On the dangers of taking a vacation
- Published on Sunday, 23 March 2014 15:12
What do you think are the best Southern books of the year?
This month SIBA Booksellers opened their mail to discover the annual "long ballot" of titles nominated for the 2014 SIBA Book Awards. These are books that they and their customers have nominated as the best Southern books of the previous year. Right now, they are poring over the list of over eighty different titles, picking their favorites from each of six different categories. The results of their choices will determine the finalists for each category.
Which would you pick?
|Book Title||Author's First Name||Author's Last Name||Publisher|
|Darwen Arkwright and the School of Shadows||A.J.||Hartley||Razorbill|
|The Girl From Felony Bay||J E||Thompson||Walden Pond Press|
|Little Red Writing||Joan||Holub||Chronicle|
|Mama Harris' Fried Pie Army||Richard||Mandell||T. Eliot Press|
|The Mischievians||William||Joyce||Atheneum Books for Young Readers|
|My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood||Tameka Fryer||Brown||Penguin|
|Paperboy||Vince||Vawter||Delacorte Books for Young Readers|
|Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses||James||Dean||HarperCollins|
|A Passion For Bread||Lionel||Vatinet||Little, Brown and Company|
|Bobby Deen's Everyday Eats||Bobby||Deen||Ballantine Books|
|Cooking from the Heart: My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way||John||Besh||Andrews McMeel Publishing|
|Greek Revival from the Garden: Growing and Cooking for Life||Patricia||Moore-Pastides||University of South Carolina Press|
|Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen||Matt Lee &||Ted Lee||Clarkson Potter|
|Pickels, Pigs, & Whiskey||John||Currence||Andrews McMeel Publishing|
|Southern My Way: Food & Family||Gena||Knox||Gena Knox Media|
|A Different Sun||Elaine Neil||Orr||Berkley Publishing|
|A Murder in Passing||Mark||De Castrique||Poisoned Pen Press|
|A Place at the Table||Susan Rebecca||White||Touchstone|
|The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion||Fannie||Flagg||Random House|
|The Alligator Man||James||Sheehan||Center Street|
|And Then I Found You||Patti Callahan||Henry||St. Martin's Press|
|Blood of Heaven||Kent||Wascom||Grove|
|Calling Me Home||Julie||Kibler||St. Martin's Press|
|The Check Out||Richard||Lester||self|
|Duel of the Heart||Rose||Tomlin||Evening Post Books|
|The Funeral Dress||Susan Gregg||Gilmore||Broadway Books|
|Governor's Lady||Robert||Inman||John F. Blair|
|Guests on Earth||Lee||Smith||Shannon Ravenel Books|
|Harlow||David||Armand||Texas Review Press|
|Heart of Palm||Laura Lee||Smith||Grove Press|
|I Want to Show YOu More||Jamie||Quatro||Grove Press|
|In the Garden of Stone||Susan||Tekulve||Hub City Press|
|Kara Was Here||William||Conescu||Soft Skull|
|King's Mountain||Sharyn||McCrumb||St. Martin's Press|
|The Kings and Queens of Roam||Daniel||Wallace||Touchstone|
|Ladies' Night||Mary Kay||Andrews||St. Martin's Press|
|Life After Life||Jill||McCorkle||Algonquin|
|Lookaway, Lookaway||Wilton||Barnhardt||St. Martin's Press|
|Looking For Me||Beth||Hoffman||Pamela Dorman Books|
|Love & Lament||John Milliken||Thompson||Other Press|
|Lowcountry Bombshell||Susan||Boyer||Henery Press|
|The Maid's Version||Daniel||Woodrell||Little Brown|
|Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble||Ann||Ross||Viking|
|Moonrise||Cassandra||King||Maiden Lane Press|
|Most educated idiot I know||Dean||Roughton||Createspae|
|Mother of Rain||Karen Spears||Zacharias||Mercer University Press|
|Mrs. Poe||Lynn||Cullen||Gallery Books|
|Necessary Lies||Diane||Chamberlain||St Martins|
|Nothing Gold Can Stay: Stories||Ron||Rash||Ecco|
|Out of the Easy||Ruta||Sepetys||Philomel|
|The Prayer Box||Lisa||Wingate||Tyndale House|
|RipTide Ultra Glide||Tim||Dorsey||Harper|
|Someone Else's Love Story||Joshilyn||Jackson||William Morrow|
