March Madness

basketballMarch is National Women’s History Month. Did you know that out of the 13 honorees in 2017 under the Theme of Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business, 5 of these women are from the southern states of North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia and Mississippi? Now these are some Strong Southern Women.

When I think of March, I think of basketball – The ACC Tournament and the Final Four Championship. It’s one of those months that are hard to define. It’s a fickle, temperamental time of year. So far in this crazy month, we, the folks who live in Georgia, have received a large dose of spring. Daffodils sprouting everywhere earlier than usual, trees budding, and even some flip-flop weather. Well, today Mother Nature is snickering. It’s so cold outside, you’d think it was mid-January.

So what is a southern girl to do? Well, in my case, I stay inside and send out queries in the ongoing search for an agent. This go round is for my second novel, Relative Consequences. I put my first book, Weather Permitting, through another set of edits and it now sits simmering on the shelf. I’ll get back to it this summer. Queries are nerve racking. You might hear back from the agent you are writing to, or maybe not. From what I understand though, agents aren’t fickle at all. They know what they want. The term I keep seeing is “subjective.” Literary agencies are subjective and each agent has a personal list of what he or she is searching for and accepts. It’s up to the author to send her query to the right agent. Then, the proverbial ball (see how clever – using a basketball metaphor here) is in their court the moment you hit the SEND button on your email. Then you wait. Fingers crossed.

View More: http://photos.pass.us/laurendNow, on with the show . . . I’d like to welcome my guest blogger for this month. Lauren Koffler Denton. Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books.

Turning A Dream into Reality

I’ve always been a reader, but I haven’t always been a writer. At least, not of fiction. If you count the trunk of journals in my garage as evidence, then I’ve been a writer since I bought my first diary (pink and turquoise with a puffy cover) at the mall when I was about eight years old. But I didn’t begin writing fiction until after college. My years of inhaling as many books as possible and picking up the pen to process my thoughts turned into a desire to tell stories to entertain, to encourage, and to connect. I distinctly remember sitting around with a group of friends soon after I moved to Birmingham and saying that my dream was to be a writer of books. Not only that, I wanted to see them on bookshelves—and not just the ones in my own home! The dream felt too big—too unattainable—but there it was for all to hear.

Well, not all. Just the 12 or so people gathered together that night. But I’d put words to the dream, and while I didn’t tell many people about it, the desire kept churning away in the back of my mind. People and settings and opening scenes kept tickling my brain at the most inopportune moments, so I began to write them down. I have the opening chapters of several overly wrought, cliché-laden stories burning a hole in a thumb-drive somewhere, but at least I was taking baby steps toward my goal. When my oldest daughter was about two, I got the idea for a story based around a horrific string of tornados that had ripped through Alabama just a couple months before. I pulled out a notebook and wrote the first scene as I saw it in my head. Over the next six months, I followed the story as it presented itself to me, and I finished it by Christmas. I was over the moon—I’d accomplished part of my dream! Now the only thing left was to get the thing published!

Many people call their first novel their “practice novel” and for good reason. I went through a round or two of edits on my own, then shipped the manuscript off to two writer friends, expecting pats on the back. What they came back with, however, was the necessary truth that it wasn’t near as good as I thought it was. Even more, it needed serious overhauling before I showed it to any agents. After some hand-wringing, I realized they were right and I put that book away.

Lauren Denton's book covrI still had the urge to tell stories though, to make people smile and laugh and maybe feel a little less alone. Slowly, another story began to take shape—this one with a rambling old B&B, an eccentric grandmother, and a charming woodworker. But this time all those fits and starts, the rough beginnings, and the completed (although not very good) novel gave me the perseverance and courage I needed to forge ahead with this one. Through a fantastic creative writing workshop, many months of revisions, and another author’s generous helping hand, my first (but really second) novel, The Hideaway, will be published April 11.

I’m not always the most determined girl. I necessarily don’t shy away from hard things, but if something is just too hard—if it seems doomed from the get-go—I may step back and let someone else take on that particular battle. I’m so glad I didn’t step back from this dream though, that I kept writing even when it seemed no one but my family and close friends would ever read The Hideaway. It’s enough for me to know that I persisted, that I didn’t give up when it felt too hard, but I also love that my two young daughters think it’s pretty cool that Mama will have books on the shelf in the library.

You can find Lauren on the following:

Website: http://www.LaurenKDenton.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaurenKDentonAuthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurenkdentonbooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaurenKDenton
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/LKDentonBooks/

Thank you, Lauren. I can’t wait to read your book.

