The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend in Jefferson Texas

For the uninitiated, first I’ll answer the question, “What in the world is meant by the Pulpwood Queens?” Thank you for asking. The Pulpwood Queens is a book club. It is the brain-child of one fabulous woman from Texas, Kathy L. Murphy, a painter and hair stylist who owned a salon in Jefferson, Texas, worked as a publisher’s rep until she lost the job, and, rather than lying down, bounced back by consolidating her talents. She opened Beauty and the Book, the world’s only combined hair salon and bookstore. From there, she founded The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas Book Club, which exploded into a nation-wide success. Today, The Pulpwood Queens has 765 book club chapters comprised of the most enthusiastically dedicated readers under the sun. I know this because many of the book club members showed up last weekend in Jefferson, Texas for the annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend. They brought their giddy-up in their get-along, wore tiaras and full costume for 2019’s How the West was Won theme, and, for the first time, I was there as a featured author. I will tell you in no uncertain terms that the weekend was the Mardi Gras of the book world. Three days of back-to-back panels comprised of authors introducing themselves and their latest work to a rapt audience of readers eager to discover new books. And in the middle of it, Kathy Murphy: the hub of the wheel, the Pulpwood Queen herself, her magnanimous heart on her sleeve in the middle of her mother-hen joy.
The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend was an organized, over-the-top, combined book and love-fest. It’s not so easy to corral unbridled enthusiasm into a manageable space, though we all made the trip to Texas for the same reason. We came to fraternize with each other in an arena without hierarchy. We were there because we love books, the people who write them, and all those who read. All this reported, there was a plan. There was structure, lest the two hundred or more participants melt into a fawning, neck-hugging puddle of ecstasy over meeting a long-admired author in person for the first time, or someone known only through Facebook, now within arm’s reach. For months prior, Kathy Murphy’s right-hand administrator, Tiajuana Anderson Neel, sent notice via social media about what to expect from the weekend and when. She posted a list of recommended lodging, suggested costumes, and shared the weekend’s schedule of events on the Pulpwood Queens Website, where she instructed all authors on how to donate an item pertaining to their book, for silent auction, whose proceeds were to benefit everyone’s favorite non-profit, The Pat Conroy Literary Center, in Beaufort, South Carolina.
On a personal note, I wasn’t going to miss this. No fire, torrential rain, nor threat of mudslide could keep me from leaving Malibu, California and making my way to LAX. I was going to Jefferson, Texas on January 17, if I had to walk, spurred by the fire of anticipation over a three-day book festival aimed at mingling authors and readers. Every second it took to get from Malibu to Atlanta to Shreveport then make the forty-nine- minute drive into Jefferson, Texas was worth it, and I knew it for what it was when I checked into the Excelsior House Hotel.
I’d be hard-pressed to envision a better backdrop for a book festival than Jefferson, Texas. Everything in the historic town was within walking distance to the convention center, where the party was held. Ambling down the spacious sidewalk on my way to the opening ceremony, I passed restaurants, a coffee shop, and the fully-realized General Store, which had a sign out front reading, “Welcome to the Pulpwood Queens.” It seemed the entire town was behind Girlfriends Weekend. So much so, that even Jefferson’s mayor showed up. Local shops contributed discount codes to the weekend’s attendees, and area restaurants remained open long past their closing schedule because word of the weekend’s festivities was all over the streets.
One foot inside the convention center, and the party was in full-swing. People milled about in cowboy hats and tiaras, smiling ear-to-ear, wearing boots. It was like being in a bee-hive holding the reins of a live wire, until the introduction of each featured author ensued, and the eight Southern Writers on Writing panelists took the stage, then the entire room suddenly felt like being in church. The audience was riveted as each of the panelists shared their thoughts on what it means to be a writer—a Southern writer, certainly, yet the breadth and scope of the discussion was also far-reaching, setting the tone for the following two days.

