Christmas to me is all about the birth of Jesus! I have my nativity up on the mantel, been reading up in the Bible to get ready for my role as Mary on Christmas Eve at my church.. You see I have a small part in the service where I will be explaining to six year old Jesus (my best friend Mary's son, Brent Whatley, (who is in my book) about the night he was born. A stretch for me as I'm a little long in the tooth to portray Mary but I have to think that my Pastor Allison knows best in this matter when she asked me.
The whole month has been getting ready for this special celebration which is to me my favorite time of the year. People are just flat nicer at Christmas. So as we prepare for this gathering of friends and family, I have also been fast and furious emailing my friends and family that I am celebrating another birth too. The birth of my book, "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life".
I also believe in keeping the celebration of Christ in Christmas and that my book, my life story on how books saved me, is in keeping with that belief. God first, then family, friends, and then all that other stuff can follow. I also happen to believe that books can help send home those beliefs.
So my message this Southern Author Blog is first at this Christmas season, get right with God. Go to church no matter your faith, your beliefs, put God first in your life. Second, is to love one another and get it right with your family. I am working on that now. Third, is to say thank you to all my friends from the bottom of my heart. To old friends I hold near and dear and to new ones that I will meet on my travels for my book tour. You are loved and you are what makes life worth living. You see it is not about things, what we get for Christmas, but about relationships. My Pastor Allison asked us the congreation last Sunday what we received last Christmas. I could not remember a thing. She then asked us what was our happiest Christmas memory and for me that was playing Santa's elves under the Christmas tree with my little sisters or years later watching my children's faces as they woke up on Christmas morning. You see we don't remember the things we receive materially but we do remember the experiences. For my daughters, their happiest Christmas memory was not receiving the go-cart, or the ipod, digital camera, laptop computer, it was the Christmas we shucked the giving of gifts and took the whole family skiing for Christmas. I will forever have to live down, after I wore a leopard polar fleece outfit to the slopes, the nickname, "SNOW KAT!" If I heard that nickname once, I heard it a kazillion times over that vacation. Every time now anybody mentions that trip someone will hollar, "SNOW KAT" and everybody breaks down in stitches. Good times, my friends, good times.
So I am ending this Christmas, yes, this Christmas blog with an interview I did with author and my good friend and southern author, Christopher Cook for my publisher's website, www.hachettebookgroupusa.com. He may be living in Prague, the Czech Republic, but he's still a good ole East Texas boy. There's also a lot more on that site on my new book; a reader's group guide, an article on "What to Eat at Book Club Meetings", my Mid-South and Southern Book tour of which I am driving in a Cadillac with my Pulpwood Queens, the ultimate road trip and more. I hope you too will go to my website and order my book too, www.beautyandthebook.com. As they always say a book is a gift that keeps on giving and that could be my book's motto as my book is really a love letter to all my author friends. Most of you all are featuring in my reading lists in there and if not probably will be mentioned in the next book. I have this thing for southern authors, they are my PEEPS! Read the book and pass it on to a friend or your local library. To me reading is so much more important and special when you can share it with friends.
Merry Christmas to one and all! If you happen to be in historic Jefferson, Texas on Christmas eve, come see my debut as Mary at The First United Methodist Church, www.jeffersonfumc.com. This is probably my most challenging role as an actress. I think the last time you all saw me perform was in "Laundry and Bourbon" at Girlfriend Weekend a couple a years ago. That role I fit to a T. So channeling Meryl Strep and I think I just might be singing too!
Before you read further, I have to tell you I took little Brent (portaying Jesus and photo featured), his sister, Kaitlyn, and my daughter Madeleine to the local Bull Durham Playhouse recently to see their Christmas melodrama "The Big Toy". As one of the main characters was explaining to these little children in his Toy Shoppe that Christmas was the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, six year old Brent yelled out loud and clear, "Kathy, they're talking about ME! They're talking about ME!" As the crowd burst out in laughter and I too, I thought well I guess I would have some explaining to do this holiday season. But just remember, keep the JOY! Gather your family and friends and just love everybody to pieces! I can think of no better gift for Christmas than the gift of love.
God Bless You One and All!
Tiara wearing and Book sharing,
Kathy L. Patrick
Founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs
INTERVIEW WITH KATHY L. PATRICK
BY CHRISTOPHER COOK
Christopher: I've been to a couple of your meetings, and one thing I noticed is Pulpwood Queens sure like to party. Always laughing, eating, drinking, talking about music, movies, and pop culture. Plus the Queens are LOUD. It's a unique kind of book club! When do you actually read?
