend. It was unlike any other book event I’ve ever been a part of, filled with fun, friendship, and great books. Kathy L. Murphy and her team are to be congratulated for the months of tireless work and planning this event surely must take. They coordinated dozens of authors into unique and intriguing panels, organized so many fun activities, and in general made the weekend a happy and caring environment for both readers and authors. The selection of books was wide and eclectic, but all of them were excellent choices, and I had to work hard to stay within my budget. For every book I couldn’t purchase on the spot, I made a list to order later. Talking with the other authors, meeting such charming, intelligent, and prolific readers, was a real treat for me. Texas was every bit as friendly as Texans have told me it is, and as one author said it on her panel, the representation of peoples was so diverse, and yet there was no divisiveness among us, just a shared love of literature. If you love books, dress up, and want to make new friends, I heartily recommend this event. Thank you to the Pulpwood Queens for including this author, and making my first trip to Texas one I will never forget. Long live The Pulpwood Queens!
Patricia V. Davis
One of the biggest joys from Pulpwood Queen’s weekend was meeting this writer, Karen Perkins, the highest bidder for my Mama Bone gift bucket. Friend, I am looking forward to reading your words one day.
I had such a great time with the Pulpwood queens at the annual girlfriends weekend in East Texas. The fun themed Bohemian Rhapsody had us in costumes or tiaras all weekend. Amazing authors and spectacular book clubbers. Thank you, Kathy L. Murphy, for yet another wonderful book-loving weekend.
Girlfriend Weekend Take-Aways (New Friends, Original Art, Inspiration, and Books!)
If you’re on Facebook, you’ve already seen how I photo-bombed the place all weekend with pictures from the 2018 Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in Nacodoches, Texas. And here’s a fun blog from River Jordan about the event: “Leaving Nacodoches.” It was a treat to have River spend the night with us in Memphis last night on her way home to Nashville, so we could rehash the weekend a bit. By the way, Nacodoches is the oldest town in Texas, and a lovely, quaint, artsy, little town. Wish I had had more time to explore while I was there. Maybe next time!
There’s so much I could say about the weekend… a wonderful time to get to know other authors and to visit with the ones I know and rarely get to see. Also great to meet so many enthusiastic book club members and readers, all lovers of good books. The theme was “Bohemian Rhapsody” so there were lots of costumes, as we dressed as hippies, gypsies, anything Bohemian, and favorite authors.
I was blessed to be on two panels during the weekend:
Thursday night: As editor for A SECOND BLOOMING: BECOMING THE WOMEN WE ARE MEANT TO BE (with contributors River Jordan, Julie Cantrell, Susan Marquez, and NancyKay Wessman.)
Saturday afternoon: For my novel CHERRY BOMB, I shared a panel with three other authors whom I had never met: Deborah Rodriguez, Patricia V. Davis, and Stephanie Chance. Pulpwood Queens Founder Kathy Murphy moderated the panel.
After each panel, the authors went to the signing tables, where readers brought books they purchased from Murder By the Book, who were the book vendors for the weekend. All of this was pretty typical of a book festival. What wasn’t typical was the amount of time the authors and readers had to really hang out together and get to know one another. On Friday night the authors served the tables at the barbeque dinner for the readers. And all during the weekend there were opportunities to eat together or just visit over car or a drink at the bar. It’s a pretty magical event.
Something I loved was the silent auction. Authors brought items—often related to their books—for sale to benefit the Pat Conroy Literary Center. I was happy to sell a canvas print of the “weeping” icon of Saint Mary of Egypt that I painted, which is featured in my novel CHERRY BOMB. And I made two purchases (of course): a set of Mexican pottery from Deborah Rodriguez, and a painting by Nicole Seitz called “Setting Free,” which has layers of meaning for me.