See y’all next time,

Jody

Tearing off the Tag

pillow-tagI was born in Savannah, Georgia. You just don’t get much more southern than that, right? As a child, I was expected to act a certain way. It was like I came out with one of tag like the one attached to a pillow (you know that says you’ll be prosecuted under the law if you yank it off). The tag read, “Be well-mannered, do what you’re told, know your place, stand by your man, and above all, drink plenty of sweet tea.”

I don’t think I quite fit the mold. As I absorbed myself in a little research, I found that most notable strong southern women whether past or present don’t either, maybe except for the manners part. I have to admit I bucked authority when I was young, determined to do things my way in spite of consequences, and to the dismay of my poor mother (God rest her prim and proper soul). I look back and have to admit I should have done a few things differently, but for the most part, I have no regrets.

southern_belle_1472As I write, I create characters who are far from perfect—southern women who don’t necessarily keep their pillow tag attached as they walk through life but eventually find their own strengths, who overcome the insecurities they attain in childhood, the ones they don’t like to talk about, the ones which haunt them unto adulthood. To me, this makes them strong. They don’t give up; they do what needs to be done. They take care of others, but they also make sure they take care of themselves.

In my second novel, Relative Consequences, the protagonist, Jessy, confronts her past and makes a decision that affects her life, her family and also, the lives of others. She makes the choice first out of anger, then she comes to the conclusion it’s the right thing to do. Her character is vulnerable yet strong.

I recently read a 2014 article in Signature Magazine (on online publication) about one of my favorite southern authors, Fannie Flagg. Now, there’s a remarkable southern woman who overcame an adversity and immersed herself in success doing what she loved to do. I hope someday I can meet her.

fannie-flaggFannie Flagg was born Patricia Neal in 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama to working class parents. She is an actor as well as a writer and has always been someone I admire. As a child, she was told she couldn’t write and she was a terrible speller. Later in life, she was diagnosed with dyslexia. Through time she overcame her fear of making mistakes and in the 1970s began writing novels and continues to write today.

Some of her more famous works are Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and her most recent, The Whole Town’s Talking, which was published in 2016. According to her biography from www.litlovers.com, “As a writer . . . this Birmingham, Alabama native found her voice as a chronicler of Southern Americana and life in its self-contained hamlets.” If you haven’t read any of her novels, please do. You won’t be disappointed in the words of this southern woman who in 2012 won the prestigious Harper Lee Award as Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of the Year.

fried-green-tomatoesHere’s just a couple of my favorite quotes from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe:

“Remember if people talk behind your back, it only means you
are two steps ahead.”

“Are you a politician or does lying run in your family?”

“It wasn’t death she was afraid of. It was this life of hers that
was beginning to remind her of that gray intensive care
waiting room.”

“There are magnificent beings on this earth, son, that are walking around posing as
humans.”

smileyMy next blog will be posted around March 13. I will be hosting a guest blogger —
Author, Lauren Koffler Denton, another southern girl!!

 

See ya then!

Jody

A Heartfelt Welcome to Normandie

candyheartsHappy Valentine’s Day! Do they still make those little candy hearts with the sayings on them? I never got into those, even as a kid. Personally, I thought that candy should taste good no matter what. And, I didn’t like those hard-to-bite-into types. First of all, they weren’t made out of chocolate and we all know chocolate is the mainstay of the February 14th celebration. I think it was the fourth grade where someone gave me a small Valentines (a card in the shape of a sports car saying “You’re my speed,” comes to mind) and glued some of those candy hearts on the front. Now how stupid was that? I couldn’t get the candy off the card!

Here in the South, Valentine’s Day is a pretty big deal. From the time I can remember, it was the major holiday precluding the dreaded St. Patrick’s Day – you know where you got pinched if you didn’t wear green. Except, I always wore green. Ugly Catholic School uniform. Oh, dear, I digress.

normandie-pictureToday, I am honored to introduce to you my guest blogger and fellow author, Normandie Fischer. Normandie Fischer is a sailor who writes and a writer who sails. After studying sculpture in Italy, she returned to the States, graduated suma cum laude, and went to work in the publishing field, moving from proofreader up the ladder to senior editor, honing technical tomes, creative non-fiction, and, later, fiction. She and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing from San Francisco to the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, and on through the Panama Canal. They moved home to coastal North Carolina to take care of her aging mother, where, as often as possible, she enjoys her two grown children and two grandchildren. She is the author of six novels.