|The Summer Boy||Henri||Mitchell||Alfie Dog Limited|
|Summer Girls||Mary Alice||Monroe||Gallery Books|
|The Sweetest Hallelujah||Elaine||Hussey||Harlequin MIRA|
|The Next Time You See Me||Holly Goddard||Jones||Touchstone|
|Three-Day Affair||Michael||Kardos||Mysterious Press|
|The Tilted World||Tom Franklin &||Beth Ann Fennelly||William Morrow|
|The Time Between||Karen||White||NAL Hardcover|
|Waiting in Deep||Sandi||Denkers||America Star Books|
|Whistling Past the Graveyard||Susan||Crandall||Gallery Books|
|The Wisdom of Hair||Kim||Boykin||Berkley Trade|
|The Woman Who Lost Her Soul||Bob||Shacchis||Atlantic Monthly Press|
|The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls||Anton||Disclafani||Riverhead Hardcover|
|Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald||Therese Anne||Fowler||St. Martin's Press|
|The Astronaut Wives Club||Lily||Koppel||Grand Central Publishing|
|The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight||Winston||Groom||National Geographic|
|Braving the Flame||Jessica||Handler||St. Martin's|
|The Chattooga River||Laura Ann||Garren||History Press|
|The Death of Santini||Pat||Conroy||Random House|
|The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South||Bruce||Levine||Random House|
|Finding Florida||TD||Allman||Atlantic Monthly Press|
|Five Days at Memorial||Sheri||Fink||Random House|
|The Girls of Atomic City||Denise||Kiernan||Touchstone|
|Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls||David||Sedaris||Little Brown|
|The Men We Reaped||Jesmyn||Ward||Bloomsbury|
|More Than a Likeness: The Enduring Art of Mary Whyte||Mary||White||University of South Carolina Press|
|The Passion Conversation: Understanding, Sparking, and Sustaining Word of Mouth Marketing||Robbin||Phillips||Wiley|
|Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History||Paul||Schneider||Henry Holt and Co|
|Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion||Robert||Gordon||Bloomsbury|
|Si-cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty's Favorite Uncle||Si||Robertson||Howard Books|
|State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love||Aida||Rogers||University of South Carolina Press|
|The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists||William||Ferris||The University of North Carolina Press|
|This is the Story of a Happy Marriage||Ann||Patchett||Harper|
|What the Dog Knows: The Science and Wonder of Working Dogs||Cat||Warren||Touchstone|
|The Book of Goodbyes||Jillian||Weise||BOA Editions Ltd.|
|Collected Poems of Cathy Smith Bowers||Cathy||Bowers||Press 53|
|Voodoo for the Other Woman||Angela||Kelly||Hub City Press|
|13th Sign||Kristin||O'Donnell Tubb||Feiwel & Friends|
|The Madman's Daughter||Megan||Shepherd||Balzer + Bray|
|The Moon and More||Sarah||Dessen||Viking Juvenile|
|Shades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel||Beth||Revis||Razorbill|
|Theodore Boone: The Activist||John||Grisham||Dutton Juvenile|
|Tower of the Five Orders||Deron||Hicks||Houghton Mifflin|
|What I Came to Tell You||Tommy||Hays||Egmont USA|
- Published on Thursday, 13 March 2014 02:27
This piece is drawn from a speech that Shelley Fraser Mickle gave at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, as a 2014 Nominee to the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. Her new novel The Occupation of Eliza Goode is contributing funds to a Women of Distinction scholarship to help a displaced homemaker finish her education and reenter the workforce. Shelley has been a commentator for NPR’s “Morning Edition,” a New York Times Notable Author and a recipient of the 2006 Florida Governor’s Award for suicide prevention for her novel The Turning Hour.
I have lived a long and lucky life. And now seems a good time to pass on some of what I’ve learned in my fifty-year career of following my bliss in “the writing life.”
