Saturday, February 28, 2009

Words to Go Big Book Give-Away Winners!

If you left feedback during our author chats, your name was entered in Words to Go’s Big Straw Hat. Drawings are Friday nights and posted Saturday mornings. If you see your name on the list, you won an autographed book by one of your fav authors. Just email me with your mailing address and the book will be shipped to you this week.

This week our guest authors chatted with me about The Invisibility of Motherhood. It was a week of rich dialoguing about motherhood, our kids, the struggles we overcome and the great benefits of sticking to our guns as moms.Thank you guest authors Marlo Schalesky, Maureen Lang, Leslie Lehr, and Terri Blackstock for sharing from your wisdom as moms! We thank you WTG Friends too, though, for your wonderful comments that we find of reciprocal benefit. God speaks through all of us, doesn’t he?

Here are the WINNERS!!!!

Kim Phillips won Wife Goes on by Leslie Lehr

Connie Sue won Wife Goes on by Leslie Lehr

Carly Kendall won The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang

Wanda Elaine won My Sister Dilly by Maureen Lang

Betsy Smith won Dawn’s Light by Terri Blackstock (not on store shelves yet, but Terri’s reserved a copy she’s mailing directly to you!)

And, again, here are last week’s winners who did not claim their books for the Big-Haired Southern Book Give:

Barbara Thomason won Saints in Limbo by River Jordan
Rebecca Tyndall won Don’t Let Me Go by David Pierce
Eric Wilson won Salvage by David Pierce
Valerie Ann Faulkner won Love Starts With Elle by Rachel Hauck
Terri Forehand won Sweet Caroline by Rachel Hauck
Sharon Watson won Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth Angela Meuser
won Wishing on Dandelions by Mary DeMuth Kate Shiloh won Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth

This coming coming week I will chat with authors on “Making Room For Compassion.”

Authors Gail Martin, Carolyn Aarson, Elizabeth White, Dr. Harry Kraus, and Kaya McLaren have all reached outside their worlds in different ways—some simple and some life changing. But all made love an act and a choice. You are going to LOVE these chats. And each author is giving away a book too! So your feedback becomes your entry! (kindly leave a “signature” with first and last name—thanks!)

Thanks for a great week of blogging, CyberFans, on Words to Go!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Words to Go chats with Bestselling Author Terri Blackstock

Today on Words to Go I’m honored to welcome a special guest author, bestselling novelist Terri Blackstock. Terri’s fiction is described as “Up All Night Fiction” because once you start reading one of her suspense novel’s you won’t want to put it down. Terri’s latest novel is entitled Dawn’s Light, and she has a new one releasing in a couple of weeks—Double Minds. and I have to say that I’m also a big fan of Terri’s writing and she’s my dear friend too. Since we’re talking about challenges as moms this week, I thought we would revisit a chat that Terri and I had earlier on the heavy weights we carry when we pray for our kids. Welcome, Terri!

TERRI: Thanks for inviting me, Patty. It’s great to be here talking about this important issue for Christians.

PATTY: Terri, you and I have been prayer partners over the past decade. As a matter of fact, you probably would have blackmail power over me, but then, it’s a reciprocal partnership, so I guess we’re both safe. That’s the beauty of having a prayer partner. Our kids are now grown, but that mom’s vigil has not stopped has it?

TERRI: No, it hasn’t. In fact, I find it much more difficult to be a mother of adult children than I did of young children. When they were still at home, I had more control over the things they did. If I saw them walking out in front of a truck, I could jerk them back. It’s been difficult finding the peace to know that I can’t be there to jerk them back anymore.

PATTY: Our children have come-of-age at the same time, so we’ve both had to learn to release them in a trust arrangement with God. What is key to you as a mom in trusting God with your kids?

TERRI: I can only do that through prayer. I’ve spent the last few years learning how to really be on my knees, figuratively and literally, for my children. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the way I pray, and when things are going well, I pray less. My resolution for 2009 is to get my prayer life organized and to learn to pray with more power. I had that in my mind, and I probably prayed about it off-handedly at some point or another, but here it is the second week of January and I had really done nothing to begin working on that. And then a couple of days ago the Lord directed my eyes to a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf—How to Pray by R.A. Torrey.

PATTY: He’s a fav author in the Hickman library too.

TERRI: I’d read it when I was working on my last novel, Dawn’s Light, where I explored the subject of unanswered prayer. It’s very short, only 100 pages or so. And I felt the distinct impression that God wanted me to read it again. I started it this morning and was reminded why my prayers sometimes don’t have much power. Torrey says that when we pray, we should “have the thoughts of Him definitely in mind and be more taken up with Him than with [our] petition.”

I realized that never happens with me. I’m always more focused on my petitions than I am on God. But what if we went into His presence with awe and humility, taking our time and not just rattling off our list, realizing that God is bending down to hear us, that in getting His ear, we are truly taking these petitions to the One who can do something about them. That reminded me that I can go boldly to the throne of grace, and expect for God to answer.

But first I have to make sure that I’m really in His presence. When I do, that awe quiets me, and my prayer is filled with more reflection than it is with supplications.

And as I read this book, I became more aware that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, and his work now is to intercede for us. So when we pray for the people or things or the children that are on our heart, we’re praying with Jesus, who has the Father’s ear. That’s what it means to pray in Jesus’ name.

PATTY: Terri, praying for our children is a job that as moms we thought might lessen as they became adults. How, as a mom, have your prayers changed since your girls were young and now that they’re grown?

TERRI: I don’t really think that my prayers have changed because of their maturing, but they’re changing because of my maturing. I know more about prayer than I did when they were younger, and I know it because God has put obstacles and trials in my life as I’ve gotten older. Those are the things that have grown and matured me. How often have we said, “If I knew then what I know now ...” But the fact is, I didn’t know those things then. I have comfort in knowing that God does give children to imperfect, immature young people who haven’t learned all of life’s lessons yet. So he doesn’t expect us to do it all exactly right as we’re raising them. I do sometimes look back with guilt on the things I did wrong as a parent, but I don’t think God calls me to do that. It’s not a surprise to Him that imperfect parents will raise imperfect children imperfectly.

PATTY: Could you leave the moms visiting us today some advice about praying when it seems useless to pray? I know that there were times when I would ask you to pray for me, but honestly my faith was so wobbly, I didn’t know if we would ever have a breakthrough. What sort of encouragement do you have for moms who might feel like giving up as the official prayer covering over their kids?

TERRI: There have been times when it’s seemed that my prayers were hitting a stone ceiling. That’s why I wrote about unanswered prayer in Dawn’s Light. The parents in that book are praying for a child who’s been injured and lies comatose, and they wrestle earnestly in prayer for her. In Christendom, we like to talk about praying in faith, asking and receiving, seeking Him first and God giving us the desires of our heart ... But what about those times when you pray for someone’s healing and they die? Or when you ask for someone’s salvation year after year, and they continue to reject Him? What do you do when the results of your prayers weaken your faith rather than strengthening them? That does happen. So I read everything I could get my hands on about prayer, and had the father in the book doing the same. And I came to a realization that I allowed my characters to come to. That God’s purposes are like a beautiful symphony. We want to be in on His will; we want to join in His work. But when we try to join in with our squeaky little violin, we wind up playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” while He’s playing Beethoven’s 5th. His symphony continues even when we’re way off. Eventually, if we continue to pray and practice and listen and learn, we begin to play along in the right key, the right song, and then it’s all clear to us. God was doing something we didn’t understand. He had a purpose so much greater than what we could fathom.

I think we need to go to God knowing that’s happening, understanding that God is doing a work in our children’s lives that we aren’t attuned to just yet. We may not see His direction, or hear His symphony, but it’s playing nonetheless. So we keep going to Him and trusting that He’s working, and praying and reflecting and listening and learning. Our prayers are being heard and acted upon. And one day we will see the results.

