Appalachian Thursday–WV Book Events

I’m headed home in October. Ahhhh. My favorite month in my favorite place. And as an added bonus, I’m doing two book-related events while I’m in West Virginia. So excited to take my book back to the place it was born!

Thursday, Oct. 16, 5:30 pm – October Farm Feast at Fish Hawk Acres
Fish Hawk AcresMy friend Dale Hawkins left little ole Rock Cave, WV, to become a big time chef, working his way up to executive chef at such acclaimed kitchens as Victoria and Albert’s at Disney, Glade Springs Resort, and Stonewall Resort. But his heart was always back on the family farm. Now he runs Fish Hawk Acres, celebrating the fantastic food of central WV with a Community Supported Kitchen or CSK (think CSA, but with the food arriving already prepared!).

cupcakes

A Chef Dale original. Oh my!

On the third Thursday of each Month from spring to fall, he hosts a farm dinner featuring seasonal victuals from his farm and the local area. And in October I get to be part of the party! I’ll do a talk and reading as well as sell and sign books. Oh, and I plan to eat like a farm girl! Visit Fish Hawk Acres if you’d like to reserve a spot for the event that starts at 5:30 p.m. Dinner is $25 (and a bargain at that!).

Saturday, Oct. 18, 11 am-1 pm – Main Line Books, Elkins, WV
I love independent bookstores. And turns out there’s a wonderful store not far from the family farm where owner Vickie has been gracious enough to host me for a signing. I’ll be there from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and would SO love to see my WV friends and fans (who are just friends I have yet to meet). I have a feeling my family may be hanging around as well! Stop by and like their Facebook page if you get a chance!

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My First Public Book Signing

book tableThere’s nothing like sitting behind a table of your books watching people go by to remind you how important humility is. There’s also nothing like total strangers who have never heard of you or your book getting excited about meeting you to remind you the world’s still a pretty great place.

I didn’t mean to set up a book signing. I just happened to be in a Barnes & Noble in the area and, for kicks, checked to see if they had my book. They did. SEVENTEEN copies. Holy cow, there are major cities where seventeen copies have yet to sell much less a single store. I saw a manager and asked, “How can I help you sell these books?”

Next thing I know, I’m doing a book signing on a Sunday afternoon with, shall we say, not a whole lot of promotion. I personally put up some flyers and invited friends, but I think the store just posted it on their website and hoped for the best.

book table 2

My view . . .

So there I was with thirty or so books arranged on a table in front of me and people smiling distractedly as they whizzed by. But I had a secret weapon. I had a plate of candy peach slices. And when you ask someone, “Would you like a peach slice?” they’ll often stop and take one. And then, to be polite, they say something like–“Is this your book?” or “Are you the author?”

Why, yes. Yes it is and yes I am. And then I’d say it was my debut novel and they’d feel sorry for me and buy a book or at least take one of my postcards and talk to me a minute. Which was good enough for me!

Over two hours I sold seventeen books. And only seven were to people I knew. A record sales day? Hardly. But I did find homes for those original books I saw on the shelf. And I also learned that people are mostly nice.

The staff at Barnes & Noble was nice. The lady who teaches creative writing and bought my book because she wanted to support a local author regardless of the subject was nice. The couple with a son who’s a WV state trooper was extra nice–we talked a long time. The gentleman who told me tales of WWII while his wife bought my book was nice. My friends and neighbors who waited to buy my book in person at full price rather than order it on-line at a discount were so nice I could have cried.

I’d heard that book signings are iffy propositions these days unless you’re really well-known. Which I am not. And while I don’t see it as a hugely effective way to sell lots of books, I wouldn’t trade those two hours spent experiencing humanity for anything.

People are the best.

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Appalachian Thursday–Letters from Home

Family photoOne of my greatest treasures is a collection of letters from my grandmother. She was from a generation that hadn’t quite given up paper and pen for the telephone and certainly not for e-mail. I doubt she ever sat down in front of a computer, although she marveled over the laptop I carried to her house a time or two.

Not only do the letters resurrect memories, they also remind me of the way people back in French Creek, WV, talk and the things that are important to them. Weather and family being at the top of the list.

Here’s a sample from May 17, 1999, when we still lived in SC. I kept her choice of capitalization which I see not as incorrect, but as a way to emphasize what’s important.

