Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

Susan Gregg Gilmore, author of Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, shared her writing and publishing experience with local writers gathered at Barnes & Noble Wednesday night. I’d just finished her novel about Catherine Grace, whose only objective was to turn 18 and leave the small town of Ringgold, Georgia, where her daddy was a preacher and her mama had drowned years earlier. “Every Saturday afternoon, she sits at the Dairy Queen, eating Dilly Bars and plotting her getaway to Atlanta.”

The book is written much like a memoir, which was good for me, as that’s what I’m working on in my personal writing. One of the book’s layers deals with small town/small church people and issues, which was also good for me, as that brings reminiscences of my novel in progress…before I set it aside briefly to write creative nonfiction. Church members are good folks, but they tend to be gossipy and judgmental. And preachers are just regular people and face the same problems and struggles as those on the church rolls, and sometimes they are wrong in their actions and choices.

And then there’s Gloria Jean. You’ll have to read the book to get the full picture of this wonderfully complex character. “One Fourth of July, she stuck real-live lightning bugs inside her hair and then covered it all with netting. Her head glowed like some kind of fancy firecracker till all the lightning bugs choked on her hairspray and died. She paid [sister] Martha Ann and me fifty cents apiece to pick all those poor little bugs from her hair. Nope, nothing about Gloria Jean was ever simple or plain.” Now, is that memorable, or what?

As Lee Smith — who happened to be Susan’s seventh grade English teacher — says in her cover rave: “This is an unusually engaging novel by a very fine writer who knows exactly what she’s doing.”


6 Comments on “Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen”

  1. Julie says:

    What a great blog! I know Susan is going to love this when she reads it! You’re a terrific writer (I can tell from your blog!).

  2. sarahemc2 says:

    I’m definately adding this to my reading my list, thanks for the tip Kathy! I love the big characters in Southern literature, and the way that crazy and charming are often indistinguishable. Thanks for going on our behalf and filling us in, since it was too far to drive for either Sherry or me!

  3. kathyrhodes says:

    Thank you, Julie! And you are welcome, Sarah in WV and Sherry in CO, both a little too far away to drive to Tennessee to hear any author, no matter how notable.

  4. sarahemc2 says:

    I don’t know… if you wrote a month in advance and said that Annie Dillard or Ann Patchett was going to be there, I might make the drive!

  5. Kathy,

    Thank you so much for blogging about my book and my visit to Barnes & Noble. It’s meeting such wonderful writers like yourself that really is the best part of publishing your work.

    Warmest Regards,


  6. kathyrhodes says:

    You’re welcome, Susan. And best wishes with the second novel!

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