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AUDIOBOOKS AND ACCENTS by Normandie Fischer

People from Elsewhere talk about a Southern accent as if there were only one, and when they mention a drawl, they don’t mean Tennessee or North Carolina. They mean Alabama, maybe Georgia. But down here, we know the difference. Southern accents not only vary by state, they vary by region within each state, sometimes even by a square mile or two. They certainly vary by heritage, age, and wealth; by whether you’re citified, countrified, farm-bred, or mountain born. You’ll hear accents that have a drawl, a twang, are upbeat, downbeat, meandering, unintelligible, slow moving, silken, and sometimes rough.

I’m most familiar with North Carolina, although I spent some schooling days in the SC low country. But near my family’s coastal NC home, we have dozens of dialects and accents, including some rare ones that have elements of Elizabethan English left over from the isolation caused before bridges joined islands like Harkers to the mainland of Down East. The middle-state folk don’t sound much like the mountain-area born and bred, nor do they sound at all like the Downeasters—the folk who live east of the Atlantic Ocean coastline of Beaufort. (That still gets to me—if you’re already at the ocean, how can you keep driving east? You can because a lot of the coastline here actually faces south, and you just hook a left to go east.)

We who’ve lived down here and have generations of South behind us know the difference, and if we’re writers, we hear the differences in the voices we create. And I want to hear them in the audiobooks I listen to when I cook or clean, take a walk, pretend to exercise on the elliptical, or get behind the wheel of my car.

heavy-weather-coverAnd that’s the trick, isn’t it? When it came time to find a narrator for Heavy Weather, my second Carolina Coast novel, I listened to audition after audition, hoping to find one who could match even half the accents I’d imagined. I wanted to hear the softer, more educated voice of Hannah and Clay contrasted with Annie Mac’s more countrified voice and Roy’s angry, mean share-cropper’s accent. And then there were the children. And the housekeeper. And the town.

Tricky combinations, certainly. I knew the publisher of my debut novel, Becalmed, had given up and just found someone to read the book. I didn’t want that. I wanted Heavy Weather (and all my books) read by someone who’d capture my attention, who’d make me laugh and cry and rise up in fury at the bad guy’s antics. Who’d make me long for a happy ending. Who’d leave me with a satisfied sigh.

I don’t know how many narrators I listened to before Laura Jennings asked to audition. After listening to her audio sample in some awe, I sent it to my husband, my daughter. We agreed: we’d found the woman who could make the book come alive and make us believe. Now, Laura’s not a Southerner, but she has lived in Fayetteville, and she got what I said when I told her my characters were not Deep South. I told her I’d rather have no accent than the wrong one, and she got that, too. So, in some cases, we merely have hints at the dialect, but that’s good.

By the time she’d finished recording and then fixing all the niggling things this perfectionist author wanted tweaked, we had an audiobook that did all I’d wanted. I know the story intimately and yet I teared up at the sad bits and laughed at the funny ones because Laura made me believe. She’s that good. Which means, I hired her to record Twilight Christmas (the novella sequel to Heavy Weather), and she’s also going to be doing my next Carolina Coast novel.

The audiobook of Two from Isaac’s House needed slight Southern for two of the characters, but I was more concerned with the Italian and Arabic accents in that one. And Brandon Potter nailed those.

To celebrate the release of Heavy Weather in audiobook, I’m going to give one away to one person who comments here. I’ll also offer an ebook to someone else. Just let me know which you’d prefer and why.

Here’s what one reviewer had to say about the audiobook: 

“I loved that each chapter focused on a POV! The writer and the narrator made  a wonderful tandem of bringing to life the variety of characters. And what a story!”

“Everything I thought this story was about changed and then changed again. It was a thriller, a love story and a spiritual lesson rolled into a testament to a mother’s love. I loved it.”

“The narrator was incredible. She handled the scariest of personas I’ve ever listened to as well as the innocence of a 10-year-old boy and made you believe.”

You can find Normandie on the following:

Website: www.normandiefischer.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WritingOnBoard
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NormandieFischer/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Normandie-Fischer/e/B00BSIF2NI/

I want to thank Normandie for blogging today.  By the way, her novel, Heavy Weather, will be on sale for 99 cents at  Ereader News Today on February 16.

I’ll be back in two weeks with a look at a famous southern women who just happen to be an author.

Jody

Positive Images

rear-view-mirrorHappy New Year Y’all!!! I know I’m a little late. But the sentiment is still there right?

If you’re like me, you will reflect on the past year—remember the good times and flinch or frown at the bad. Some things we had no control of, others we most certainly did. By going over what wasn’t so great, we can move on to the new year vowing to make it better.