Joseph Campbell, who wrote The Power of Myth—one of the last books that Jackie Kennedy edited— recommended that the most important thing a young person can do is to follow their bliss?
Following your bliss—what did he mean by that? He defined it as the way to be alive in this world and the way to give to the world the very best that you have to offer. He said that there is a track just waiting for each of us; and once on it, doors will open in our journey.
So how does one discover one’s bliss? Where is a script for following your bliss with success? What do you do when doors slam? How do you revise your journey to fit your calling?
Since I know my own story best, I’ll use it for better or for worse. You see, early on, at about the age of four, I fell in love with the power of story. This naturally grew from my first discovery that the world was divided into two parts: those who could read and those who could not. And the ones who could had all the power over me. They told me when to go to bed, when to get up, where to go and how to act.
Yes, as Joseph Campbell points out: stories don’t give us the meaning of life; they tell us how to live in the world. They are the passports to our culture.
I wonder how many of you remember the person who taught you how to read?
For me, it was my grandmother, whom I called Chate. Her real name was Kate, but I couldn’t pronounce that. She entered our house calling “Yoohoo!” and swept me up in a hug and measured me against her waist. On a good day, she came in at five feet. I thought that clearly she was circus material and wondered why she’d settled for an everyday life.
She tinted her permed gray hair pine-needle red and fixed it in a style similar to a pot scrubber. Often I tied her up to a chair to practice my cowboy skills. And since she talked of snakes and cats in the same breath, I put my tom cat in the bed with her to watch her come “whooping” out in her nightgown.
Each afternoon, when I was five, my grandmother and I lay on the double bed in my room with a book propped up.
As she read, I’d study the black squiggles on the page and wonder who decided which word should mean what? Was there someone in the sky, alongside the God who made us, who decided what we would call things? Was there an appointed Communications Bureau Chief who said a rope should be a rope and not a tire? Or a tire a tire and not be known as a chicken? My parents had named me, so was there someone who named all things? Who was in charge of these stories on pages that came to me on my grandmother’s voice?
My grandmother didn’t need to search around for an answer. “God,” she said. “God made the words. All the words. God made everything.”
God. Well, I thought it was very obvious that he was related to Santa Claus and to Roy Rogers, and no doubt he had the use of Cinderella’s Godmother’s wand. He and that Godmother had to be closely related too. But I felt sorry for Him. If he was in charge of all words, he’d taken an awful lot onto Himself.
Now, I was not an easy child. I was known for throwing screaming mimi fits. And only later I learned that a screaming mimi is the name of a bomb used in
World War II. So each Sunday my grandmother took me to church. I really think she feared that I might be the first woman in our family to go to prison—or to Hell.
There in Sunday school, I heard even more stories, and these were older even than my grandmother. In fact, they were so old, I couldn’t understand how old. To
have lasted this long, they must have something in them that we had to have, I decided. And so, stories were necessary to life. They were like air or water—or a good purse.
Soon, I was desperate for the power that would keep so many adults from bossing me around. For hours I sat in a chair holding up the newspaper, pretending to read.
Whenever anyone asked me what I was doing, I replied, “Why reading, of course.” I put myself on display for long periods of time, pretending to read the stock reports, the front page, the obituaries. But well, that’s the thing about a lie. Once you start one, you have to live it out, or else you have no character.
Then one day, the magic struck. I looked down at the book opened there in my lap, and the letters on the page spoke out of the silence and made sense. They had sounds of their own. I could hear their voices.
Aha! The lie that I could read was now swallowed by the truth that I could. Stories no longer had to come to me on only the voice of my grandmother or from someone else, or from the movies. Now they came in a silence so lasting, nothing spoken was even close, or as neat.
I began to think of words as the magic of silent language, even though I did not yet know the word language. Language was what lived in my fingertips. It was the words I was learning how to write. I could write words I could not even pronounce, and every story had its own put together in its own way. When the words were read, they moved; yet when I went away and came back and opened up the book again, the words were still there on the page in the exact same way that someone had left them. They were the storyteller’s fingerprints.
