Girlfriend Weekend Outtakes

Authors Deeanne Gist & Hester Bass

I’ve been writing about the 10th annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend Author Extravaganza in Jefferson on January 15-16, hosted by literary maven Kathy Patrick of Beauty and the Book.

Pat Conroy summed up the entire weekend beautifully: “There’s something alive in this room, something that shows that literature means something. This is out of the soil they don’t’ know about on Manhattan Island. We celebrate this every time we open a book or see a tiara

I also want to give a shout out to the Eureka, Kansas, Pulpwood Queens (Heidi, Erica, Pam, and the adorable girls!) for adopting me for the weekend. Heidi (see below) is Kathy Patrick’s BFF from way back. We Kansas girls stick together!

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the weekend (and as you can tell from the session names, Kat was riffing on a Wizard of Oz theme!):

Friday

I arrived just in time on Friday to catch the end of a panel with Jill S. Alexander, Hester Bass (The Secret World of Walter Anderson), and Heather Hepler (The Cupcake Queen).  Jill’s debut novel, The Sweetheart of Prosper County, was one of my favorite Texas books from 2009, so I was delighted to see her. She confessed to never reading Judy Blume and that her secret talent is being able to belt out “That’s the Night That the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” Later, I was talking with Heather Hepler, and she reminded that she was the 2006 winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Teddy Book Award. And it turns out that she’s been representing herself in her past book deals and she’s now looking for an agent.

If I Only Had a Brain

Pat Conroy (yes, he of The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, and the new South of Broad) and his daughter Melissa joined up to talk about Melissa’s picture book, Poppy’s Pants, a story inspired by her father and his predilection for khaki pants. In fact, Melissa –– known in the family as Woo or even the Woo –– said she and her sisters always assumed their dad was poor because his closet had only one kind of pants –– khaki.

More than once, Pat said, “ I’m as proud of this as anything that’s come out of my family.

The book is based on a true story in which Melissa darned a hole in Pat’s pants with aquamarine thread. “The rumor in my sorry family is that I wore those pants for five years,” Pat said. “I hope that’s not true.” He did confess to being one proud papa: “I’m as proud of this as anything that’s come out of my family.”

Then Pat says he has a different relationship with his grandchildren.  “I wanted a different way of relating to my grandchildren. The rule is no one sits in Poppy’s chair.” He recounted how his seven grandchildren have been forbidden to step through the writing room, one day he found all seven of them –– ages 13 to 4 –– standing there. “We’ve been over this before,” he told them. “I’m not like other grandfathers. I hate grandchildren. So get outta here.”

The kids scurried out and then he heard the slap slap slap of his three daughters’ barefeet coming down the hall and into the writing room. “Can we talk about the word ‘hate’?” they demanded. “Can you change it something else?”

Pat admitted this about Poppy’s Pants: “The book has given me new status with my sorry grandchildren. At Christmas, my grandchildren were all over me and ignored their grandmother [Pat’s first wife]. I told them, ‘If you’re nice to grandma, you don’t get anything. But if you’re nice to Poppy, you become immortalized in children’s books.”

“I like relationships with kids and I notice they don’t notice you unless you give them a reason to. I bark, and they simply don’t care. They like and get into it.”

He pointed out his children’s relationship with their own grandfather, the model for the Great Santini, and how they adored him. “When he lined them up for inspection, they thought it was funny.”

Returning to the subject at hand, Melissa’s book, Pat said, “I’ve very sorry I taught Woo to read or draw. But I couldn’t be prouder, and I was proud to write the afterword.”

After the session, the Queens formed one of the biggest lines of the weekend to get their copies of Poppy’s Pants signed by both Melissa and Pat –– probably the most collectible item of the weekend.

Sam Barry & Kathi Kamen Goldmark

SATURDAY

If I Only Had a Heart

Jamie Ford, the author of The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, talked about his book being a love story that’s appropriate for teenagers. “The love story is consuming, not all consummating.” He went on to read a poignant excerpt that brought the room to a hush and elicited a standing ovation. Then of course, in this day of social media, he took a panoramic video of the audience to post on his FaceBook page.

He even told a funny story on himself: When he received the news that his book was going into a second printing, he said his first thought was that he had misspelled a word –– like something else instead of ‘duck.’ But then he realized a second printing was actually a good thing, a sign that his book was selling well.

About writing: “Writers prick their fingers and bleed all over the page.”

Eureka Kansas Head Queen Heidi as the Cowardly Lion

If I Only Had the Nerve

Ad Hudler (Househusband and Man of the House) said he’d never heard of Girlfriend Weekend, but was told he couldn’t miss it. “New York publishing knows what this thing is.”

John Pritchard (Yazoo Blues) cheerfully professed in his winning Mississippi drawl to being a “writer of filth.”

M. L. Malcolm (Deceptive Intentions) issued this tip for writers hoping to get published: “Never give up, never give up, never give up.” After self-publishing her first book and having book clubs snap it up, she landed a two-book deal with HarperCollins, which she attributes to the power of the book club.

