December has brought two opportunities for book signings. First on December 7, Currie Alexander Powers and I participated in Davis Kidd’s authors’ night series, Home for the Holidays, featuring the anthology Gathering: Writers of Williamson County. This was our first opportunity to take the book across county lines into Nashville. Several people stopped by to chat, we sold a few books, and we claimed the experience of being an “author” at DK.
December 12-13 brought the annual Dickens for a Christmas celebration in downtown Franklin. Characters from Dickens’ stories dress in period costumes, and folks enjoy music and food and displays of life as it was during Dickens’ time. I was thrilled to eat sugar plums and to watch Irish dancing on the stage by City Hall.
CWW hosted a booth this year for the first time. I’d suggested this during our first publicity committee meeting for the book Gathering: Writers of Williamson County — after all, Franklin is home, and Dickens brings 50,000 people to its streets for this weekend event. I thought we’d be able to sell some books. And we did jolly right well at that!
Today was the long-awaited book signing for Gathering: Writers of Williamson County. I have to admit I was very excited — more excited than I have been in a long time about anything. It just felt good and right to be in Barnes and Noble with writers and friends and readers and guests. Sixteen of our 31 authors participated. We didn’t break the store record, but it was a fantastic showing.
Gathering contains 42 stories — fiction and creative nonfiction — by new, noted, and famous authors. Gathering is a celebration of CWW‘s 10th anniversary. Gathering showcases the talent and voice of Williamson County.
Gathering on the Display Table
Co-editors Kathy Rhodes and Currie Alexander Powers
Kathy Rhodes, Robbie Bryan of B&N, Currie Alexander Powers
Authors and Guests
Kathy Rhodes and Chance Chambers
Sally Lee, Tom Robinson, Suzanne Brunson
Chance and Currie chatting with Robbie
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I probably shouldn’t be writing it. But I might as well get it out and be done with it. It has bothered me for eight months. I didn’t understand it at all. Now I think I do.
It goes back to the day I took my husband to the doctor and then he went by emergency ambulance to Williamson Medical Center. On my way to the emergency room, I called my sons who live in adjoining states 5 and 7 hours away. I also called my friend Currie to tell her where I was going. In the first hour, she showed up, and I was never alone after that, except for about ten minutes. It was what happened during that ten minutes that has bothered me.
After an hour or two, they moved my husband upstairs for evaluation and monitoring and surgery, and they moved me upstairs in a waiting room. No one else was there — no other families sitting vigil. Currie was with me and then Colleen showed up after we told her not to. She’d had a hysterectomy three days earlier, but she told us she’d do whatever she wanted and she’d come if she wanted and we should just shut up about it and not try and boss her around. We all compared hysterectomy scars, as we’d all had the same surgery within six months. (Mine was the best.) Then the two of them went to get Colleen some iced tea; Colleen has to have iced tea. My brother-in-law was on the way from West Tennessee, and Currie had called the sons to come home. But for the moment, I was alone.
The waiting room was deep and wide with dozens of empty chairs lining the walls. I had chosen a chair against the far back wall where there were big windows. I sat there trying to squelch the panic — unaware of how serious my husband was, aware that he’d be in surgery soon and he’d be there for quite a while. He had the best vascular surgeon in Middle Tennessee. I felt some comfort in that.
Then a woman about my age walked into the darkened room. She kept walking, she was aimed right for me. I thought, Surely she’s not going to come all the way back here and sit by me. But she did. What the hell? She chose a chair stuck squat up next to mine and took a seat, her right shoulder one inch from my left. I eyed twenty silent chairs up one side of the room and twenty up the other. I’m sure I frowned. I know I was shaking because I shook for 38 hours. I’m sure I wanted to ask, Why are you sitting here this close to me? My heart beat hard and fast. I folded my arms. I let the wrinkles in my forehead deepen.
She asked why I was there. I told her my husband was having emergency exploratory surgery. At that point, we did not know what was wrong with him.