Oh, how happy I was for God! I was also mightily relieved for Him. What my grandmother had told me—that He was in charge of all words—was only partly the truth. He might have thought up the idea of language, but He wasn’t in charge of ALL words. Some were the handiwork of mortal humans. Oh, Joy! After all, He had written only one book.
So there was my bliss. There was my discovery that I could be a storyteller too.
But what about the next question? Once you discover your bliss, what to do about it? I know this sounds crazy but when I was in high school, I looked forward to Saturdays for having the time to write stories that I knew no one would ever read.
Yet, how does one turn a blissful experience into something you can touch and feel? And most importantly, share?
Now here’s something I’m not too proud of, but it’s good for a laugh. You see, when I was eighteen, I wrote William Faulkner a letter. I told him I’d heard he knew a thing or two about writing, and I hoped he’d tell me how to be a writer too and that I was soon coming to the University of Mississippi. I knew that he lived adjacent to the campus and if he ever saw me walking around there, it would be all right to come over and introduce himself. Well, he died a month before I arrived on campus, and I took it personally. I thought it was a pretty drastic way to avoid me.
But oh! how wonderful to be eighteen. What ignorance, what moxie! How embarrassing, how brave! And, what bliss. To set off on a life journey with unbridled enthusiasm and determination is essential and must always be respected—and forgiven.
In short, back then there were no scripts to follow. Only a few graduate programs in creative writing existed, and I was too dumb to know about them and didn’t have the money for them anyway.
Today’s students don’t realize that student loans are a fairly recent thing. When I grew up, if your parents didn’t have the money to send you to college, you didn’t go. Or you stayed out of school and worked until you did have the money to go, unless you were eligible for a GI college loan. And I might add, that back then classified ads were separated into jobs advertised for Male and Female. As crazy as it seems, we women didn’t think of taking on much of anything but traditional roles. In fact, my Freshman aptitude test came back saying that I’d be great at typing and taking something called short hand.
But I also knew that following my bliss required a complimentary track. I loved stories, but I needed life experience. And I needed to prepare myself to live in the world. I studied psychiatric social work on a government grant. Not only did I then have a means to make a living, but I also gained intimate knowledge in the struggles that people face. My ability to create characters in my stories comes from that part of my education.
I have found that there is never a wasted moment in being a student of any discipline.
Meanwhile, I studied writing wherever I could get in. I took classes at Harvard night school because I wasn’t smart enough, or rich enough, to get in during daylight. After I had children, I fed my toddlers cookies under my desk while I wrote every morning because I wanted both: a family and writing career and found that an unlimited supply of chocolate chip cookies helped me have both.
Along the way—and all of us experience this—I received a fat slice of good luck. Mine came in the form of a famous editor and critic who, over a period of several years, became the midwife to my first novel, which started out as some 600 pages and ended up a New York Times Notable book after something like an arduous gastric bypass. Yes, Louis Rubin, a giant in American Letters, took me on and for over twenty years read everything I wrote and coached me with warmth, affection and firm insistence that I write only universal emotional truths.
What I really want to say to those following their bliss and finding it tough going is this: the tough going never stops, but then, neither does the bliss. It is found in the moments when you stare into the dark where you can imagine no one is the least bit interested in hearing your voice or seeing your work but then realize you’ve never had so much fun. You’ve changed yourself, becoming tougher, wiser, funnier, and so much more aware of being alive.
Over and over I rediscovered my bliss, even after the publisher who fired me, saying I was too understated to do what was necessary to have large book sales. The agent who said she just didn’t like my work anymore and would I please stop expecting her to do anything with it. Oh yes, the rejections were constant and if I had burned them all in my fireplace, I could have been warm for many winters.
To handle the doors that shut, it’s wise to have a support group. I remember the classmate in my writing class at the University of Mississippi who every day handed me a card that said, “Big shots are the little shots who keep shooting.” I remembered the idea in a poem I often repeated: When your rewards seem few, Remember, The almighty oak was once a nut too.
Also, I once wrote my parody of a typical rejection slip: It was for the King James Version of the Bible. Dear King James, we are returning your manuscript herewith. Overall, we found that it is too violent, not enough sex, and just who in the world do you think would ever believe this?
