Again it happens. My first visit to Nashville was based on my being a presenting author for my first novel, The Gin Girl (a swamp noir mystery) at SoFest as we call in here around the city.
So you might say it was Sofest that brought me here and Nashville that kept me. But I have no doubts that move was Divine in its making.
Right now authors are in packing to fly, drive, motorcade or camel back their way to the Athens of the South. Over 200 of them. Wise cracking and snarky, brilliant and inspirational, romantic and historical. Every genre and mood represented. The fact that it's FREE FREE FREE should be enough reason to get in the car, cancel other plans, stop what you are doing and attend. If I could drive to your door and pick you up and bring you I would.
Book festival have become more than a simple celebration of the word or a chance to hear your favorite authors tell funny stories about dropping their pants at the front door (Rick Bragg) or singing a song about Baloney and Beer (Clyde Egerton) - there is some serious stuff in there as well - they are a part of what America is carving out as our new town squares. Our old downtowns where humans actually walked the street and greeted one another. Where you were happy to see another face and you had something in common - you were neighbors sharing the same city and not minding doing so.
This weekend in Nashvlle people who love story, music, books, sunshine, innocent children, old dogs, all that is good in humanity - will converge on Nashville's Memorial Plaza. It will be a grand weekend filled with celebration and great reads.
Please join us and help us celebrate and welcome these 200 Authors to our city.
(I'll be in the Parnassus Book Tent all day Saturday and Sunday so please drop by and say Hi.)
During a year of transition my words have not found their way to glory - that being the page. Yet, constantly I am writing in the deep, gravitational places in my mind. Words that run constantly like an old typewriter working away on its own accord. These brilliant silent outbursts of lovely language filled with metaphor are usually lost by the time my tired body crosses the threshold or are eaten up in this daily life abuzz with much ado about nothings and somethings.
But the times they are a'changing.
In the process of unpacking, remembering and recreating a holy place to write, that being the place that one partners with the muse of inspiration and actually writes, I came across these translations in a box with a million other books.
The Korean and German translations of Praying for Strangers. The Spanish translation of The Messenger of Magnolia Street. Three books randomly moved and packed with others that I adore but didn't write. The other novels or translations missing or packed randomly elsewhere. But this is when it struck me this full weight of having written words that found not only their way into my backyard but into the worlds of others far away. Into other languages, into the hands of other people. The moment caught me off guard. The magnitude of both that blessing and responsibility. Blessed that this wondrous thing found its way into my life to have the honor of communicating with people across the world. The responsibility to continue to do so. Regardless of circumstance, hardship, challenges or obstacles. In spite of blessings that are rich in the rewards of children laughter and babies who might just adore me half as much as I do them. What goodness has found its way into my life that as I move through these waters that have been stormy - I am at the same time embraced by the love of family, the true friendship of those connected to me in so many walks of life. And, yes - of a faith that I was born with. A believing that came with the package of me.
As I move toward completing The Confessions of An American Mystic for Jericho Books/Hachette - I am still amazed at the reaction that Praying for Strangers has continued to evoke. That its simple message and true stories of the people I met the year of that resolution continues to inspire and move people to write to me to share their own stories. For the people who contacted me from Germany, from Korea, from other countries that actually held a copy and were moved, uplifted, or given comfort. For those like The BookTalk Lady that are still sending out messages that reference this movement.
A few years ago my Cousin Deb was sitting with a man in a hospice care center. While he was resting she went to the small library to see if there might be something she could read to him that would be a comfort. While perusing the shelves she found a copy there of PFS and opening it an inscription I had signed for the people who would travel though those doors. At some point, some place someone had stepped up in line at a book event and asked me to inscribe a book that they were donating to the center. There she was that evening years later holding it in her hands.
Words on the water as eternal as time. They move, they find a heart, they find a home.
Praying that your words find their way to the hearts of those you love today.
A few weeks ago I made a quick stop by Thistle Stop Cafe for a cup of tea and timely wisdom. The wisdom part I didn't know was on the table. I was hungry for direction, a touch of desperation, an air of futility threatening like a cloud on my horizon.