To bare witness to authors, nationally known and otherwise, talking about the premise of their books was a study in the passionate fires that lead a writer to pick up a pen in the first place. Throughout the weekend, there were key-note speakers that brought down the house: Revis Wortham, Paula McClain, Ann Weisgarber, Ann Wertz Garvin, Lisa Wingate, River Jordan, and we were all thrilled by the repeated participation of author Patti Callahan Henry, who appeared wearing a black, bouffant wig as the singer, June Carter Cash. One after another, Kathy Murphy moderated panels, giving a forum to authors who introduced themselves and their books in what seemed an intimate setting. Primarily, the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend is geared toward readers; it was to them that each author gave their all, before taking a position at a table to shake hands and sign their book.
A highlight of Girlfriends Weekend was the group that came from Beaufort, South Carolina to share the stories about beloved author, Pat Conroy, who was written about in a series of essays assembled in the engaging book, Our Prince of Scribes. Pat Conroy, many knew, was a proponent of and participant in Girlfriends weekend. On the last day of the weekend, the pillars of The Pat Conroy Literary Center gave a talk about Conroy, with an attendant video that touched the hearts of everyone in the room.
Girlfriends Weekend concluded with a party unlike any other. Billed as The Big Hair Ball, it was all that and more. I’ve never seen such thought go into a bevy of costumes aimed at a western theme: cows, Indians, a pioneer woman, Annie Oakley, outrageous wigs, studded cowboy hats, and a mustache to rival actor Sam Elliot’s swirled on the dance floor in a celebratory vortex to the beats ranging from country to disco to pop.
The Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend was simultaneously an education and a blast. I’m thinking I made life-long friends there, in a jury of my peers. Three days in a weekend that felt too short by half, the first thing I did when I got home was mark my calendar for next year’s Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend.
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Claire Fullerton is from Memphis, TN., and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of Mourning Dove, a Southern family saga set in the genteel side of Memphis. Mourning Dove is the 2018 Literary Classics Words on Wings award winner for Book of the Year. It is the 2018 bronze medal winner for Southern Fiction by Readers’ Favorite, a finalist in the 2018 Independent Authors Network Book of the Year, and was listed in the International Faulkner Society’s 2018 William Wisdom competition in the novel category. Claire is the author of Kindle Book Review’s 2016 award for Cultural Fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel, and paranormal mystery, A Portal in Time. She contributed to the book, A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window. Her work has appeared in Southern Writers Magazine, and was listed in 2017 and 2018 in their Top Ten Short Stories of the Year. Claire’s work has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; Celtic Life International; The Wild Geese, and The Glorious Table. The manuscript for her next novel, Little Tea, is a finalist in the 2018 Faulkner Society’s William Wisdom competition. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Literary Agency.

