Monday, October 28, 2013


Everyone knows that my mantra is .....

 "Always, Always Celebrating the South and 
Promoting a Positive Mississippi".  

I use my books and poems as a platform to emphasize and highlight the positive things about Mississippi and the south, rather than all of the negatives usually portrayed.  In one of the earliest reviews of my first book Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia (2008), the reviewer dubbed it, "a love letter to the South" I totally agreed with that analysis.

It really took me by surprise, recently, when a friend told me that she had been asked by someone if I was really REAL about what I was saying.  The friend immediately told her that I was as real as real can get and as real as they come!  I thank her for saying that, because that is the way I try to be about everything I say and do, not just regarding my love of Mississippi and the South.

I think that it surprised me most, because it sort of implied that I was making up the things that I was saying just to help promote or sell books.  That could not be further from the truth.

First of all, it is not a very popular stance among a lot of people. Most people outside of the South seem to feel that there are no redeeming qualities at all, for the region below the Mason Dixon Line.  There are even many who live in the South who have gotten caught up in the trend of accenting all of the negatives without any regard for the rest.   Some ridiculous survey done earlier this year asking which states would people most like to kick out of the union (The U.S.), Mississippi and Alabama were the top two on the list.   And most of the others states on the list were southern.  Southern-bashing had almost become an Olympic sport!   It has been practiced and perfected into an art !  Almost all of the movies, films, books, and documentaries about the South,  overwhelmingly portray a negative image or have a decidedly negative slant to them.  Most people accept, maintain and even relish a negative view of the

Secondly, this passionate "love affair" with the South and things southern is nothing new to me.  It is something that has been going on since I was in my late teens.  I have certainly had this love inside of me all of my life.  But, I must admit, I really didn't know how MUCH I loved or appreciated the South until I was away from her for an extended period of time.   When I went away to school at Boston University, I gained a whole new perspective and appreciation of my homeland.  It became my soap box topic to "preach" about.  Whenever my friends saw me coming, they knew exactly what we were going to talk about. They knew that they were going to be "schooled" on some of the finer points of the South and set straight on some of the many misconceptions that they had.  It was not uncommon to hear someone yelling my nickname, "Mississippi", across campus.  I totally and proudly " repped " (represented) for her !

Some people cannot even imagine how and why I feel the way I do about my home state and region.  I totally understand their views, considering all of the negatives that they have been bombarded with.

Hopefully,  I can change a few hearts and minds along the way to just even give our region a fighting chance, before totally disregarding, dismissing and disregarding her beauty.   More than anything I want to introduce the fact that there are so many things to love about the South, that there are many people who love her and that the love that they have is really REAL! . 






Monday, October 21, 2013

My "Little Books of Southern Poems" Have Benefited Greatly From The Kindness of Strangers

Sweetest Day, observed on the 3rd Saturday in the month of October (this year October 19th), was originally begun to honor sweethearts, close friends, relatives or employees with special gift of sweets or chocolate. Sweetest Day was first organized by candy manufacturers to promote the health benefits of eating candy and chocolate everyday. 

Sweetest Day has become a time to honor/recognize/remember friends, relatives and associates whose helpfulness and kindness we have enjoyed. 

I am sure that we have heard the saying: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers"
The statement uttered and made famous by character Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' play, "A Street Car Named Desire", rings very true for me in my literary journey of publishing and promoting my "two little books of southern poems"...or more affectionately known as my "my book babies". 

Strangers have played a tremendous part in helping me to further my message of "Celebrating the South and Promoting a Positive Mississippi ". The contributions of these "strangers" (and now considered friends) have been invaluable.
I would venture to say that up to 90% of my book signings /speaking engagements have come from Facebook friends or referrals from Facebook friends, whom I had never met before the event. 

One social networking friend, who did one of the first articles/reviews of Reflections in her newsletter in late 2008 or early 2009, called it "a celebration of the south". That phrase stuck with me and I use it to this day to describe both of my books. 

I have shared many times how grateful I am to a dear Facebook friend, Debra Estep from Ohio who makes beautiful graphics for my poems.  Her artistic talents have helped to make my poems much more easily shared over social media sites. 
Also, I have many Facebook and social media friends who have been extremely supportive of my work over many years and share, share, share my poems consistently to everyone that they know.  Many are often giving me tips and leads on how I can further the reach of my poems and my message.  I can hardly begin to express how greatly these people have been and are appreciated ! 

Beautiful Watercolor magnolias by Debra Estep that are on many of my poem graphics


NOTE: Did You Know ...

Tennessee Williams was born in Columbus, MISSISSIPPI.
Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as pleasant and happy.  But life changed for him when his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The carefree nature of his boyhood was stripped in his new urban home, and as a result Williams turned inward and started to write.
When he was 28, Williams moved to New Orleans, where he changed his name (he landed on Tennessee because his father hailed from there) and revamped his lifestyle, soaking up the city life that would inspire his work, most notably the later play,  A Streetcar Named Desire.
Williams adapted much of his best work for the cinema, and also wrote short stories, poetry, essays and a volume of memoirs. On March 31, 1945, his play, The Glass Menagerie, opened on Broadway and two years later A Streetcar Named Desire earned Williams his first Pulitzer Prize.
His work reached world-wide audiences in the early 1950s when The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire were made into motion pictures. Later plays also adapted for the screen included Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo, Orpheus Descending, The Night of the Iguana, Sweet Bird of Youth, and Summer and Smoke.

