Jan 29, 2007

If you live in NYC or within FIVE HOURS of here, and I mean by plane, spaceship, or wing, I think it is imperative that you come to Rocky Sullivans tonight at 8pm to see my fellow Unbridled friend LAYNE MAHEU read from his gorgeous, transcendant debut novel SONG OF THE CROW, which is the story of Noah's Ark told from the perspective of a crow. Layne's writing is so beautiful you will want to wear it around your neck! You will want to coat your eyelids in it, or sprinkle it in your bath. You might possibly want to EAT IT. Whirl it on top of your ice cream sundae. Lick it from your fingers, or tip back your head and pour it in like a gypsy drinks wine. Come tonight; you will close your eyes and you will BE a bird and the earth will be flooding below you and I think when you open them again you will be happy to be in ROCKY SULLIVANS where you can vaguely approximate the feeling of Layne's prose by imbibing much vino.

So really, I don't see what the problem is.


Also: I wanted to write about my Texas weekend but wanted the following article to come out in Shelf Awareness first, as I am FAR too lazy to tell the story twice:

The weekend before last I traveled to Marshall, Tex., the small-town setting for this year's Pulpwood Queens' Girlfriend Weekend, an annual event held in East Texas since 2001. Members of the Pulpwood Queens--the largest meeting and discussion book club in the country, according to founder Kathy Patrick--come to meet with authors, buy books and jewelry, and don their most fabulous leopard print duds and rhinestone pins for the weekend's highlight, the Hair Ball.

I went to the event as a Pulpwood Queens author whose debut novel will be read by the club this April (Kathy selects the books that the "thousands" of members in the club's more than 100 chapters read each month), but I felt far more like a fan than an attraction. I was a fan of the nearly 60 authors present--I bought a bunch of books and ran around getting them signed when I probably should have been hawking my own--and a fan of the few hundred Pulpwood Queens who were there, women who gather once a month in each other's houses or at local restaurants and embrace Patrick's idea that reading is as fun as it is important.

At the Friday afternoon press conference, Kathy was unmistakable when she swept in: vivacious, larger than life, a fun-loving, tiara-wearing blonde Texas woman decked out in fake fur and rhinestones. She is also deeply passionate about books. Underlying all the fun and big hair is a serious commitment to spreading literacy, especially to readers who might otherwise never meet an author or gather around a table to talk about a book. Her enthusiasm is infectious: at one point she pulled me and Margaret Sartor aside and as she described Margaret's book American Pie, I honestly felt like I had to have at that book that very instant. I remember watching Oprah describe White Oleander--"liquid poetry!!"--and feeling the same way.

The weekend events started on Friday night, when everyone met up at the Marshall for a night of music and improvised skits, emceed by Phil Doran and featuring a hilarious sketch in which author River Jordan impersonated Kathy Patrick in a blonde wig, as host of the Okra Show. Saturday was an all-day author extravaganza, with a series of panels upstairs and downstairs. In between, long lines formed in the book room, where Barnes & Noble sold stacks of each author's books. I was on the "Authors Who Have Mastered the Art of Storytelling" panel, and, having never sat on a panel before, I was more than a little nervous. I quickly realized that this was as fun and low-pressure as it gets: we just talked about our books one by one, and how we came up with our ideas, and the audience was attentive and sweet (and sparkling). Afterwards, several women touched my arm or patted my shoulder as I walked by, to tell me how much they'd enjoyed it. The whole weekend was like that; the authors were all friendly and having a great time, as were the Pulpwood Queens themselves. And I met a ton of great authors: laid-back Montana writer Cindy Dyson, charming Louisianan Ronlyn Domingue, elegant, stately New Englander Mary McGarry Morris and Californian newcomer Amy Wallen, to name just a few.

The crazy (and hair) reached new heights at Saturday night's Hair Ball, where group after group of ladies arrived decked out in their finest and flashiest attire and posed under the PULPWOOD Hollywood-style sign on one wall. One sleek grey-haired woman wore a glittering silver gown, the picture of elegance. One group was dressed as Marilyn Monroe. Another woman went as Cher. Author Kathi Kamen Goldmark showed up in a wig with two white cones jutting from the top. A highlight was the Timber Man contest, where male authors like William Cobb, Ron Hogan and Robert Dalby got out and danced for the coveted prize. The three finalists, chosen by applause, had to sing to Kathy, and when J. Brooks Dann belted out "Lady," we all knew he had it in the bag. It was anything goes. I found myself dancing for hours and whooping it up Texas style. Lord knows what was caught on camera. When the party wound down at about midnight, a group of authors and I drove 15 miles to Jefferson to the one bar that was open until 2 a.m. We stayed till closing time, and a small group of us even danced to a live version of "Cocaine."

Sunday morning was a final brunch. Afterwards, I got the opportunity to drive out to Jefferson to Kathy's store, Beauty and the Book, the only hair salon/bookstore in the country (Kathy also does hair), which is in a quaint house with a fence and a front yard. There's a tree dripping with Mardis Gras beads and a bra or two in front, and a long Southern porch with three vintage hairdryers lined up in a row. When you walk inside, into a leopard-covered hallway, plastic vines hang down from the door frame leading into the main shop. The store itself is filled with books (many of them book club selections) and stuffed leopards and Marilyn Monroe prints and a castle-shaped birdcage and a fireplace with a mantle covered in sparkly things. Behind the front table is an elaborate throne. Just past this main room is a beauty parlor that's just as wild and full of wonders, each wall hanging or trinket attached to a story of its own.

I was sad to leave this crazy place and come back to New York. I even have fantasies of moving to Texas myself. I love Kathy's vision: that women should be glamorous and fabulous and extraordinary, and that books are as much a part of that as elaborate hairdos and rhinestones and best friends.