People use the word “reflect” in many ways. Now, I being a Southerner and having just a touch of an accent, might say “let me think on it” for a while. So I’m reflecting. I’m considering my options, I’m figuring something out, but basically, I’m reflecting. We look ourselves in the mirror (either figuratively or literally) and there lies our reflection.

There are quite a few definitions of the word:

  • To turn into or away from
  • To prevent passage of a cause to change direction
  • To give back or exhibit an image, likeness or outline
  • To bring or case as a result
  • To manifest or make apparent
  • To realize, consider
  • To tend to bring reproach or discredit
  • To bring about a specified appearance
  • To have influence

If I put up the 2016 mirror, I’d reflect on what I did that was good for me last year—like ate healthier, lost some weight, and moved with my husband, dog and cat, out of the traffic into a smaller home in a quieter setting. Yay me! How about you? Can you pick out the good from the past crazy year?

Reflecting can be healthy – at least it is for some. In my second manuscript entitled, Relative Consequences, which is currently being red-marked with abandon by a professional editor, the main character, Jessy, a strong women going through a family tragedy, has trouble reflecting on her past. She struggles to remember a childhood even though she has nightmares and anxiety attacks because of it. With the help of a professional, she unlocks her mind so she can realize her fears and deal with them. It is an indication of a negative reflection leading to a positive outcome.

Rita, the other strong female character in the story, chooses to forget her past simply refusing her reality. That kind of reflection, although on purpose and in this case questionable, might work for her. She’s all for doing things the easy way. Her reflections are minimal and she ignores any effort to let the past get in her way.

Each woman has a different reflection of her past propelling her into the future.

crazy-old-ladyAlthough I’m not a Pollyanna (I’m dating myself aren’t I?), I try to stay in a positive frame of mind, even when the negative seems to rule everyone’s daily lives, all over social media, on TV, or in the news. It’s a challenge day in and day out. Personally, for this New Year, I resolve to make 2017 the best I can even knowing there are gobs of things of which I have no control. I will stay positive, keep hopeful and faithful, and use my time reflecting on the good.

How about you?

Holding up that mirror, whether looking at the past year or a lifetime of memories, I see my reflection. My reaction to it is really all up to me.

Beginning in February, I will post two blogs. (Holding breath). I’m in the process of rounding up some wonderful authors to be guest bloggers  once a month in 2017.

See you around Valentine’s Day!!

Thanks for stopping by,

Jody

PART TWO: Another Strong Lady, Straight from the South

santa-with-listMERRY CHRISTMAS Y’ALL!!

We have finally unpacked 90 percent of all the boxes in our new house. Whew!! Maybe now I can get back to business of writing, writing, and writing.

What’s on your Christmas Wish List this year? Mine is to send my draft of my second novel, Relative Consequences, to a professional editor by the end of this week. Then, I will take a deep breath, enjoy Christmas week. Oh, and let’s see, warm gloves, fragrant bubble bath, and whatever my sweet husband decides to give me.

After the first of the year, I plan to attack Weather Permitting (first novel) again with the hopes of success. Fingers crossed!

Today, I bring you Part 2 of my interview with Debra Ayers Brown. To review, Debra graciously gave me her time and honored me with her candid responses during our attendance this past June at the Southeastern Writers Conference in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. To me, she is prime example of a strong Southern woman.

head-shot-debraDebra Ayers Brown is a wife, mom, 10-year caregiver, and First Lady of Hinesville, Georgia. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia and earned her MBA from The Citadel. She and her daughter, Meredith, co-own My Write Platform where they provide T*N*T (training/networking/tips for writers who want to explode their business. They hold a ranking in the top 10 percent in social media influence by Klout. Check out Facebook.com/MyWritePlatform. The mother-daughter team is also committed to wellness with their driven to Wellness Facebook community and Two Pink Ladies Plexus Ambassadors at Facebook.com/pinkladiesssquared. Debra has published creative nonfiction in multiple issues of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Not Your Mothers Books, Guideposts, Chocolate for Women, and many other anthologies. She currently writes a humor column called “Life’s a Peach” in Liberty Life Magazine. She is also working on a nonfiction book on wellness and a cozy mystery series.

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PART 2

1. How many women do you know whom you consider to be strong?

 I’d say a lot of women I know are strong, because like attracts like. I think we have a tendency to associate with people of whom we admire. I’m not saying we’re all alike. There are many ways to be strong. I have friends who have faced terrible medical situations with grace. I have others who have achieved phenomenal business success. I have crazy friends who show their bravery every time they steer me into an out-of-my-comfort-zone activity like zip lining.

