Thursday Mashup

Mashup- Giveaways, 36 hours spent in Jackson, MS, 30 Hot Books for Summer and more…


She Reads is giving away Marybeth Whalen’s newest book, The Wishing Tree!

Love At First Book is giving away A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon!

The Book Wheel is giving away A Complicated Marriage by Janice Van Horne!

Book-Alicious Mama is giving away Letters from a Whoremonger’s Wife by Danita Clark Able.


Jackson, MS was featured in the NY Times Travel section- 36 Hours in Jackson, MS!

For more information on planning a visit to Jackson (or other place in Mississippi)- check the website Visit Mississippi

#bookrecommendations and #hotbooks

USA Today reveals it’s list of 30 Hot Books for Summer. Bookmagnet has revealed her list of books for June in it’s It’s a June Books Boon– and 1 of the books she lists, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls by Anton Disclafani, also made the USA Today list! Two of the books I listed for Beach Bag Reads (The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living or Why I’m Never Getting All the Glitter Off The Dog by Jen Lancaster and Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger ) also made USA Today 30 Hot Books for Summer.

Booktopia 2012- Oxford, MS

Utopia: an ideal community. So Booktopia is an ideal community of books and book-lovers, authors, great book stores,  and places that inspire writing or reading.

Actually Booktopia has different meanings to different people- but that is a good, basic definition. For a more involved scene/definition of my idea of Booktopia, read this What Booktopia Means to Me. I hope reading about Booktopia inspires others to think about their definition of Booktopia.

Back to the main point of this blog post, though- this past weekend, June 15-17, I spent the weekend in Oxford, MS (home of Square Books) and the site of 1 of 3 Books on Nightstand Booktopia retreats. First, it was a fantastic weekend- filled with book people, book lovers of all kinds (from classics to chick lit)- everyone had something bright and intelligent to say about books.

The first day of Booktopia began with a workshop discussion “What is Southern Writing”? The 3 person author panel was comprised of: Susan Greg Gilmore (The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove and Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen), Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter), and Kevin Brockmeier (The Illumination). When questioned about “What is Southern writing?” or “Were they Southern literary authors?” the responses varied. Tom Franklin, born in Alabama, really just wants to be known as a “writer” as opposed to being a “Southern writer”. He compares being a “Southern writer” to being a “left-handed pitcher”- no one really knows exactly what to do with you. He also says that at first he “did not want to write about the hicks he grew up with”- it wasn’t until he went to college in Arkansas that other classmates helped him realize that he had quite a background to help with stories.

Susan Greg Gilmore, though, is fiercely proud to be known as a “Southern writer”-in fact, she says that the more specialized the label for her as an author, the better. Susan Greg Gilmore “Hell yeah, I’m a Southern writer!” She speaks of using her cast iron skillet, going to her grandma’s old house, pulling over to look at a church- these are all Southern things. When asked in her writing whether the character or the place come to mind first for writing, she says they seem to come together immediately, as opposed to one or the other coming first.

Kevin Brockmeier spoke of writing, specifically The Illumination, as him having a “metaphor in mind” when starting a book. For The Illumination, it’s 6 paintings on a transparency- each can be revealed as it’s own image, but when you layer them on top of each other- it provides a different picture.  After hearing his description of writing The Illumination, I’m considering reading it again and trying to see the book through the eyes of his metaphor.

Late Friday afternoon/early evening- we all went to Rowan Oak (home of William Faulkner) where some of us explored Rowan Oak. We also had a Yankee Swap (also known as White Elephant or Dirty Santa) exchange- it was great fun. I brought a Sue Grafton book (U is for Undertow) to put in the exchange pile. After I picked a book, I traded mine in for  Miss Mississippi Cooks– which later was stolen from me. Not to worry, though, Susan Greg Gilmore and Ellen F. Brown were super-sweet- they bought me a copy! That night a group of us went to Boure for dinner and while we waited to have our name called we had drinks at City Grocery. Dinner and drinks was quite fun- our group had a fun time laughing and talking about books.

Saturday morning, some of us met at High Point Coffee for coffee and breakfast. Then we were off to the different author sessions. My first session was with Ellen F. Brown (Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood) and she was delightful. Full of interesting, behind the scenes information on Gone With the Wind and the Mitchell estate, Ellen F. Brown worked the author session like a pro- she teased us with bits and snippets of information. Ellen F. Brown wanted the book to be titled Minding Scarlett’s Business instead. She also said that Margaret Mitchell had a plan for her next book that she told to a friend, but she never got a chance to write the book. The book was to be about a poet from Georgia who claimed Edgar Allen Poe stole The Raven from him. If you think that would make an interesting book and curse the fact that Margaret Mitchell is no longer around to write it, fear not- Ellen F. Brown will be writing the book herself. While she has no way of knowing if take the book in the same direction as Margaret Mitchell planned to, she is looking forward to writing and gathering more information.