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Gifting the Readers

It was an unusual path that led to the creation of my third novel, Mourning Dove, and the thought that spurred me on was gifting the reader with something to ponder.
Mourning Dove started as a poem, written rather cathartically, in verse that sought to put into words the repercussions of a personal experience. I wrote the poem but never shared it, thinking it would be enough to write it and leave it in my journal. Then, in 2013, I saw a call for submissions in the San Francisco Writers Conferences’ contest. In looking at the categories, I decided to tell the abbreviated story behind the poem in the requisite 3,000-word limit and enter it as narrative nonfiction. Because I liked the images and rhythm of the poem, I began my piece with the poem’s first stanza. As I wrote the nonfiction story, I remained true to the feel and flow of the poem. I reached the word limit swiftly and submitted it to the contest, under the title Mastering Ambiguity (there’s a good reason for that title.)
Three months later, I received notice that Mastering Ambiguity was a finalist in the contest, and, as I live in Malibu, I decided to make the trip to the 2013, San Francisco Writers Conference and attend the luncheon where the winner would be announced.
Entering the auditorium, I saw thirty-five, eight seated tables spaced on the floor before a stage. As I found a seat, I told myself that if anything ever came of Mastering Ambiguity, I’d turn it into a full-length novel. Mastering Ambiguity wasn’t pronounced the winner at that luncheon, but it came in as the runner-up. Knowing I had a good story, I kept my pledge and set to work turning Mastering Ambiguity into a novel.
But how to turn a 3,000-word, nonfiction piece into a novel that is essentially a coming- of -age and then some, Southern family saga? It occurred to me that if I focused on a sense of place, in this case, the genteel side of 1970’s and 1980’s Memphis, replete with characters exemplary of old-world social mores, I’d have a solid foundation for a cause and effect story.
I began by defining the aim of Mourning Dove, which would help me suggest its point. Once I had what I wanted to say in hand, I settled upon Mourning Dove’s themes, knowing, if I let them lead, I could write the novel in scenes that would lead to gifting the reader with an overarching point.
When a writer settles upon a theme, or themes in a novel, the idea is to make them universal, so that the reader will identify from the vantage point of their own life. In Mourning Dove’s case, I wanted to expand upon the idea of a search, for I believe all of us are searching for something, be it a daily search or over a lifetime.
Once I knew the beginning and end of Mourning Dove, I wrote the following in a composition book I keep by my keyboard, and allowed it to guide me:
A search for place/home
A search for identity
A search for meaning/God.

From there, I wrote the story of two siblings who were born in Minnesota but moved abruptly during their formative years to the Deep South, where they entered the traditionally Southern environment as outsiders. From here, the novel took on a life of its own and became not only about discovery, but about displacement and the navigational tools one employs, while trying to fit into a culture.
For the most part, writers write from what they know. They use their own impressions and experiences as fodder to one degree or another, in the process of telling a story. I believe this is inevitable and inescapable, and in writing Mourning Dove, I portrayed Memphis as I experienced it. Because I now live in California, the geographical distance afforded an objective eye with a sense of nostalgia for an era now gone by. Late 1970’s through 1980’s Memphis was well worth writing about because I am of a generation raised by those many call “the old guard.” These were the people born to a culture steeped in Southern social mores and tradition, who held to its ways as if manners and form were the template to society, so much so that it verged on stifling.
My aim in writing Mourning Dove was along the lines of depicting the culture the siblings came to as outsiders to show how its influence contributed to their psychological wiring. Because we are all products of our upbringing, it raises the question of nature versus nurture in influencing how a life turns out. It’s a complicated amalgam that contributes to how individuals end up as they do, and in writing Mourning Dove, I wanted to tell the story of siblings who share the same history but come to disparate ends.
Because readers are intelligent beings, I wanted to take the reader through a series of one telling scene to the next, so that they could divine for themselves how what happened in the end came to be.
It’s a give and take in being a writer. If a writer gifts a reader with something to ponder, the reader will take away their own conclusion.

 

Mourning Dove by Claire Fullerton is a Faulkner Society listed, and winner of the Bronze medal for Southern Fiction by Reader’s Favorite.

Enter to win the audiobook of Mourning Dove: https://audiobookwormpromotions.com/mourning-dove/

https//www.clairefullerton.com

Book Review: Memphis Movie by Corey Mesler.

I had the great pleasure of coming across this delightful, wonderfully creative novel about the making of an Indie film. Anyone passionate about film-making will love it! Corey Mesler is its author, and I take my hat off to him!  Here’s my review of a book that should be widely read!

