First-ever Franklin Book Festival 2019

Thanks to Bill Peach and his longtime love of the written word and his determined efforts to pull off a book festival in his beloved town of Franklin, Tennessee, it happened.

And I can’t help but smile and remember, and I know Nancy Fletcher-Blume is doing the same in heaven, because back during the Williamson County Council for the Written Word days, Nancy, Louise, Susie, Laurie, Sally, and I…and others…would be toiling; sweating; putting in hunks of time; meeting at Chop House for coffee, pie, and planning; and pulling our hair out to get an event off the ground and afterward, Bill would say, “These things just somehow happen.” Well, HE made this one happen!

L to R Kathy Rhodes, Susie Dunham, Dr. Par Donahue, Dr. Sally Burbank, Bill Peach

Day One, Saturday, June 1 was a success in drawing a crowd, talking about books and writing, and networking. It was inspirational to hear what others are doing in their writing lives. The panels were a good addition to the event–talking about writing and promoting our books.

I served on a nonfiction panel with Susie Dunham, Bill Peach, Sally Burbank, and Par Donahue. Here’s my talk:

I write creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction is 3 R’s.

  1. Real Life. I write about my own experiences.
  1. Research. The reason for being creative is to communicate information to the reader.
  1. Reflection. There should be thought behind the story. What is there for the reader? Not just “this happened to me” but “this happened and it gave me occasion to ponder.”

I’ve been writing personal essays for more than 20 years and published a few dozen. Most of my early essays were descriptive, reminiscent, and inspirational—and somewhat lacking in story arc. So I:

  • Studied the genre; studied under the masters.
  • Went to a workshop in Oxford, Mississippi, in 2007, led by Lee Gutkind, founder of the literary magazine Creative Nonfiction, and also founder of the first MFA degree in the genre.
  • Started a blog in 2007 about writing, because blogging is a form of creative nonfiction.
  • Co-directed two national creative nonfiction conferences in Oxford, Mississippi and directed a workshop in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
  • Published creative nonfiction in an online journal I edited for 8 years.
  • Taught the genre locally for 10 years.
  • Presented at state conferences and literary festivals, including the Southern Festival of Books.
  • Published a collection of essays and a memoir, and was editor of two anthologies to which I also contributed.

In other words, I did what I loved for ten years … and then life … stopped me in my tracks. My husband died suddenly. Those sweet pieces of the writing “life and likes” behind me lined up to determine my future writing—and though I swore I’d never write about the loss of my husband, I did.

Even my blog went to loss and grief instead of the writing tips and clips I was sharing. It began here…

The house is quiet now. The kids have gone home … I couldn’t have made it without them the past week.

Besides silence, the house is filled with the sweet, sweet scent of lilies. I must do something about that before it overwhelms me.

I thought my husband had a stomach virus and went out for saltines and ginger ale. But that wasn’t it, and after teams of doctors and surgeons in two hospitals worked to save his life over a 39-hour period, he died one week ago of an aortic dissection, a catastrophic event.

And so…

 

I’d like to tell you about one blog post that evolved into more. It is titled “An Open Letter,” written to my deceased husband. It starts like this:

My Dear Husband,
I need to clear the air. I have regrets, guilt, and I need to talk to you about it. I went to a grief counselor and it was recommended that I write you a letter and say what I want to say and then perhaps burn the letter and take the ashes with yours to the Tennessee River beside Neyland Stadium and send them off with you. But I’m keeping you here with me until I resolve my guilt and I’m ready to release you. And I’m saying this openly because I suspect there is a community of us who are caught up in living and don’t grasp that we are walking a tightrope between life and death, and then when death comes suddenly, it catches us wishing we’d done it all differently, and it heaps loads of guilt on our backs. What we do with our guilt affects how we grieve and heal.

 

  • I published the [entire] essay in my blog First Draft a month after Charlie died.
  • It was picked up by the journal of the genre, Creative Nonfiction and published in The Best Creative Nonfiction Volume 3, and singled out for a review in The New Yorker.
  • It was also published as a chapter in my book Remember the Dragonflies: A Memoir of Loss and Healing—a five-year journey from “our” to “my”—starting over and building a whole new life. This is real life, the raw reality of what it’s like to lose a spouse; and research on grief and healing; and of course, reflection on what it’s like to have someone living in your house with you every day, and then not.

As a result of the previous publishings and my new “platform” as a writer of loss, grief, and healing, I was invited to publish an essay in an anthology of 21 women authors who had been tattered by life and circumstances and rose up to experience a second blooming, a new self, appropriately titled A Second Blooming.

I’m pleased to share these books with you–my journey of loss, grief, healing…and BLOOMING AGAIN.

