Well, it's happened again. Over the years I've had this experience of attending the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Getaway weekend as an author and presenter. I wish I had time to tell you what the FIRST year was like. (later, promises) And, now, I am a Pulpwood Queen - it's just that simple. That's the difference. I went from being shy, introverted, wearing all black and no costumes - to showing up in pink and leopard, jumping out of the car and screaming PULPWOOD QUEENS FOREVER!
Like, just last night I was dancing with a cow. Seriously. No, seriously. The cow had udders as cows tend to do. Author Patti Callahan Henry was screaming - STOP STOP don't do it. Don't ruin your life. (because there were photos being taken and video being shot and special people reading this - you can politely NOT PUT THOSE ON FACEBOOK OR YOUTUBE FOR ME) But the thing is I think Patti was smiling and laughing the entire time I was dancing with the cow. And so was the great author Paula McClain who came with wigs, boots, fringe, cowgirl boots (and I'll find photos of her and Patti as the Judd sisters to share later) - but she was laughing too. Or maybe she was in shock that an author was being so - udderly ridiculous. Yes we were doing some kind of up close rock and roll rumba. What's a girl to do but throw herself in all the way. Not an inch but all the way. Pulpwood Queens - It's an attitude.
Last night author Nicole Sieitz said, "River, you just got to own getting all up in the udders. That's all. Own it - before it owns you."
This is me owning it for this reason. These ladies spend all year buying books, reading books, supporting authors - and . . . taking care of their families, protecting abused children, caring for the elderly, rescuing animals, praying for the world. This one weekend they get to come have FUN! To put on a wig, put on the dog, be the cat's meow, turn back the clock and howl at the moon. I have learned to howl with them.
Late last night, as they were trying to sweep the dance floor and I was still dancing two Pulpwood Queens came up to me to have a serious talk. They said -
"River, you need to do more of this."
And they were in serious advice mode. They meant it like a word from God. They weren't talking about speaking on a panel about Southern Writing. They weren't talking about reading from my new book Confessions of a Christian Mystic. They weren't talking about me sharing stories about my new friend author, Claire Fullerton coming into my room to teach me thigh-sliming ballet moves at 6:30 am or stories about my old friend, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson and our 21 city 14 day road trip book tour. They were talking about me DANCING and dancing and dancing. Laughing and laughing and dancing some more.
My answer to them?
I looked them dead in the eye and said - "I don't know how to do this without you."
And, that's the truth. Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Getaway Weekend is when I thought of it this morning - a safe place.
I can't say it's that kind of sin city what happens here stays here kind of place. Cause Lord knows from all the facebook posts - that's not true. But still, it's a safe place. Like a church should be. Where your sins aren't being tallied but your life is being celebrated. Where words still matter but your heart is what is worth your weight in gold. It's where people hug one another and say how are you? How are you, really? How can I help? And then go celebrate all weekend long - having as I call it the 'we of us.'
On a recent facebook photo that showed up I wrote -
"How did I get so lucky to live this life with these people? To have this moment on this planet as the stars whir and spin above us. God knows how I love you all. You bless my boots clean off!"
That's my take on it all. How did I get so lucky to fall in love with all of you? Let's just call it Divine Providence. And there's nothing silly about that.
Love to Jefferson and all the Pulpwood Queens in the whole wide world as I turn this body homeward. May you all find a safe place and dance till your hearts and souls fill to overflowing with the passion that is ours for the taking in this wild, wonderful life.
I drove off under blue skies, tired body, weary mind, full soul. There's a lot to be said about communion and communing with others. To being with your tribe. Too many to write about. Some of the photos grabbed off facebook will suffice.
Every year that attend PWQGGW I think - wheretofordoIgoethforsofarforwhateth
Then I get there I remember. Everything. Every time.
It is for the opportunity to laugh and break bread with writers I have now known for years upon years. Our relationships being built layer upon layer, hard times and good. When the book contracts roll like honey off the tongue and when there is a drought. Meeting new writers and discovering their books, exchanging numbers, connecting. And the readers. God bless and keep the readers. The ones that make writing the stories all worth the while. To be able to not only hang out and conversant with them but to party just a little bit. To get silly and serve them dinner dressed in costume. To dance in a wild, wonderful night full of bohemian delights.
I have many highlights in my heart and things I want to write about this journey. But they will have to filter, little by little, over time and find their way into this small space in my world that slides out into the univerise.
II headed north to Little Rock and then turned East, the sun setting in my rearview, the skies so gorgeous I struggled to keep looking forward. That's what Pulpwood Queens is like. The drive to, the journey down, like the brilliant bright of a noon day, hot to touch, unrelenting and demanding. But the drive away, me forever casting my eyes backward at that full horizon, that indigo sky opening up the clouds with rays that lifted me onward as if lit by those hundreds of hearts I'd left behind.
The flat fields along the road were growing dark but white patches held the light, maintained it. Being a southern girl only one word came to mind - Cotton. My tired mind struggled to comprehend cotton in January. Then I realized it was snow. Snow had fallen. Freeze had come. I was driving toward Tennessee, to Memphis and the cold had kept the white close to the earth.
One of my reasons for making it to Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend this Year was that I had contributed to a little anthology titled 2nd Blooming with a forward by Anne Lamont. As usual I had agreed to contribute easily enough but when the time came for the deadline I grumbled and mumbled and got downright flumoxed about it. The lovely editor, Susan Cushman gently reminded me over and over again that I HAD TO SEND HER WORDS. So I said fine! Words it will be! And I sat down and wrote an essay titled Root inspired by the strength of my grandmother and mother which realizes ultimately - this is the stuff I am made of. It is a strange piece in that it is free and original - a break away from other work I've created.
Susan was gentle in the editing. Said she was afraid to touch it because it was - unusual. A hard thing to edit indeed. A friend of mine (or I) said it might be a New Dystopian Shakespeare . Not technically sound but it seems strangely right. All thanks to Rachel Craddock for her early reads of the essay and being just as frustrated as Susan in trying to edit something that defies transition. Thank you, Susan for allowing me to in a fit of angered deadline crack open a space in me that dared to paint words so freely. I'm honored to be a part of this collection with some fine writers and exceptional women.
That same editor understanding that I'd had an eleven drive down to Texas where I walked in the room as my panel was being introduced (timing is everything) took mercy on me and opened her warm doors to her home in Memphis for the evening. I pulled into her neighborhood nestled in snow. A large tree still covered in Christmas lights adored the road. A glass of wine and a bowl of gumbo awaited at their neighborhood pub. Then I settled down into a cozy, soft bed with the glow of those colored lights softly beaming just outside the window.
Now, I'm nestled with coffee in a corner of the bedroom floor, blankets and pillows about me where I can peek out the shuttered window to the snow lined streets. More snow to come tonight they say so I have to head on up the road Nashville way. It's time to get back to Mama and Rescue dog Keven before flakes start to fall. The hill is not a place to traverse after dark and ice.
So off to coffee, muffins, conversation. And to appreciate Susan's eclectic collection of fine art that graces her walls. She's a Pete the Cat connoisseur.
There are more stories coming out of Texas later but for now, thank you ladies for allowing me once again to be part of your tribe and in so doing feel like I am standing fully in my world.
*(more photos to add when I am off the road)
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.