May 18, 2018

Why haven’t I blogged in a month of Sundays? ‘Cause I’ve been birthing a book, y’all! And let me tell ya something—it’s been a fascinating journey – kinda like birthing a baby I reckon.   I once heard Carol Burnett, my favorite comedian, say, “Giving birth is like taking your bottom lip and forcing it over your entire head.” Perhaps this is why I never had youngins. In any case, I’m happy to report that although birthing a book was dern challenging, it was significantly less painful than Carol Burnett’s description of childbirth.

So how did I wind up writing a book? Wayul…here’s the lowdown. Because folks like you have been kind enough to watch my YouTube videos, I received an email from Berta Treitl, an agent at Renaissance Literary & Talent, who encouraged me to consider writing a book. I’m not gonna lie…this made me more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs ‘cause I had never written in that format. Scripts…yes. Speeches…yes. Thank you notes…yes. But a book? That seemed kinda high falutin’. But I’m the type of fool that dives head first into things I know nothin’ about so I agreed to write a book proposal before I had a clue what a book proposal entailed. But I got –r- done! Then my lit agent went about the business of pitching my proposal to publishers and lo and behold Gibbs-Smith Publishing offered me a book deal. Oh Mylanta!

I immediately wanted to jump outta my skin ‘cause the publisher had a non-negotiable deadline. The clock was a tickin’.  Between running the YouTube channel, pursuing TV & Film opportunities and working long hours as a private Pilates Instructor, I barely have time to do critically important things like watch “The Voice.” How on earth was I suppose to find time to write a book?! I took a deep breath and kept reminding myself that anybody can eat an elephant one bite at a time. Ultimately, I wrote the book over the course of about four months and I was so very fortunate to have an editor, Katie Killebrew, who trusted my vision and Southern voice even though she could barely decipher it.

I assumed that once I finished writing the book all the hard work was over.  WRONG! Turns out there are forty-eleven decisions that have to be made before a book goes to print. Front cover art, spine art, book size, font, color scheme, format flow, price point, illustrations or no illustrations, paste on board cover or jacketed cover…blah blah blah. And each of these decisions requires research, drafts, and thoughtful feedback before a final decision is made.

And because us Southerners are long winded, my editor called right before we were going to print and insisted I make cuts because the book contained too many pages to meet the publisher’s target price point.  I was told if the price had to be raised it would torpedo my book’s chances of being picked up by Walmart. Do what???!!! If y’all have watched the “Sh%t Southern Women Say” videos you know I’m kinda obsessed with Walmart. So I scrambled to make the cuts, wrestled with my decisions and finally sent my little baby off to print. I suppose I worried the same way a Mama worries when her baby finally leaves the nest, “I hope I did my very best.”

At this point, I was itchin’ to sip some bourbon and celebrate. But instead, the publisher gave me a new set of tasks because it was time to move into the marketing phase. Among these tasks was to write the all important book description that lives on the back cover and to obtain book endorsements from celebrities–preferably Southern celebrities. Wayul, hayul!   That’s easier than fallin’ off a greasy log. NOT!   I mustered up the courage to write some famed folks and asked them to read an advance digital file of my book. I spent hours figurin’ out how to contact authors, actors, and musicians that I admired. Then I spent a gajillion more hours crafting emails to these notorious creatures. I wrote a variety of people including Hollywood heavyweight, Reese Witherspoon; fellow Gamecock, Darius Rucker; and Andie MacDowell, who hails from my hometown of Gaffney, SC.   Feeling accomplished, I finally poured that glass of bourbon and eagerly waited for my phone to ping with email notifications from all my new illustrious friends. Crickets. Crickets. Crickets.

About a week later, as I was prepping the Pilates studio for a client and feeling lower than a snake’s belly, my phone pinged. I stood in that empty Pilates studio squawlin’ like a baby as I read an email from Dolly Parton’s assistant. Dadgum Dolly Parton! One of the most talented people on earth. A living legend who was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule and help a Southern sister out. I will forever be humbled and grateful for her sweet endorsement.   And kindness musta been catchin’ because before I could holler, “Jolene,” I started gettin’ emails from some prolific people who were big-hearted enough to support my book and took the time to craft thoughtful and witty endorsements.   Although they each received a singed copy of the book and a handwritten thank you note…they’ll never really understand how much that meant to me.

I then turned my attention to the mail. I became more obsessed with my mailbox than poor ol’ ‘Ms. Celie’ in The Color Purple.  Ya see, I was busting a gut to receive my first copy of the book from the publisher.   My book’s “birthday” was scheduled for March 6, 2018 but my editor promised she would mail me an early copy the moment she received it.    In the meantime, I busied myself with the newest task bestowed on me by the publisher…pre-orders. I convinced the publisher to give away free gifts to those who pre-ordered the book and emailed their receipt to the publisher. Plus those who pre-ordered were automatically entered into a drawing to win an hour Facetime call with me to Talk Southern.   I then had to write, shoot and edit promotional videos that contained all of the pre-order incentive information.  And of course this had to be shot on zero budget.

I was working harder than a one armed fan dancer and getting more stressed by the minute as I realized my publisher’s PR department had to service multiple authors with Spring release dates so the bulk of the book publicity was going to fall on my shoulders. It became obvious I needed to hire a publicist to help me organize book launch parties in SC and LA as well as a book launch tour.  As pressure built toward the looming release date and the multi-tasking demands of daily life increased, I considered setting myself on fire. A thought I’m certain also had by many stressed out Moms.

Prior to aiming a can of Aqua Net at my head and lighting a match, I checked the mail and there it was—my book. My baby. I couldn’t believe I had conceived it, labored on it for months and now it was this tangible little thing I could hold in one hand. It was prettier than I had imagined and it instantly made me cry gator tears.  Just like a Mama whose yougin’ has acted ugly all day and then while being tucked into bed, smelling of fresh soap says, “I love you, Mama” –I knew all the hard work, second guessing and sleepless nights were worth it.

Although I don’t have the honor of being an official “mother,” I am an official author and they’ve got my book on sale up at the so that’s made me giddier than a prom queen.  Oh and I’m still holding out hope that Reese, Darius, or Andie will write me back soon wanting to sip sweet tea and Talk Southern To Me.