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Dragonfly Books and Dragonfly Birdhouses

2014MSF2Authors Circle booth on the square in Franklin

Bright, sunny, hot, happy, and energy-filled—that was Saturday of Franklin’s Main Street Festival 2014. Expected in town—130,000 visitors to crowd Main Street and look at over 200 arts and crafts booths—jewelry, pottery, photography, leatherwork, woodworking, garden accents, and birdhouses. And books!

2014MSF1Bill Peach, Kathy Rhodes, Steve Kubicek

I am with the Middle Tennessee Authors Circle this weekend in a booth on the square in front of Fifth Third Bank,  selling Remember the Dragonflies: A Memoir of Grief and Healing. I was busy talking with other writers and with friends who stopped by the booth — Bob, Yvonne, Ken, Vicki, Don, Grace…great to see you all! And I did get a chance to go and inch through the crowds and browse. I had to buy a new birdhouse. I buy one every year at the festival.

2014MSF3See the little dragonflies? Love them both!

This year, the vendor had birdhouses with metal dragonflies on them! I’m sure I squealed when I walked into the booth and saw the lovely colors…and the dragonflies.

From my book, talking about my back yard:

“First, off the deck, heading west, there was a brick-lined, mulched walkway with six round stepping stones in it. Three had belonged to my mother before she died. My walkway went to a concrete-stone pad with a fire pit, passing a half-circle flower bed with a cobalt-blue bottle tree, a birdhouse from the Franklin Main Street Festival, and a cobalt-blue sea ball from my trip to the Oregon coast last summer…”

If you live near Franklin, come see me Sunday, April 27 at the Main Street Festival. I’ll be there from 11 till 3. I’d love to show you my book and chat a minute!


Next New Things and Next Big Things

March is a hopscotch grid away, and there’s a push going on. Everything in the yard is ready to break out. New buds on the trees, new yellow flowers on the forsythia and Carolina jasmine, even though it’s twenty-two. Perennials are ready to push out of the ground. It’s the new time of year. And it’s exciting to see things take shape and come to their own.

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This spring I will finish my book. And it’s a book about being new, as a person. After loss, you go through a process of letting go of all the things that are old, and gone, and you mourn each one. Some things don’t come back after a season, like the maples and tulip poplars do. And the herbs that come back new-green and with a fresh scent.

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As my book testifies, with each new thing that comes about, I take hold and claim it as part of a new, rebuilt me. I’m ready for new things and new books and new life. I can’t wait for March.

In the local writing world, there are new things and new next big things — the focus of a Blog Hop that has been going on. The Blog Hop is for writers who are working on a new project AND maintaining a blog. Do you know how hard it is for a writer who is also a business person to keep up with his/her personal writing, professional responsibilities, community work, and personal life? Well, it’s hard. But we love doing it; we’re driven to do it!

I was tagged last Friday by Leisa Hammett to share about my new book [previous post], and now I’m tagging three writer friends to share about their Next Big Thing.

First of all, Susie Dunham. I’ve known Susie Dunham for about ten years, since she moved to Franklin from way up north—New York, Michigan, Indiana. We’ve been in a writers group together since 2003. She’s funny, has a clever humor about her, and is creative in so many ways I couldn’t list them all in this post. She has been a columnist, published creative nonfiction in anthologies, and now she is on a big adventure of attempting a novel! Please follow the link to Susie’s blog and read what she’s working on.

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Susie Dunham reading at Barnes and Noble

Next, Judy DeLuca. I’ve known Judy for a couple of years. What a talented, delightful person! Judy wanted to be a hairdresser since she was a little girl and lined up her dolls to wash and style their hair. She came to Nashville from Boston for her husband’s songwriting career. He writes country music, and she does hair. And now another creative side of her has surfaced. She’s an author, now working on her second book! About what? A hairdresser, of course. Her first book is a fun read, but also deals with serious subjects that happen in the lives of clients of the main character’s hair salon. Visit Judy’s blog and tell her I sent you! And you’ll want to read her first ebook, Towel Dry and a Good Cry.

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Judy DeLuca, author of Towel Dry and a Good Cry

And Bill Peach. Bill has written five books and is working on another one! Besides that, he heads up an Authors Circle which meets twice a month at Merridees on Fourth Avenue in Franklin, as well as a Socrates philosophy group.