2. What mantras do you use to get you through the rough times?

 Actually, I think it is more inspiration than mantra. When my life as I’d known it imploded five years ago, I made a decision to keep moving forward. I wrote down my blessings daily, looked for the beauty in nature, and shared inspirational quotes on social media. It was important to me to focus on the positive. Even before I drew upon that “fail forward” attitude, I wrote articles for Guideposts and for Chicken Soup and similar publications, taking challenging situations and finding the good. I think, in everyday life, I try to do that. So if I had a mantra, it would be: Find your joy, be positive, and be happy. It sounds kind of silly, especially coming from my personality, but it really keeps me grounded.

3. I believe you’ve already answered this, but how proud are you to be Southern?

I really can’t imagine being anything else. I love the hospitality and the welcoming spirit of Southerners. I like the Southern ambiance with the ancient live oak trees, the Spanish moss, and wide porches with rocking chairs and swings. It’s a big part of it for me now because I live on the coast of Georgia. But, I was raised in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains where I loved the change of seasons, first snowfalls, and small-town friendliness. So I’ve been blessed with the best of both. I like the quirky part, too. Everybody has that strange aunt or great-grandmother, like in our case. We not only have these characters in our lives, but we accept them and applaud them. I admire some of the things my spunky great grandmother, Susie Savannah Star, did that raised quite a few eyebrows. At about 90 pounds soaking wet, she definitely ruled the roost—including her daughter, who dared to marry someone not to Mama Starr’s liking. My great grandmother managed to get the marriage annulled, post haste, AND she used her fighting rooster to scare those in my generation. She was a colorful character until the day she died. Even with her faults, she was a strong Southern woman. She made it look fun to be Southern and to be a woman. How can you fault her?

4. As a woman in this day and time, how do you see the role of woman today?

I think a woman in this day and time has to juggle a lot of balls and keep them going since there are so many expectations of women today. I think even in my mother’s day, they had to do many of the same things we tackle now, but we’ve just added to the “to do” list. When my mother was in business, office procedures stayed pretty standard. Figuring out how to use the typewriter or whatever, was probably the most difficult challenge you had to master. Maybe I’m being simplistic, and Mom would disagree, but now we have to tackle new technology, software, social media sites, mobile apps, and the latest trends—all of which are constantly changing. And, on top of that, women must stay young, healthy and manage their money. So, when we retire, we’ll be able to maintain everything we’ve created. It’s a lot.

Actually, most women end up being alone because their husbands die before they do. So, one has to figure out how to be independent, handle the finances, and keep the family going. My mother had to face all of that, but it wasn’t so conscious, I think. She thought, “We’ve worked hard and saved our money; we’ve got our insurance. We can manage on what we’ve planned for retirement.” But, she didn’t have great expectations of travelling all over the world in her later years. My parents had worked hard for what they had, but they weren’t flamboyant. Until we took a cruise together, my mother never even thought of venturing out of the country. Mom and Dad had the road trip mentality—going from North Georgia to the beach. Now we think we need to figure out how to do a European vacation or a Mediterranean cruise.

Women have to be able to function in this society. And we have to plan for when we are no longer able to care for ourselves, now that we know it is easy to outlive our money. It’s a lot for a woman to handle—even a strong woman. But the upside, we have a wonderful network of strong women who we can turn to for support, encouragement, and for sound advice. We’re blessed.

Thank you, Debra, for allowing me to interview you. I enjoyed your insight and the glimpse into your southern background. You’ve reinforced my opinion that you are definitely a strong lady, straight from the South.

Please check Debra out on the following:

www.DebraAyersBrown.com
www.About.Me/DebraAyersBrown
www.Twitter.com/CoastalDeb
www.Instagram.com/CoastalDeb
www.Linkedin.com/DebraAyersBrown
www.Facebook.com/DebraAyersBrown
Google+: http://gplus.to/coastaldeb
www.MySpace.com/CoastalDeb

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

See y’all in 2017,

Jody

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part One: Another Strong Lady, Straight from the South

I’m back… I’m sorry I was gone for the last month and a half. As I mentioned before, I was in the process of packing and moving. We, that is, my husband, my dog, my cat and I are temporarily housed in a “suites” hotel and things are cramped. Actually, the animals have better coping skills than humans do in a situation like this. Thankfully, the house will close within days and another adventure will begin.

thLDBUU2X3I’ve been working on edits for my second book entitled Relative Consequences. One would think that staying in this confining space with not much to do would prompt me to work more not less. Wrong. The need to escape seems to have taken hold. That being said, today, I am blogging before the inevitable urge to run an errand.

head-shot-debraToday, I am posting part one of my interview with Debra Ayers Brown. She has graciously given me her time and has honored me with her candid responses during our attendance this past June at the Southeastern Writers Conference in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. She is another example of a strong Southern woman and you know how I feel about them.