I think prayer is the hardest work of the Christian life, and it’s the part that Satan attacks the most. In fact, Satan is extremely successful at distracting us from this. But prayer is the key to the Christian life. It’s the way we abide in Christ, and the way we partake of the atonement. Without a powerful prayer life, we’re missing out on all of what God has for us.

Patty, thanks for asking me to explore this issue with you this week. It’s been providential. I think the Lord used it to remind me of my resolution, and to give me a jump-start so that I would keep it this year.

PATTY: I feel the same way, Terri. And thanks for donating a copy of your newest release DAWN’S LIGHT for this week’s big book give.

Well, tonight I’ll be drawing your names from the Big Straw Hat for this week’s book drawing. All of this weeks guest authors have donated books. Please note that last week’s book winners are posted just below this one. When you see your name, just email me at and provide me with your mailing address. The author personally or her publicist will mail you a book.

I don’t know if you know it, but through an odd course of events, my efforts and some other friends’ efforts led to the forming of a non-profit charity that benefits moms and kids with AIDS here in the states. You can read about the SECRET ANGELS PROJECT to the right and scroll down. But these compassionate types of works often spring up in the hearts of those who have allowed God to plant his seeds of compassion inside them. So next week I’ll be chatting with FIVE AUTHORS on the subject of MAKING ROOM FOR COMPASSION—WHY I DID IT. These are novelists whose stories will leave you breathless—so bring your oxygen tank and a latte and join us for another great week of author chats at Words to Go!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Announcement!! Twelve Readers Have Won a Free Book on Words to Go

Sorry that this is posting late--but we now have our winners' circle of readers who won free autographed books from last week's Big-Haired Southern book Give. If you posted feedback, your name was entered, so check this list for your name!

Betsy Smith
Carly Kendall
Connie Sue
Joyce Mahan
Barbara Thomason
Rebecca Tyndall
Eric Wilson
Kum Furd
Terri Forehand
Sharon Watson
Angela Meuser
Kate Shiloh

Congrats, readers for winning an autographed book from one of last week's guest authors.
Please email with your mailing address and your autographed book will be shipped pronto!
Yes, you may keep leaving feedback fromt his week's author chats for another Saturday give away!

Words to Go chats with Author Leslie Lehr on Rearing Kids in a Single Family Home

Today Patty chats with novelist Leslie Lehr about “The Invisibility of Motherhood—the Hand that God sees.” Leslie’s debut novel Wife Goes On certainly has some autobiographical threads. Leslie’s general market novel is receiving rave reviews.

PATTY: The reason that I decided to hold this, forum, for lack of a better word is because I have such a concern for moms who are coming on the scene now. There has never been such a glut of parenting books, but so many women still experience times of confusion about mothering. Monday I took on my own forum and shared the difference between rearing kids with character versus rearing them to perform. Today, I asked Leslie Lehr if she would air out some of the difficulties of being a single parent. Leslie, you're a single parent of how many children?

LESLIE: Two girls, 16 and 19. Which sounds like I'm almost done, but it sure doesn't feel that way. As they say: little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems.

PATTY: It’s true. Just recently there was a Hickman coup among the men in my family. My boys are both in college. And in just checking in with them, making sure they still feel my support, I stepped across a boundary that had been newly erected—grown men not wanting mom checking in on them. We moms are often fallible, often to our own worry and guilt that we're ruining our children. But we learn from own mothers, at times, what not to do. What have you tried to pass on to your girls that you feel is different from how your mother reared you?

LESLIE: I don't know that we can ever know that we are doing the best thing for each child. I worry all the time about making the right decisions. The failures haunt me because they can happen even when you are trying to do what's best.

PATTY: Right, I’ll think I finally have a master’s degree in mothering, but then it seems I’m back in training wheels again. You experienced this yourself as a mother of a college age daughter, didn’t you?

LESLIE: Yes, I stepped back and let my older daughter choose her college freshman year - after another family member influenced her greatly - after knowing that she had loved a school we had visited together. I didn't want to be the bossy mom responsible for her decision. After a horrible year at the first school, she is starting over at the school I would have recommended, and it's the perfect fit. So, while it was a great lesson for her to follow her heart, and that she can stumble and get up and be stronger than ever, I still wonder if I should have been more assertive.

PATTY: We’ve had the same “runs” at finding the right college with all three. I guess we have to let go and let them learn. In our culture, there is a tendency to be helicopter parents in our children’s early adult years.

LESLIE: It's just impossible to know when is time to let them try out those wings. And just recently, I learned that my other daughter has a health issue that was tested every year and came out fine on the usual tests. Since I have overcompensated for my own upbringing, I changed careers to work at home and be a hands on mom who runs to the doctor for every sneeze - and still can't win!

PATTY: This is resonating deeply with me.

LESLIE: It can be hard to figure out, even evaluating the most basic issues, how to play that balance between being the aggressive mom making doctors do extra tests even if they roll their eyes, or being the relaxed one.To answer the question more directly, I don't believe we can ruin our children, there are too many other factors at play.

PATTY: I can hear sighs all over cyberspace.

LESLIE: And we have to be very careful about what we learned from our mothers, because, often the jury is still out. I do believe, however, that being a good role model is the most important thing we can do as mothers. So I try to be a good person, a hard worker, and a loving mother, every day. Not necessarily in that order, lol.
Patty: Haha! Those hats get juggled. When you and I chat about our kids, the word "compensate" crops up. I think that when we’ve had to overcome flawed upbringings, there’s that tendency to try and reach outside those parameters. I’m sure my sons will do that too. How do you work this compensation into your parenting practices and do you feel that you are patient to wait out the results?

LESLIE: I am far more patient on Monday mornings than after a long week on Friday nights! And I think we compensate on every level, with time, money, and attention, for our children. I tend to compensate with groceries - somehow, providing yummy fresh food helps me feel like a good mom - and I don't feel as nervous spending money on food than on clothes or other things!

PATTY: Yes, my hubby was so helpless around the house that I reared our two sons to feel very at home in the kitchen. If their art careers don’t work out, they could be chefs, literally!

LESLIE: I think we compensate as parents the same way we do in our own lives, more of this and less of that on any particular day. A balance. It often feels like juggling - keeping those balls in the air. I try to be patient by reminding myself that, 'this too shall pass.' And by trying to remember the sweet moments instead of the scary ones.

PATTY: Yes, we can’t be so hard on ourselves that the energy needed for mothering is drained out through worrying. As a single mother, you've probably figured out that you can't be both a dad and a mom. (or perhaps you have found that magic button) Have you sought out father figures for your daughters or found a support system that helps them see men in a positive light?

LESLIE: I never wanted to be a single mother, fought way too long to avoid it. I feel horrible that I wasn't able to provide the kind of father I would have liked them to have, but....I have them 24/7, their dad even lives out of state now, and so I do struggle with being both the disciplinarian and the comfort zone.

PATTY: I’m sure it’ was like learning to operate again inventing your new role as you went. But you’ve done beautifully and I want to commend single moms joining us today for the double-duty you sometimes have to pull in this role.

LESLIE: Their dad traveled a lot, so they were used to just having me home anyway. Maybe that helped. In any case, I do like it when they have male teachers at school to respect. I have also been extremely slow and careful when it came to dating after my divorce. And was fortunate enough to find someone who respects my role as a mother and is truly kind-hearted, smart, reliable - and who treats me very well. Being treated badly - and having all of us think it was normal - was the deciding factor in my divorce, so I make sure they notice how my boyfriend is true to his word, and shows up on time and takes me to wonderful places. And that I still have my own life and identity-- and still see my girlfriends a lot. With teenagers, I am less concerned that they have a good father figure than I am that they have a good role model for the right kind of man to marry, a man who will be a good father for their own children someday.

PATTY: That’s such a good point, that life may not hand us what we imagined would be the “perfect” environment for rearing our children. Life is certain to surprise us. What’s your favorite tenet to pass along to your children?