My novel Replacing Dad I lovingly wrote in response to watching one of my neighbors face the challenge of parenting her son through a divorce. What a lucky streak that that novel became a CBS/Hallmark movie and for me to experience seeing it made into a film. No matter how far the translation of film took the story from my novel, the spirit of it survived, plus I learned a bit of how Hollywood works. Indeed, film has become the most powerful source of storytelling in our modern culture
Now, rather than talk about my recent novel, I’d rather that you read it. For that’s the thing about fiction: you have to experience it, rather than be “told” it.
I will say only that The Occupation of Eliza Goode is a result of my long career. When I started out, I took the advice of many successful writers, that is: write about what you know, express yourself, it’s your whole ballgame, Baby. Well, I discovered something else in my long journey of following my bliss: my audience matters.
Writers not only write about what they know, they write about what they understand emotionally. And as I researched the Civil War, I was so excited about what I learned, I was eager to pass it along to my readers. So, The Occupation of Eliza Goode is my gift to you. It is a culmination of a lifetime of acquiring the skill to tell a story in a way that turns at unexpected times, that hopefully delights with surprises, that opens doorways into dark human suffering so that the reader might be changed in understanding a fellow human being’s trials and triumphs.
In working on the novel, my most exciting day was when I found a book titled Reminiscences of a Soldier’s Wife by Mrs. John Logan. It was here that I discovered that Mrs. John Logan, at the age of fifteen, growing up in Illinois witnessed Lincoln ascend the stage to debate Stephen Douglas. Her description of that was so thrilling, I lifted it to put in my novel, and thus share it further. Yet, I had to read almost the whole memoir before I discovered that Mrs. John Logan’s first name was Mary. Indeed so many women’s lives in the nineteenth century disappeared into their husband’s lives or vanished altogether.
In creating my character Eliza, I feel that through my imagination I retrieved one of those voices from the silence and brought into current awareness the story of one young woman emerging from an underworld—which really is a very American story.
In the back of the novel, in my notes, you can read the funny little story of how everyone in my family was named after Robert E. Lee. And you can find there the historical fact that became the plot for the novel— as well as the fact that the photograph on the cover is of a real woman, young and struggling to survive in New Orleans in a time when few avenues were open to women to earn a living.
What I did not realize in the seven years I spent writing this novel was that subconsciously I was working out my sorrow and reverence for the brutal war that defined America. Too often it is forgotten that the Civil War was America on a suicidal course, that the whole world was doubting that a diverse population could govern themselves.
The miracle is: we did not break into two nations. We defied following the model of Europe. We did not break into multiple nation-states, so that today we don’t need passports to cross a state line, or we don’t have border wars with our neighbors. Indeed, the Civil War was so brutal and horrifying that it prevented us from ever again testing our unity with such violence.
Yet it seems to me that too often it is forgotten that our strength is our unity.
We can, however, always reaffirm one of our essential beliefs: that together we are able to open doors for others, fund new scholarships, and can express our conviction that education is essential to our future. Besides, there’s no greater gift than holding out a hand to those on the pathway of following their bliss.
- Published on Sunday, 19 January 2014 20:21
Her ladyship: Okay, what started this off? This idea for an “advice book for the modern age”? Were you standing behind one of those tedious people who take longer to order their coffee than you would to drink it, if you could just get a cup? Did someone put a store-bought cake on a heirloom platter and bring it to your funeral? Did you punch an annoyingly smug Mom at the fun park and suddenly realize that our lives lack serious impulse control?
Celia: I had always wanted to do a single-subject book but it wasn’t until my editor at St. Martin’s Press, Jennnifer Enderlin, suggested etiquette that I felt my pulse race a bit. Yes! As my husband is fond of pointing out, there are few things I enjoy more than telling people how to live their lives. He is right so there’s no point in me pouting about it. When Jen suggested it, I DID immediately think of those people who clog the line at the post office with their incessant STUPID ASS questions. See. I do so love profanity and I thought it would be fun to write an honest-to-Jesus advice manual that kept it real so to speak. Hence, Rude Bitches was born.