When the tea arrived it had a message handwritten on the cup warmer - Find Your Way Home. I took it to heart in a multitude of ways. One of the quandaries before me was to go or not to go to a high school reunion back 'home' down beach ways. The former post is proof positive that I did indeed make my way but it took some moving. Of schedules, money, timing, friends, family, and a way to open as my Quaker friends my suggest - if Way opens - I'll be there.
Way opened. It took a village. I kid you not. But in the midst of all the trials and tribulations I did indeed find my way home. Made it to cousin Deb's house before midnight after a quick stop by the fish camp to hug Mom and snap of shot of my southern swamp part of home. Just beyond that bridge, a shadow to the right, runs a part of the creek that leads to blue springs, fat fish, the ghost of my father.
Deb's house. Unload car. Twenty-two hours awake at this point. Making sleepy time tea and curl up to wait for her to arrive home from work. Cup of water, reach for teabag, cup suddenly has jumped from the counter with an explosive force and slammed into my foot slicing open my toe. Three things immediately came to mind.
1 - That wasn't possible.
2 - I wanted to get in the Gulf to swim in the saltwater.
3 - I wanted to dance at my high school reunion.
Any other thoughts and disbelief of how in the world the cup flew of it's own accord off the counter to attack me were replaced with standing on one foot while I put the other up on the kitchen counter, grabbed the closest dishtowel (that looked brand new and of the decoration only variety) and attempt to stop the bleeding. True to the times of our lives now my cell phone was next to me so that when it rang with Cousin Deb declaring "I'm off!" with a Let the Party begin tone to her voice I replied, "Hey man, I'm bleeding and think you need to take me to the Emergency Room."
Which received a reply of - Are you kidding me?!!! A slightly bubble bursting sound now replacing the enthusiasm of moments before.
Yep. Serious. Welcome home to me. Forty minutes later, still on one leg now going numb, blood running down the counter, the dishwasher and on the floor Deb walks through the door but as she does so she declares that a wasp just flew in with her. A wasp! And, I'm allergic. I could die.
For the record, I don't think she is allergic. I think she has the same reaction that I would or you would but she doesn't like getting STUNG. As I kept trying to point to my toe and to the amount of blood, she screamed at the Wasp and let me know that blood was nothing! Blood could be cleaned up! But that I'd have to drive HER to the hospital if she was stung. What ensued after that was worthy of Lucy and Ethel from the old Lucille Ball Show. AT some point it occurred to me to hit record on my phone so while the video is sadly missing I captured the audio that I have shared with some delighted friends and family but it holds too much salty language in pursuit of a wasp for me to post. I"m so sorry about that because they play it over and over and have listened until they cried as I weakly ask for superglue maybe to try to stop the bleeding. While laughing still I assure you because I have spent my entire life having freaky situation happen when I am with Deb and laughing my way through them. Which all served as a reassuring factor in going home. Time passes, we grow older, the beach of the mom and pop days has given way to condo's and nightclubs. But some things like cousin trouble and fun remains forever timeless. In a flash there was trouble, there was fun.
We fought like cats and dogs. Not the kind that are family members but the way Deb and I fight. Like two opposing alien forces from different planets because I swear we are. Night. Day. Fire. Ice. Then in spite of not being able to get in the saltwater which I believe heals all because everyone told me NOT TO because I might pick up some strange biological oil spill bad fish germ that would rot my foot off - I pulled on my cowgirl boots circa tractor supply 2014 and danced. Cause it's what I do.
Think Zorba the Greek meets Elaine from Sienfield. What I knew was that the truth about that reunion was many of us hadn't seen each other for a 1000 years ago on graduation night. We had lost everything, gained everything. We were hurt and broken and breathing and still celebrating being alive. Dancing was all I had to say to that. Given a week, given a high school reunion on a cruise ship, an island, a retreat center - I would have had the opportunity to ask, How are you? How's life? How's your health, your loves, your life? How are you finding your way these days? What keeps you up at night, wakes you in the morning, gives you peace?
But we were at the Spinnaker on the beach for a few hours. The music played and in the absence of the kind of quiet required to listen to the truth that time tells - I danced. All night long. Right through the pain of these last years, my pressing concerns, that cut toe.
Praying you each find your way home today be it the one of your memory or the one of your heart.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.