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

Why She Writes About Women – Welcome, Amy Rivers

hot sunSo, to quote a former late night television personality, “How hot is it? It’s so hot, chickens are laying hardboiled eggs.”

Yep, I don’t have to tell you that it’s hot down here in Georgia. Even my pup, Bella, won’t stay outside very long. She lies in the mulch where it’s cooler on her belly for maybe five minutes then she heads back into the AC. Don’t blame her.

So we, as in Southerners, should be used to the summer heat, but I think that this year the heat is worse. But maybe we say that every year, who knows? But for me, my go-to-bed prayers include a big fat “thank you for air conditioning.”

Today, I’d like to welcome my guest blogger—Author Amy Rivers. Amy was born and raised in “southern” New Mexico and currently resides in Colorado. She has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses, Novelty Bride Magazine, ESME.com and Splice Today. Wallflower Blooming is her first novel.

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Amy RiversWhy I Write About Women

There’s a reason why I write about women. Two reasons actually. First, (the obvious) I am one. They say you should write what you know, right? But more importantly, I write about women because they are amazing creatures. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by strong, determined, and wise women. I was raised in a family of loud-mouthed, opinionated, generous, complicated women who laugh in the face of adversity, love with their whole hearts and understand the importance of family.

7-25 Amy WB CoverWriting Wallflower Blooming, my debut novel, was a very introspective process. It’s easy to want to write a novel about a strong woman who does all the right things, but, in my experience, that woman does not exist. As human beings, we’re fallible. We make mistakes. Sometimes very big mistakes (I know I have). We cower when we should fight. We fight when we should collaborate. Even seemingly insignificant experiences can create a tidal wave of emotions in us and we don’t always understand why. So as I wrote my main character Val, I thought less about how to make her heroic, and more about how to make her human.

My plan as a writer is to continue contemplating women and how they react in different situations. You’ll probably notice my interest in politics, social justice and psychology woven into my stories, and I hope you’ll join me and the women I write about on our adventures in life, love and whatever else is out there.

You can follow me on my website: www.AmyRivers.com, or on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Wallflower Blooming is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon. And, of course, your honest reviews are greatly appreciated. Happy reading!

Thank you, Amy.

See y’all in August when I will be sharing Part Two – Interview with A Strong Southern Lady with Jan Sheppard Kelleher.

Bye, Y’all

Jody

Part One – Interview with a Strong Southern Lady

Now don’t tell anyone, but I sometimes hate summer. I know, I know, I live in the South and you’d think I’d be used to it. Nope. I just thank God every day for air conditioning. Unfortunately, the heat has never been my friend. It not only drains me of any energy I have, but changes my appearance. Yes, what begins in my reflection in a mirror as “not too bad” becomes red-faced, sweaty with stringy flat-to-my-head hair. Although I’m a southern girl and proud of it, I confess, the heat here is unbearable. June is bad. July is worse. August – I can’t go into it right now.

Switching topics. As I mentioned before, I attended the Southeastern Writers Conference a few weeks ago, and had a wonderful time. During that period, I was fortunate enough to interview two women whom I admire a great deal and whom I believe exemplify strong southern women.

Jan Kelleher kickingToday, I am excited to share with you, the first part of an interview I had with author and new friend, Janet Sheppard Kelleher.

“Janet Sheppard Kelleher is a creative nonfiction writer, memoirist, speaker, and author of Big C, little ta-ta: Kicking Breast Cancer’s Butt in 7 Humorous Stories. Her upcoming book, But What If I Can? is an inspirational and humorous, yet poignant, look at where we find our coping skills. Her next book Big C, Belly Boobs, about her last breast cancer experience, demonstrates how “finding the funny” in scary situations helped her remain optimistic during the process.”

Me:  Jan, I believe you personify Strong Southern Women. Strong in the sense that you don’t let circumstances or life get in your way. You fight for what you want in any way you can. You have faith on your side and something inside of you that helps you rise above the negative. With that said, and with your permission, I would like to ask you a few questions.

1. Do you consider yourself to be strong? Why or why not?

Yes. I consider myself to be strong. I came from a background of strong women—both grandmothers. I probably had one of the few grandmothers who worked outside the home. My maternal grandmother owned a grocery store, and she worked seven days a week, twelve-fifteen hour days, until she found the Lord and took off on Sundays. When I went to work for her at age seven, I was so small that I stood on a Coca Cola crate to ask customers if they needed help finding things. You know the little country stores where you didn’t pick up your own can of beans, where someone else got it for you. As I worked from seven a.m. until eight at night, my grandmother taught me how to work and the value of a dollar.

