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

Join me and other Birmingham Bloggers! http://www.bhambloggers.com/

b hap bloggers pic

The Lure of a Road Trip~

I think for me, the love of a road trip began at a very early age.

Most Sundays after church, the family would load up in the car with snacks and a cold soda for a long ride in the country.  Not that my brother, Oba, or I ever complained but when we’d ask why we were going Papa always replied, “Gas is cheap”.  And, we didn’t always know where we were going.  The parents didn’t even know.  Mother would explain that we were just getting out for a while, getting away and although they were not sure where we were going, they were sure we would all enjoy it.

carAnd, we did!

There are also the memories of Florida getaways.  I’m not just talking about the vacation itself, but the drive.  Papa never took the interstate.  He chose the back roads because they were more appealing.  Sure, the interstate offered a speedy trip, but it killed any chance of feeding the senses.  Looking back, I’m not sure we ever went the same way twice.  But, it was glorious.  Oba and I didn’t sit in the back seat and ask, “How much longer?”  We were keen observers of our surroundings and stayed on the look-out for something fun to do. My parents made the trip down as much fun as the time we spent  on the beach.  No one watched the clock.  There was no rush.  We stopped at Civil War Memorials, old historic hotels, well-known restaurants and hole-in-the-wall eateries –and almost every farmer’s market we could find!  Papa always took a cooler. Oba and I constantly begged for a ripe watermelon.  These were usually sold out of the back of a farmer’s pickup truck. Mother had a thing for fresh roasted peanuts.  I wanted mine Cajun boiled.

I never know when the desire to roam will overwhelm me.  But, I’m always ready –drop of the hat, right here right now, ready!  When it hits, it hits hard.  And, it’s not always at an opportune time.   Here it is Christmas, and that desire to go exploring has taken hold, a strong hold, and it’s not letting go.

There is just something invigorating and exciting about the spur-of-the-moment, a flip of the coin decision to GO!  It doesn’t even have to be a new place for me.  There are cities and towns for which my appreciation will never wane.

Perhaps, revisiting a beloved city is even better than experiencing the new. There are the familiar things you love that draw and entice.

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I want to feel the excitement of anticipation; pull clothes from the closet, roll them and fill my old military duffle; pick a place, purchase a ticket and climb on board the train then sit and watch through the window as the landscape slides by, or read a good book, think about the things I am going to do.

                                                I want to stand on the subway platform in Manhattan and listen to the street musicians; ice skate at Rockefeller Plaza with the kids; take a midnight Christmas at Rockefeller Center, 2008taxi ride around downtown.

 

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I want to rise early in New Orleans and peek into private courtyards…

run my hands along old iron-work…photo (1)

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wait in line at Café du Monde for beignets and cafe au lait with the grandbaby.

 

 

 

 

I want to hike Mt. Rainer in the snow again, and wander Seattle…aaaaaaaaaaa

 

 

 

 

 

have fresh oysters and purchase succulent dates that are the size of my thumb at Pike Place Market…aaa

                                                        see San Francisco with my husband for the first time.

 

I want to walk in NYC pon a beautiful winter night with snowflakes falling, holiday lights flashing…

 

 

sip hot chocolate in Central Park under the moonlight &…

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As often happens when the desire to roam strikes at an inopportune time, I return to my journals hoping to fill the need if only a little.

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JOURNAL of a time in Central Park that did not make it into the memoir, We Share the Same Sky.

At last, I have found a place that bears a resemblance to home-Central Park.  I cannot live without trees, trees and leaves -oh, beautiful leaves.  I reach up and pluck one from a nearby low-hanging limb.  My intentions are to press it, and put it away in a book so that one day when it is pulled down from its shelf, the page will fall open to this reminder, a token of a worthwhile week in the city.  The words to my favorite Walt Whitman poem dance across my mind. 