In honor of my "SWEET" Ohio friend Debra  .........

Sweetest Day - National Holiday Founded in Cleveland Ohio

Sweetest Day, observed on the third Saturday of October, was started in Cleveland in 1922 by candy employee and philanthropist, Herbert Birch Kingston as a way to give something or do something nice to those less fortunate than ourselves. Originally called "The Sweetest Day of the Year," Sweetest Day has evolved into a romantic holiday, similar to Valentine's Day.


The first Sweetest Day came out of one man's desire to do something "sweet" for Cleveland's orphans and unfortunate residents. With the help of movie stars, Theda Bara and Ann Pennington, Herbert Birch Kingston, delivered thousands of boxes of candy throughout the city. Begun in 1922, the holiday, observed on the third Saturday of each month, became popular during the bleak economic times of the Great Depression.

Sweetest Day Today:

Although it started as a regional holiday, Clevelanders have taken the custom with them as they moved around the country. Today, Ohio still tops the list in sales of Sweetest Day cards, but other states on the top ten list include California, Texas, and Florida. Over the years, the holiday has evolved into a day to celebrate romantic love, similar to Valentine's Day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

October is National Family History Month ....Tell Those Family Stories

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch introduced a resolution on September 12, 2001 to designate October as Family History Month. 

The words of the resolution read: 

"We look to the family as an unwavering symbol of constancy that will help us discover a future of prosperity, promise, and potential".  The resolution went on to say: "Interest in our personal family history transcends all cultural and religious affiliations.
It passed by unanimous consent.

Family History Month is a great opportunity to learn about your heritage while making new memories with your family.  It is a time to consider how you might become more engaged in learning about and preserving your family history and heritage. 
It is a perfect time to compile your own memories and begin gathering other family stories.  Every family has its own history - the events, personalities, and traditions that make the family unique - and collecting these singular stories and memories is one of the most meaningful ways you and your family can honor your older relatives and preserve family traditions.
Recording family stories on audiotape, videotape, or in legacy journals, brings family members closer together, bridges generation gaps, and ensures that your family stories will be preserved for future generations.  Whenever I speaker to audiences, 
I stress the importance of "Telling Your Story" to pass on to future generations. Through telling specifically your family's stories, you also give a greater insight into the general times, and circumstances in which you and they lived. 

On my website I write : Storytelling is a special folk art.  To me, folk art is simply art made/performed by ordinary "folk" for ordinary "folk".  Folk artists attempt to freeze their memories into their art and help to preserve the culture and customs of everyday life.  With Reflections and Magnolia Memories, I hope to offer a time capsule, of sorts, for future generations, giving a glimpse into the everyday lives of everyday people in our region. 
I place my books in the category of creative memoir writing . I use my poems to "Tell My Story".

Some ideas to get started telling your family's story might include :

Writing a biographical sketch. 
Sharing someone's life story. 
Sharing a story from your youth.  
Telling stories about life when you were a child. 
 Recording the history of your family heirlooms. 
Recording the origin of things and stories about how you came to have them.  Compiling a cookbook of favorite family recipes and any stories that go with them.  Making copies of family photos. 
Scrap-booking Your Family Heritage.


You can read more of my stories and stories of the south in my books:


Monday, October 7, 2013

OCTOBER is National Book Month...Try Some Southern Poems

  OCTOBER is National Book Month! 

Started by the National Book Foundation as a way to get Americans reading, National Book Month is a great reason to explore new books. Libraries, newspapers, and other organizations gear up to promote reading during October. 

Why read? 

Books can transport the reader to different places and times, introduce one to new people, and teach while entertaining.
During National Book Month, there are countless ways for schools and families across the country to use the month-long celebration to nurture reading through projects, challenges and promotions all centered on books. Some suggested activities for families or schools might include a book swap – a social time for students and their families to bring in books to exchange with other families. 

Teachers can also have students vote on a class favorite book, and then decorate the classroom door to represent the winning book. Another way to inspire reading and writing might be to invite a local author to speak to the class. In addition, students could send letters or emails to their favorite author, asking questions about their books. Also, another great idea might be for teachers to assign family reading as a homework assignment. Students could write reports on how a book affected each member of his or her family. 

   Other ideas for students: 

Put together a newsletter as an English class project to circulate through the school school.  Articles can discuss students' favorite books and authors, information on the local library, or how to celebrate National Book Month. 
Art projects:  Each classroom can decorate a door based on a book, which every student has read. Classroom with the best decorations wins a pizza party. 
Book Trivia:   Instead of a spelling bee, students answer questions about books and authors previously assigned as homework.

National Reading Group Month is also celebrated in October. 

The celebration salutes reading groups and seeks to foster their growth along with, promoting the love of literature.  National Reading Group Month is an initiative of the Women's National Book Association.   Founded in 1917, WNBA promotes literacy, a love of reading, and women's roles in the community of the book.   National Reading Group Month augments the WNBA’s mission to promote the value of books and reading. 
Through this initiative the organization aims to foster the values reading groups encourage: camaraderie, enjoyment of shared reading, and appreciation of literature and reading as conduits for transmitting culture and advancing civic engagement.