Debra Ayers Brown is a wife, mom, 10-year caregiver, and First Lady of Hinesville, Georgia. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia and earned her MBA from The Citadel. She and her daughter, Meredith, co-own My Write Platform where they provide T*N*T (training/networking/tips for writers who want to explode their business. They hold a ranking in the top 10 percent in social media influence by Klout. Check out Facebook.com/MyWritePlatform. The mother-daughter team is also committed to wellness with their driven to Wellness Facebook community and Two Pink Ladies Plexus Ambassadors at Facebook.com/pinkladiesssquared. Debra has published creative nonfiction in multiple issues of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Not Your Mothers Books, Guideposts, Chocolate for Women, and many other anthologies. She currently writes a humor column called “Life’s a Peach” in Liberty Life Magazine. She is also working on a nonfiction book on wellness and a cozy mystery series.

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Debra, I consider you to be a strong Southern woman. You are strong in the sense that you don’t let circumstances or life get in your way. You fight for what you want and I mean in any way you can. You have faith on your side and something inside of you that helps you rise above the negative. Thank you for allowing me to interview you for my blog.

1. Do you consider yourself a strong woman? If you had asked me that question five or ten years ago, I would have said, “No.” Not because I didn’t have the inner strength then, but because I lacked the awareness of my strength and what I could handle. At that time, I was reserved and afraid to speak my own mind. I worried about people might think of me or my actions. So I worked hard—all the time. But, in the last five years, I have definitely found my strength. Circumstances forced me to face a lot of challenges and to learn that life is short. I’ve realized you have to live each day and appreciate it. I’ve learned all of my lessons the hard way. Now, I value family and health more. I still work hard, but I find time for down time and fun times. I made major life changes in the past few years, and I’ve changed a lot. For the past three years, I have set one major goal for the year. Three years ago, my goal was to find my happy; last year it was to make the best choice every time; and my goal this year was to step out of my comfort zone. Wow, if you make “stepping out of your comfort zone” your goal, the universe will take you up on it. I think I’ll be even stronger at the end of this year! Each year I build on these goals. I continue to do them every day making each one a habit. So, I really do feel like I’ve become strong.

southern bornIt’s interesting how that happened because five years ago, I thought things were fine and my life was great, but it literally imploded in every way possible. With the downturn of the economy, all our businesses, which were in real estate, took a devastating hit, leaving us in a terrible financial situation. Then, my father died, my mother had a heart attack, and coincidentally, a chronic illness roared to life. I realized in a very short time what was important. I’m still a Type A, driven, success-oriented, do-everything-as-perfect-as-possible person. I struggle with being a work-a-holic and finding balance. But now, I schedule time for fun and relaxation. Because I was ill, I started clean eating three years ago. I added natural supplements, exercise, and getting my water in. I’ve really made strides in the area of health and wellness for myself. I feel so much better, and physically and mentally stronger.

But, a balanced life is a day-to-day process for me. I win some, lose some. Relaxation usually gets bumped out if I’m busy. But my daughter, Meredith, pointed something out to me not very long ago that resonated with me. She caught me creating a flier on my iPhone late at night. She said, “Mom, your body doesn’t know that you enjoy being creative. It just knows that you aren’t resting when you should. You need to stop. You need your rest.” It’s true. I’m not alone. Women try to fit so much into one day. We multi-task to the extreme. We take care of everyone but ourselves. If we take time for fun, we’re usually networking or incorporating it somehow into work. It’s important that we find time for fun for the sake of doing something different, spending times with friends, or building family relationships. So the bottom line is: Strong women need to be very, very careful to take care of themselves first. As someone told me, “Your husband can find another wife. Your daughter will never have another mother. You need to take care of yourself. Then you can take care of them, too.”