Just a few lines along with pictures of Bessie’s Birthday. There was three that didn’t turn out very good but the ones that I’m sending you were pretty good. Bessie survived it all pretty good. Her son in law Elmer (Caroline’s husband) got his Big Toe and the one next to it cut off in a lawn mower accident 2 weeks ago on his job. He is getting along O.K. He worked at the High School so he won’t be going back to work the rest of the school year.

It is beautiful here now. The Honey Suckles are Blooming real pretty and some of the other flowers are Bloomed and gone. We haven’t had much rain. But I heard that you had and your water was up. Hope it has gone down now and you are both doing O.K. Will write more later. Love, Grandma Burla

*In WV we called the wild azalea honeysuckle. When I moved south and encountered a true honeysuckle vine I thought the rest of the world had it wrong.

**I miss my grandma a LOT.

 

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Guest Post – Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman

Truth. Lies, and the Single WomanAllison and I met at The Cove in Asheville at a writer’s retreat. We had lunch together in that fabulous dining room overlooking the mountains. She was single then and working on a book to help other single women stay true to God in the midst of their singleness. Now she’s one of the most happily married women I know who hasn’t forgotten what it was like to be single and praying for a partner. Her book is a gift to single women everywhere. I SO wish it had been around when I was at that stage in my life–it would have saved me a lot of grief and aggravation! And although the book is aimed at single women, there are truths here that apply to everyone.

Trusting God to Show Up–Allison Flexer

During my many years as a single woman, I often wondered whether God cared about the details of my life. Of course, I’ve always known that God loves me. I’ve heard it since I was a little girl and accepted God’s love as fact. I simply wasn’t sure whether the God of the universe had time to help me with my dating life.

Have you ever been running late to an appointment and catch yourself saying a prayer for all the traffic lights to be green? I feel guilty for bothering God when I know it’s my own fault for leaving too late. Similarly, I experienced guilt when asking God for help during my single journey. Maybe I made the wrong choices and my singleness was my own fault.

Does God really care about the details of our lives? Will he help us even when we’ve messed up?

The truth is . . . God wants us to trust him. We are never outside the reach of his loving arms and redeeming grace. Regardless of marital status, the battle to replace lies with truth is something we all encounter each day. When facing lies, we must put as much truth as possible into our lives. Accepting God’s truth from the Bible is a great place to start.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

The times when I become still and quiet and wait for God’s instruction, he always shows up. He nudges me in the right direction. Deep in my spirit, I know he cares about my choices and the details of my life.

God loves us more than we can imagine. In that infinite love, he created a plan for each of us. We can trust God to show up in our lives. He is trustworthy. He will fight for you.

AllisonBio: Allison K. Flexer is an author, speaker, and blogger. Her first book, Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman (Beacon Hill Press), tells the story of her single journey and gives practical steps for letting go of the lies that destroy the joy and confidence of unmarried women. You can connect with Allison on her website at www.allisonflexer.com or on Twitter: @AllisonKFlex.

Giveaway: Beacon Hill Press is giving away 10 copies of Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman on GoodReads.

 

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Appalachian Thursday–String Beans

Green beansIt’s time to put up the garden–canning, preserving, freezing. Of course, I hated it when I was a kid, but now I wish I had the time and cellar space to preserve summer in a Mason jar. Not to mention family close enough to gather on the porch to string beans, pare apples, shuck corn, and talk the day away.

 

THE RHYTHM OF STRING BEANS

A lapful of green
sprung from deepspring furrows.
Hands nip, twist,
neatly string beans.

Droning voices
of women working
swell in noontime sun,
drive worn hands
as they strip strings.

Garden rows stretch
fruitless, toward tomorrow.
Narrow with distance,
look like creases
in work-worn hands
holding strung beans.

Crows circle, cackle,
follow the same path
through turquoise sky,
swirl into whirls
on the tips of fingers
that still string beans.

Fruit of the earth
weighs down
women’s skirts.

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I still really love Jan Karon (and here’s why)

Me & Jan

Still smiling after greeting fans for 90+ minutes!

In 2011 I had the chance to meet Jan Karon–one of my favorite authors–and she was every bit as delightful as I hoped. Yesterday I had a chance to see her again and although she didn’t grab me and say she remembered me from that one, brief encounter three years ago, she was still as charming as ever.