We’re Off to See the Wizard

The sister writing team of Deb and Val Gantt, who write as DeVa Gantt (The Colette Trilogy), joined Nicole Seitz (Saving Cicadas), and Suzanne Arruda (The Treasure of the Golden Cheetah) for a free-ranging talk about writing. Suzanne said one of her earliest influences was her grandmother, who on a rainy day like that pelting Jefferson at the time, would say, “This a good day for a murder.”

The panelists cited the books that first influenced them:

Val: The Green Ghost

Deb: Little Women

Nicole: The Bible and Harry Potter (she admitted to being a late bloomer who didn’t read much until her 20s)

Suzanne: The Black Stallion

The Jitterbug

Deeanne Gist mentioned that her new book, Bride in the Bargain, was available at Girlfriend Weekend before any bookstores in the country. She was also quite proud of the fact that her daughter modeled for the cover. And she joked about warning her daughter that she was most likely to be decapitated on the book jacket, but that did faze her.

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson (Suck in Your Stomach and Put Some Color On) and River Jordan (Saints in Limbo) talked about what Girlfriend Weekend means to them. They hadn’t met before the 2009 GW, but now they’re planning the Great Southern Wing and Prayer Tour, in which they jump in a car and drive all over the country to visit readers and book stores.

River mentioned wiritng about the future of publishing on “A Good Blog Is Hard to Find.” (Several other authors in attendance — including Kathy L. Patrick — blog there.) She also told the story of the collection that came out  of her visits with the Pulpwood Queens. In 200_ she decided to start the year by praying for a stranger every day. Amazing things started happening, and she told some of those stories to the PQs, who begged her to put them together in a book.

Then she read the stunning beginning of her next novel –– I can’t wait to get my hands on that book!

Best Author Promotional Gear

Karen Harrington wins hands down for her charming pocketbook featuring the cover of her book Janeology.

Best Author Promotional Tour

Deanne Gist was working away on her laptop on Saturday, trying to finish edits promised to her publisherfor her next book,  a romance set at the Biltmore Mansion. Deanne plans to lead a Biltmore tour in October, taking readers throughout the mansion and tracing the steps of her characters.  Deeanne also made a charming Glinda the Good Witch.

Best Jewelry Purchase

Hester Bass, received big news over the weekend: Her book The Secret World of Walter Anderson, was selected by the National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. To mark the occasion, she decided to buy a necklace. I happened by as she was trying to decide which one to buy — I liked both of them on her. Turns out she went for BOTH

Best Sign

In the vendors room, one of the liveliest booths announced pricing on a PQ staple: “Tierras $5.” Well, that IS the Texas pronunciation.

Best Song

Kathi Kamen Goldmark’s Pulpwood Queen song, inspired by the year she overheard a PQ announcing at Hair Ball that she wanted her hair to be considered in the contest. Wait, then there was her other perennial hit, “Slut Song,” with lines like “I wonder if he knew / I have underwear older than him” and “Maybe I’m still just a slut/ perhaps his dad remembers me.” (Well, that may not be the exact words, but they’re close.) Accompanying her were Sam Barry on Harmonica, Kathy Patrick, and Destiny Duke and the Hazzards (featuring Jay Patrick on keyboards).

Authors Will Do Anything

The night before I left, I received a message from my friend James in Wichita. Seems he was getting ready to go on a cruise and was looking for reading material and thought I’d be the perfect person to ask for recommendations. So I thought about it and then hit on this brilliant plan: I asked various authors throughout the weekend to leave messages for James touting their books. “Hi, James. This is author Robert Leleux, and I’d like to recommend my memoir, Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy. It would be great for a cruise, and I hope you have fun.” Oh, what fun it is to spend a weekend with authors who are game!

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3 Responses to “Girlfriend Weekend Outtakes”


  1. 1 Ad Hudler February 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    A great recounting of a great weekend! One of my favorite highlights was being with other authors who reminded me that, no, I’m not crazy … I’m just a writer. Also enjoyed getting to know all those readers.

  2. 2 River Jordan February 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Hey – what a great blog and wrap up of the weekend. And yet for those reading all the blogs in the world can’t capture all the magic – you just have to get there for yourself.

    I love the layout and photos here. It’ was like a yellow brick road trip down memory lane. 🙂

    Blessings and see you on the road!

    River

  3. 3 Hester Bass February 3, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Hey, Cyndi! Great recap – thanks so much! It was quite a memorable weekend, and it’s been fascinating to read about it from so many different perspectives. You might be interested to know that I’ve been wearing each necklace on alternating days, and it’s a good thing I got both, as I have something else to celebrate – The Secret World of Walter Anderson was just selected for the 2010 list of Notable Trade Books For Young People by the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC) – yippee! Is there such a thing as psychic shopping?!? Nice photo, too – thanks! ~ Hester


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