LESLIE: I believe in the Golden Rule above all others: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

PATTY: Jesus reiterates this in Matthew 7:12, like a big exclamation point at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

LESLIE: And we are here on earth to contribute to that, to make it a better place, and to spread love.

PATTY: Our mutual author friend Kaya McLaren and I will be chatting next week about that very topic—compassion and true expressions of love.

LESLIE: And, of course, I pray. For their happiness and health - and late at night when I am waiting up for my daughter to come home, safe and sound.

PATTY: Wife Goes On is Leslie’s novel. It has an underlying theme of motherhood in it, with the main character struggling to remain close to her teenage daughter, the beauty queen facing life as a young single mother, the lawyer fighting for her daughter back, and the actress whose life has been shaped by her miscarriage.

LESLIE: In fact, the reason I am fighting to fix the copy on the back that says the main character left a "hohum" marriage is because that's absurd. No mother would do that. Once you have children, divorce is very serious and that's why it was so amazing to me personally, that I could find such joy after the dark days. Which is why I wrote the book, to share the hope for happiness with others and their friends--who help!

PATTY: Leslie, I’m so glad we met a few weeks ago at the Girlfriend’s Weekend in Texas. You struck me right away as a woman who makes sacrifices for your girls. And I somehow suspected that any mom who lives out their motherhood in such a visible fashion would provide us with some wisdom. And you’ve certainly done that for us. Thank you, Leslie, for chatting today on Words to Go.

Please visit Leslie online at .Wife Goes On is a blend of serious general market fiction wrapped with a chick-lit bow. Leslie is giving away this book in the big give.

This week we continue our author chats asking authors to share with us the imperfections of rearing our kids, but the wonder that we find in the process.

Tomorrow I’m pleased to tell you that my awesome friend and prayer partner bestselling Christian novelist Terri Blackstock and I will be chatting about the sometimes heavy burden of praying for our kids. Do come and please leave feedback, Mon-Fri. and your name is entered in the Big Straw Hat for book give-aways.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Words to Go's Invisibility of Motherhood Week Welcomes Author Maureen Lang

What a great week I’m having on Words to Go! I finished my Random House novel The Pirate Queen and I get to chat with author moms this week on the subject of “The Invisibility of Motherhood.” Today novelist and mom Maureen Lang and I decided we should chat about the blessings of rearing a special needs child. There is probably a special place in God’s heart for moms with special needs children. The Hickmans were especially blessed a few years back with a gorgeous blue-eyed nephew who we all adore, but who was born afflicted with Downs. He is a light in our lives and has changed each of us in many ways. Maureen, you probably understand what I'm talking about, don't you?

MAUREEN: Absolutely! I always say praying for patience is a dangerous prayer, but that's something I've had to learn with my son. He has Fragile X Syndrome, and like Downs this disorder affects people with a wide range of symptoms and affectedness. Some Fragile X'ers are high functioning, some are low. My son is developmentally like a two year old, although chronologically he's thirteen. So . . . learning to be patient with his progress is something we deal with every day. All it takes is one smile from him and that patience is a lot easier to feel!

PATTY: I would imagine that there are many invisible acts that you do that may never be noticed by your child. As moms, we know that mothering is often a thankless job anyway. But in what ways have you felt "thanked" for your efforts in rearing such a special child?

MAUREEN: Every time my son makes any kind of an advance, I feel rewarded. I've been working with him to hang up his coat on a coat tree at home for several months - simple for most people but not for those who can't quite figure out the mechanics of how the simplest things actually work. He's gradually learned to go straight for the coat hook and make an attempt. You'd be surprised how many different directions a coat can actually hang from a hook!

PATTY: Haha!

MAUREEN: Is he glad to do this? Probably not, he'd rather go straight to the kitchen for a snack, or to the television for a favorite show, or to the computer for a favorite game. However being able to do some of those simple things to take care of himself will help him in the long run when I'm not here to do everything for him.

PATTY: Are there any life lessons that you might have missed out on if you had not been given this child?

MAUREEN: I think one natural reaction to having something bad happen to us is to think either God doesn't love us like He loves others, or that we did something to deserve an extra challenge in life. I can't tell you how many moms I've talked to who've exhibited this reaction when life takes an unexpectedly bad turn.

PATTY: It’s a natural response, though.

MAUREEN: I've learned through my own experiences that both of those lines of thinking are wrong. God does love me, and it was nothing I did to cause my son to be born with a disability. I've spent some time exploring that old question of why bad things happen to good people, and finally accepted the fact that it's all part of this faith-based system God has set up for us.

PATTY: I think we forget that accepting Christ as Lord is only the beginning. This process you’re talking about is actually foundational, that of accepting God’s sovereignty in the midst of an imperfect world. It’s a major element of that “peace” we all tout that Christianity gives us. Sometimes, we have to find it over and over again, don’t we?

MAUREEN: We do, Patty. If God allowed only good things to happen to people of faith, you can bet we'd all "get faith" if there were some provable benefit in doing so. And then where would we be? Would our faith be based on fear of bad things, or on the love that God showed by creating us and coming to this world and dying for us?

PATTY: That’s when we know we’ve fallen in love with our Lord, when we decide that this journey we’re on with him is out of a mutual love for one another, him at great cost and us at temporary earthly costs.

MAUREEN: I don't think having been given a child with a disability was entirely random—God does have a say in what challenges are allowed to come our way—but somehow it's easier to accept when I realize we all have something to overcome. Why not me?

PATTY: Yes, why not?

MAUREEN:Having challenges here on earth is one of the best ways to focus on Heaven, so the result of challenges cannot possibly be all bad for those who turn to God.

PATTY: It’s been a pleasure getting to know you today, Maureen, here on Words to Go.
Maureen is offering two of her novels to us in Friday’s big give, The Oak Leaves and My Sister Dilly, both delightful novels.

Tomorrow Patty chats with general market mom and novelist Leslie Lehr on the challenges of rearing children as a single parent. Leslie has a book give-away too so join us and leave feedback each day for all of our great author moms chatting on Words to Go!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Invisibility of Motherhood Welcomes Marlo Schalesky

Today I invited novelist Marlo Schalesky to chat on Words to Go about The Invisibility of Motherhood. She is the author of seven books, most recently releasing her novel If Tomorrow Never Comes. She also happens to have a Masters of Theology degree, so like a lot of us she loves studying the Bible and speaks to groups.

PATTY: Welcome, Marlo, to Words to Go!

MARLO: Thanks, Patty, for inviting me!

PATTY: Marlo, I love the story you shared with me recently about your child. Would you share it with us today?

MARLO: Sure, Patty. Let’s say that I know how to pray. I’ve been a praying Christian for years. I’ve read all the books, I’ve studied all the greats - Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and a dozen others.

PATTY: I have all those classics right here on my bookshelf too. But even with my bookcase groaning under the weight, I still find myself pondering one of life’s greatest questions: How do I know when I’m pleasing God? What I love about your story is that it answers this question in an unexpected and profound way.

MARLO: I’ve given talks and written seminary papers. I’ve fasted, and prayer-walked, and read the Lord’s Prayer in Greek! I’ve even written articles! So, imagine my surprise when I got a lesson in prayer from a two-year-old.

PATTY: Do tell.

MARLO: It happened just the other night. It was at the dinner table that our five-year-old, Bethany, squirmed in her seat. “Who’s gonna pray so we can eat?” She looked down at the spaghetti on her plate. I opened my mouth to volunteer, but before I could say a word, a little voice piped up from beside me. “Me do it. I pray.” I glanced at our two-year-old daughter, Joelle. “Okay, you do it. You know what to do?” She nodded. She’d never prayed out loud for a meal before, but she had heard us pray hundreds of times. We always asked God to bless the food and thanked Him for it. Joelle folded her hands as we all bowed our heads.
Then, we waited. And waited. I peeked at her. “Go ahead, sweetie. Pray.” She closed her eyes. Then, came her prayer, loud and clear over the table. “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy. Amen.”