2. From where do you draw your inner strength? I would say, mine comes from my background, and how I was raised. I’m definitely Southern by birth. I have a very Southern mother who is still feisty in her late eighties. We still share similar characteristics. My father was more laid back, but he was a very strong man. When he talked, you needed to listen. He was the quiet, reserved person. My mother was the fireball. She was the “get everything done” person; work those charities, do those crafts, but “we’re gonna have this house spotless” person. Everything had to be just so. At our home, you definitely didn’t air your dirty laundry in public. You worried about what the neighbors thought. You worried about what the relatives thought—all of those kinds of things which taken in the right perspective are good. But I was also raised with faith. It was a part of everyday life. The important things were family, loyalty, doing a good job, and knowing that you are in a family who loved you. I think my background gave me the fortitude to go on in less than perfect situations. I found the inner strength to deal with life’s challenges and to learn the lessons from them.

3. Do you think women are inherently stronger than men are? Why or why not? I think women are stronger because they have to be. There are so many expectations placed on women. We need to work, not just have a job, but have careers where we are successful and bring in our share of the income. We need to look good. We need to find time for exercise and eating right. Even though we take care of children, running them back and forth to soccer and dance or whatever else is on the agenda, we have to work and keep a nice home. If we’re not doing it ourselves, then we need to coordinate it. Of course, while we are doing everything, we need to stay informed and interesting. Women need to be it all. My husband would be the first one to tell you that he can’t manage more than one thing at one time. He is not going to watch TV while posting on social media or answering a text or scheduling a Skype for business. It’s not going to happen. Come hell or high water, he’s going to golf on Sunday and attend his college home football games. He’s healthier for it. I think I should learn a thing or two from him.

To be continued… Look for Part Two in a few weeks. Meanwhile, you can find Debra at the following:

www.DebraAyersBrown.com                                          www.About.Me/DebraAyersBrown

www.Twitter.com/CoastalDeb                                        www.Instagram.com/CoastalDeb

www.Linkedin.com/DebraAyersBrown                       www.Facebook.com/DebraAyersBrown

Google+: http://gplus.to/coastaldeb                            www.MySpace.com/CoastalDeb

Thanks for reading. See you in November.

Jody

Part Two – Interview with a Strong Southern Lady

So, are you hot enough? I can’t believe we’ve had no reprieve in two months here in the boxesSouth. I’m ready for fall. Bring on football, gold and reddish colored leaves, and cool nights.

I’m in the middle of downsizing. Yes, it’s horrible. I think maybe it’s human nature to hoard everything, memories, stuff we think we’ll use someday, wear someday, or fix someday. Well, it’s all going. My husband and I are moving to a smaller home across town. Yikes! I only have one month to pack it all.

Now, to Part Two of my interview with Jan Sheppard Kelleher.

  1.        1. Do you feel that women are inherently stronger than men are? Why or Why not?

No doubt in my mind. I know that in the fifties and sixties women were portrayed as being hysterical people screaming bloody murder when they saw the monster and swooned into the hero’s arms. We’re not those women anymore, if we ever really were. I think education, as it has done with race, has made the difference. Women have acquired more confidence in dealing with life’s situations. I think we’re stronger for many reasons. We can give blood, because we’re used to seeing it. Women deal with child bearing, and that alone makes a difference, and child rearing, if you did that. There are lessons, which come from pain and suffering you can’t obtain anywhere else. Women suffer more and experience more pain.

2. How many women do you know whom you consider strong?

Jan's bookQuite a lot. I attended Sweet Briar College, a women’s college. You’ve heard me talk about that, so I’ll throw a plug into the mix. The President and the Board of Directors tried to shut the college down, but the alumnae were not going to let that happen. They timed the announcement so that there was only a 0.5 percent chance of anyone doing anything about it. But, some of those sharp alums jumped on it—you know, lawyers, doctors, Indian Chiefs—and were able to say they weren’t going to stand for it. I believe that Sweet Briar alumnae are some of the strongest women in America. Taught to survive and keep things afloat, these women don’t take no for an answer.

       3. Do you have a mantra that you use each day to get you through the tough times?

I think the title of my next book, But What If I Can, is kind of a theme that goes through my mind often. It’s an optimistic outlook.

       4. How proud are you to be Southern?

More than just about anything. Being southern is the grit, the guts and the roots of who I am. I am writing a book about where I came from, so obviously that background is terribly important to me. My southern relatives were not highly educated, but all of them were storytellers. So if they could tell it, I could hear it. They gave me their example of passing on advice and knowledge to use in daily life. That is what I strive to do. Readers have asked, “Does it matter to you if people read your books or whatever?” Well, I’d rather make no money at all, but just know that people are getting something from what I write—that it’s helping them somehow. And I’m so grateful for the feedback that I receive, not daily, but often, about the differences I have made. Not that I’ve done anything brilliant, because I haven’t, but just because I was able to help.