Her ladyship: Isn’t it rather rude to have the word “bitches” in the book’s title? Aren’t you forcing hundreds of thousands of people to squirm uncomfortably when they attempt to order your book from their bookstore, thus making you part of the whole “rude Americans” problem?
Celia: See above. I don’t care if people squirm a little as long as they can stop all that squirming long enough to order the book.
Her ladyship: Are you worried that our society is becoming irredeemably bad-mannered? Is it Facebook’s fault? Can Facebook fix it with the enforced imposition of “featured posts”? And how did you discover there is a Facebook group called “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head”? Did Facebook suggest you “like” it?
Celia: Yes. Yes, I am. And, no, I don’t blame Facebook specifically although it certainly does make us all cringe more than ever at the “humble brag.” Before Facebook, it was rare to see in print something as rude as: “Skip Jr. was incredibly nervous about his ACT but it went well and now he is weighing Princeton vs. Harvard. Should we go with Mom’s alma mater or Dad’s. What to do!” Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. A friend told me about the FB group “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head.” Ill-mannered? Of course. But it makes me laugh so it can’t be all bad.
Her ladyship: You cover pretty much every situation designed to challenge a body’s civility except what to do about the woman who wants to talk to you about Jesus while you’re waiting for the garage to change the oil in your car. But everything else is there--psychotic little kids in grocery stores, gross habits of gym-bunnies, people who insist on talking politics. And in each section, there are a couple of write-in-type questions. Were these sent to you by your readers? Or did you make some of them up because let’s face it, somebody needed to ask them?
Celia: The questions in the book came from, mostly, my very helpful girlfriends and the dressing room at TJ Maxx which is such a great sisterhood of strangers. I just “up and asked” for help whenever I went in there and people were more than glad to tell me their worst etiquette stories.
Her ladyship: Given the state of the comments section on any given website, how come your book isn’t longer? What rude behavior did you leave out? And did you leave it out because you secretly think it’s okay?
Celia: There is definitely enough material left over for a second book. I can’t wait to get started on it! There’s a fetcher at the end where I asked for readers to send their etiquette dilemmas that weren’t covered and they have responded! Which just proves that MY readers are insanely thoughtful and well-mannered.
Her ladyship: How long have you secretly wanted to be the cooler, more hip Abigail Van Buren? Is it possible to be cooler or more hip than Abigail Van Buren?
Celia: All of my life. And, uh, yes.
Her ladyship: Are you finding now that every time someone stops you to say how much they liked your book, they also have to bore you with the rude behavior pet peeve that you left out? Your book has been out a month and a half now--aren’t you sick of that?
Celia: Not at all. See the earlier question about leaving stuff out.
Her ladyship: And on that note, here's my pet peeve question. What can you do when you go to dinner with a good friend and you realize she is one of those people who makes the wait staff run lots of little errands and sends food back just because she can? Do you put a napkin over your head to hide from the shame? Over tip the staff and write little apologetic notes with smiley faces on the receipt? Tweet the awful experience in real time as it is happening? What would be appropriate here?
Celia: Oh, precious. I am so sorry that you have such poor judgment in friends. Ditch this monster immediately. Seriously, you should just photocopy the chapter that deals with high-maintenance diners and send it to her. Underline the part where I say wait staff can do “terrible things to your food. TERRIBLE things.” BTW, I have no patience for people who try to intimidate wait staff. It’s trite but true that you can judge a person’s character by how they treat people who can’t do them any good (help them get ahead). Seriously, don’t hang around her.
Her ladyship: When it comes right down to it, what’s the best piece of advice in your book?
- Think of others, all the time.
- Gossip is usually false.
- Leave the seat down.
- Be nice.
- Never buy cheap ice cream.
Celia: That’s easy: Never buy cheap ice cream. If you’re eating the good stuff, it will make you do all the others because you’ll be so damn fat and happy.
- Published on Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00
Southern Indie Booksellers want readers to eat their okra!