After the Ellen F. Brown author session, some of us met for lunch at City Grocery- shrimp and grits was quite yummy. After lunch, I went to Square Books to browse before the next author session with Tom Franklin. While in Square Books, I purchase Susan Greg Gilmore’s 2 books (Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove). Great news for me- because of Booktopia, Square Books was giving Booktopians 10% off their purchase!

My next author session was with Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter).  Listening to Tom talk about his book, he states that Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was “slightly autobiographical”.  Again he says that he is “tired of being called a Southern writer, he just wants to be known as a writer”. When asked since he feels this way- why title his book Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (since it’s obviously a Mississippi title, therefore Southern)- he answers “because it’s never been used before”. He’s not afraid to use Southern terms, he just wants to be known as a writer, instead of neatly classified. Another tidbit- if the book had been set in Alabama, he would have titled it “Jurisdiction“.

My 3rd session was a podcast with Ann and Michael- creators of Books on the Nightstand. It was really interesting to see how they did a podcast, and our session will be used for a later podcast of BOTNS.

At 5- all of us met back at Off Square Books for A Celebration of Authors. This is where we got to listen to each author speak for 10 minutes, which was nice, since we did not get to go to all author sessions. After everyone spoke, there was a chance to have books signed, as well. Another group of us went to Old Venice for dinner that night and then the Burgundy Room for drinks and hanging out. It was really fun hanging out with everyone and enjoying a beautiful night in Oxford. As we headed back to the hotel, some of us decided to take a picture with William Faulkner’s statue on the Square.

Sunday morning was breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast, which was really great (pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries and sausage). After breakfast, coffee and talking at High Point Coffeehouse- then the final Booktopia session at Off- Square Books. The session, The Many Forms of Storytelling, brought up many interesting topics- such as e-readers, books, audio, and an upcoming app from Richard Mason (History of a Pleasure Seeker) which looked very interesting.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend- filled with interesting people, great books, good food and many activities. I adored my time in Booktopia and happily look forward to a future event.

Zippity Doo Dah 2012

I suppose it’s better late than never, so here goes about Zippity Doo Dah 2012 (ZDD). This is the 2nd year of this event- the event used to take place during the Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day parade in Jackson.  Now Jackson has 2 weekends of parades- so March is just a big fun month!

When I arrived in town on Thursday, I immediately saw a pile of women from last year- we all hugged and did the “Ahh! You’re here! What’s been going on?” thing. After unloading my car and taking my stuff to my room- I had to sit in the AC for a bit- it was HOT. Then I went and met up with some of the women- we stood around, talked, and made plans for dinner that night. 18 of us piled into Burger and Blues (a great little place to eat- good hamburgers, sweet potato fries, and and fun atmosphere.) Bless our server’s heart, he did not quit that night after setting 18 women wearing crowns and/or boas. We were a slightly loud crowd, but we were having fun and reuniting after a year of being apart. After eating till our heart was content (and everyone had a full belly) it was back to the Hilton for a night of bands and music. Several different bands played that night- and it was a blast hanging out with friends I see once a year and meeting new ladies!

Friday the first event of the day is called Big Hat Luncheon. And yes, we wear BIG Hats. The past couple of years it’s been held at Sal and Mookies- this great place to eat in Fondren. Pizza, pasta, great drinks and desserts-it’s got something for everybody. It’s non-smoking, has a great patio and a good staff. Eating there and hanging out with friends was a great way to start the Friday. After lunch, most of us went walking around Fondren (it’s small enough you can walk, but big enough that there is much to do!) Most stores were having sales, the weather was nice, and it was just a good day to play outside. After playing in Fondren for sometime- I went to Everyday Gourmet to pick up my Gail Pittman bird (yes, the Gail Piitman that does the dishes- well she designs a bird to sell for Zippity Doo Dah, as well). After that, went back to the hotel to see what was going on and begin to get ready for the night events- The Sweet Potato Queen Ball. After spending some of the afternoon getting made up with false eyelashes and glitter eyes (Thanks to Jen and Jodi!) I went to my room to put my sparkly dress and electric blue wig on- and then I headed to the ball. There was live music- good live music! And it’s always nice to see everyone so dressed up in their outfits- wigs, crowns, sparkly dresses- you name it, it could be there.

Saturday morning, back in Fondren, at Duling Hall- Jill Conner Browne signed her newest book, Fat is the new 30. Cathead Vodka helped sponsor the book signing- there was biscuits, bacon and screw drivers or bloody mary drinks to enjoy. Also Randall Wallace ( We Were Soldiers) was there. He comes most years, if he can make it, from what I understand- I missed seeing him the year before; but he was so kind to pose for a picture with me this year.