PATTY: I noticed the pause too. I imagined angels falling silent just waiting to hear this two-year-old pray.

MARLO: We all looked up. Bethany frowned. “That’s a funny prayer. Can we eat now or not?” I tapped her hand and shushed her. “It’s a great prayer. You can eat.”

PATTY: Yes, older siblings feel the need to “call foul” on their younger siblings.

MARLO: Joelle stuffed her fork into her spaghetti and ignored her sister. “I pray,” she muttered.I smiled and contemplated her words. She prayed all right. A prayer no one had taught her, a prayer that came right from her heart, a prayer that put all my grown-up prayers to shame. In six simple words, Joelle had gotten to the heart of God-honoring prayer--not a rote repetition about the food, but a sincere desire for Jesus to be happy.

PATTY: And it’s interesting that she would see Jesus, not just as a God of happiness, but one who cries. I think that a lot of people assume things about God without seeing him for his emotional connections to us.

MARLO: As I sat there twirling spaghetti on my fork, I thought about how my prayers compared with Joelle’s. Sure, I knew all the right phrases and all the how-to’s. Yet, as I contemplated her simple words, I saw how woefully self-centered my own prayers had become.

PATTY: That must have been the Holy Spirit summoning up your inner contemplator.

MARLO: I asked for blessings on my family, help with my work, wisdom in dealing with people, and that all would go well. Good things, surely, and things that God wants me to pray for. But it wasn’t enough. If I were to simplify my prayers down to Joelle’s language, I saw that they would sound more like “Marlo no cry. Marlo be happy.”

PATTY: So you’re saying that our prayers can get so complicated and so like a laundry list that we forget the One in whose presence we’re bowing.

MARLO: Where Joelle prays for Jesus, I pray for me. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:10 (NIV) to pray, “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I’ve read those words so many times, but only through Joelle’s prayer have I seen their deeper meaning. When we spurn God’s will, Jesus weeps. When we do His will, Jesus is happy.

PATTY: I recently had one of those gut checks just like you’re describing. But what I love about this story, is that God used your child as a reminder to you of that internal prayer posture.

MARLO: These days, Joelle prays that same prayer for every meal. And as I listen to her, as I lift my heart to God with her words, my prayer life is changing. Instead of only asking for God’s blessing, I’m focusing more on asking God to help me to be pleasing to Him. As I ask for His help in my work and writing, I voice my desire for Him to help me to glorify Him in my life. When I ask for wisdom, I also ask Him to help me honor Him in all I do and think. And instead of focusing on my desire for all to go well, I ask Him what I can do to bring Him joy.

PATTY: It’s very authentic to admit that we often pray for God to bring us joy rather than realizing that we have a responsibility as part of our stewardship in Christ, to submit, if you will, in a manner that will bring joy to God’s heart—like Joelle did.

MARLO: Yes. In other words, I am learning to pray with childlike faith. I’m learning to pray, “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy.”

PATTY: That’s a great mom’s story and a great way to kick off our week on Words to Go as we chat with author moms about The Invisibility of Motherhood. Today Marlo Schalesky shared her personal story and what I like is that it exemplifies those “invisible” moments we have as mothers, where our children become the examples to us rather than the other way around. If we’ll just stop and notice the stories going on right where the Lord has placed us, we’ll hear his voice and it won’t be so invisible any more.

Thanks, Marlo, for sharing on Words to Go. Tomorrow author Maureen Lang chats with me about the struggles and blessings of mothering a special needs child. You won’t want to miss this awesome story of a mother’s love for a child who may never be able to express in words the invisible work God does through special family relationships.
Book Gives on Friday. Post your feedback and be entered in the Big Straw Hat!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Authors Words to Go--The Invisibility of Motherhood

This week, four authors will chat with me and share their stories of mothering. Their stories will resonate with you if you are a mother or have one.

But what I would like to do, even staring down computer issues this morning, is to precede these chats with what I see as our moral obligations as mothers. My view of the world and of our culture has been from the top as a pastor’s wife. I see into the sensitive fabric of women’s lives, the relationships that they strive to hold onto and the ones that collapse leaving them stunned. But there is one foundational truth as a mom that I’d like to parse today, that of building character. It should be the first tool in a mom's aresenal. But personal goals as a parent can interfere.

That is often because of the tendency in our culture to keep our children busy. I once served a boss who, due to his lack of knowing how to build a team, kept us busy. His checks-and-balance system was nothing more than an exercise in futility and sick control. If we aren’t careful as parents, we’ll throw the same harness over our kids and call it parenting.
This point was driven home one day as I observed this practice in action.

I was observing a group of little dancers performing for a small audience at a local Celtic festival. My own daughter Jessica, before she passed away, loved dancing. She danced for anyone who would let her. She taught dancing to children and fellow college students and even her own brothers. So I attend these sorts of gatherings because they make me feel close to her. But there was one little blonde-haired girl who was in the middle of this group of Irish step dancers who drew all eyes. She danced in perfect time with the older girls in the group. The older girls, however, were smiling, and she was not. As her feet moved in perfect precision, her eyes glistened with big tears that soon began spilling down her face. The pressure to perform spilled over. While this little girl did not miss a step, she wept openly. As a mother, I wanted to scoop her into my arms and tell her that she never had to dance again if it gave her that much sorrow. Like so many children forced into the arts or sports programs ill-fitted and probably not destined for it, she was not being taught to love dance and the arts. She was being taught to perform.

I do believe that a child who begs to be a part of a program should follow it through to the end of that season or the weeks to which she has committed. But that is not a performance mentality. It is a matter of building character into her training. But as a mom looking back, the most important traits that we passed along that had remained a constant in our children’s life choices was character and virtue.

The arts and sports programs or academic pursuits are going to flourish in different ways in each individual child’s make-up; they’re not little clones of us, made to fulfill our unfulfilled longings. They’re not to be the cheerleader we could never be or the Einstein to whom we ourselves could never live up to.

Only God knows a child’s purpose. We don’t have to worry about finding our child’s purpose. Train a child to operate using character and that child will find her purpose.

A new laptop is on its way to the Hickman hacienda. So if you’d like to leave feedback, the book give-aways will continue and I'll be able to finish last week's Big Haired Southern Book Give. But today, how about we leave feedback about either character building or the futility of performance works. There’s so much to discuss, you probably have a lot of wisdom to share with fellow sojourners. We’d love to hear your thoughts. And Friday, yes, more book gives. Where there is imperfection and problems, opportunity is our teacher.
I hope you enjoy our author chats this week on “The Invisibility of Motherhood.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Watch for Contest Winners Monday

After a twenty-four wrestling match with Blogger, I'm going to have to work out some glitches. If this goes up, hurrah! But I'll spend the weekend working out the problems with the feedback box that won't allow me access and then the drawing. So let's aim for Monday and I'll post the winners early as possible. Sorry about that, friends.

I've so enjoyed the author chats and the feedback for "Lessons Learned From Livin' Down South" week. Next week, more great author chats are coming.

Did you ever dream about motherhood and the blessed state of holding that precious bundle of your DNA combined with your forever love's? And did that vision of blessedness turn out exactly like you had dreamed? Well, for the rest of us struggling citizens of the human race, motherhood came with a few surprises, one being that much of the work that we would pour into our progeny would go unnoticed and unlauded by the rest of the world. But as a mother of grown sons now, I hope you'll find encouragement in our stories of flawed yet wondrous motherhood.

Please join us in the coming week as authors candidly talk about "The Invisibility of Motherhood--The Hand that only God Sees."

