“Talk Southern To Me” Tour

June 27, 2018

Sorry it’s been so long since I last blogged!  I went on vacation and since my return I’ve been busy writing a script and working on new video.  I can’t keep up with my workload.  AHHHH!   Okay, so in my previous blog I told y’all about the experience of birthing my new book, Talk Southern To Me, and I promised to follow up with a blog about my book tour so here ya go, Kokomo. I just found myself typing a phrase my Mama has said as long as I can remember. “Here ya go, Kokomo.” Why does she say this? Why am I saying it? What does it mean? Like a true Southerner, I digress–back to book tour.

I decided to launch my book tour and celebrate my book’s release date in my hometown of Gaffney, SC. I wanted to honor the community that has supported my artistic efforts since I was knee high to a grasshopper and surround myself with the very folks who inspire my humor. So my publicist, Will Armstrong, and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We had to plan a book launch party in SC, organize book signing events, travel, and coordinate media appearances. Plus we had to plan a Los Angeles book party to conclude the book tour and provide an opportunity to celebrate with my friends and family in LA as well as all of the transplanted Southerners who appear on the Southern Women Channel.

It quickly became clear Will and I had bitten off more than we could chew. We were working harder than a funeral fan in an Alabama August but the “to do” lists were growing faster than kudzu. Then, like an angel sent from God, Will got a call from a South Carolinian named, Queen Johnson. Imagine if your name was Queen. Wouldn’t that be the cat’s pajamas! Every irritatin’ person you came across in life would have to address you as royalty. Your husband would have to address you as royalty. Your ex-boyfriend’s snotty Mama who you run into every dang time you go to the Piggly Wiggly would have to address you as royalty. Best name ever.

Anyhoo–Queen works as a rep for the Dan Rich Group and they were in the process of promoting my book to their vendors in the South. Based on test marketing, Queen felt certain my book would be well received so she offered to coordinate book signing events in the gift shops her company worked with. Queen, who didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat, volunteered to do quite a bit of work to help market my book.   This is exactly why I love Southern women. They have generous spirits. They go the extra mile for their southern sisters. Bless Queen’s royal heart–and I mean that in the most sincere way.

Wasn’t long before I found myself navigating way too much luggage through the Charlotte airport struggling to get to my rental car. My gargantuan bags were met with several sideways glances and I wanted to holler, “Don’t be a Judge Judy! I’m on the road for a month and need outfit options!” But I remembered my raisin’ and instead smiled politely and struggled on. By the way, most of these “judgers” were men who clearly need to read my chapter on manners ‘cause not one of them offered to help me. Goobers.

As I drove past the “Welcome to South Carolina” sign on I-85, my irritation faded as delightful anticipation filled my soul. I cranked up country radio, raised down the winder and took in a big whiff of southern air. There’s just nothing quite like the sweet embrace of home. I felt so blessed that I was going to get to spend the next several weeks Talking Southern with folks all across the Palmetto State.

And talk I did. Honey, I talked enough for four sets of teeth. I did newspaper and radio interviews and had some great fun with my cousin, Dennis Fowler, at WZZQ. I spoke to a female youth group at Blacksburg High School and then a darlin’ little gift shop in my hometown, Hartzogs, hosted a spectacular book signing event on my book’s release date. Then fabulous southern caterer, Cathy Joe Torres, made sure I had a deviled egg and naner puddin’ fueled book party surrounded by my dearest friends and family. And Dark Corner Distillery in Greenville, SC kindly sponsored a whiskey tasting that put a little quiver in our livers. The book party was held at the enchanting CHAPS Museum  in Gaffney, SC. Funny tidbit…the CHAPS museum is housed in the building where I attended elementary school. Kinda fittin’ that the very place I learned to read and write was the very place I was celebrating being published.

I was so busy doing press and events, it took friends, family and a lot of work from my cuz, Chris Cline, to pull that party off. But my Mama would want y’all to know that she personally “worked her fingers to the bone” organizing the invitation list, addressing the invites and doing umpteen million other tasks.   When my Mama says, “I’m working my fingers to the bone,” it’s code for “I’m ‘bout to come unhinged!”  Mama nearly had a nervous breakdown at Costco because they got her roses order incorrect. But Southern women will not be denied so you can bet your sweet ass Mama figured out a last minute solution and the floral arrangements turned out prettier than peach pie. It was a magical evening I will always treasure and of course I cried gator tears thanking everyone…especially Mama & Daddy.

Then like Willie Nelson I was on the road again. I had fun appearing on “Your Carolina”“Good Morning Charlotte” and “Good Day Columbia” and I developed a newfound respect for early morning news anchors. Gettin’ gussied up and camera ready at 5am is a chore so of course I was always running a little late. As I sped to these TV studios in the wee hours of the morning, I was relieved I didn’t get stopped by the po-lice ‘cause let’s face it…most women wearing fake eyelashes at that hour are strippers.