Randall Wallace and me- ZDD 2012

Melanie, Jill, Me- getting our books signed

After a delightful morning of yummy food, meeting Hollywood royalty and getting my book signed- it time for some more shopping and then decorating our float for the parade. Once the work was over, though, the ladies in my group headed to eat at Que Sera Sera- and then some of us went back to hotel to start getting ready (it takes a long time to get in those dresses and get wigs, false eyelashes and crowns looking right- BUT, it is so fun!). The parade line-up began at 6, so we did not have much time to waste.

The parade is just something a person has to see to even believe. Tons of women, dressed up in various outfits, laughing and having a great time. People stopping us to take pictures. Beads flying through the air. Waving to friends. Seeing kids excited. And knowing that while you are having a good time, by doing this, the money you help raise is going to Blair E. Batson for the sick children who are there. After the parade is over, and the car has been given away- begin heading back to the cars and we see the Sweet Potato Queen Float. And they let us take a picture on the float. So cross that off the bucket list, folks- I have a pic of myself on the float, in the big chair. It’s a good night.

SPQ Float- with PPPPPQ’s

The last event of Saturday is the Pearls and PJ’s party. And you guessed it- everyone shows up in Pearls and PJ’s. There is live music, food, and the giveaway of the big crown. It’s fun and fabulous- and a chance to relax while having fun because you are not in the costumes.

Sunday morning dawns bright and early for Bathrobe Brunch- shrimp and grits, pig candy, and other yummy breakfast foods. This is where we are reminded that play is good for the soul, and gather to say goodbye to new and old friends. Bathrobe Brunch is the more serious of the events- it’s a quiet reflection of why and how play is good for you, a reminder that life, if you don’t squeeze some fun into it, is boring.

The weekend is a fun weekend, filled with interesting ladies and great memories to be made!

Meeting Shellie Rushing Tomlinson…

Last summer, I met Shellie Rushing Tomlinson at a book signing at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS. Shellie was signing copies of “Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She just Weighs Heavy”. With a title like that, I knew I had to meet this author.

Shellie is a Southern writer, and has this drawl when she talks, is kind and funny, and just makes you feel welcome when talking with you. Having only a few ladies at the book signing was actually nice because we were able to sit at the big table in the back and just have an informal talk of books and stories- and of course, Shellie read a couple of excerpts from her book.

Shellie’s 2 latest books: “Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On: What Southern Mamas tell their Daughters that the Rest of Y’all Should Know” and “Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy” may not be for everyone- some Southern writing isn’t, but if you are looking for a funny book, with a tinge of advice, then give these a try. Also, if you have the opportunity to meet Shellie, go and meet her. A nice lady who has a gift for story-telling, so the visit will be fun!

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson and her fans at Lemuria

For more information on Shellie, follow her on Twitter @ShellieT or friend her on Facebook- Shellie Rushing Tomlinson. She posts quite often, either with something funny or a thought that makes people think.

Mississippi State Fair 2011

There’s something about a state fair that makes me happy. Maybe it’s the food? In a single place, you can consume more “bad for you, but oh so good” food. Personally, I like to bring a friend who likes fair food and split things with them- that way you can enjoy much more. Penn’s Chicken, funnel cakes, lemonade, cotton candy, roasted corn (ooh, I think I’m drooling)- that and much more can be found at the Mississippi State Fair.

I do enjoy some of the rides, as well. Huge fan of the Pirate Ship (arms raised and screaming), the Scrambler, and the Ferris Wheel. I don’t enjoy the carnival games, but as a kid, I did. Now, much smarter about my money.

The best days at the fair- the weather is sunny with a nice breeze. Arriving around lunch to start eating the best food, ride some rides and watch some fair entertainment. Basically, rinse and repeat until time to leave. That’s a day at the fair!

No telling what kind of food you'll see at a fair!


Ferris Wheel. Something magical about it being lit up at night.

“The Help” Book Signing May 25, 2011

The Help was just a few short months from being aired in theaters- and I was beyond excited to see the movie. Living not far from either of the filming places in Mississippi (Greenwood and Jackson) I was anxious to see what spots in towns I could recognize and how different the book was from the movie.

Then, I found out Kathryn Stockett was going to be at Lemuria Books in Jackson to sign copies of “The Help”. I loaded up, met a couple of friends and got there early enough to grab a prime position in line. Standing in line with my friends, laughing and discussing our favorite parts of the book helped the time pass, and Lemuria was so kind to have a TV set up with the trailer from the movie being shown constantly.

Finally, it was my turn to meet Kathryn Stockett. She was quite pleasant, signed the book, and was gracious enough to pose for a picture or two.

Kathryn Stockett and me at Lemuria Books

Jess and Me waiting on our books to get signed

Me and Lee- waiting to meet Kathryn Stockett

After reading the book and watching the movie-while both were good, I thought the book was better (But isn’t that always the case?)