While I have a LONG way to go before I have as many fans as Jan (like a really, really, really long way), I do have a little bit more insight into what it’s like to be an author than I did on that June evening in 2011. I loved Jan then for being charming, gracious, and kind while sharing her faith in the most natural way.  And I still do, but here’s what really knocks my socks off about her.

She loves her fans as much as they love her.

I’ve done just a couple of events and they are exhilarating and exhausting. Interacting with a roomful of people: smiling, signing books, hugging, shaking hands, trying to speak coherently–even on a small-scale–will wear you out. Yesterday, Jan did it for an hour and a half and was just as gracious to the person having the hundred-somethingth photo taken as she was with the first.

Jamie & Jan

My friend Jamie won a trip to meet Jan Karon and took her mom (today’s her birthday!). Click on the photo to go to Jamie’s blog, A Still Magnolia, for that story.

That takes two things. Stamina and love.

Jan Karon appreciates her readers. And, after all, aren’t readers kind of the point? I think it’s fine if you write just for yourself. Keep a journal, keep a diary, write down things you want to revisit down the road . . . But I suspect most authors want to tell people something. A passionate reader is like that person who sits down and listens–really listens–to what you have to say. And then her eyes light up and she says, “Oh, I know just what you mean.” Or maybe she says, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that. That’s really interesting.” Or, best of all, “Wow, I’m going to look at the world just a little bit differently now.”

Jan Karon has passionate fans. We’re hanging on every word. And Jan appreciates that. She’s grateful. And there are few things in this world more lovely than a grateful heart.

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Appalachian Thursday–Washing Up

dish washing

My mom (right) and aunt doing the dishes before I was ever even thought of.

Doing the dishes isn’t particularly Appalachian–people wash up after meals everywhere–but it struck me that characters in my books often have great conversations over dish washing. Why is that? Well, probably because I’ve been part of many a washing up chat.

There’s something about the camaraderie of one person washing while another dries and puts away. I prefer the washing. There’s something satisfying about taking a stack of dirty dishes and transforming them into a sparkling array of tableware. (I feel the same way about laundry–it’s almost like the things are new again.)

Growing up, doing the dishes–especially after a family meal–was part of the event. It was generally a task undertaken by the women in the house, and there was plenty of talk to go with the suds and hot water. Of course, there are pitfalls–forks not quite clean and bowls in the wrong cupboard–put it’s worth it for the fellowship.

Here’s a dish washing scene from Appalachian Serenade–my novella–which is still available for free download.

That evening Delilah washed the supper dishes while Charlotte dried and put them away. She tried to think of a subtle way to ask after Robert Thornton, but her sister saved her the trouble.

“Did you see that Robert has started carrying those Occident cake mixes? I can’t believe anyone would resort to that. As if it were so very difficult to bake a cake.”

“I didn’t notice.” Delilah wasn’t interested in debating mixes over home cooking. “I did notice that not much has changed around the store over the past fifteen years. I would’ve thought Robert would want to put his own stamp on the place.”

“Oh Robert.” Charlotte flipped her hand in the air. “He’s more interested in socializing and carrying on with everyone who steps foot through the door. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised it occurred to him to even carry a convenience food like cake mix. Maybe he’s had more success with that instant coffee than folks let on.”

Delilah wracked her brain to think how to steer this conversation in the direction she wanted it to go. “Maybe he needs a woman’s touch.” She blushed and hoped Charlotte would assume it was the heat from the dishwater. “In the store, I mean.”

“Wouldn’t hurt, but I know for a fact more than one woman has set her cap for him and it’s all come to nothing. We thought he’d marry Susanne Ross for sure, but something must have gone wrong. Last I heard she was married with four kids.” She dried the last pot and draped her wet cloth over a hook beside the stove. “Gracious, Robert must be getting close to fifty by now. If no one’s caught him yet, I doubt it’ll happen.” She wrapped an arm around her sister’s waist. “Now if it’s eligible bachelors you’re after, you might consider Joe Miller.”

Delilah elbowed Charlotte. “I’m most certainly not interested in Joe Miller. His ears stick out past his shoulders.”

Charlotte giggled and covered her mouth. Delilah risked a look at her sister and caught the giggles. They stood in the kitchen laughing like girls and Delilah felt a bit of the pain of the past decade slide from her shoulders. Maybe she did have a future. Maybe she could find another husband—a good one—and start a family. Maybe it wasn’t too late after all.

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