My writer friends joining me will be authors Terri Blackstock, Marlo Schalesky, Maureen Lang and new novelist on the publishing scene Leslie Lehr--all next week on Words to Go!
Tune in Monday for the book winners or just sign up to be a Follower of Words to Go and you'll get reminders.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lessons Learned From Livin' Down South Welcomes David W. Pierce!

Yes, the fun continues next week too with more authors chatting about "The Invisibility of Motherhood--the Hand that God Sees!"

If you are new to Words to Go, we've enjoyed a week of chatting with Southern authors about “Lessons Learned Livin’ Down South.” You may scroll down and not only enjoy the author’s stories but also meet a community of like-minded readers leaving feedback. Readers’ feedback is entered each day in Patty’s Big Straw Hat for a Friday book give. Tonight’s Big-Haired Southern Book Give-Away includes a generous collection of novels and non-fiction donated by the visiting authors who have gathered on our front porch. HOWEVER, please remember that winners are posted Saturday and readers are responsible for contacting us to claim book prizes.

Today Lessons Learned While Livin’ Down South invites southern memoirist David W. Pierce onto the front porch. David has written two memoirs including his just released book Don’t Let Me Go and Salvage. Don’t Let Me Go is a story about the adventures that he and his daughter Chera took climbing mountains and running marathons. He has had nearly a dozen short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He has collaborated with his wife Christian comedienne Chonda on six adult non-fiction projects and two children’s books published by Zonderkidz: Tales from the Ark (2001) and Tales from the Manger (2004).

PATTY: David, I’m so glad we had this time to chat today. Welcome to Words to Go.

DAVID: Thanks, Patty!

PATTY: David, I grew up in Arkansas and I don’t think a lot of folks know how slow our state was in coming out of the chute. I still remember visiting relatives who still used outhouses. You grew up in Tennessee, a neighboring southern state. I believe you might understand what I’m talking about when I say that rudimentary living has its challenges but also it’s benefits.

DAVID: I do, Patty. I was born in Tennessee. Lived in and around Nashville all my life. When I was nine we moved out to the country (I know people not from the South think everywhere in Tennessee is in the country). It was a small house with no running water for the first few months—until Dad piped it in from the spring in the yard. It was a grand day when he set the toilet, especially so because winter was coming on.

PATTY: Simple pleasures in that setting is a big day to a kid.

DAVID: In the country kids play in the woods. I have a brother and sister close to the same age and the neighbors had five kids about our age. We played army. We searched the creek for crawdads. Shot down hornet’s nests with bow and arrows we made. Find snakes and kill them. Trap opossums and then let them go. Shoot BB guns. Throw rocks. Whack rocks over the barn with a baseball bat. Climb in the barn. Swing on grapevines. Build tree houses. Dam up the creek and swim around. Find returnable cold drink bottles and cash them in for candy money. Buy candy. Play Match Box cars in the dirt. There was always plenty for a kid to do in the country.
PATTY: This sounds very familiar. I know exactly how to catch a crawdad, right behind those pinchers. It’s a small world, but very entertaining to a kid whose universe is just that. Now my folks were the neighborhood backsliders. Yours, a little different from mine. Want to share about that?

DAVID: As far as I knew, as a kid, on Sunday everyone in the world went to church. We went to a big Baptist church in Nashville. Dad always wore a suit—it was the only time he ever wore a suit. He smoked a lot. Seems most Baptist men did. There was a place to the side of the church where a big knot of men—mostly dressed in black suits—would gather between Sunday school and worship service to smoke. The rest of us would grab a pew and Dad would catch up. There’s an evangelist known as the Preacher of Bourbon St. named Bob Harrington.

PATTY: Yes! I remember Bob Harrington. I a lot of the old revivalists and also the quartets came through our valley.

DAVID: He came to our church many times for revival. Dad loved revivals. (Maybe because he got to wear his suit every night—and he did.) And Dad loved Bob Harrington. This evangelist sold records—the old vinyl LPs that you played on 33 1/3 speed, and Dad bought all of them. Whenever anyone would come visit us at our house in the country, either family or friends, Dad would make them sit down and he’d play these records for them. He’d nod at the profound parts, laugh at the funny parts, and eventually fill up an ashtray with old butts.

PATTY: The world has changed a lot since then.

DAVID: I love stories that are set in the South. They seem so…green (and I thought this long before we were worried about ozone). But go out West and you’re going to miss the green of the South. The hills, rivers and lakes, curvy, winding roads, the humidity and trees everywhere. I was in Arizona one day and the cab driver asked where I was from. When I told him he said, “Yeah, I’ve been there once. Couldn’t really see anything for all the trees.”

PATTY: Oh, yes. Traveling to a Southerner means that we get to hear the same clichés fed back to us, like we haven’t heard them a million times. Some people don’t know we invented them. What sort of southern writings have informed your own writing, David?

DAVID: I love reading William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and Lee Smith. There is such a built-in irony to their stories: all set in country that is so green and so full of potential for play, for fun; yet there will be a seamy side exposed, a certain grotesqueness that reminds us at gut level of our human, broken condition.

PATTY: I love the Southern gothics too. I’ve written two and that’s still my favorite genre.

DAVID: Much like floating along on a pristine river and then hearing banjo music. (I know that’s what people not from the South are always thinking about us—the banjo music!)

PATTY: I think there’s a T-shirt sold in mountain outfitters’s shops that says “If you hear banjo music, turn back!” But it is the flavor of the South that gives our stories their distinctions.

DAVID: I’ve written several books now, some published some not. But you don’t have to read far into any of them before you find sweet tea, or dirt roads, barns, woods, cabins, decoration day (where the family would gather at the cemetery to decorate the graves of our loved ones with flowers and then find a nearby grassy patch for one huge picnic), muddy rivers, carp and catfish, creek banks, a little church, or a preacher’s daughter. In fact, I even married one of those—on the front porch of an antebellum home way out in the country, that belonged to Chonda’s cousins.

PATTY: That sounds very romantic. There are still antebellum homes down in Louisiana. But a lot of the South is fading. I never hear tell any more of decorations. My mother used to take us to “Decoration” and it was like a celebration of the lives gone on before us. I think it’s one of the reasons I don’t fear death. As a child, we were taught about death through sacred rites and traditions. It’s why I’m not afraid to turn over those types of rocks in my novels.

David, thank you so much for visiting on our front porch today at Words to Go.

DAVID: Thanks, Patty. I’ve enjoyed it.

PATTY:What a great week this has been, an entire week of chats with some of America’s top Southern authors representing so many genres. As you can tell, Southern writing is alive and flourishing. If you haven’t added southern books to your home library, there’s no time like the present. Tonight, after today’s feedback, I’ll hold the drawing for the Big-Haired Southern Book Give-Away. Please visit tomorrow, Saturday, for the winners’ list. Authors are personally mailing out their autographed books to winning fans, so be sure and email me back right away with your mailing address.

Big-haired Southern Girl hugs from your favorite Front Porch Novelist and Friend,
Miz Patty

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lessons Learned From Livin' Down South Welcomes River Jordan!

Today we continue our discussion about Lessons Learned From Livin’ Down South. I met River Jordan in Texas a few weeks ago. I was amazed at her depth as a writer and her diversity of talents—she’s comedic and hosts her own radio show. River Jordan is a southerner with a global perspective. She began her writing career as a playwright and spent over ten years with the Loblolly Theatre group, where her original works were produced, including Mama Jewels: Tales from Mullet Creek, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, and Virga.

Ms. Jordan's first novel, The Gin Girl (Livingston Press, 2003), has garnered such high praise as "This author writes with a hard bitten confidence comparable to Ernest Hemingway. And yet, in the Southern tradition of William Faulkner, she can knit together sentences that can take your breath."

Kirkus Reviews described her second novel, The Messenger of Magnolia Street, as "a beautifully written atmospheric tale." It was applauded as "a tale of wonder" by Southern Living, who chose the novel as their Selects feature for March 2006, and described by other reviewers as " a riveting, magical mystery" and "a remarkable book."