“…All alone stood it, and the moss hung down from the branches; without any companion it grew there, uttering joyous leaves of dark green…”

The light here in the park is different than in the city.  The beauty of nature reflects it differently.  Or perhaps it is that the light is absorbed more, rather than reflected.  And the sounds are familiar.  I can hear the laughter of children at play on the lawn, birds in the distance calling to one another from beneath the overhang of tree limbs.  Like the children, they too are dancing, chirping.  And suddenly, as though from nowhere in particular, I am hungry for home.

 Cheaha Lake, December 2014Mt. Cheaha Lake, December 2014. Photo by Lakeside Living editor, Buddy Roberts.

 

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ELIZABETH MOZLEY MCGRADY

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

small photo of book we share same sky

WE SHARE THE SAME SKY, a memoir

Tate Publishing

January 14, 2014

We Share the Same Sky chronicles an independent excursion to New York City the summer of 2007. The memoir revolves around the typical NYC experience: exploring neighborhoods and cultural enclaves; gorging at Manhattan’s famous and not-so-famous restaurants and bakeries; and contemplation on well-known and unfamiliar city landmarks and icons. Woven throughout is a look into the Southern female psyche with reflections on the influence family and place have on personal identity. In a more constant strain, the memoir addresses the effect our beliefs have on the choices we make in our daily lives, for faith is the inextricable link that ties us all together.

A recent review: http://theleftbankofthecoosa.blogspot.com/2014/04/we-share-same-sky-by-elizabeth-mozley.html

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

When the weather changes, the closet gets changed out and the plate offered at the table follows suit.  It is time for fall foods, folks!  While I am sure some eat biscuits year round, for me they are a cool weather food; as summer is reserved for fresh fruits that are readily available at our local farmer’s market.  Admittedly, I’ve not always been a fruit lover.  (Laughing, because I can hear the actor in Tombstone drawling, “You, music lover”. It’s funny only if you know the film and once you hear it, you can’t UN-hear it.) But, I digress.

It’s fall and it’s time for cool weather foods.  And for me, warm, just-baked breads are at the top of the list!  Of course, the memoir We Share the Same Sky is filled with reflections of growing up in the South, foods my grandmother’s and mother made, breads they baked and the hours we shared around the family table.  So, I thought today I would share an excerpt, followed by a sweet potato biscuit recipe.  My cousin, Dana Lynn, has been at work perfecting our Grandmother Libby’s square dinner biscuits.  Perhaps she will allow me to share these as well in the near future.

 

From:  We Share the Same Sky (an excerpt from Chapter 2)

Simplicity -free of complexity, refinement or pretentiousness

     The importance of the making and sharing of bread is an amazing thing.   The       women in my family all make a variety of breads. But, of them all, my favorite continues to be the humble biscuit. My GrandMosie’s were the most divine!  She got up early every morning to make my Grandpa breakfast before he went to work. She would fill several with butter and granulated sugar, then slip them to me with a hot cup of coffee at three a.m. because she knew I preferred them hot. I’d eat, drink, crawl back beneath the weight of handmade quilts and fall right back into a deep sleep.  She also made sweet potato biscuits for me and Papa on days we went hunting.  We would eat our fill, then wrap those remaining in paper napkins and tuck them in our coat pockets.  They were thick, dense biscuits, so rich in flavor.

My Grandmother Libby also made incredible biscuits, though they were somewhat odd.  She kept her flour in a huge tin in the cupboard; when she readied to make biscuits she would pull out a stool, open the tin and make a well right there in the flour then work in the shortening and buttermilk.  The biscuit dough was removed, the lid fastened back onto the tin and put away. After rolling out the dough into a long rectangular shape, she placed it on a flat baking sheet and cut it into squares.  She was the only person I knew who made them this way. Always, they were served alongside her falling-off-the-bone, fried pork chops.