       5. As a woman in this day and time, how do you see the role of woman today?

From my heart, I think the women are the best people to raise their children. I know that everybody wants to get ahead, and women want to be smart and get an education, and want to apply that to the household income, but I still think the mommy is the best person to raise her own children. I say this knowing that the response I got even back in 1977 from my own mother (not a stay at home mom) was, “You spent all of that money and all of that time and all that energy and heartache, difficult as it was for you a little girl from Podunk, South Carolina, to go to Sweet Briar College, get an education, a degree in Mathematics, and you’re going to stay at home and change diapers?” But, that’s me. I feel like it’s important. I also believe that because children have missed that, it has made a tremendous impact on our society and not for the good. That’s not a particularly popular opinion.

Now, when my baby was two years old, my husband’s partner left the business leaving him with a chunk of debt. And I said, “We’re not going to starve here. I’m educated. What can I do with zero learning curve and make a lot of money?” I sold real estate. I’m sharp in Math. I love houses; I love showing houses for I had bought and sold three already. So I sold real estate for four years until we paid off that $25,000. At the end of the four years, I asked each of my three children—a ten year old, six year old and a fourteen year old, “Would you rather us put a pool in the backyard and I continue to work, or me stay at home?” Their answer was to stay at home. But let me tell you, I sold the biggest property I had ever listed in my life myself. From that commission, the last check I received, I was able to put a pool in the backyard. So I did work some of the time, because I didn’t want my husband’s business to fold. And it’s still going today. You know small businesses are rare to last that long.

6. Do you look back at your life and think how different you are today?

Yes. Being a math major with a minor in biology, writing was not something I ever thought I would do. I only wrote eulogies and read those from a pulpit, and came this close to flunking English. Looking back on it, I would have paid better attention to the one English course I took in college, if I had known I’d be writing when I grew up. Yes, I am different in that respect. I never suspected I’d be writing for a living. But also, when you stare cancer and death in the face, which I have done on numerous occasions, it affects you. As I told The Today Show, you become bitter or better. It’s going to go one way or the other. I chose better. And do you see that blue car parked out there? It’s a step up from driving a mini-van for 25 years. It’s a hardtop convertible. I went to the store the other day and a guy helped me out to my car with the bags. He stopped and said, “This blue convertible is your car?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Was that a mid-life crisis?” I responded with a no thank you very much. This was a senior crisis. My midlife crisis was a blue motorcycle. I bought one of those and drove that thing around for about five years along with my mini-van. So yes, I’ve changed a little bit. I think our attitudes change when we get older. I honestly don’t know if I care whether you don’t like my shoes. I don’t dress for others; I dress for myself.

7. Can you give me the name of a celebrity you admire? One whom you consider a strong woman? Or even a strong southern woman?

Well, I’ve always been a huge fan of Fannie Flagg. I will tell you exclusively, because this southern bornstory, about the first time I met her in Alabama, is yet to be written or published. But, let’s just say I met her and loved her, having a twenty-minute conversation. When she won the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Alabama Writer, I went to the 2014 Alabama Symposium to watch her receive her award and to attend other events that weekend. During a nice white tablecloth affair, an event luncheon with probably over one hundred people there, the room became absolutely silent—Harper Lee rolled in. Harper Lee! Everyone stood up and applauded. Like who knew right? So yes, strong southern woman here we go. She was friends with Fannie Flagg and she came just for her. Fannie was so humble that when she stepped up to the podium, and rather than talking about Fannie Flagg or her books, she focused on Harper Lee and her influence. It was so moving. And I will say that there is nothing like walking up to this icon and having her stick out her hand and hearing her say, “Hi, I’m Nell Harper Lee (in the thickness Alabama accent), and you go “Oh, heck yeah, you are.” Does that give you chills? And that’s an exclusive.

Thank you, Jan, for your insightful and honest answers.. You can find Jan at the following:

Website: www.JanetSheppardKelleher.com

Link to Today Show interview: http://www.today.com/health/shes-embracing-life-laughter-hope-after-second-cancer-diagnosis-t53006

Link to the funny “Birthin’ Babies” story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6dDYUxcSSE

Link of videos on Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/JanetSheppardKelleher/videos.

(Jan would love it if you would “like” her author page when you check out the videos.)

Link to buy book from Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Big-little-ta-ta-Kicking-Humorous/dp/1500532398?ie=UTF8&keywords=big%20c%20little%20ta-ta&qid=1420663001&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

Toward the end of this month, I’ll introduce you to author and business woman, Debra Ayers Brown, another Strong Southern Woman.

Bye for now,

Jody