Showcasing Creative Nonfiction

Since last spring I’ve been teaching classes weekly at the Williamson Parks & Recreation Center. And loving it! WPRC offers a variety of classes — from zumba to oil painting to watercolor to Mexican cooking to belly dancing to western line dancing to repairing drywall to Spanish to creative writing. Creative writing is ME…that is, unless I’m ever brave enough to give belly dancing a go.

I teach “Writing My Real Life Stories” every Wednesday and have had some unique and fascinating tales, and their writers, come through my door. These people just have to tell their stories, and it is my job to help them do it better.

I’m thrilled to have finally made the rec center’s display case! The tools of writing — laptop, paper, pencil — and glimpses of memories — old snapshots — and the products of writing — framed stories/pictures and books — are displayed in the lighted case in the facility’s foyer. (There’s even a picture of me with my old high school boyfriend building a snowman in the Delta, where it never snows!)

In class, not only do we talk about the creative process and the art of remembering true experiences, we discuss the techniques of writing good creative nonfiction. We have classes of craft: how to write in scenes — showing and telling, how to develop character through action and dialogue, and how to employ specific and concrete details and write description.

Hands-on experience, too. We write a real story during the course of the classes.

The next session is March 9, 16, 23, and 30, from 10 – 11 Wednesday mornings. Learn more on the TurnStyle website.

Come join us and learn to tell your real life story in an artful and compelling way!


Valentine’s Day

Our wedding vows.

He kept them. All of them. A nice thought for today.

*****

I open my heart to tender caring,
Giving, sharing, trusting, yielding.

I promise not to question your needs.

I promise to seek your peace.

I promise to put your happiness first.

I promise to love you with all that I have,
All that I am, all that I can and will become.
For all time.

For it is in giving that I receive.  And it is in helping you awake that I awaken.

I cherish you.

I want to endure all things with you.

I want to walk home to God with you.


Bill Peach

I’ve known Bill Peach for a dozen years or more. Bill loves books, words, education, and a good story. He is author of four books and sometimes referred to as “the literary man” of Williamson County.  His professional career was in men’s clothing; he was owner of Pigg & Peach on Main Street in Franklin for decades until it closed in 2003. Bill is always dressed to the nines, and most of the time, you’ll see him in a tie with books on it. I treasure my friendship with Bill, and I am pleased to share his story about celebrities and friends in our town of Franklin, Tennessee.

Bill Peach

Panel at the Southern Festival of Books, 2009
Madison Smartt Bell, Currie Alexander Powers, Kathy Rhodes, Bill Peach

 

Celebrities and Friends

Of the many celebrities who have lived in Williamson County, my favorite was probably Marty Robbins.  After Marty’s heart attack he came in Pigg & Peach on his way to the Opry for his first appearance after his surgery and recovery.  Marty had all of his stage outfits custom tailored but bought much of his casual attire from me.  My favorite events with him were gift occasions in which I helped him choose Christmas or birthday clothing for his son, Ronnie.

On the evening of his return to the Opry, he was wearing a western suit, with waist-length jacket, with some western ornamentation. It was a shade of light blue that only a custom tailor would offer, and only Opry performers would buy. He was wearing a traditional stripe tie, pastel blue and yellow, which did no harm to the suit, but did nothing for it. He was uncertain about the tie, and was nervous about his appearance for his first night back.

The suit should have had a string or bola tie.  We looked through every tie display and nothing looked good with the suit, or at least the suit did not look good with any tie we had, and we were running out of time.  I convinced him, and myself, that the tie he was wearing was good.  I straightened and reshaped the knot, wished him well for his performance and sent him on his way smiling and much more upbeat and less nervous.

I often watch the Time/Life CD’s of the classic country hits not available in stores, and hear a line from El Paso, and push back a tear. Marty was told that the single was too long for airplay and should be shortened, but Marty insisted that every line of the story was important.  I miss him.

I would not begin to try to list the many celebrities whom I was fortunate to meet in downtown Franklin.  I don’t know if strangers can understand the bond between Williamson County and its entertainment heroes with whom we have lunch and drink coffee, and enjoy the combination of awe and warmth, with respect for their privacy.

On another occasion, our front door opened and Ernest Borgnine entered. In a loud, dramatic voice he said, “I’m looking for Bill Peach. Where can I find him?”  I questioned what his interest might be.  “I’ve heard a lot about him and I have come to Franklin to meet him.”  George Lindsey was waiting outside, laughing.  They were on their way to a film festival that George sponsored in his hometown in Alabama.

Some of you may know that George has a background on the theater stage, a serious dramatic actor.  Most know him as the character, Goober Pyle, on the Andy Griffith Show from 1964 until 1968, later on Mayberry RFD until 1971. Many remember his appearances on Hee Haw.  He is a talented man.  I admire people with talent and intellect who sacrifice their real image to create a comedic character.  George and I would be in a serious conversation and he would pick up a 7 5/8 hat, pull it over his ears, and launch into an act.

On a serious note, George went through a period of distraction, not at all consistent with either of his characters. I watched him wanting to be George Lindsey, not wanting to be Goober.  During that period, he came to see me one day on his way back from one of our schools where he had read to one of the classes. He was dressed in the Goober work clothes, with pocket protector, tire gauge, and trademark beanie.

This was not many days after the death of Sarah Cannon, and I reminded George that you really can be two people, equally loved, equally respected. I did not know Sarah.  I grew to appreciate her from knowing her husband, Henry.  I frequently had coffee with Henry and Eddy Arnold at Noble’s in Brentwood, and heard stories of a woman more elegant than Minnie’s Grinder’s Switch image.

I said goodbye to Goober and he left and walked across the street, and I thought, “How fortunate I am to have this great actor as a friend!”


“I Don’t Think So.”

These boots were made for walking, but come snow, ice, and rain, she’s having nothing to do with it.


Do It Well or Not At All

On the desk in front of me just below the bottom of my dual monitors is a double frame in silver. On the right side is my father’s lifetime motto. I think it was his high school’s motto, but he picked it up and repeated it six decades after he graduated.

If a job is once begun,
Never leave it till it’s done.
Be the labor great or small,
Do it well or not at all.

On the left side is a family picture from around 1960 when my parents were young with dark hair, no gray, and slender, and my sister and I were little girls in matching dresses. I remember those dresses. They were polished cotton with a cream background and colorful flowers in red and orange and cap sleeves and a built-in petticoat. I remember the petticoat because it was scratchy against my skin. And the seams under the arms were scratchy, and it makes me shiver to this day to think about it. A white plastic headband held my hair back. My sister’s hair was short and curly. We sat at our yellow table, with Fiesta mix-or-match cups and saucers placed in front of us. The knotty pine wall of the room is shiny in the light of the camera. The picture is black and white, but I remember it in color.

It’s one of those good times to look back to, when we were a stable, secure family unit living under one roof, and my sister and I shared a room and had twin beds on opposite walls — together, with a tad of privacy.

Time has a way of changing things, of turning people into incapable masses of flesh and bone, of ripping people away. In March it will be five years that my father has been gone.

I wonder if anyone in the world — other than his children and grandchildren — remembers his motto and how he lived by it. His integrity, his dedication, his stick-to-it-iveness. He was honest, he was faithful, he was dependable, he was there.

We knew he always would be. Only now, he is not. What do you do with that?