Until recently when I read Mindy Friddle’s Secret Keepers, the only Southern fiction I had ever read was Gone With The Wind. So I thought it was serendipitous that two weeks before traveling to the Type-A-Mom conference in Asheville, North Carolina that I should get the opportunity to read and review Celia Rivenbark’s You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning, a collection of hysterical essays with a Southern theme.
Today I am honored to host Celia on her blog tour. What is a blog tour? Well a blog tour is similar to an author’s book tour, but it’s hosted online, instead of at, say, a bookstore. The touring author visits a number of blogs (otherwise known as “blog stops”) over a set period–typically, a month. And today it’s me!
Celia’s latest book like all her others (which P.S. I am definitely going to go back and read!) is a collection of essays written about her life as a Mom living in the South, and although the underlying theme is Southerness, it is humorous for anyone. There is a ton to say about her, but no one can out do the About page on her website, aptly titled: Me, me, me! so make sure you check it out!
The essays are about her life and she ends a lot of chapters with recipes, including one given to her by Robert Duvall for his Mom’s crab cakes! One of the recipes is for Red Velvet cake. Until I read this book, I had NO idea it was a Southern thing, for some reason I thought it was a Filipino because all the people I know who bake it and have it at parties seem to be Filipino – my bad!
On my first afternoon in Asheville, I went to lunch with Julie of Writing Roads and new friend Alissa of Project Happily Ever After. We went to a wonderful organic restaurant in downtown Asheville called Early Girl Eatery and before I could decide what to have for lunch, I saw that they had Red Velvet cake as a dessert, so I ordered a slice to go. Having never tried it, I swore to myself that there was no way I was going to leave Celia’s home state of North Carolina without trying it out! And you know what? It is like a slice of red heaven! Going to be a tough call to see if it can throw out dark chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting as my favorite – I am going to need a few more slices before I can say that….
Anyways, if it had not been for Celia, I may have missed out on this Southern delight. And the total delight that You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning was to read. I had the opportunity to pose questions to Celia and below is my interview with her:
MWA: Are all your essays based on true stories, or do you alter them to protect the innocent 🙂 ?
CR: The essays are a hodgepodge of true stories and exaggerated tales. When you live in a part of the country (Eastern North Carolina) where people occasionally wear clothes made from flattened beer cans stitched together with Christmas-red yarn, well, it’s pretty easy being a humor writer. I do alter some details, not so much to protect the innocent as to, well, cover my ass.
In my current book, for instance, the first essay is about my general loathing of parents obsessed with their kids’ perfect attendance. All of that is true but I didn’t use real names for fear of litigation. And I do exaggerate for comic effect. While it’s true that there was a mother who sent her kid to school with measles to preserve a perfect attendance award, I may have exaggerated when I said one mama made her kid go to school with a burst appendix ‘cause “That’s what weekends are for.”
In general, I think that humor shouldn’t be taken so seriously. It shouldn’t be analyzed to death because it ruins the magic and kills the joke.
MWA: P.S. The first essay was my absolute favorite. I don’t have kids but I am always griping about people having 100’s of hours of vacation days because they COME TO WORK SICK – and that drives me bonkers!!!
MWA: What is your writing method? Where do you write? Do you have a routine?
CB: I usually write a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours at night when everybody’s asleep because that’s the only time I can really be certain the phone won’t ring. I’m usually always working on the weekly column, a book or a speech. I write in a small upstairs office with Carolina blue walls and a cat in my lap. I’m a terrible procrastinator but rarely miss a deadline. I was a newspaper reporter for 20 years, so I work best under deadline pressure.
MWA: What’s the best thing about being Southern? What’s the worst thing? If you had to choose another region to be from what would it be and why?
Someone once said that “Southerners are like people, only more so.” I just love that. We’re born storytellers and lovers of language. We are all just a half bubble off plumb but that’s OK because it makes for a better story. I know it sounds like a cliché but we really do have a deep and abiding sense of place. I’m so grateful for that.
The worst thing about being a Southerner? Only one, really. And that’s dealing with the crazy notion that just because we talk slower that we’re not smart. We’re just savoring the journey’s all.
If I could live anywhere else, I’d probably pick California. But only, like, Malibu. I have standards. We vacationed there a few times when I was growing up. Pretty sweet digs. But the lack of sweet tea would be a deal-buster for any sort of permanent living arrangement.
MWA: On your website you have a weekly column, have you put those all together into a blog somewhere, or do you save them for re-publishing in books?
CB:I use the weekly newspaper column as a framework for the books but they often look vastly different in book form. I will take a column and expand it a great deal, saying all the things I wanted to say but couldn’t in a “family newspaper.”
MWA: Do you read blogs? Got any favorites?
CB: This blog tour, my first, has opened my eyes to an amazing number of talented writers out there. It’s really starting to piss me off. No, really! There are some funny folks out there that I’ve met just through this tour including CrazyTexasMommy. What a hoot she is! I have tremendous respect for the disciplined bloggers out there who write because they must, not because somebody’s paying them to. I can’t imagine doing that. I’m far too lazy.
MWA: Do you have any advice for people who are aspiring authors?
Read great books. Bounce ideas off friends and colleagues who will tell you the truth, not just butter your biscuit. Don’t try to get published without an agent; it doesn’t work. Don’t whine or yak about the process a lot. That just bores the snot out of everyone except other writers. Keep your eyes open to everything, everywhere and take notes. And wear clean underwear. It doesn’t have anything to do with writing but it’s really important anyway.
MWA: Thanks Celia!
If you have a blog or website and would like to host an author, WOW-WomenOnWriting are accepting a few choice blogs to participate in their programs. Come and join the fun! Email Angela & Jodi at blogtourATwow-womenonwritingDOTcom.