Author Expo ~Gadsden, Alabama

Put something on the calendar, and I’m sure not to do it. But, isn’t life about stepping out of your comfort zone? Being somewhat reclusive and shy (although those who know me well roll their eyes and mumble just beneath their breath “whatever”) it is often difficult for me to participate in an event where I am expected to be verbally outgoing and open.

Writing it is one thing, doing it another.
The quiet folks know what I mean. You are just so “exposed” when you are right there in front of others….talking.  What I didn’t anticipate from this social engagement was – well, any of what actually took place. Allow me to explain.

This year, Gadsden Public Library hosted the Alabama Library Association Annual Convention. Being a hometown girl, I was graciously extended an invitation. This in itself garnered a smile. But, the idea of an Author Expo which is hosting 32 Alabama authors, companies from across the country -who graciously sponsor the authors -and more than 500 librarians, was enough to make me hesitate and then take two steps back. That is a lot of people! And yet, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that deep down, I absolutely couldn’t wait to attend. After all, I would be surrounded by people like me –writers and readers who eat, breathe and live for a love of words!

 

Arriving early, I had to smirk and acknowledge a blonde moment; I eyed the jam packed parking lots and wondered how many blocks I’d be walking in heels, carrying a heavy box of books. So THAT is why it was so important for my assistant to meet me when I arrived! I noted the city’s kelly green trolley car shuttling folks to and from the event.

 

Gadsden was going all-out and it filled me with a deep sense of pride!

 

This year’s theme for the convention is “Libraries ImPOSSIBLE” and it is improbable that anyone will leave displeased. There are a list of events sure to draw a crowd and delight everyone who attends. For example, the Reception Block Party downtown on Broad Street with live jazz and a performance of Imperial Opa. Tuesday night, out-of-towners joined the regulars for our Literary Pub Crawl where those who gather get to sample the amazing beer at Back 40 Beer Company and discuss a particular literary great before strolling over to Blackstone Pub & Eatery to continue the fun.

 

Then today, Wednesday, filled with bestseller speakers and the Books-A-Million Author Expo at 210 at the Tracks.  I arrive and find the place packed. The vibe is amazing –beautiful bare bulbs sneak down from the blacked-out high ceiling. Music of the Etowah Youth Orchestra fills the air and already I can smell something spicy and….could it be chocolate wafting from the back reception area? Harp & Clover, Gadsden’s newest, trendiest –swankiest even – Irish Pub, located within walking distance over on Court Street, has catered the event. I also notice that folks are meandering about with food in hand; several sipping wine and a few others cold beer. My assistant, Megan, and I introduce ourselves to our sponsor, set up books, arrange seating and head to the reception area to fill a plate and find a table.

 

Neither of us it seems knew exactly what to expect. I’d wondered at the necessity of an assistant but after we sat and caught up on senior life at SHS (my old alma mater as well) a swarm of readers buzzed about, and time began to fly. We would pause, talk, laugh and share stories with these women –some from Alabama, others from across the country -before they moved on to another author; then another swarm would alight. And so flowed the events of the night.

 

I found in collecting my things afterward that, while I was light on books to carry back to the car, I was filled with stories, their stories. I couldn’t help but smile. It was a wonderful thing to have a woman point out something in particular that spoke to her from the memoir and then share with me a story of her own. Other than the Russian from NY and our friendly Spaniard, Tito, who would wander over between signings to discuss culture, tradition, family –most of my readers were women and I was delighted because the book was written for US, after all.

 

Just two cobblestone blocks away, I wrap up my evening with a Guinness at Harp & Clover and chat up my dear friend Dee as he moves back and forth through the establishment, deftly working the crowd. Such an exquisite end to a most enjoyable evening. From now on, all of my pub crawls in Gadsden, Alabama will end right here! I recommend the Dubliner, a burger topped with “house-made bacon jam & Cahill’s whiskey infused cheese” and of course the Bread Pudding.

 

*And, I do believe I’ve just claimed a new place to hide away and write…the little niche in the back corner should do nicely.

Thank you –Amanda Jackson and Carol Roark Wright with Gadsden Public Library, and also Megan Potts, my assistant, for a wonderful evening!
Already I’m looking forward to the next Writer’s Expo in Huntsville and Chattanooga. And, Megan, I’m going to hold you to the agreement to go sight-seeing, history hunting and helping with book sales.

The only way to find –is to seek.
Nothing worth having just happens; you have to go looking for it!

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*****

 

ELIZABETH MOZLEY

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmcgrady

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…And, so, I find myself standing under the eaves of some back street, wet, caught between the easy banter of old men.