My mother also worked outside the home. She was a great salesperson—selling insurance, selling Stanley home products, selling institutional foods. She was brilliant at it, and so, I also had that influence growing up.

Jan's bookNow, the other grandmother was a sharecropper on a plantation. Her husband died when he was forty-nine years old and left her with eight children. As I understand it, there was no such thing as social security back then. All the children worked in the fields picking cotton. So when my book comes out “Having My Cotton Pickin’ Say,” you can understand that I’m not joking! My dad had to work the plantation for a long time. At twenty-three, he was the first person in our family to obtain a high school diploma. But my grandmother held together the family. She made dresses for the children from flour sacks, and created mattresses out of Spanish moss. I came from that kind of resourceful woman. She did what it took to survive. You talk about strong southern women–both of my grandmothers were brilliant in the way they handled life. Nobody had it easy. They all scraped by.

Yes, I consider myself to be strong because of those women’s examples. I will say that my book, which is coming out next, “But What If I Can,” is about the influences in my life, personal characteristics I have that create a survivor mentality, and the stories behind the people who gave those characteristics to me—one little story about each person, each story about the attribute that came from that person.

A brief example: My Dad whom I told you graduated at twenty-three because he had to work in the fields for years went with me to the first and only PTA meeting in our lives. Since I had working parents, they usually didn’t have the time for things like that. I’m not sure but maybe my brother talked him into going to the ninth grade teacher conference. By that time, Dad was a successful insurance salesman who always wore a suit and tie to work, a Stetson hat and wingtips. He was dressed fit to kill that night. We were nervous since the experience was new for both of us. Fishing and hunting, now that would have been easy. That’s what we did together. So it’s time to meet the teachers and we hit the Geometry classroom first. We’re standing in line—sweating.

When it’s our time to walk up to the teacher, Mrs. Byrd says, “Mr. Sheppard, I’m really proud of Janet. She’s doing well in Geometry.”

I wasn’t sure whether he was being proud or humble, but he looked down at his shoes then glanced up a bit and said, “Well, you know, Mrs. Byrd, she ought to be good in Geometry, I took it three damn times.” You have to think I got my tenacity from that guy.

Those are the kind of people I come from.

I feel like when you have obstacles to overcome, you have to look at people in your life, whether or not they’re kin to you, and say “That example right there—I can glean something from that!” Then use it, grow in it, whether or not it’s actually in your blood.

2. From where do you draw your inner strength?

There’s no doubt in my mind that God exists. The first story I ever had accepted at Chicken Soup for the Soul was about how and where my serious faith came from. “A Child’s Faith” is about my sharecropper granny. When she received a diagnosis of cancer, they gave her six months then sent her home to die. No one told her she had cancer. I don’t know whose decision that was, one of her children or all of them. I think they did it because one of her daughter’s had died of breast cancer and she was afraid of it. The fear of cancer—most people still fear it. As I said, I worshipped that grandmother. I was fourteen years old at the time, and I remember distinctly falling across my bed all morning, all night, and praying to God to please give me the pain that she might have to endure. I couldn’t bear to watch her go through it, the kind of pain they used to have to endure with cancer. I thought, I’m young and I can take that kind of pain. I pleaded and bargained with Him with words like “whatever you can do, whatever you give me, for allowing her to live and for minimizing her pain.” Well, my granny lived the six months and everybody kept expecting her to die. But she lived a year, then two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight years. She never took so much as an aspirin. That’s the truth. There came a time when she had a situation and was rushed to the hospital. At that moment, I was 250 miles away in a hotel room when I saw an arm reach out and pull a sheet over her head. I’ve never had a vision before or since, but that’s all I saw. I didn’t see anything else; didn’t see a person–just Granny’s head, an arm, and a white sheet.

The next morning, I called my mother and asked, “What’s wrong with Granny.”

She said, “How did you know?”

I said, “Never mind, you won’t believe me anyway.

I told Mom to call George, call Jim, call the family. Tell them to get there because my grandmother wasn’t going to live. I made it there. I was holding her hand when she died. She was eighty-five years old. At that moment in time, I had all the faith that a child can have and I trusted God beyond the shadow of a doubt. And he answered. I’m still so grateful. When I have pain, when I developed cancer myself, I was not surprised, nor did I ask why, nor was I angry. I frankly said, “My time has arrived.” I am so grateful still that she had those eight years. That is where my inner strength comes from.

Thank you, Jan for your honest answers and sharing endearing excerpts from your own family history. In July, I will continue this dialogue with a few more questions for this lovely lady.

You can find Jan at the following places:

See y’all at the end of the month when my guest blogger will be author, Amy Rivers.

