In October of last year I attended my first writer’s conference at my alma mater, Auburn University. I signed up for group classes when I registered for the conference. I signed up for a session taught by a writer friend and chose a couple of classes on writing memoirs, and truth in storytelling.
But a few days before I left for the conference Kim, a writer friend, contacted me in a frenzy. She was green with jealousy that I would be able to hear Joshilyn Jackson speak. I believe my exact response was, “Who?” To which I received a virtual slap in the face. Kim went on in a blazing texting fury to explain to me that Joshilyn Jackson just happened to be the most amazing writer and speaker on the planet and one of the funniest people she could think of off-hand and that our friendship was, for all intents and purposes, over if I did not take this opportunity to stalk Mrs. Jackson and bask in her presence.
Not wanting to lose a good friend, I skipped one of the classes I had signed up for and slipped into Joshilyn’s question and answer session. If you’re not a writer you may not know but, y’all- it is HARD and lonely. There is no idle chit-chat, nobody in the cubicle beside you doing the same thing, and possibly, not even anyone in your ZIP code who understands what the process is like. You obsess about saying too much or not saying enough and wonder endlessly what people will think when they read your words. Then you worry some more that the last story you wrote will be your last because you feel you have nothing left to say.
I was a nervous wreck as I prepared for the publication of my first book and wondered if every book related decision I was making was the right one. And for one hour Joshilyn made me feel completely understood and almost normal. Every story she told made me nod my head with recognition and I laughed out loud as she told stories of her own.
(Side bar: I am a crier. I cry about EVERYTHING. This is not an exaggeration. Happy tears. Sad tears. Tears of laughter. Any emotion other than “I must now unload the dishwasher,” ellicits tears. And if I’m going to be totally honest… sometimes even that.)
I got a little weepy toward the end of the session and began slowly putting my notes away so that everyone else in the room wouldn’t see me crying but Joshilyn made a fatal mistake as she left the room. She made eye contact with me. I introduced myself and attempted to tell her how much it meant to me to hear her story and I started sobbing. Not just one or two tears sliding down my cheek that could be patted away with the back of my hand. No, these were real tears— streaming down my face a la Tammy Faye Baker with less mascara. (But not much.)
I sniffled and hiccuped. I wanted to die a little. Then I made my next mistake: I acknowledged how cray-cray I was acting.
“I am so sorry. I am such a jackass,” I cried.
“It’s okay! You’re okay!” She assured me.
“No! This is so awkward for you. I’m so sorry.”
“You are alright!! Don’t worry about it.”
She hugged me and patted my back.
She had to HUG ME and PAT MY BACK.
I reigned in the crazy and walked straight to the book table and bought, “gods in Alabama,” her critically acclaimed first novel and even successfully approached her for a signature without crying.
Joshilyn gave her keynote speech the following day and the entire crowd laughed out loud as she spoke, her background in theater performance was evident as she told stories so vivid I didn’t just hear them unfolding but felt like I was watching them. It was hard to believe there was only a woman and a podium on the stage. Her voice changed as she spoke in a thick accent while impersonating her agent and the audience was captivated.
I read “gods in Alabama” in less than two days and it instantly became one of my all time favorite books. Murder, mystery, romance, humor, and fast-paced storytelling that kept me up way past my Mommy Bedtime to see what happened next. I read all four of Joshilyn’s books in two months and wasn’t disappointed with any of them. I love classic Southern storytellers like Fannie Flagg and Flannery O’Connor and Joshilyn Jackson scratched that same itch, but better. Strong words, I know.
So you can only imagine the scream that bounced off my kitchen tile when I got an email from Jamie Kornegay at TurnRow books telling me that Joshilyn Jackson would be coming to Greenwood on Tuesday, January 31st at noon to read and sign her new book, “A Grown Up Kind of Pretty.” Seating was going to be limited and because I have gushed about my love for all things Joshilyn Jackson at quite some length to Jamie, he wanted to be sure I knew she was coming.
If you’d like to eat lunch with my favorite author on the planet, I’d highly recommend you call TurnRow and reserve a seat. I will be there with bells (and waterproof mascara) on.
Seriously– call TurnRow to reserve a seat! 662-453-5995