In my opinion Bill Peach is the top Literary Person in Williamson County. He has a heart for education, he has a heart for writing, he has a heart for the community of Franklin and this county—for keeping a record of all the writers who live here and for providing opportunities and events for these writers to come together to network and to sign and sell their books. I wrote the Introduction to the 2009 anthology Gathering: Writers of Williamson County. I defined the county, as below, and Bill Peach was a part of that definition:

“—its narrow backroads that slide through tunnels of saplings and ancient trees, blooming honeysuckle vines, and wildflowers like buttercups and clover and Queen Anne’s Lace; centuries-old low stone fences that follow the roadways and lines of sweet yellow daffodils that mark off homesites long gone; Main Street’s charm in old establishments like Batey’s, Gray’s Drugs, the old theater that brought popcorn and Coke to your seat; and local writer Bill Peach standing against a signpost on the corner of Fourth and Main in front of Pigg & Peach, selling suits, selling his books.”

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Bill Peach at the Southern Festival of Books

Visit Bill’s blog, and read about his new project — stories about Main Street Franklin — and take a look at his previously published books.

By the way, there’s that Boston connection between Bill [his book, The South Side of Boston] and Judy, except her Boston is in Massachusetts and his is in Tennessee.

A lot of NEW going on! Come back and visit us all and keep up with us! Watch for us with our books at local festivals and various venues for signings!

MARCH — TIME FOR NEW THINGS AND NEXT BIG THINGS!


The Next Big Thing! (An Authors Blog Hop)

Lovely and talented writer friend and Nashville blogger Leisa Hammett tagged me to participate in a “blog hop” about my next book. She was tagged, then she tagged me, and at the end of this post I will  be tagging a few other writers who will share about their next big projects. I invite you to visit their blogs next Friday and to come back and visit me again and keep up with my progress — and hold me accountable!

So, my Next Big Thing, my second book, is a book I never thought I’d be writing, and a book I didn’t want to write. But life after a harsh season sometimes takes us softly into a new season and we feel a need to share our journey. So here’s my book-in-progress ~

1. What is the working title of your book?

My current working title is A Resting Place. When I began, it was Losing Charlie: And Building a Whole New Life. So from that original title, you now know what my book is about. Hmm. Which title is better? My current title comes from a quote of my son who did the funeral service for my husband. The quote is based on a story my husband wrote two months before he died. “My hope is that each of us will — in our own way and in our own time — find a resting place far away from this sorrow.”

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

The night my husband died, my sister (I love her, and she knows I’m telling on her!) arrived from Memphis and said, “Well, Kathy, you just have to build a whole new life.” I didn’t hit her or anything, but I could feel an invisible shield around my body repelling that thought. The old life was just fine; I wanted it back. Nobody who has lost anybody wants to think about starting all over alone and building a new life. But over the course of six months…a year…three years, I slowly and unknowingly crept toward a new normal. It was the struggle of a lifetime. It’s a struggle everyone goes through eventually, unless they die first, before their spouse. I’ve had many women tell me, “I couldn’t make it if I lost my husband.” I was in Huntsville at a conference when a woman who almost lost her husband to a stroke said those words to me, and cried, and my heart was with her, and I knew at that moment I’d write my story.

3. What genre does your book come under?

Easy one. Creative nonfiction: memoir.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Sandra Bullock. She does loss well. How will she look as a blond?

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Everything she had depended on him—job, income, house, companionship, love; he died, and it was all gone, and she journeys from loss and grief of those early days when her bones were in agony, through the struggles and tugs of letting go and holding on, to rebuilding and finding a new normal, a resting place to land. (The she is me. Or I.)

6. Is your book self-published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency.

I will query agents and shop my book around, but since I am not a famous celebrity with a national platform that will lead to billions in sales…well, we’ll see. I will most likely self publish. I have a platform. I know grief and loss. I know a good publishing company.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I will be finished with the manuscript by April 1. (If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that is supposed to be March 1. But, well, things happen.) So that will make it ten months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

A fairly recent book is A Widow’s Story by Joyce Carol Oates. The time frame of her memoir is much narrower than mine; therefore, her pain is acute and fills the pages, as she curls up in her nest (bed) unable to function. My book takes on these early months and shows the depth of pain, but it spans three and a half years and covers not only the raw mourning that Oates describes, but it moves on to a place where life happens in peace.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As mentioned earlier, the many women who have come to me in private moments and told me that they could not make it if they lost their husbands. Also, the many women I know who depend completely on their husbands to earn an income, pay the bills, manage house and car repairs, and keep them safe at night. Also, to the women who’ve already lost husbands — and hurt and grieve and have a hard time putting one foot in front of the other and moving on to a new normal, when all they want is the old normal. And this book is sort of a tribute to my late husband because it tells the strengths of a man who had good principles, a good career, an interesting life.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My book chronicles the compounded journey of grief, loss after loss — loss of husband, loss of job, loss of income, loss of second job, loss of mother, loss of house — and because life is this way: JOY comes in the middle of loss in the birth of twin grandchildren. And there is humor in the midst of the raw pain of mourning. There are supernatural moments, obvious ones, and many don’t believe you can see or hear people after they die, but you can, and I tell many instances in the book. Put it all together and I believe it’s a book of preparation, validation, and hope for the many people who have walked or are walking or will walk this grief road.

