Last week, MathMan and I popped in to our local library to borrow some dvds to watch as we drift off to sleep. Nothing soothes the savage beast of my inner voices like a good British murder mystery. I'm trying to learn to go to sleep to the calming sounds of babbling brooks and panflutes via the Spa Channel on Sirius/XM, but I'm like an addict. I need my Brits bonking one another over the head with random objects or pushing each other down ancient wells.
MathMan and I are currently working our way through the Rosemary and Thyme series, having viewed all the available Poirot, Hetty Wainthrop, Mrs. Bradley Mysteries and Midsomer Murder collections available in the library. And although PBS has been kind enough to provide us with a couple of new Poirots and Miss Marples (delights each), they are not enough to chase away the nightly parade of hobgoblins and worries so that I can finally escape into my dreamworld.
So there we were, whispering our way through the stacks when a book title struck me and I just had to pick it up. I'm very predictable in how I select books to read. I read the first page first, then I flip around for some dialogue. Bad dialogue will chase me away in no time flat. To me, bad dialogue is like watching a bad performance. I'm embarrassed for the writer.
Never mind that I'd just told MathMan that I wasn't going to check out another book. I had a stack of them already waiting to be read and I was finishing up the Wolitzer book I told you about last week that irritated me for reasons hard to explain.
None of that mattered after I read the title of the first chapter and started laughing. "Everything You Need to Know, I Learned in a Single Wide." A few paragraphs in and I was hooked. Now I didn't grow up in a trailer, nor did I grow up in the south, but a three bedroom brick ranch on the edge of a southeastern Indiana river town is pretty dang close. There's a reason why I've found it easy to blend in here in Georgia.
In her book, The Cracker Queen, Lauretta Hannon, describes her roots, her life, and the lessons she learned along the way to becoming what she calls a Cracker Queen. I'd never considered the idea of being a Cracker, much less a Cracker Queen, but by Hannon's description, it's quite possible that I have the makings of being one.
Hannon writes in a way that made me just gobble the book up like a grilled cheese sandwich. I do not nibble grilled cheese sandwiches at the edges. I take big bites and enjoy the heck out of them because they are a rare, simple treat that remind me of my own childhood. Although Hannon's story isn't reflective of my own, I grew up in the same timeframe, in a place not unlike where Lauretta came up. Through her writing, it's easy to feel like you know her.
When I picked up the book that day at the library, I expected to be entertained and perhaps touched, but I didn't expect to be inspired. But let me tell you, as I've been dinking around with this blog and it's earlier incarnations for a few years now, kept journals and started doing some memoir-writing exercises, I never really thought that the stories I tell here could make a book. I just thought of them as my stories.
But reading Hannon's wonderful work has made me look again at the things I write. Last week, I wrote this lament and my friend Utah Savage left a comment that sent a shiver up my spine:
Here's what I think. I think you're writing the book right now. THIS IS THE BOOK! Yes, it's that good.Now, I'm not one to take compliments well, but this compliment from Utah was just what I needed to hear. I connected that with the stirrings of inspiration I was feeling from Hannon's book. Then last Sunday I was lolling about on the deck with MathMan and The Dancer, having breakfast and reading the last chapters of The Cracker Queen. When I came to the section where Hannon listed the reasons why she'd never let herself quit her day job to be a full-time writer, I read the list aloud. There was much fingerpointing and guffawing. It was all too familiar.
In the book, Hannon quotes Eleanor Roosevelt. "Do one thing every day that scares you." I read this aloud, too, because this is something that The Dancer needs to hear and often. Like her mother, she's a bit of recluse in her own comfort zone.
So I did something that scared me. Something I have never before done. I emailed Lauretta Hannon and told her how much I enjoyed her book. To share your happiness and gratitude with someone who has given their art and story to the world seems like such a simple gesture, but I have never been one to be a screaming fangirl. Now, all bets are off.
I've embraced, as Lauretta says, my inner Cracker Queen. To continue to laugh with my mouth wide open, to go for what I want and to do what scares me, at least once a day. No one but me could tell Lauretta how her book touched and inspired me and so I wrote. And she wrote me back and I was the screaming fangirl all over again. Okay, so I didn't scream, but I whooped and called MathMan in from the other room so he could read the message and validate that I wasn't seeing things.
You're laughing at me right now, aren't you? That's okay. I don't blame you. What a simple thing to do and what results I got in Hannon's lovely, encouraging message back to me. And how silly the me of a week ago would have been to hold back from emailing an author of a book I enjoyed because I felt inadequate or inconsequential or .......heaven forbid....like a fan? How many times did I not get an autograph or share my pleasure about something becase doing so, scared me?
So now I'm going to go buy this book because (1) I have to have it and (2) I want to see if Lauretta will sign it for me when she comes to an event at our local library next Friday. I'll try to not act too goofy, but I make no promises.
Read the book, y'all. Be entertained, touched, inspired. And whatever you do, be sure to do something that scares you. And then come back and tell us about it.