Her third novel, Saints In Limbo has been painted by some of the finest fiction voices of today as "a lyrical and relentlessly beautiful book," and "a wise, funny, joyful and deadly serious book, written with a poet's multilayered sense of metaphor and meter and a page-turning sense of urgency."
She writes in a deeply Southern voice. Her writing’s been compared to William Faulkner but I definitely sense some Flannery O’Conner, but also, a style that is distinctively River’s and no one elses. Right now I’m reading her novel Saints in Limbo. The strength of her voice from start to finish is that it never breaks. She is truly a Southern lit author with a wise eye, seeing life up close. Welcome to Words to Go, River!

RIVER: First, thank you for inviting me, Patty. It's really wonderful to slow down and put some of these thoughts on paper.

PATTY: River, this week we’ve been discussing with authors Lessons Learned From Livin’ Down South. Share some of what you’ve gleaned in light of your faith. I remember your reading at the Girlfriend’s Weekend in Texas.

RIVER: When I read from The Deep, Down, & Dirty South – a southern girl recollects – at the Pulpwood Queen Event was a beginning to that answer. That recollection of what being a southern girl meant in light of my faith. The fact of "Jesus running through our veins like pinesap through the trees," that part is something I cling to. I was so aware of the reality of my Grandmother's faith in Jesus. Of her absolute total resolve and no lack of faith in his reality. Surely this took root at an early age in ways that I wasn't even aware until years later.

PATTY: How so?

RIVER: I was also aware of the communal affairs of faith. Of Dinner on the Ground and what it meant to the community to be there and be a part of that.

PATTY: Dinner on the Ground, for initiates to rural church culture, is an outside gathering after church where the women bring food from home and everyone shares and eats together. These rites and traditions permeate your stories.

RIVER: The position of the country church in a small rural community is clearly reflected in the church scenes in The Messenger of Magnolia Street. When I was twelve my mother joined the Episcopal church and as such, I don't feel like that part of my spiritual history is southern but it affects the quiet way I approach God. The way that I find solace in being in an empty cathedral surrounded by evidence of prayers said and left behind.

PATTY: A lot of young people cast off these things. Faith obviously took hold in you. But even that was something you had to make your own, wasn’t it?

RIVER: As I became a young adult I considered my faith and where it came from and maybe the way I didn't automatically carry my personal faith forward was that I felt I had to establish my own relationship with God and that meant searching both the foundation and the perimeters of my faith.

PATTY: In that gleaning process, were there facets you decided not to carry into adulthood?

RIVER: If there is anything I've decided not to carry forward, it would be fair to say that it is the judgmentalism that I find can sometimes be found in the South but then I'm sure it can be found in all faiths to some degree.

PATTY: Unfortunately, it isn’t exclusively a Southern distinctive. But it’s certainly got a sting to it here.

RIVER: That's a personal choice like prejudice really – not one that is faith-based. The older I get the more I realize I'm walking out my faith every day of my life one step at a time. What that looks like, both publically and privately, to me is very personal. So, yes, the older I get – the less I would want to embrace what could have been a judgmental attitude toward other people's progress or journey in their faith and life. That's God's business.

PATTY: Yes, he did not call us out of darkness into meddling. What kind of people have you met down South who you feel have informed your writing?

RIVER: Oh, I guess in sort of wanting to escape some parts of the south most of my life or at least when I became a teenager. It was more like – oh, no, no - I belong in New York or Paris or the hills of Lucca or something.

PATTY: I was guilty of that for a while too. It’s that Looking Glass view that puts the fear in us that the things that make us distinctively southern won’t be accepted by others.

RIVER: Again, age is a great and profound teacher. Like those old stories of those willow sticks that would find water – there is this taproot of my existence that belongs in the South and nowhere else. It's in the love I have for the people of the rural south. Of what they went through and still do. It's a different place and all the good things about it from the heart are the things I want to treasure and keep forever. The part about treasuring a neighbor and having faith in God that goes beyond reason or ritual, the love of fun and story, our peculiarities that other people cock an eyebrow to – those are things that now I'm pretty proud of to say – Yep, count me as one of them.

PATTY: So true. It’s finding that inward confidence as a Southerner that helps us walk side-by-side, arms linked. We know that ugly economies or threats from outside won’t change who we are and how we love each other. River, its such a pleasure to chat with you today on Words to Go.

And we’ve got a treat. We both work with the same good publishing folks at Random House/WaterBrook Press. They’ve agreed to put a winning blogger’s name and address on her upcoming release Saints in Limbo, the novel I referenced earlier. So when Saints releases, a lucky reader will be shipped a copy right off the press.

Do leave your feedback for our Southern authors this week. Each entry (only one per day please) will be entered in the Big Straw Hat for Friday’s Big-Haired Southern Book Give-Away.

Tomorrow, it is my pleasure to invite to our Southern porch gathering a fellow who I met last summer when we were teaching writing up in the Rockies. David W. Pierce struck me at first as a very reflective writer. Then I discovered that reflection was about to be premiered in his newest book release that I’m pleased to announce is here on my desk, Don’t Let Me Go. David also happens to be married to comedienne Chonda Pierce.

Thanks for joining us this week as we chat with authors about Lessons Learned From Livin’ Down South.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lessons Learned From Livin' Down South Welcomes Rachel Hauck!

Today on Words to Go, we’re chatting with Southern chick-lit novelist Rachel Hauck. Rachel pens stories to the tune of a hybrid or “blended” genre. She mixes chick-lit with romance; then throw in some Southern gentility and there you have Rachel Hauck.

PATTY: Welcome, Rachel, to Words to Go.

RACHEL: Thank you, Patty!

PATTY: You and I were recently discussing what it’s like living down South. It was one of those “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” conversations, wasn’t it?

RACHEL: Yes, there’s a certain boldness one gets from living in the South. That and weather plays into our choices a lot. Guess that’s why people like to talk about it so much.

PATTY: Yes, if you don’t like the weather down South, just wait—it’ll change.

RACHEL: Living in north Florida, just below the Georgia line, most of my growing up days were sunny and warm. My friends and I ventured out because, well, we could. No snow. No ice.

PATTY: Lived in St. Pete two years and can’t say I ever got stuck in a blizzard.

RACHEL: I graduated high school in December, so feeling I had free time to kill before college, I worked, slept and played. A girlfriend and I decided to go up to the southern coastal region several days a week to ride horses.

PATTY: College days, ah, the bliss of it all.

RACHEL: I loved horses, but knew nothing about them. I rode despite my ignorance.

PATTY: What is it about jumping on a strange, one ton, unpredictable animal with no forethought to the power beneath us that makes us do it?

RACHEL: Let’s just say my perception of riding a horse came from watching black and white reruns of Roy Rogers.

PATTY: Who? Just kidding. I was a huge fan of his wife Dale Evans’ books.

RACHEL: One day my horse decided she’d had enough plodding along the sandy Florida trail and turned toward the barn. I didn’t want to go to the barn, so I pulled the reigns to steer her back down the trail. Nothing doing. She went straight for a low tree branch and I went straight to the ground.

PATTY: Nice!

RACHEL: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

PATTY: So they say.

RACHEL: I walked back to the barn and waited for my friend, but the next week, I was right back on the horse. We continued riding until I lost my contact lens while trying to remove dirt from my eye. There’s only so much “killing” a girl can take.

PATTY: Of course.

RACHEL: Years later, many years later, I told the story to some friend in my husband’s hearing. He stared at me. “You rode horses? Almost every day? For months?”

PATTY: They don’t listen.

RACHEL: I said, “Yeah, didn’t I tell you about it?”
“Hmm,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve ridden horses with you and let’s just say, it’s not your strong suit.”

PATTY: Why must dh’s narrate?