I’ve shared a few photos (lots more are on Facebook, as I mentioned) but I’d also like to share something about the 6 books I purchased from authors I met this weekend. I’m sure some of these will show up as book reviews here on my blog in the future. Although there were several New York Times best-selling authors at the event, some of the books that caught my attention were by lesser-known writers, and I can’t wait to read them:
GRADLE BIRD is J. C. Sasser’s first novel. I’m intrigued by the protagonist, sixteen-year-old Gradle Bird, who lives with her grandpa in a seedy motel and truck stop in Georgia. I think that she and Mare—the protagonist in my novel CHERRY BOMB (a sixteen-year-old runaway orphan who becomes a graffiti artist)—would be best friends! At one point during the panel that J.C. shared with Nicole Seitz and Bren McClain, J.C. mentioned that Gradle Bird and the other nobels on the panel were considered “Southern Gothic.” As she described the term, I wondered if CHERRY BOMB might also fit into that genre…. although I marketed it as Southern literary fiction. Anyway, GRADLE BIRD is on top of my “to read” stack from the weekend!
THE VELVETEEN DAUGHTER is Laurel Davis Huber’s first novel. I enjoyed getting to know Laurel during the weekend, and learning that we are the same age and on a similar trajectory in our writing careers. We also learned that we both love art and it plays a major role in both of our debut novels. Can’t wait to read THE VELVETEEN DAUGHTER, which is about Margery Williams Biano, the author of The Velveteen Rabbit, and her daughter Pamela, a world-renowned child prodigy artist
TO THE STARS THROUGH DIFFICULTIES by Romalyn Tilghman caught my interest because it features women who are descendants of the women who built fifty-nine Carnegie libraries in Kansas a century earlier. It’s about the importance of art and literature, and especially libraries, in our lives. Having visited six Friends of the Library groups in small towns all over Mississippi to talk about my novel CHERRY BOMB this past fall and winter, my interest in libraries has grown, and I can’t wait to read this book. And… a conversation I had with Romalyn this weekend sparked an idea for my next novel. Stay tuned!
WALKING ON BROKEN GLASS isn’t Christa Allan’s latest book, but it’s the one I bought after visiting with Christa this weekend. The subtitle for the books is FACING SOBRIETY WITH SOUTHERN CHARM. It’s about a southern socialist who goes to rehab. As Publisher Weekly says: “This nonformulaic look at the spiritual redemption of a life is a bright start; debut novelist Allan is one to watch.” Christa’s recent novel, which she spoke about on her panel Saturday afternoon, is BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME.
THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES also isn’t the novel that Alice Hoffman came to talk about this weekend. Hoffman is the author of Practical Magic, which was made into a movie. And about 30 other books! As a New York Times best-selling author, she was a keynote speaker on Saturday morning. She talked about how “writing is the most interactive of all the arts,” and “why reading is better than sex.” And she talked about “inside and outside stories in a novel—inside being what’s happening emotionally.” Lots of inspiration for authors and readers alike. But I was drawn to THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES because it’s about a famous artist and takes place in France… a favorite topic and location for me!
STEP OUT STEP UP: LESSONS FROM LIFETIME OF TRANSITIONS AND MILITARY SERVICE by Mark E. Green, Lt. Col., U.S. Army Retired (co-written with Echo Montgomery Garrett) is a book I bought for my oldest son Jonathan, who is a retired Army helicopter pilot. I enjoyed visiting with Mark and Echo, especially learning about Mark’s experiences with the 82nd Airborne and his service in Afghanistan. In his retirement, Mark helps those in military service, veterans, and their families with resiliency and transition. I look forward to hearing what our son thinks of the book.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned as I move forward with a new novel and get busy with pre-marketing for SOUTHERN WRITERS ON WRITING.
More scenes from the Pulpwood Queens Book Club weekend in Texas. I got to meet James Conroyd Martin in person – he endorsed my book and I wrote an author profile of him in my blog. Author of four books on Poland. JC Sasser, author of Gradle Bird. Shari Stauch of Where Writers Win. Thanks to a brilliant tiara by Pam McBryan of the book cover of HENRY (yes – this group likes tiaras) lots of people asked about the book. Laura Orsini of Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion. And of course as I have no willpower in a bookstore, how can I resist more books at a convention of book clubs? Half were handed out free. Thank you Kathy L. Murphy for a great event hosted from the heart.
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