That’s it! Be watching for my book! Please come back and spend a moment here at First Draft! And please visit my friends next Friday, February 22, as they answer these same questions and/or share with you what they are doing:

Bill Peach ~ www.billpeach.wordpress.com

Judy DeLuca ~ www.judydeluca.com

Susie Dunham ~ www.susiedunham.com

And now, a final shout-out to Leisa! Go visit her blog and warm up to her words of wisdom!


Authors Circle

Tonight I will be talking about STORIES at the Middle Tennessee Authors Circle at Merridee’s in downtown Franklin, 6 o’clock. Bill Peach started this group over a year ago, and there are sixty plus members now, last I heard! I will be sharing from both sides of the desk — the BLACK PEN side and the RED PEN side — my story and your story.

merridees1

My story is a memoir about loss, grief, and healing. I’ll talk about plot “nugget” and read mine. I’ll talk about what a story is. I’ll talk about what makes an agent or editor say “yes” to a manuscript. Then I’ll [try to] answer any questions.

merridees2

Then I might buy a citrus pound cake or a chocolate pound cake.

Join us if you can! Eat dinner, or just drink coffee, and network with other area writers. Merridee’s is noisy, but cozy and friendly, and the people who come are serious about their writing.

Merridees3


Southern Festival 2012

The Southern Festival of Books is a three-day book fair celebrated each year during the second full weekend of October. It is free and open to the public. The festival brings in more than 200 authors from throughout the nation and in every genre for readings, panel discussions and book signings. Book lovers have the opportunity to hear from and meet some of America’s foremost writers. Parnassus Books has the big book tent, where all the featured authors’ books are sold, and the plaza is lined with booth of exhibitors who represent publishers, bookstores, and literary organizations—anything to do with books!

I’ve attended as an exhibitor for about ten years, including once in Memphis. I’ve been on panels twice, when I’ve had a new book release. For me, the SFB is a place where I run into others in the greater literary community that I see perhaps only once a year—at the SFB. It’s a fun and fulfilling venue for a writer—listening to other writers talk about their books, about writing, about the publishing industry, about common pitfalls, about changes in life and the impact on TIME for writing. It’s a great place to meet new writers, to network, to learn about trends…to get inspired.

It’s a place where emerging authors can position themselves alongside established authors and ride on coattails of the already successful. It’s a place for vying to be included in the clique, the sorority for writers, for looking and dressing the part, for seeking recognition as a writer worthy of being published. I don’t care about all that stuff. I’m a loner. I just do my own thing.

I’m there because I like books, I like writers, I like readers. And this is a place where Lit Happens, as my T-shirt says. And so this year, I claim a chair in the Authors Circle booth, featuring writers of Williamson County — a great corner spot across from Parnassus, good for traffic, good for talking to passersby, good for making connections.


Goober, Goodbye

I still watch the Andy Griffith show almost every night at ten. Barney died of lung cancer in 2006, one month before my dad passed away from end-stage dementia. And now, beanie-wearing Goober…George Lindsey, took his final bow May 6.

Here’s what my dear friend Bill Peach said about the local resident.

***

“I lost a good friend yesterday — a tribute to George Lindsey:

George was schooled in the New York stage; he was an accomplished actor.  His role as Goober brought him fame and into the hearts of his many fans.  Several years ago, George lost someone whom he loved very much and had a brief period of unhappiness, unlike the man we knew.  He wanted to be George Lindsey, the actor, and his public wanted him to be Goober.  During that period, in a painful moment for me, someone approached George and excitedly asked, “Aren’t you Goober?”  He replied, “No ma’am, I am George Lindsey.”  It was strange that often when we were engaged in a serious conversation about theater, literature, or film festivals, it was not unusual for him to pick up a much-too-big-hat from our stock [Pigg and Peach men’s clothing] and put it on and shift into his comedic persona.  One day George came to see me on his way back from a classroom visit to one of our schools.  He was in his brown work clothes with the funny hat.  He was in a good mood.  He had become himself again.  Ironically, it was just a few days after Sarah Cannon had died.  We discussed how much we appreciated who she was and the awesomeness of her talent, and how the world had come to love two great women.  I remember telling George that he and Goober were much like Sarah and Minnie, whose simultaneous death was a two-fold tragedy for the people who loved them. He agreed.”