Looking for Salvation at the Dairy QueenPosted: April 24, 2008
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.”