GreenwichVillageStreet

Some Things Are Just Different Up Here

–wherever I go

It occurred to me this morning while I was out dusting my roses, that I have never stayed in a house long enough to reap the rewards of all my plantings.

In my late twenties, I began to take on the habits of my GrandMosie and Grandmother Libby, taking clippings from roses whenever the children and I came upon them.  They too began to pick out favorites, casting furtive glances as I carefully cut.  We wrapped the stems in a moistened napkin and stashed them away in my backpack just as I had seen my grandmothers do time and time again.  Once home the trimmings were dipped in Root Tone and the children would take them and plant them gingerly in the nursing pot with the others.  The following spring, we would transplant all those that had survived and taken root.  Amazingly, they almost always did.  Our backyard on Magnolia Street filled and then overflowed, roses waving like a rumpled tapestry.

Then the children and I moved back home to Rainbow City and I –now in my thirties – discovered a love of azaleas wild and hybrid, magnolias, evergreens and pear trees.  And so I planted, watered, nurtured.  Eventually … I moved again.

Several summers ago -almost twelve years later -I took a late evening drive back to Rainbow City.  When I neared the homeplace I slowed, astounded by the growth, the sheer beauty of all I had planted so many years before.  It was just as I had thought it would be, what I had imagined when I chose the plants and placed them.  A sudden wistfulness quickly consumed me; then just as quickly was squelched when I noticed a woman out back, watering and smiling.  And, did I see her talking gently to my plants?  I wanted to stop and tell her their history, which ones were planted on birthdays, and other special occasions.

Perhaps someday I will put down permanent roots as well.  Until then, I will continue my love of planting –wherever I go.

there is the tearing with teeth to consider~ ’tis the season for SLICE!

When I hear the word pizza, immediately I begin thinking –tasting even- rich marinara, pepperoni, sweet roasted peppers, the pungent bitterness of black olives.  And there is the tearing of the teeth into a chewy but somehow crisp crust to consider…

Unlike some foods that require a season (think chili and hearty soups), pizza works any time of day, any time of year.  It is divine hot from the oven or cold from the fridge the next morning (if it survives that long once home) with a glass of iced milk.  It is as wanted and craved in the summer, as spring, winter, or fall.

This past April, I met with a new friend, Lindsey King to discuss her most recent trip to New York City.  We opted for Greek salads instead of the hearty seven pound pizza Mater’s is famous for –she was being good, I just followed suit.   But my eyes glazed over as a hearty Field Hand pizza was delivered to a table nearby.  Lindsey recognized the look, laughed and proceeded to clue me in on a pizza place in Birmingham, Alabama I needed to try – SLICE!

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So, the following weekend another dear friend and I headed to Slice Pizza & Brew, located at 725 29th Street South, Birmingham.  The web site boasts local ingredients, hand tossed dough, a stone oven and a selection of both Italian and Mediterranean sides as well as an opulent selection of craft and import beers.  I could not wait!

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Alabama Craft on Draft!  The Birmingham Brewing companies include: Avondale, Cahaba, Good People and TrimTab.

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Hands-down the favorite beer sampled was Brew Stooges Hot Chocolate Porter!  Easily, I could substitute it for food.  *It was the darkest brew they had…

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The first pizza ordered was the Rockefeller!  It came loaded with crispy fried Gulf oysters, caramelized onions, nice sized chunks of bacon lardons, fresh spinach, mushrooms, and shaved parmesan!  Although it wasn’t the pizza I’d had in mind, it was amazingly delicious –the oysters were perfectly crisp and fresh.  Not having eaten all day, this one was quickly inhaled.slice3

The second pizza selected was The Lakeview.  It was delivered to the table laden with braised beef short ribs, caramelized onion, roasted tomatoes, pungent asiago, arugula, red onion and horseradish sauce.

slice 1 I’m not sure what it was about the mix of ingredients on this pizza, but it wasn’t large enough.  I wanted MORE even when my stomach couldn’t possibly handle it.  There was just something about the sauce and the arugula that made the whole thing deliciously difficult to describe –a little bitter, a little heat with a touch of smoke…incredible!

While pizza is not seasonal, the menu at Slice is…but our waiter reassured us that if something we like disappears, it is not forever!

I am ready for another visit –the only problem is I can’t make up my mind which pizza I want most!!

