Last night I was cleaning up some files on my computer and came across some old photos on a flash drive I had set aside. Many of the pictures were from my last residency at the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts.
That’s me with Martin, one of the fellas who helped run the Center.
The reason I went to Alabama to write a book was because the book I was writing – Karly Sheehan: The True Crime Story behind Karly’s Law – was a disturbing one. I did not want to write about the murder of a child in my home office. Going to Fairhope offered me the opportunity to write in complete solitude. I didn’t know but a couple of people in town at the time. And the center is located directly behind the back door of one of the most beautiful of libraries.
That’s Sister Tater in the Fairhope Library. I spent nearly six months in Fairhope writing Karly’s story (you can find it on Amazon). I would write & research throughout most of the day and sometimes late at night. But one thing I always tried to do was to take the time to walk down to the pier during sunsets. Often I would sit on the porch at Stacey and John B. Howell’s home, drinking wine and talking about our day. (Stacey is the prototype for one of the characters in BURDY. I’ll be reading from that novel on July 7th at Page & Palette).
One of the greatest gifts of life are the people that invite us into their home and hearts. This is a photo taken from that first trip to Fairhope. Stacey hosted a book club luncheon, which happens to be my most favorite kind of lunch. These ladies love books and they tell some great stories themselves. It was at this very luncheon that I first learned about Jubilees (you can read all about them in Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?) and when I first heard of Sister Schubert and her rolls. I thought she was a nun until my friend Lynn Wilkes set me straight. Lynn’s brother Buddy worked in the same town as Sister Schubert. (You can also read about her in WJBDW).
At the time I went to Fairhope, I had no idea that the things I was hearing at the book club at Stacey’s would find their way into a book. At that time I had no idea I was going to be working on any other book besides Karly’s story. It was while I was at Fairhope that my editor Andy called to tell me he’d sold my next book, which wasn’t a book at all, just a really great title: Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?’cause I need more room for my plasma TV. It’s a look at the relationship between us and God and money. I get a little preachy in it, so take that as a warning if you plan on reading it. Preaching is the thing I do best. Just ask my sons-in-laws.
I’ve made the trip back and forth across country so many times I should write under the pen name of Boomerang. The kids have fond memories of those cross-country trips. Tim made the trip once or twice, but he usually just had me take the kids and go with a girlfriend. I don’t know if there is anything in this country that I haven’t seen yet except Mt. Rushmore.
As you might imagine, it’s the quirky stuff I love best. The stuff with story behind it. Like the barbecue place in Mississippi that everyone talks about even way over yonder in Alabama. You should go if you ever get the chance. The barbecue is every bit as good as they claim and you won’t ever forget The Shed.
People pay big money to go to the high flutin’ tropical places and lay on a beach.
I’d rather go talk to a complete strange alongside a back road somewhere. Honestly. I have been known to pull up in the driveway just cause I’ve seen something that caught my attention.
There’s probably something wrong with me that makes me do that, but if there is a treatment for woman in search of story, I don’t want it.
Tim and I were sitting outside on the porch swing last night enjoying the glow lights and the warmth that is summer when I asked if he had a route picked out yet. We are supposed to leave out Thursday afternoon.
I thought you had done that already.
No, I haven’t done that.
I’m leaving it up to you, he said and turned back to reading one of those high brow books on God he reads.
My friend Jules called earlier in the day. She wanted to know which way we were headed. I said I thought we’d just throw some sleeping bags in the car and figure it out from there.
Jules knows that lurking somewhere deep within this Georgia-raised girl is a hippie still trying to make sense of the world. Story is the best way I have found to understand the world. Some people turn to alcohol or pot or guns to escape, I take to the road in search of story.
And the best part of all?
I am never, ever disappointed.
I have found that one of our country’s greatest natural wonders is each other. If only we’d take the time to listen and discover.
See you out there along the way somewhere.
Anybody got an Atlas I can borry?