RACHEL: Life sometimes knocks us off the ride. But the only way to grow and overcome is to pick ourselves up, dust the sand off our knees and go at it again. The South has a certain hope in the air. Like Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

PATTY: The South does have its own virtues. That brings up the subject of what people like to call the Bible belt. What are the things about the South that you have allowed to inform your faith? What are the things you've decided not to carry?

RACHEL: I love that the culture of faith is so prevalent in the south. It’s evident in the clichéd but true notion of “southern hospitality.”

PATTY: That’s a repeating theme this week.

RACHEL: While writing Love Starts With Elle, set in the South Carolina lowcountry, the Yankee hero asked the southern heroine if she’ll watch his daughter for a weekend. She agrees. He assures her he’ll pay her for her time. She responds, “That’s not how we do things around here.”

PATTY: There you have it.

RACHEL: It’s true.

PATTY: What I love about writing southern lit are those nuances in our phraseology that are so distinctively Southern that it codifies the language. The reader reads our stories and they “get” that this is a Southern novel. But not overdone, like Hollywood typing, silly and filled up with dropped g’s or pho-net-ically spelled words. You have to have an ear for it, like a musician. But I agree with you, that the Southern culture is a high positive.

RACHEL: But there are negatives.

PATTY: Do tell.

RACHEL: The tradition of southern gossip or Sunday-only believers.

PATTY: Oh, ahem, that. Mary zeroed in on that yesterday.

RACHEL: I chose not to carry those elements with me. If I’m going to Believe, then I want to live it out every day.

PATTY: I'd like to point out that none of our guests are aware of the others' materials. The Spirit must have taken a-hold of our Words to Go this week. Rachel, how have you changed in your love for people here in the South?

RACHEL: I never really thought much about it until I was an adult. After graduating from college, I traveled through the South for my sorority. I began to see and appreciate the commonality of southern traditions, the deep conviction and beauty of the people. My first corporate job required a lot of travel. In four years I traveled to Europe twice, Australia twice, South America many times, Mexico and Canada, from Maine to California.
Coming home to Florida became a treasure of my heart. I’d leave a cold, wintry setting and fly into sunshine and balmy breezes.
I’m not sure when, but somewhere along the line I remember thinking, “There are no women like southern women. They are some of the most beautiful women on earth.”

PATTY: You will certainly get high marks for that statement. But it’s true. We kept begging a friend to come and visit us here in Lake Norman, that there was no place like it. He finally came and was dumbstruck by the beauty of the women here. Any parting thoughts, Rachel?

RACHEL: The world is changing, some for the good, some for the worse. But I hope the southerners hold onto their good traditions and faith. The worlds needs us.

PATTY: That’s so true. I’ve heard in my travels the occasional negative comment about the South, but it’s always by someone who hasn’t lived here among the people and drank in the beauty of our faith, deep, reflective intellect, and contentment with life. No wonder writing is a rich heritage here. Novelist Rachel Hauck on Words to Go and Lessons Learned from Livin’ Down South.

Rachel is donating two of her novels for Friday’s Big-haired Southern Book Give. Sweet Caroline and Love Starts With Elle are now in the give-away bonanza, so kindly leave your feedback, book-loving fans. Every post per day is entered in the Big Straw Hat for Friday’s drawing. Please remember to visit Saturday for the list of winners so Miz Patty won’t have to run you down.

Big-haired Southern Sister hugs.
Miz Patty

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lessons Learned From Livin' Down South Welcomes Mary DeMuth!

This week on Words to Go, we chat with Southern authors about lessons learned while living down South. Today we welcome southern novelist Mary DeMuth who isn’t afraid to write about life’s thorny and sometimes complex themes, but bathed in beautiful prose. She offers expert advice through her non-fiction parenting books. But her real-to-life novels inspire people to turn trials into triumphs: Watching the Tree Limbs (2007 Christy Award finalist (and achingly beautiful) ACFW Book of the Year 2nd Place; and Wishing on Dandelions (2007 Retailer’s Choice Award finalist). Mary is currently working on three novels and an upcoming memoir.

PATTY: Welcome, Mary, to Words to Go!

MARY: Thank you, Patty!

PATTY: Mary you are a transplant to the South. When you and I first met, it had not been long since you and your hubby had come back from France where you planted a church. Being a church planter’s wife too, you and I compared a lot of notes. But then I was so surprised at the many things we had in common except for the minor fact that you were a transplant in the South while I had grown up a Southerner. But your novels are clearly informed by a distinctive Southern voice very much in the tradition of today’s hybrid fiction authors like Sue Monk Kidd and Barbara Kingsolver. But first of all, how difficult was it for you to acclimate to the South?

MARY: Having come from the North and being a Yankee-ish imposter, it was true culture shock for me to have the Saturday evening news give the weather report “for your commute to church in the morning.” For a long time it felt foreign to have so many references to God and church in the media and on the street.

PATTY: We’re seeing a lot of that type of practice go by the wayside here in Charlotte as the New South grows more analogous to northern regions. But do you see that as a good thing or not?

MARY: I now appreciate that Southern folks at least have an understanding of God and a rudimentary view of His ways. This certainly was not the case in Seattle, per se. Nor was it something you could count on in France (We lived there nearly three years.) There’s something comfortable about knowing that the majority of folks you run into at least understand the concept of a personal God.

PATTY: I agree that faith down South is a comfortable fit. How could it work against us, though?

MARY: One strange phenomenon we discovered when we moved from Seattle to Texas and France to Texas was that Christians in more secular or persecuted contexts tended to truly live out their faith.

PATTY: How were they different?

MARY: They either were Christians or they weren’t because there was no societal pressure to conform to Christianity. So you can imagine how strange it’s been to see so many folks use the name of Jesus so casually and then fail to truly follow Him. In our view, you either love Him or you don’t. This southern cultural view of Christianity is something we rally against.

PATTY: Well, for instance, my hubby is now a pastor. But he adopted his parents’ faith without surrendering his will to Christ. He shares now about how emotionally bankrupted he was because he had not embraced a genuine passion for and trust in God. So what you’re saying makes sense—that claiming to be “of God” needs to be followed by a commitment to a true apostolic faith. But it seems that you’ve found your balance culturally now, especially since your novels are so clearly informed by the South. How have you changed in your love for people here in the South? Do you have a story to share about that?

MARY: When we moved from Seattle to East Texas, I felt really out of place. I didn’t look like others. I didn’t talk like others (which folks were kind to point out) and I didn’t cook like anyone I knew.

PATTY: We can forgive you those few transgressions.

MARY: I grew disillusioned when an acquaintance thought my ham and bean soup was possum stew.

PATTY: Well. . .

MARY: And when I called a new friend to complain that some folks were hunting squirrels and eating them for dinner, she paused a really long time before saying, “Um, my husband shoots squirrels and we eat them.”

PATTY: That is Texas for you. It is in some ways like Arkansas-- a whole ‘nother country—and I say that with the greatest of affection for the Southwest having grown up there and written five novels set along the Texas-Arkansas border. ;) I’ll have to tell our squirrel brain story one day. But back to Mary—you were saying?

MARY: But there’s something beautiful about one memory I have. I was feeling particularly lonely, out of sorts, and my new friend JoAnne invited me over for lunch. While our kids ran around and played, she methodically cut onions and potatoes. “This is what I make when we’re down to our last bit of money,” she explained.

PATTY: We do have a tendency here to demonstrate our ways and then translate it for newbies.

MARY: During our conversation, where she lightened my loneliness, the most amazing soup scented the room. By the time I ate it, I knew I’d arrived “home.” And I loved JoAnne in that moment.

PATTY: Your story is a beautiful metaphor for the aroma of Christ that arises from Southern believers. It’s a natural love and empathy for those who are down on their luck or needing a friend that is expressed through cooking and hospitality. Here our faith goes beyond religion—it’s truly relational. I met a dozen JoAnns when we moved from a Missouri Bible school to Louisiana. And just like her, they would seat me at the kitchen table, start chopping up food, and then explain to me why they were doing it—and I lapped it up. That’s where I truly learned how to both cook and include others in my meals on the fly.