Then she told me her story. She was there to visit her husband, who was in intensive care. She’d be taking him home in a couple of days. The previous Sunday he had gone to play golf. He fell asleep and ran off the road and hit a concrete bridge abutment. His car had On Star and 9-1-1 was alerted. Paramedics arrived on the scene and took him to the hospital. Emergency room doctors checked him over. A CT scan was ordered to make sure there were no hidden injuries, and doctors discovered an aneurysm that was leaking between the layers. It had nothing to do with the accident. It would have killed him within days or hours, though, … had he not hit the concrete … had his car not had On Star … had the doctors not ordered a CT scan. She was so proud and happy and grateful to God that everything had worked together to save his life. Call it divine intervention, call it a miracle, call it luck.
Currie and Colleen came back into the room and took their seats to the right of me. The woman got up and left.
It was 7 or 8 hours later that we learned my husband had an aneurysm that had leaked between the layers, too. Only he had no divine intervention, no miracle, no luck, no CT scan.
The inner layer went pfffft! and sloughed away, stopping up the pipe, causing mesenteric artery occlusion, shutting off blood flow to major organs, killing the bowel, killing him. Cause of death: intestinal ischemia.
Two similar cases. One in which everything went right. One in which everything went wrong.
I have a renewed appreciation for the life of a writer/editor. Of recent, it’s been life editing someone else’s stuff. My own writing has been put on the back burner for a brief season while I get this Book of the voices of Williamson County shaped into form: an anthology of the Council for the Written Word.
I was up this morning at 4:30 and buried my nose in the computer and didn’t look away until almost noon. I drank the obligatory pot of coffee like all writers and editors are supposed to do, and I even ate an unhealthy Apple Danish bakery roll…okay, fine, I ate two. I’m wearing the Franklin Jazz Festival T-shirt I slept in under a green Delta State sweatshirt, and I have white socks on that have brown bottoms because my floors are dirty. I have mascara flakes from the night pasted to my cheeks, and my hair is turning out on the ends and sticking up on top.
My furniture is dusty, the dog has tracked leaves in from the backyard, and the breakfast table is covered with yellow file folders: To Edit, Rejections, Problem Stories, Final Revisions. There is a publishing contract, an author’s contract, a Chicago Manual of Style, a calculator (not sure why), 20 colored pencils, Susie Sims Irvin’s book of poetry, cookie crumbs on the placemats, Robert Hicks’ story about a booksigning, and my mother’s discharge papers from the Army (not sure why).
All my energy and efforts have been pushed toward editing 45 stories of 33 writers, including our Williamson County Hall of Famers: Madison Smartt Bell, Robert Hicks, Paula Wall, Rick Warwick, Madison Jones, Susie Sims Irvin, Bill Peach, James Crutchfield, and Tom T. Hall.
I have worked cheek to cheek with my friend Currie Alexander Powers for the past two months, as the two of us have poured all our days into pulling all the details and straggling ends together in the creation of a BOOK. Now she has gone on a Blues Cruise and left it all with me.
Do I sound like I am complaining?
I am in my element. I am having a ball. I’m hungry, I need a shower, I need to brush and bathe the dog, I need to wash clothes and vacuum, but there’s nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing than what I’m doing. Making a book.
Thanksgiving 2008 is now but a memory. All the shopping, planning, preparing, and cooking got consumed in an hour, even though the conversation around the table lingered. And the Carving of the Turkey went off without a hitch.
Currie Alexander Powers contributed to our dessert offerings by bringing over the World’s Most Beautiful & Delicious Pumpkin Pie. She used all Canadian ingredients, except for the can of pumpkin. Her filling has a hint of orange zest and is not nearly as spicy with cloves and cinnamon as mine. It’s just perfect, that’s what it is. Even hubby Colin Linden (who plays with Emmylou Harris and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) was bragging on the marvelous job she did.
The meal consisted of turkey, squash dressing, garlic mashed potatoes, oven-roasted sweet potatoes and Vidalia onions, traditional green bean casserole, and Bing Cherry salad. Desserts included pumpkin pie, hummingbird cake, and pecan pie. This year, it was just three: me, Corey, Leah. Nobody sat in Charlie’s place. I turned a wine glass upside down there, among the flowers Currie had brought, gathered from her backyard. We had a toast to the One no longer with us, then clinked our glasses to his and went on with our meal.
Then Friday, we put up the Christmas tree.