Winter is the season of black eyed peas, collards, and pot likker but for Southern Indie Bookstores it’s also time for some Okra! The brand new crop of Winter 2014 Okra Picks have just been harvested--the best southern lit, fresh off the vine. All the chosen books have a strong Southern focus and are published between January and March, 2014, and all of them have fans among southern indie booksellers who are always looking out for the next great writer you should know about. So it is very likely the next time you visit your local southern indie bookstore, someone will hand you one and say, “You’ve got to read this!”
The Winter 2014 Okra Picks List!
The In-Between Hour by Barbara Claypole White
Mira Books, $14.95 January
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Viking, $27.95 January
Starting Over: Stories by Elizabeth Spencer
Liveright Publishing Corporation, $24.95 January
The Last Days of California by Mary Miller
Liveright Publishing Corporation, $24.95 January
The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
Amy Einhorn Books, $26.95 January
Without Mercy: The Stunning True Story of Race, Crime, and Corruption in the Deep South by David Beasley
St. Martin’s Press, $26.99 January
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
William Morrow & Company, $25.99 January
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
Kathy Dawson Books, $16.99 February
One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul
St. Martin's Press, $29.99 February
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic Press, $16.99 February
Long Man by Amy Greene
Knopf Publishing Group, $25.95 February
Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything by Donald Link
Clarkson Potter, $35.00 February
Okra Picks are chosen by Southern Indie Booksellers each season as the upcoming southern titles they are most looking forward to hand selling. For more information visit sibaweb.com/okra.
- Published on Sunday, 01 December 2013 16:01
Meet Jeff High, author of More Things in Heaven and Earth
After growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, Jeff High attained degrees in literature and nursing. He is the three-time winner, in fiction and poetry, of an annual writing contest held by Vanderbilt Medical Center. He lived in Nashville for many years, and throughout the country as a travel nurse, before returning to his original hometown, near where he now works as an operating room RN in open-heart surgery.
His first novel, More Things in Heaven and Earth, is also the first in a new series set in the fictional Watervalley, Tennessee.
As an ambitious young doctor with a penchant for research, Luke Bradford never wanted to set up practice in a remote rural town. But to pay back his student loans and to fulfill a promise from his past, he heads for Watervalley, Tennessee—and immediately stumbles into one disaster after another. Will he be labeled the town idiot before he’s even introduced as the new doctor?
Very quickly he faces some big challenges—from resuscitating a three-hundred-pound farmer who goes into cardiac arrest to not getting shot by a local misanthrope for trespassing. He expects the people of Watervalley to be simple, but finds his relationships with them are complicated, whether he’s interacting with his bossy but devout housekeeper, the attractive schoolteacher he consistently alienates, or the mysterious kid next door who climbs trees while wearing a bike helmet.
When a baffling flu epidemic hits Watervalley, Luke faces his ultimate test. Whether the community embraces him or not, it’s his responsibility to save them. And he’ll soon discover that while living in a small town may not be what he wants, it may be just what he needs…
Favorite book as a child?
Treasure Island! I mean, come on, who doesn’t love Robert Louis Stevenson.
What are you reading right now?
Fingal O’Reilly, Irish Country Doctor, by Patrick Taylor. We both write about doctor’s in a small town and have become good friends.
Why independent bookstores matter?
Because even imaginary places like Watervalley, Tennessee need bookstores with imagination.
Favorite part of writing a book?
Writing words that genuinely make you laugh and unexpectedly make you cry.
Least favorite part of writing a book?
Knowing when you have made it the best it can be. I am a tormented rewriter, constantly, continuously, searching for the perfect sentence.
Are you working on anything new?
Yes, the sequel to “More Things in Heaven and Earth,” called “Each Shining Hour.”
Comment on the writing life...
At the end of the day, it’s just work. It requires discipline, focus, tenacity. But if you love it… it can be oh so wonderful work!
Hardest part of the creation to publication experience?
There’s a lot of waiting the process… waiting for edits, waiting for pub dates, waiting sales info, …waiting for this sentence to end.
Why do you write?
Because I tried being other things like, you know, a ninja, cowboy, test pilot, neurosurgeon… all boring. Writing is the real challenge.
When did you know you were a writer?
Without a doubt… when I was fifteen or sixteen. That was forty years ago. Okay, I’m kind of a procrastinator.