MARY: It’s the best part of the South—the sweet hospitality, the shared communion around a table.

PATTY: I agree wholeheartedly. Mary DeMuth, we’ve loved chatting with you today here at Words to Go. It’s a week of authors sharing their Lessons Learned While Livin’ Down South. I so appreciate the feedback from some of our Louisiana friends this week too. I still think of you when I make jambalaya. But, of course, I think of my Texas friends when I make real chili—not with squirrels, though.

Both Tamera and Mary have each donated three books for Friday’s Big-Haired Southern book give. I can assure you, you’re going to like them a lot! When you leave feedback, your name is put in the big straw hat for Friday’s drawing. Just for fun, why not tell us the state you reside in too?

Tomorrow, Southern author Rachel Hauck shares more lessons from her life in the South.
You won’t want to miss it!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lessons Learned From Livin' Down South Welcomes Tamera Leigh

Please check Saturday's blog for list of book-give away contestants!

Author Tamera Leigh was born to Southern parents who, even though they were transplanted in Phoenix, Arizona, forever carried with them and passed on Southern roots to their four offspring. Tamera’s Southern Discomfort series is set in North Carolina. Tamera is now a happy Tennesseean. Welcome to Words to Go, Tamera!

TAMERA: Thanks, Patty!

PATTY: Tamera and I are discussing the things we carry and how place informs life and our storytelling. Tamera, although you weren’t reared in the South, you were reared by Southerners. And now your novels are set in the South. Want to explain how writing about the South became important to you?

TAMERA: What I didn’t account for was that my parents had carried the South with them and that, unbeknownst to their children, those roots took hold in their three girls and one boy. As our parents tended to be loners, we assumed our classmates also enjoyed dinner around a table set with fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and pickled corn (Goodness, that pickled corn!).

PATTY: That was a surprise to me too, that the rest of the country didn’t cook like us. My mother cooked with pan drippings, lard, you know, regular stuff.

TAMERA: As for the lack of “Yes, ma’ams” and “No, ma’ams,” we assumed our peers were simply being rude and that, at least, their parents were getting the respect due them in their homes.

PATTY: Exactly, Tamera. As I travel, every so often I’ll respond with a “Yes, ma’am,” just to see the response. It’s a response as natural as breathing here, a sign of great respect.

TAMERA: Of course, the older we got, the more we suspected there was something more to us than met the eye and ear. And the proof was found when I returned to my parents’ roots when my husband and I moved to Tennessee thirteen years ago.

PATTY: How so?

TAMERA: It turns out that the South isn’t only in my parentage. Yes, there was some culture shock involved in our move, but with a bit of stretching and wiggling, I discovered that the glove of the South fit pretty well.

PATTY: Of course. It’s such a gracious skin. ;)

TAMERA: In fact, my mother is no longer the only woman in our family with a drawl

PATTY: I prefer to think of it as part of our glory.

TAMERA: It kind of sneaks up on you.

PATTY: Yes, taking up residence in our vowels especially and giving us extra syllables we didn’t know we needed. I’m curious, though. How did faith play into what you write?

TAMERA: Despite disappointment, loss, and hardship, there was one thing my mother never questioned—that God was with her and would carry her and her children through every difficulty. It was part of her raising, and though she became disillusioned with organized religion, she passed on her beliefs without apology.

PATTY: My mother, too, struggled with organized religion but never would have considered not believing, praying. What about you?

TAMERA: I struggled to believe as she believed, but once my husband and I rooted ourselves in the South (AKA “The Bible Belt”), my faith found its rhythm, first in a little Methodist church, and later in a community church where a multitude of generations knew one another beyond those couple of hours on a Sunday.

PATTY: Doing life together, so to speak.

TAMERA: They cared and showed it by words and actions. They even welcomed the western transplants that appeared in their midst. Of course, they were delighted to discover that one of those transplants—moi!—was returning to her mother’s roots.

PATTY: Southern people have so many distinctions that are shared. One is that of loving people, taking others at face value. What is your favorite memory of a Southerner who taught you about love?

TAMERA: The one person who stands out is Miss Virginia, an elderly woman who bustled over to greet my husband, my two-year-old son, and me that first day at the little Methodist church in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. She was charming and welcoming and determined to draw me into her life. The first day that she invited me into her home, I sat in her front parlor and sipped tea as she kindly told me in her deep Southern drawl that I shouldn’t be discouraged if it took our family a while to feel comfortable in our new community. “Things move slower here in the South,” she said, “though I’m sure your mother told you that.”

PATTY: I hear that complaint, if you will, often issued by transplants, that the slowness of people drives newbies a little crazy. So did your mother warn you about that?

TAMERA: Yes, my mother had told me that, but as a result of Miss Virginia’s advice and guidance over the years and the birth of our second son in a Nashville hospital, it didn’t take as long as expected for our family to feel the fit. Or for the South and its embraceable faith to work its way into my writing.

PATTY: I love that “embraceable faith” comment, because it’s so telling. So do you consider yourself sold out to southern storytelling now?

TAMERA: Completely, Patty. Gone are the days when I set my stories in medieval England, casting knights and ladies to play the parts. Now are the days that I more often turn to my present for a setting, as I did with Splitting Harriet and Faking Grace, and will do with my Southern Discomfort series that launches in September with Leaving Carolina. It’s good to be home, and I look forward to the day that I’ll be able to say I’ve lived in the South longer than any other place.

PATTY: And we look forward to more books by you, Tamera. Tamera Leigh, Southern novelist and author of the upcoming novel Leaving Carolina.

Leaving feedback will enter you in Friday’s book give-away including three novels by Tamera Leigh. Tomorrow we chat with Southern novelist, Mary DeMuth. Thanks for blogging this week at Words to Go, as we journey down South and sit on the front porches of our favorite Southern authors sipping sweet tea and nibbling lagniappe.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Romancing the Authors Week Book Give-Away Winners List!!

Next Week!! Join your fav Southern Authors for a personal chat about "Lessons Learned From Livin' Down South--What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger" and more Friday book give-aways!

Thanks for leaving feedback this week for our awesome guest authors. Each time you left feedback, your name went in the old straw hat for today’s drawing. You do need to respond privately to me and provide your info, address etc. by Monday, Feb. 16 at 10:00 a.m. eastern. If I don’t hear from you by then, no biggie--another name will be drawn. Each author is personally autographing and mailing your book to you.

Thank you, authors Deb Raney, Karen Ball, Stephen and Janet Bly, and Francine Rivers and my beloved Babe, Pastor Randy Hickman for chatting with us this week!

Here are the winners:

Tracey Bateman winner of Karen Ball’s Breaking Point
Lori Benton winner of Karen Ball’s Shattered Justice (contact Patty today!)
Carla Stewart winner of Karen Ball’s A Test of Faith
Laura Lee Bliss winner of Stephen Bly’s Memories of a Dirt Road
Wanda Laine winner of my novel Earthly Vows
Connie Sue winner of my novel Earthly Vows
Ruth Anne Boone winner of my novel Earthly Vows
Joyce Mahan winner of Francine Rivers’ The Last Sin Eater
Beth K. Vogt winner of Francine Rivers’ The Atonement Child (contact Patty today!)
Rick Estep winner of Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love
(contact Patty today!)

Congratulations, Winners! Please email me at with your name, book you won,
and your mailing address. Please allow ten days to two weeks for books to arrive.

I hope that you are having a blessed Valentine’s Day. You may have a friend who might be feeling a little melancholy around this special day. Remember to send her a card or buy her some chocolates and let her know that she is especially thought of on this day.

Over and out!
Patty Valentino Hickman
Your Friendly Neighborhood Cupid