Friday, January 21, 2011
Let's face it, we're pretty serious around here. On any particular day at Women in Crime Ink, you can pretty much count on the topic involving some sort of crime and somebody has gotten, if not dead, hurt. Typical subjects revolve around murder, rape, assaults, bank robberies, stalking: think major crimes. We write about the worst of humanity, the real bad guys.
Now, please don't misunderstand. It's not that these evildoers, as George W. Bush described bad folks, control our lives. Even while working, they're a small part of the equation. We all have family and friends. And even at work, we're around more good people than bad ones. Take me, for instance; people often ask if writing about murders isn't depressing, if it doesn't expose me to the dark side of human nature. Yes, of course it does. I honestly could go without ever looking at another autopsy photo and feel pretty good about it. On the other hand, say I do 100 interviews for a book, which is an average number. I'd be willing to bet that 95 of the people will be pretty decent folks, considerate, for the most part honest, concerned about their fellow human beings.
Still, writing about sensational murder cases can get pretty heavy, and it's always nice to take a break. So a week ago, I packed my bags and took off for the small town of Jefferson, Texas, for a three-day book club extravaganza, the Pulpwood Queens' Girlfriend Weekend.
Now, I may be breaking the rules here. One of my fellow authors, Jamie Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet), rightly pointed out that what happens at Girlfriend Weekend stays at Girlfriend Weekend. But I had so much fun, it's pretty hard not to spread the word. That's me peeking from the back in the opening photo with Jamie, Kathy Patrick (The Pulpwood Queen's Guide) and Shelly Rushing Tomlinson (Suck in Your Stomach and Put Some Color On).
There were, I think, about forty of us, authors from all over the country. Some talked about their first books, others were working on our tenth book or more. Many are fixtures on the NYTimes list: not just Jamie, mentioned above, but the delightful trio in the photo to the right: Fannie Flagg (I Still Dream About You), Mark Childress (Crazy in Alabama), and Pat Conroy (My Reading Life). What's amazing is that all of us would fly and drive to get to this small East Texas town while most of the country was socked in with a horrific winter storm. But we did. As did the club members, wonderful, warm-hearted women, all avid readers. They came from both coasts, Florida, and the frozen north. Amazing.
The reason is Kathy Patrick and the Pulpwood Queens. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, Kathy is the PQ's founder, and eleven years after opening her first club, she has 400 branches and more than 3,500 members across the globe, running it all out of her combination beauty parlor/bookstore, Beauty and the Book. In addition to picking wonderful books to read and discuss, Kathy is a champion of literacy. This year's GF Weekend raised more than $6,000 for the Dolly Party Imagination Library Literacy Foundation.
So, this is a brief synopsis: Thursday evening we authors all played waiter, serving dinner to the Pulpwood Queens. (Here I am with my table, the great gals from Lake Charles, La.) Then, over the course of the following two days, Friday and Saturday, we took our turns on the stage. Kathy and author Robert Leleux (The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy) kept the conversation moving. When it was my turn, I discussed my latest Sarah Armstrong mystery, The Killing Storm, the PQ's main selection for this coming July. It was great looking out at such interested faces. It's unusual to be in front of such a large crowd where everyone is actually listening.
In between, we had so much fun. Songwriter/author/Nashville performer Marshall Chapman took the stage both nights, and 12-year-old blues guitarist Matthew Davidson couldn't have been better. The final evening, we all dressed as characters out of a book. I joined a group of Alice in Wonderland wanna-bes, and we danced to Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit. (I was a mischievous Cheshire Cat.) Our choreographer and leader was Marsha Toy Engstrom, the Book Club Cheerleader. Let it suffice to say I was relieved that we didn't later turn up on YouTube.
The point is that all of us need love and fun and good times in our lives. I sometimes worry that we're addicted to the bad news in the headlines and we don't take time out to realize how truly glorious life is, how many outstanding people are out there. I drove the five hours home to Houston that Sunday afternoon smiling all the way, and I've felt better for my sojourn ever since.
So, that's my recommendation for all of you. And, if you're into books, especially the ladies out there, take a look at starting a Pulpwood Queen chapter. You'll have a great time with friends, reading and discussing amazing books, and next year you can polish up your tiara, grab your favorite feather boa, and meet me in Jefferson. Because the really good news is that Girlfriend Weekend is an annual event. To introduce you to the amazing Kathy Patrick, I've attached the trailer for her new Internet program.