Baking bread is often the basis of tradition. And, many of these traditions are linked to religion. Unleavened bread is partaken when receiving the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper; Artos is a Greek celebration bread; elaborate wreath breads are indicative of many German celebrations and King Cake is a common Christmas tradition in countries commemorating the festival of Epiphany.  Southerners in Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana begin the merriment of Mardi Gras with a King Cake iced in carnival colors of purple, gold and green.  Whomever finds the token- be it bean or baby- baked within the cake, receives both a favor and responsibility.   A Christmas custom in Poland is the making and sharing of Oplatek.  This thin wafer has a holy picture pressed into it.  Family members make it together, then share it with close neighbors.  Each person breaks a wafer and as they eat it, forgives the other of any wrong doing or hurt that has occurred over the past year.

Today, wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on earth.  But, I believe that mass production has diminished our appreciation for it.  Surely, the women who grew, milled, and made their own breads viewed the final product very differently. They claimed a connection to the soil, and therefore to the land and to home.  The Russian immigrants who secretly brought over their more resilient grains understood this bond. How true it is, the quote by Aldo Leopold that “the oldest task in human history [is] to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”   In our effort to progress, we have not only severed our tie to the land, we have let go of traditions that connect us to our heritage.

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Unfortunately this is not my GrandMosie’s recipe. 

She never used one for breads or pies.

sweet-potato-biscuits

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato prebaked and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cups sweet milk
  • 3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into
    small pieces
  • 4 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into
    small pieces

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and increase the temperature to 450°F.

Peel the sweet potato and mash with a fork, then add the buttermilk and mix until smooth.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the shortening and butter; use a fork to cut them into the dry ingredients. Add the sweet milk mixture and stir until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead very lightly, just until it holds together.

Roll out and pat the dough into a rectangle 6 by 12 inches. Use a biscuit cutter or old juice jar to cut out biscuits. Transfer to a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits have risen and the edges and bottoms are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes.


*Recipe was given to me by a dear friend years ago –thank you CW. *Photo via tiny banquet committee.

 

WE SHARE THE SAME SKY https://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmcgrady

small-photo-of-book-we-share-same-sky

Well hello, y’all!

Introductions?

I’ve never been much on introducing myself, and yes, that is strange for a Southerner. I blame in on my Yankee grandfather –a New Yorker. I’m teasing. Northerners are just as gracious as Southerners; they just don’t talk for hours to people standing in line beside them whom they have never laid eyes on before.

So here goes! The basics -I am a writer, teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother. For me, family is everything. I love the South, the outdoors, big cities, old town squares, family get-togethers, cooking/eating and drinking. I’m a tomboyish type who has an affinity for lipstick and cowboy boots. I carry a backpack with books in it wherever I go.

And, I’m an introvert.

So, why does an introvert want to blog…?

Until this last January, when We Share the Same Sky was published, my use of technology amounted to a sprinkling at best. I am just not a technology person -I still own a flip phone and I will mourn when it no longer works and I am forced to upgrade. When I first got it, I referred to it as “the leash” and I left it in my car all day in the console. Now if I get out of the drive without it, I must return to the house and retrieve it at once. I’ve also recently become involved with an iPad. We are now inseparable as well. Slowly, I’ve become friendly with the hook! However, the use of technology to this point was still deeply one-sided. The publication of the memoir changed all that, albeit slowly. After setting up a Facebook page for the book, I began interacting with old friends on my personal account. I then created a Linkedin and Twitter account where I’ve met scores of folks who are constantly asking if I’ll start a blog. Who knew an independent excursion to New York City and the making of a memoir would be the things that pulled me from my shell?!

What types of posts are to be expected? Anything and everything –be it journaling, fishing, cooking, poetry, hiking, restaurants/breweries or family escapades.

Randomness is something I’ve truly perfected.

 

Elizabeth Mozley McGrady

WE SHARE THE SAME SKY, a memoir.

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

small-photo-of-book-we-share-same-sky me and poppy mellow mushroom