Kathy Patrick: Though it does appear at first glance that all these loud, boisterous, book club women would never actually read, in fact we do—and we take it very seriously. I cannot speak for other book club members, but when I get home it's quiet time and reading for the Kat. I usually read for awhile when I first get home, to wind down from the day's work, then read again when I go to bed. If it's a really great book, I'll read until late, then get up early to read some more—like anywhere from 3:30 to 4:30 a.m. I always read in the morning before I go to work, too." Reading relaxes me. Sometimes I read the Bible, and I usually have about four or five books going at the same time in all genres. I also keep a book in the car for when I have to stop and wait at the railroad tracks for the train to cross. Another book is kept in my purse for those long waits in line at Brookshire's grocery store or those arduous treks to Wal-Mart. If I am waiting, I'm reading. Or I should say, if I am still, I'm more than likely reading a book. I usually read four to six books a week.
Christopher: My mother didn't approve of my first novel, "Robbers". The characters in it have sex and they cuss a lot. But she didn't actively try to STOP its publication. Which your mother did try to do with your book. What gives?
Kathy: It's very simple, my mother did not like what I said about her in my book. She asked me if I could please just take her out of the book. I asked her, "How could I take out my mother? Your mother is the most important person in our life." She then called the publisher to ask for the book to be stopped. Now all of this happened only after the book was completely finished. She knew I was working on the book, in fact, for years. But never once did she inquire, in all those many years of drafts and rewrites, what I was writing about. So I decided to send her an advance copy of my book prior to publication. I thought maybe when she read it, it would help her understand me and my life. Maybe my book would help reconnect us as mother and daughter. Maybe it would be the catalyst to having the real relationship that we haven't had for most of my adult life. So you simply can't imagine how shocked I was to find out she had called my publisher to ask for the book not to be published. I have spent most of my life trying to receive her approval. I know now that it may never happen. How do I deal with this? I talk to my friends and I pray. I read and write. Fortunately for me, books have always been my psychiatrist's couch—my escape route when life just becomes too unbearable!
Truth is, we've become a culture of digital consumers. Computers, cell phones, iPods. And with digital content, we watch and listen, we don't read. By comparison, reading a book is a very slow, demanding process. Honestly, do we really need books anymore?
Kathy: My background is not in education. My major areas of study in college were art and geology. But I've always considered myself a life-long learner because I'm a reader. And I do know that kids who read succeed. After years of helping children in my bookstore and raising two of my own, I've noticed they just do better when they are read to when small. As they get older and begin reading themselves, their attention span becomes longer, so they have better concentration skills during school. Their vocabulary increases, too, and they seem to have a better understanding of other subjects besides reading. Letting some technological device entertain your child tends to make them dumb down in my opinion. Their reflexes may get better from playing video games, but there has to be some kind of balance. I guess it's like the difference between eating sugar all day or just having dessert every once in a while, as a treat. I'd prefer my children—and really all children—to develop good reading skills much the same way we teach the food triangle. Find a balance. For me that balance tends to lean towards fruits, vegetables and meats, and less towards the sugar. My children prefer reading over other outside interference because they believe their imaginations create something way cooler than any graphic on a screen.
Christopher: Where'd the name Pulpwood Queens come from? And what's this about Timber Guys? Is that some sort of men's auxiliary?
Kathy: The Pulpwood Queens name comes in part from pulpwood, which is the main industry in this area of East Texas. We grow super seedling pine trees here for paper and fiber products. Pulpwood is made into paper, and paper is made into books. But we don't read pulp fiction! We read books that I deem exceptional reads. Actually, there is pulpwood production in every state of the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, according to my sources at International Paper. So that part of the book club name works everywhere. As for the "Queens" part... well, I thought it extremely unfair that only "beauty queens" get to wear tiaras. How can we be judged only for the way we look when we have no control over that when we're born? We are a product of our parents' genes. So I have crowned us Queens because we are "beauty within queens". And that's because we are readers! About the men... yes, we do have men in our book clubs. We've had male members since the beginning. We call them Timber Guys. But I have to tell you, they rarely show up, and only then if given the right incentive—like an incredible author! Mostly they're husbands of Pulpwood Queens who appear at our annual Christmas party or Hair Ball. I suppose if they showed up more, we would be called The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs. I can tell you that a ton of these guys plan to attend our next Girlfriend Weekend because supermodel Paulina Porizkova is coming to talk about her book "A Model Summer", and actress-turned-author Adrienne Baribeau will talk about her book "There Are Worse Things I Could Do". Like I said, it seems that certain authors bring the men in to the club! But we do our best to keep everyone excited and motivated about coming to the meetings and about reading!
Christopher, Your bookstore, Beauty and the Book—surely the first (and only?) hair salon/bookstore in the USA, if not the planet—is located in a renovated Gulf service station in Jefferson, Texas, a town of about 2,500 people. That's a long way from national exposure on "Oprah" and "Good Morning, America". How'd that happen?
