Friday, January 25, 2008

Field Notes: Ball of Hair

--Lynn York

Let me start by saying that I come from the hippy girl tradition. When I started at Duke in 1975, I brought a batik bedspread, tie dye tees, and Bob Marley records with me. I shunned makeup, sororities, and conducted a raid to remove all the hot roller sets from our dorm hall. I wore a bra when my parents visited.

Over the years, I have updated my look. By now I own plenty of makeup and hair appliances, and I won’t leave my bedroom without a bra. However, living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina means that fashion-wise I can get by with a little hair color and a nice handbag.

And “big hair”? Please. This is something that occasionally afflicts my mother when she’s trying out a new hairdresser. My sister and I try to break it to her gently.

So imagine my trepidation last week as I travelled to Jefferson, TX for the Pulpwood Queen’s annual Girlfriends’ Weekend. I had looked at the photos from last year’s Saturday night finale, the famed Ball of Hair. There was big hair all around. And costumes. I was little nervous—I just wasn’t sure this was my kind of fun.

I was wrong, of course. Just go back and read Michael Morris’ post from yesterday about Kathy Patrick, the organizer of this event. Like he says, Kathy is a force of nature. She is all about fun, and somehow manages to combine FUN with READING. Yee haw! Her weekend is a sort of loosely organized writers’ rodeo with enthusiastic readers, booksellers, musicians, and all kinds of really fantastic authors. Go look at her website and you’ll find Kathy’s nicely selected list of known and little-known writers, including several of my fellow bloggers. There were many lively panels and workshops through the weekend. But rather than cultivate that tired, rarified writerly atmosphere, Kathy somehow gets people (and mostly they’re women) to meet, mingle and tease their hair.

In preparation for the Ball of Hair Saturday, Kathy invited the styling-impaired among us to her cool beauty shop/bookstore to get fixed up. Remember in middle school when the best part of the dance was getting ready with your girlfriends? What a fine time we had watching as Kathy, Deborah Rodriguez (Kabul Beauty School) and several other Pulpwood kings and queens whipped our hair and makeup into shape. Some of the transformations were amazing. I am not brave enough to post photos here, but see Will Clarke’s blog or Judy Larsen’s.

Cai Emmons, a writer who shares my hippy background, ended up with a huge butterfly in her foot-high French twist. I got a sort of Lynn Anderson look, with a waist length blonde fall. “You know, this is actually kind of liberating,” Cai told me as we were lining up for photos.

Liberating? Oddly, yes. And not so different from what we do as writers every day—inhabit characters (and hair) not our own.

Lynn York is the author of The Piano Teacher (2004) and The Sweet Life (2007). She lives in Carrboro, NC. Her website is and for her writing group,


Anonymous said...

Having met Kathy Patrick at one of her booksignings, I think you have captured the spirit of the Pulpwood Queens to a T. I would have loved to have been there to see the "Lynn Anderson" look. Thanks for a fun blog.

ZAZA said...


The first time I attended this event I thought I WAS caught up in something akin to the Time Warp Dance In RH Picture show just due to the alternate reality of the thing. Now, it has become something like an addiction and the idea of missing the insanity of Big Hair makes me begin to scratch from withdrawals. All of the pictures are priceless! Glad you made it and jumped in the madness.