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ELIZABETH MOZLEY MCGRADY

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmcgrady

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More than I bargained for ~ Selma, Alabama 2004. Dr. Hardy Jackson & Mrs. Kathryn Tucker Windham, Alabama’s Finest Storytellers

There is a certain thrill that comes in experiencing the unexpected, visiting the unknown.  Perhaps we are born with a yearning to explore new places.  Once fed, the hunger to roam becomes more urgent, as almost unwittingly there is the construction of a new appetite.  I have this appetite.

Although my mantra is any road trip is a good road trip I was not overly intrigued by the idea of visiting Selma, Alabama.  I was, however, motivated by the possibility of any unforeseeable events that may lay in store along the way.

Our little group had agreed to meet up early that Wednesday.  There before the others, I remember parking and looking about, wondering if in fact our vehicles would be the first in any parking lot on JSU’s campus.  Jacksonville seemed eerily silent before sunrise.  Leaning against the car, I sipped my coffee and enjoyed the solitude, knowing it very well could be the only quiet moment of the day.  Admittedly, I was anxious.  This was the first time I’d ever ventured off with a group of folks I did not know and although I fought against it, my mind kept whispering trapped in a car for a long period of time.

One by one they began to arrive.  Quickly I slid in behind our driver for the day –a highly intelligent, unpredictable, fun-loving fellow who also happened to be our Southern History Professor, Dr. Harvey Hardaway Jackson III.  The remaining crew consisted of three female students all of whom I’d already labeled as “talkers”.  For this I was exceedingly grateful as I tend to be overly quiet around folks I don’t know.

Hardy –forgive the informality, but many years have now passed and the friendship is surely sealed, forever tight –Hardy had offered up an open invitation in class that anyone who cared to join him should, as he was scheduled to speak at the Selma Public Library regarding his latest book Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State.  Dog-eared copy in hand, I was the first to sign up.

Once on the road, we fell naturally into the previous day’s discussion on why it is we Southerners think and act as we do.   I can honestly admit that prior to his classes, I’d never paused to question such things.

Before we knew it we were nearing Montgomery.  Hardy detoured through Lowndesboro, explaining it was “not so much a town as a string of historic buildings”. The 2000 census placed the population at 140.  As we followed the route taken on the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965, he explained that it was just outside of Lowndesboro that Viola Liuzzo, a young civil rights activist from Michigan was chased down by the KKK and shot.  Liuzzo was driving Leroy Moton, who had recently participated in the second march, to the airport.

Hardy eased the car off the road, stopping at an old white church.  It immediately reminded me of the Baptist Church my grandparents had attended when I was a child.  Oh, how many sweltering summers my cousins and I spent in those small back Sunday school classrooms, making crafts, memorizing Bible verses and sweating bullets during Vacation Bible School.

As he parked, Hardy gave us a brief summary on the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, formerly the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.  Built in 1830, the structure is capped with the dome from the 1820 Alabama Statehouse in Cahaba.cem church

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church ~ Lowndesboro, Alabama

After walking around and taking a few photos, we loaded back up and headed to our next stop.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1857 from a popular pattern found in a book by Richard Upjohn.  The Episcopal church in Jacksonville, AL was based on the same plan.   “You usually find Episcopal churches in settlements where wealthy planters from South Carolina and Georgia settled,” he further explained.

e church selmaSt. Paul’s Episcopal Church ~ Lowndesboro, Alabama

Our last stop before making our destination was Sturdivant Hall.  Built in 1852-1856 as a townhouse for Colonel Edward Watts, the Greek Revival neo-classical architecture is breathtakingly beautiful.  Hardy walked us through the house, discussing various objects and artwork.  A woman nearby explained that workers were brought in from Italy to complete the plaster and marble.  Never did she whisper that the house is allegedly haunted by former owner and banker, John Parkman.

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Sturdivant Hall, 713 Mabry Street ~  Selma, Alabama

Before leaving, we all gathered in close for a photo.

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With Hardy Jackson at Sturdivant Hall 2004 ~ Selma, Alabama

Selma Public Library

selma public library

 

 

 

By the time we reached Selma Public Library, I already felt as though the trip had been worthwhile.

While Hardy was busy socializing, the girls and I all went our separate ways.  Longing for a quiet moment, I walked around the library admiring the paintings.  From the corner of my eye, I noticed an older lady had come to stand close by.  There was an ease to her that I still cannot describe; she too seemed caught up in the combination of beauty and quiet separateness.

“Sunflowers are the most beautiful flowers, don’t you think?” she asked admiringly, indicating a nearby painting.  I recognized the softness of her Southern drawl.  She noted the difference in mine as well and as we wandered along she inquired as to which part of North Alabama I was from.  She asked if I gardened and we chatted about growing up in the South.  The sound of her voice was lulling, soothing and it was with disappointment that I realized we had arrived in the area where Hardy was to speak.