Kathy: Well, Jefferson has a population of 2,199 to be exact according to the latest census. And basically, the media exposure started when Oxford American Magazine covered my Grand Opening on January 18, 2000. I have never been shy when it comes to alerting the media and I send some pretty interesting press releases. I also follow up with phone calls and emails. I get the information out there and try to be intriguing enough for those in the media to contact me. Remember, the world is flat when it comes to the Internet. I just think to myself, "now why would I want to go to this shop?" And I try to think of something to do that is different than what everybody else is doing. So after that feature in OA, the media immediately started contacting me. I think word travels pretty fast when you do things a little bit different. No, make that a lot different. I mean, a hairdresser talking books or a bookseller doing hair? Most people think those statements are oxymorons. Fortunately, the media finds that a story—and one they want to share with their readership or viewership! I continue to be amazed by that fact. I am also so thankful to everybody who has done a feature that has helped me get the word out that reading is important.
Christopher: Are you really a hair stylist? I mean, do you really do hair, or is that just a front?
Kathy: Yes, I really am a licensed cosmetologist and take my job as seriously as I do my reading. I continue to educate myself on product knowledge and trends in cuts and color. I do hair every day. I also happen to take very seriously my job of selling books. Whoever said you can only be one thing in life is limiting their possibilities. People ask me this question all the time and all I can say is, Please come to my shop and experience it all for yourself. You can get a great haircut and a great book all at the same time. How cool is that? Most customers say to me, "Besides all the books and great hair services, you all are just so entertaining!" My answer to that is, "On with the show!"
Christopher: That is very cool. How much for a perm?
Kathy: We hardly do perms anymore at the salon. But if we did one, we would charge the same as for any other basic chemical service, $90.00.
Christopher: Okay, back to the Pulpwood Queens. If I wanted to go to a Pulpwood Queens book club meeting—or start a club chapter—how would I do that?
Kathy:Contact me at 903-665-7520 or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or to read more about it, go to my official website at http://www.beautyandthebook.com. We have first-time guests when we meet every month, and I'm continually starting more chapters. I started three new chapters just this past week. Word-of-mouth travels fast when it comes to the Pulpwood Queens.
Christopher: Your new book tells the story behind the origins of Beauty and the Book, and later the Pulpwood Queens. What else is in there? Why should folks read it?
Kathy: Do you remember in the book "The Secret Garden", how the hidden door was found to the garden, and then the key? I like to think that the reader is going to find out exactly what is so magical in that place—and for me the key is reading. Behind that door are some of the best reads you'll ever find. And the stories! Oh the stories, ones that will make you laugh and make you cry!
I wrote this book hoping that someone would feel just like I did while reading the first book that turned me on to reading, "Honestly Katie John" by Mary Calhoun. That book gave me hope. When I read that book at 10 years old, I felt for the first time that I was not alone. There were others like me. That book turned me on to reading. It showed me that through reading I could find my place and discover where I fit into this big, wide world. That book changed my life. And I hope when others read my book, it will change theirs for the better, too.
Christopher: You lead a very busy life. A lovely family, a ton of friends, a business, a noble cause—promoting literacy—and now you've written a book. What else do you want to do before you die?
Kathy: Yikes, before I die! Honey, I have no time for those kind of dire thoughts. I have so much I want to do, sometimes I'm overwhelmed. Right now, this minute, today, my mission is to help my daughter's friend, who dropped out of school in the 7th grade, to study and pass the GED. She'll be 17 in January and all of her friends will be graduating from high school soon. "Leave no child behind" means more to me than just a school sanction. I imagine I'll learn quite a bit along the way. Now, that's my short-term goal. As far as my long-term plans? I see many literary projects in the future, and hopefully much travel. I have always been a life-long learner, and to learn you must also get your nose up out of the book and live. I plan on taking all my daughters' friends to Europe next summer. Some of them have never been out of the county, let alone the state. I want them to experience everything—the people, the cultures, the food, the places, the history—so they can begin to dream of something bigger than working at the local Dairy Queen. I guess the first half of my life I spent taking and now during the second half of my life, I am hoping to give back. Playing it forward and being a mentor. I like to think God is my co-pilot on this big adventure and I'm ready for the ride. It has been a bit bumpy, and I've had quite a few wrecks, but the road looks smoother ahead. Who knows what may be over the next hill?
Christopher: Okay, this interview was supposed to be just 10 questions. But you get a Miss America bonus question! If you had a magic wand that could change one thing about the world, what would you change?
Kathy: Holy moley, that caught me by surprise! My first thought—since I do wear a tiara!—is "WORLD PEACE," and I ain't lying. But now as I really reflect on this miraculous magic wand, I would say, "For all people to treat our children as we would our most precious possessions, with great care, and make sure they have the best in education." If we want to change the world, then we all better start with adopting every single child and raising them with love, kindness, and understanding. God made each child and each child is special. They are the reflections of our actions. They hold our future in their hands. They are our little miracles, born everyday with a purpose. So my magic wand has been waved. Now I'm passing it on to all of you!
Christopher Cook is the author of two award-winning books, the novel"Robbers" and the short story collection "Screen Door Jesus & Other Stories". Both books appear in international translations and have been adapted to film. A native of Texas, Cook has lived in France, Mexico, and now the Czech Republic. He resides in Prague.)
Copyright © 2007 by Christopher Cook and Kathy L. Patrick