Bye for now,

Jody

A June Welcome to Melanie V. Logan

Hi y’all!lighthouse

mike dog beachI had a wonderful long weekend spending Friday through Tuesday at St. Simons Island, Georgia with my husband, Mike, and our mini-Australian Shepherd, Bella. After three relaxing days of sunshine, beach, and just being lazy, I spent Monday and Tuesday soaking up knowledge which flowed from the speakers at the Southeastern Writer’s Association Conference. As always, I made a few new friends, reconnected with old ones, and left the conference feeling the comradery of fellow writers. Thank you to all who make the SWA and its conference possible.

During the conference, I was fortunate to have a chance to interview two lovely ladies who represent my idea of strong southern womenJanet Shepherd Kelleher and Debra Ayers Brown. I will be sharing their interviews with you in the coming months. They were so gracious and kind to grant me their precious time. Thank you, ladies.

Now, I’d like to welcome my guest blogger, Melanie V. Logan.

6-25 melanie_bioMelanie has appreciated the land of make believe for as long as anyone can remember. Growing up in rural Virginia didn’t lend much to the excitement. With a pen, paper, and a rambunctious imagination, created adventures of her own. Nowadays, Melanie lives in the suburbs of Atlanta still crafting dreams into fictional works of art. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling with her husband, reading, watching movies, or the occasional comedy show. 

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Why I Write Women’s Fiction

What I love about women’s fiction is the exploration of a woman’s journey. It’s not always about love, romance, or a happily ever after. It’s about learning and growing along the way. Getting knocked down by one thing or another, but getting right back up. Persevering over great odds whether personal tragedies, hindrances from loved ones, or some other obstacle. The journey may not take the character in that direction first set on, but doesn’t that happen in life?

What I’m Working On

I’m currently working on a manuscript for my first novel. The story focuses on a woman searching for her dream life, but blames others for her failures when she is the obstacle in the way. That may seem like a common storyline; however, there are unexpected twists and turns that I haven’t read in other books. What I hope readers walk away with is a desire to pursue their purpose, answer their own ‘what if’s’ should life change in the blink of an eye.

Where to Find Her

To learn more about Melanie, check out her website at http://melanievlogan.com or follow her on Twitter: @melanievlogan.

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next month.

Jody

P.S. Stay tuned for a Southern Comfort Recipes and Southern Sayings as well as an excerpt from Weather Permitting.

Normal is as Normal does…

snoopy summerJune means summer, the beach, hot weather, long days, short nights, sitting outside bird watching before it warms up, and cooking as much on the grill as possible. This month I have two events to attend: my high school reunion in Decatur, Georgia and the Southeastern Writers Association (SWA) Conference. Looking forward to both for two entirely different reasons.

At the reunion, I hope to see people I haven’t seen in a very long time, and dance to the oldies until I drop.

On the 17th of this month, I will be heading to St. Simons, Georgia to spend a few days of vacation before attending the SWA Conference. I look forward to meeting up with the authors I see every year and the new faces I come to expect. I always learn a great deal about the craft of writing and gain insight into different areas of publishing and editing.

Maya Angelou Normal“Normal” is on my mind today. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t think I’m normal. I’m sure there a million things I do that would not be considered normal. One thing I do that immediately comes to mind–I talk to myself. Been at it my whole life. Maybe it started when I was a child because I played alone quite a bit. Both my siblings were older and grown before I even entered first grade. I say maybe because I honestly have no idea why I do it. But it has come in handy when hashing out problems, making decisions, and generally annoying the people around me. 🙂

So what exactly does it mean to be normal?  I suppose it means different things to different people. In Weather Permitting, Sara Palmer doesn’t think she is normal and desperately tries to reach that state of being.

I looked up the term and here it is:  As an adjective, “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.  As a psychological term, “approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment; free from any mental disorder; sane.  As a noun, “the average or mean; the standard.”

Well, one glance at those definitions, and I ask, who comes close? We are all different in those traits mentioned above. To my thinking, we are as different as we are the same. We all want the same basic things in our life, and more than likely use the same emotions (except I do know a few guys . . . that’s for another blog). I’m not sure but my guess would be we are different on the inside, in our minds, in how we think and how we respond, justify, and either embrace or shun our emotions. Now this is just my muddy opinion, using my warped brain and years of experience.

normalSara Palmer wants to be normal because she thinks by claiming that title, she will somehow be adept at reinventing herself. If only she’d stop clinging to the past. If only she was “normal,” she would be happier. The truth is, she doesn’t need a label to be happy. What she needs, like the ability to forgive herself as well as those who have hurt her, has nothing at all to do with whether or not she is NORMAL.

Are you normal?

At the end of this month, I look forward to introducing my guest blogger, Melanie Logan.

Thanks for reading,

Jody