Friday, March 02, 2007

Contrasting Comments

Yesterday, I spoke to the Kernersville Library Book Club. A group of over 20 men and women gathered on the lower level of the library to listen to yours truly talk about Southern Fried Women, living in the South, Southern accents, writing fiction, and just about the life of a writer in general. These lovely individuals not only bought my book, they added to the presentation with their own stories of home and having their accents noticed by "Northerners."

The best part of that event was walking across the street with a few of the members for lunch. We stood in line to order our food and the sweet waitress taking the orders at the cash register happened to notice one of the ladies from the book club holding a copy of Southern Fried Women. Of course, not knowing the author was standing only a few feet away; the waitress looked at the book and said to the lady, "Have you read that book?" The book club member chuckled, glanced at me, then said, "No, not yet." She paused then asked, "Did you?"

"Yes," said the waitress.

"Did you like it?" asked the book club member.

Drum roll, please. The waitress said, "No, I didn't like it."

You could've heard an ant fart in the room. All the book club members turned their heads and stared at me. It was an awkward moment, but only for a moment. Immediately, I thought to myself ... You know, Pam, every writer must face this at some point. Go for it.

So I smiled and said, "Please, tell me, what didn't you like about it?"

The waitress turned fifteen shades of red and asked, "Oh my God, are you the author?"

I nodded. She nearly fainted. After she seemingly picked herself up off the floor, she smiled wide. "I'm so sorry ... I didn't know ..."

I stopped her in mid sentence ... "Hey, it's okay. Not everybody likes everything a writer writes."

BUT THEN she said ... "Well, I'll tell you, I was expecting the sweet potato queen stuff, and it really wasn't."

And I said, "You're exactly right. You will be disapointed if you expect Southern fluff. I love Southern fluff, and I have all those books. They're funny, light, and are great reads. But some folk are thrown by the title, Southern Fried Women. That's why I added the essay in the back of the book, What Is A Southern Fried Woman. This is not even remotely like the Sweet Potato Queens or the Ya Ya Sisterhood books. There's a very defined edge in the stories I write. They have a dark edge, a message ... along with a spiritual and a religious edge."

By this time everyone was listening. But the conversation stayed light and fun and this very nice waitress nearly tripped all over herself to explain her view in a kind way. I appreciated that and I don't think any of the book club members felt awkward afterward because we all had a great lunch together and talked about the perils of writing and how this is one of them. You never know when you're going to meet opposition. Someone who just doesn't like your work. It's going to hit us all.

After lunch, I stopped at the counter and laid my hand on the waitress' arm and said, "I'm going to bring you a copy of my new book when it's published!"

To which she replied, "OH! Please do! You know I have to tell you, now that I think about it; I really couldn't put your book down! So I guess it really was a page-turner."

I laughed. I will remember her and take her a book. She was young and quite possibly, I won over a fan to the "dark side of Southern fiction." But who knows, really. At least she was sweet about it. She was a true "sweet potato queen" and there's not a damn thing wrong with that.

Then, yesterday evening I spoke to the Mt. Airy Lady Lions Club. An hour and a half drive in pouring rain and wind. Whew. (Note to writers - you show up no matter the weather.) We met the Lady Lions at Libby Hill in a private room for dinner and their meeting. Claudia Bryant, a beautiful woman, introduced me and I have to say she reminded me of a woman who could enter the Senior Miss America and win. Truly lovely.

Despite the weather, the long table was full of Lady Lions. Michael and I sat across from two women who had been friends since high school. I wish I could've recorded their conversation. Having graduated in 1962, these two wonderful women had me in stitches talking about their lives, their children, and their dress sizes over the years.

I spoke and sold books, but the comment that rings in my head this morning made me realize just how different opinions can be. My audience for this particular book (Southern Fried Women) is truly men and women over 40.

A dear lady at the end of the table raised her hand at the end of a bout of Q&A and said, "I have to say, Sheree gave me your book to read a while back and I couldn't put it down. I could've sworn you wrote about people I knew. I loved it. It was one of the best books I've read."

It was the perfect way to end the day.

Blessings to you and yours.

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