Luckily fake eyelashes were not required on my bookstore visits. And I gotta say, in an Amazon world it was refreshing to learn that independent bookstores are still in business. Although I was flying by the seat of my pants, I truly enjoyed the Q&A talks I did with the lovely Southerners who attended my book signings at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC; Hub City Books in Spartanburg, SC; and Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC.   All precious places. Go gitcha a book!

And the gift store tour that Queen set up was the bees knees! If you are in SC please shop local and support these fabulous stores: Primrose Galleries in Boiling Springs, SC; Indigo Home in Charleston, SC; Marigolds in Summerville, SC; Zinnias in Mt. Pleasant, SC; It’s Personal (monogram heaven) in Columbia, SC; Blush Boutique in Columbia, SC; Minnie’s Giftique in Hartsville, SC; Home and Garden Classics in Spartanburg, SC; Insideout At Home, in Greenville, SC; Tapestry in Clinton, SC; and Just The Thing in Columbia, SC. These shop owners and their staffs welcomed me with immaculate Southern hospitality. They decorated my book signing stations in perfect southern style and served traditional southern refreshments. Let’s just say pimento cheese was the dominant thing coursing through my veins for weeks. And I was truly touched that many shop owners gave me a beautifully packaged sursee—that’s an “unexpected gift” for all y’all who don’t hail from the South.

However, I must say the greatest gift was meeting the myriad of Southerners who watch Southern Women Channel and shared their stories with me. I learned that people watch my videos while getting chemo therapy, watch with their sick relatives in hospitals, watch when they are having a bad day and need a laugh, and I even met a fiddle playin’ prison warden who watches my videos to relieve work stress. I met new sorority sisters and reconnected with sorority sisters I haven’t seen since college. I met kids who made me art, kids on homeschool field trips, and an enthusiastic toddler who grabbed my boobs, and hollered, “I love to suck my Mama’s boobies!” I ‘bout wet my britches laughing. Of course his Mama wanted to crawl under a rock and die…bless her.   I signed books to a ton of double southern names, a ton of creatively spelled southern names, and a ton of downright bizarre southern nicknames including Pee Pee and Dookie…they lived in the same city so I suggested they become friends.

With a heavy heart I left South Carolina and made my way back to loony Los Angeles to appear on Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family   Originally my publicist told me I was doing a segment where I quizzed the hosts on southern slang. But at the last minute my publicist called and said the producers wanted me to do a cooking segment instead. My book does not contain one recipe. I am a humorist. I am not a celebrated Southern chef. So I did what any self -respecting Southern woman would do—I whipped up a casserole from the Macedonia Baptist Church Cookbook.

While I don’t proclaim to be talented chef, I do proclaim to be a talented eater so I found the best southern chef in Los Angeles to cater my LA book party. (Five Star Events and Catering) Even the emaciated, sprout and tofu eating LA crowd had a hard time resisting the fried green maters, chicken and waffles, and hushpuppies. Oh yeah…it was a true Southern shindig complete with a bourbon tasting sponsored by Koval, a Whiskey tasting sponsored by StillHouse, and live bluegrass musicians. My dear friends, Jen & Peter Micelli, kindly hosted at their swanky house in Beverly Hills, and the title sponsor was the swanky h Club LA and I wore the swankiest dress I could find on a budget.

Speaking of budget, there was no budget for a florist so my fellow “Sh%t Southern Women Say” actor, Sheila Hawkins, and I bought a whole slew of roses in the downtown LA Flower District and made all the floral arrangements ourselves. We got 10 dozen roses for $80! You can’t get that kind of sale up at the Walmart! The event turned out to be a truly amazing made more special by the fact that I got to share it with all the transplanted Southerners who so graciously dedicate their time and talent to the Southern Women Channel. Oh and Mama was there too. But since she “worked her fingers to the bone” at the South Carolina party, I wouldn’t let her lift a finger to help.   Instead she did what she does best…talk. Folks in LA loved meeting my gawjus Mama and despite the fact that she kept hollerin’, “I’m old,” I made her cut a rug and clog with me.

The truth is writing is a terribly isolating experience. Be it books or scripts or blogs—you spend a lot of time alone. The YouTube channel itself requires me to spend tons of time alone writing and editing videos. The process is tedious. I often wonder why am I doing this? Does anybody care? Will anybody laugh? Turns out y’all do care! Turns out y’all do laugh! Turns out folks showed up to my book tour events and were excited to read my book because my videos have brought them such joy. Huge thanks to all y’all who showed up to meet me on my book tour. Y’all have inspired me to continue writing. Y’all made me realize I’m in the business of joy. Y’all made me want to organize some more book events in the South. Maybe the next place I’ll go is Kokomo. That’s in Arkansas in case ya didn’t know.

P.S.S. (Post Southern Script) Here’s a LINK to a slew of pics from my book tour adventure.