Four of us were invited to be part of the Debut Author luncheon at Scholastic. Our instructions were clear. Talk about ourselves, how we came to write these novels, and do a short reading. 10 minutes max for the entire presentation.
Advice from friends and family included
1. Use your Southern-est voice
2. Be funny
3. Speak slowly and breathe deeply
4. Equate yourself with Eudora Welty.
Well, the drawl comes naturally. ✔ Check.
Funny? Hmmm. And Eudora Welty is my hero, but I'm not about to climb on that high mountain.
Instead, I started out with one of my favorite (non-Southern) writer quotes:
"Let your fiction grow from the land beneath your feet."(Willa Cather)
Then I talked about my first inspiration- A talk given by Ruby Bridges, ten years ago, while I was still the librarian at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ. And my final joy when my agent called to tell me her dream editor Andrea Pinkney wanted to buy the book.
I went on to tell a few true things in the story:
Our streets flooded, often. I was once caught skipping church, playing in the rain, and singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall with Nan and Frank and Beverly.
Robert Kennedy really came to town.
We had an amazing librarian.
My sister and I played Junk Poker, a game of 21/ Blackjack we made up.
My beloved Alice and I read Nancy Drew together.
I've seen Elvis's house in Tupelo, before it was a national shrine.
And some of what was pure fiction, based on historical research (most of the actual plot):
During "Freedom Summer," my hometown never closed the town pools, parks, schools, etc.
My daddy, unlike Glory's, didn't care if my sister and I played poker and bet our Cracker Jack prizes, Doublemint gum, pecans from the back yard, and other valuables.
The highlight of my talk, no doubt, was when I unveiled the Buster Brown shoebox, a la Junk Poker, tied with the beautiful purple ribbon. And revealed my prized possessions inside. ☺
As I said yesterday, it was a drizzly day in New York. This is what I saw from my window. I love the thought, even if it is a beer ad.
The heavens opened up and the rains poured down, just as I started toward the Scholastic headquarters.
I was so happy to discover I'd brought my fabulous cardinal and straw-colored Spinnaker Purse Snatcher, made by my friend Leslie.
My Junk Poker box and my chapter to read aloud traveled, safe and dry, for their big moment. (And not that I doubted it a minute, Leslie, but the bag is completely waterproof! As promised.)
After the luncheon, the sun came out. Though no flowers could be seen, the day was beautiful.
Before leaving for the airport, I had a teaparty in the big squishy chairs of the Soho Grand's lobby, with my agent, Linda Pratt. She gave me these precious little notebooks. I adore the quotes.