Although I was looking forward to listening to my professor’s tales of the South, I was disappointed that my time with her had ended.  As we took our places, she slid in beside me and another girl from our group.  I smiled, pleased that she was joining us and realized with a start, I’d not asked her name nor introduced myself.  I happened to look beyond her to my fellow traveler whose eyes were now weirdly wide.  What the hell is she doing, I wondered.  She mouthed Kathryn…Tucker…Windham, nodding at the woman I’d been chatting with.  Suddenly I understood the peculiar expression on her face.  The knowledge was devastating, as if I had been hit full in the chest with a crowbar.

I’d been wandering about, passing the time with my favorite childhood author and had not even known.  Mrs. Windham had surely been saved from much gushing and stammering.

Feeling equally blessed, I sat and listened as Hardy recounted family tales of courage, feuds, Good Ole Boy politics, his daddy’s poutin’ house, Southern chivalry that was not dead, and all the glorious things that had once separated Southern culture from that of the remaining nation.  I listened to Hardy, but could not keep my eyes and thoughts from Mrs. Windham.  Had the chance, lost it, kept running through my mind.

With his talk completed, Hardy walked about shaking hands and hugging necks.  I noted that the majority of the audience was indeed female.  This garnered a well-deserved smirk; smart man, when he caught my eye, he knew exactly what it meant.  Mrs. Windham joined us for a moment before we left and I learned that she and Hardy were ‘cousins-in-law’.

Before heading north, we made one more stop at Old Live Oak Cemetery.  If only the wisteria had been in bloom, large white magnolia blossoms scenting humid air.  Though these were not yet visible, we Southerners knew they were there and could smell them just the same.

“There is glory in the graves” read the inscription on a nearby Confederate monument.  In 1879 Colonial N.H.R. Dawson purchased eighty Live Oaks and eighty Magnolia trees in Mobile, Alabama and had them planted throughout the cemetery.  Spanish moss drapes down from ancient oaks as if trying to enshroud the chivalrous dead; their cannons, still close at hand, aim northward.

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Live Oak Cemetery ~ Selma, Alabama

I rode to South Alabama with one storyteller, and ended up meeting another.

It was a charmed meeting.  But, as we made the return trip, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been cheated –I’d have asked about her favorite memories, the foods she longed for when she was with family… With a slow smile I realized exactly why she had skipped the introductions.  Was it not so much more to wander, admire the beauty before us together and speak gently, proudly of our South?

On 231, just north of Rockford, Alabama we passed Sears Chapel Methodist Church.  Hardy slowed the car and we lowered the windows.  I imagine each and every one of us held our breath, thought of Mrs. Windham and her love of ghosts and listened for the baby crying in the road.

 

sears chapel

         Sears Chapel Methodist Church, 1860 ~ just north of Rockford, Alabama

*****

It had indeed been a road trip to remember.  Looking back, I am reminded how quickly a moment can pass and how we do not know the moment for what it is until much later. That trip was a catalyst that sent me down another road; a conglomeration of memorable moments those two years with Hardy have become.  They are firmly cemented as well.  While meeting Mrs. Windham was a true gift, it was the tutelage of Dr. Hardy Jackson that took my life in an unexpected and better direction.

How often the unexpected moments become the focal point, rather than the destination. Sometimes you set out on a jaunt, and bring back a little more than you anticipated.

Thank you, Hardy

hardy

Dr. Harvey Hardaway Jackson III.

Mrs. Kathryn Tucker Windham

Mrs. Windham

  • 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey (1969)
  • Jeffrey’s Latest 13: More Alabama Ghosts ((1987)
  • Jeffrey Introduces Thirteen More Southern Ghosts (1987)
  • Thirteen Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey (1987)
  • Southern Cooking to Remember (1994)
  • Encounters (1998)
  • Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories (2004)
  • Alabama, One Brig Front Porch (2007)
  • Spit, Scarey Ann, and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another (2009)
  • She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life (2011)

Mrs. Windham was a reporter for Alabama Journal, The Birmingham News and later the Selma-Times Journal where she won Associated Press awards for photography and writing.

Mrs. Windham also performed her stories on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Alabama Public Radio’s Alabama Life.

 Hardy Jackson & Kathryn Windham TuckerHardy and Kathryn

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ELIZABETH MOZLEY MCGRADY

We Share the Same Sky, a memoir

https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmcgrady

Join me and other Birmingham Bloggers!

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