 

Memphis Movie

That Memphis Movie drops the reader smack in the middle of this one-of-a-kind story by opening with an interview of indie film maker, Eric Warberg, was a stroke of genius. It set the stage, mood, and tone for this down-on-his-heels filmmaker’s background and tells the reader that the stakes are high in this modern-day story. The book comes out swinging, with dialogue so engagingly sardonic it transcends any necessity for knowledge of a film’s production. And yet, in Memphis Movie the reader receives the minutia of what goes into making a movie, and as this fabulous story unfurls, the savvy reader can’t help but think the chaos is a lot like any other line of work taking over someone’s life. Eric Warberg’s identity is at issue. He’s a washed-up fish-out-of-water dragging his tail in the pond he comes from, trying to pull himself up by his bootstraps but not convinced he can. His is the voice of reason, while one of the more cacophonous cast of characters ever assembled spins out around him, each delightfully drawn player with their own agenda. If there’s any prayer of cohesiveness in this dysfunctional crew, it’s all in Eric’s shaky hands. Sisyphus had an easier time of it, and this is what makes this character intensive story so funny. The book speaks in jargon so spot-on it lends ambience, and the characters sputter and sway in a setting only the infinitely hip know of in Memphis. They are all likable underdogs looking for a center. They are scratching around in the underbelly of an historic southern town, trying to make this thing work. Memphis Movie is a blend of satire, humor, and irony driven by sheer intelligence. Only a gifted writer can peg the nuances of human nature to the point where the reader says of each character, “I know that guy!” All praise author Corey Mesler. I’m so atwitter over Memphis Movie, I’m telling all my friends that this book about the making of an indie film is so good, it should be made into its own movie!

http://www.clairefullerton.com

Launching A Book Is Like A Wheel

It seems to me the release of a novel is like a wheel with its own life span. Though the elements that get a book out in the world happen in linear fashion, it feels as if they happen at once. This is what readers might not know as they read a book. There is a lot that goes into a book release. Within the time frame of getting my third novel, Mourning Dove, signed until its publication, it seemed every move I made was urgent, even though I knew, when I signed the contract, that Mourning Dove’s release was a year and a half away.
It all begins with a book’s contract negotiation. Promotion starts immediately, once the writer signs the contract. There is the business of sharing the news that a contract has been signed on social media to garner interest that the book is coming, that it will be winding its way from draft to print. And it is a winding way. What made Mourning Dove different for me is that when I signed the publishing contract, I had a literary agent. Because this wasn’t the case with my first two books, I didn’t know what to expect.
From the onset, my agent got to work. We talked about Mourning Dove’s genre, my brand as an author, whether to hire a publicist, which book festivals to submit to, which contests to enter, my presence on social media—all of this was planned once my editor sent me my publishers’ schedule. Because what a writer is doing pre-release is securing a foundation. A writer must know where they’re going and when. One has to create a launch pad well in advance of a book’s release that matches their publisher’s schedule. After the book has been edited, which in Mourning Dove’s case hinged on my editor’s schedule, and took three rounds, during six weeks, a writer waits for the advance review copy. There are magazines, contests, and online journals to submit to, each with their own schedule. A writer has to create their own schedule to keep track of what’s happening and when.
Once I had the advance review copy of Mourning Dove, I sent it to four well-known authors and two prestigious book magazines, in pursuit of book blurbs to appear on the finished book. Next came the selection of Mourning Dove’s book cover, which began with my written vision and went to my publisher’s art department and ended with the final version.
Once I had Mourning Dove’s book cover, I got to work in preparation for marketing. I had business cards printed with my website and contacts, post cards and bookmarks made with Mourning Dove’s cover and description. I created a glossy “one-sheet” with the book’s cover, its ISBN, Mourning Dove’s release date, my author bio, three book blurbs, and sent it to endless independent book stores, telling them that Mourning Dove was available for pre-order, and that it would be distributed through Ingrams. I joined the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in tandem with my publisher, since Mourning Dove is set in the South, and my brand is that I am a Southern writer, being, as it is, that I grew up in Memphis.
As Mourning Dove’s launch date drew near, I reached out to more magazines and book bloggers, then scheduled a book launch event. I sent invitations to the launch, and word to my local newspaper requesting they send a photographer out for coverage. Once Mourning Dove was out in the world, I continued to distribute my one sheet, and still do, as time allows. I remain engaged in social media daily about Mourning Dove, and as I do, I support other authors.
Mourning Dove was released one month ago today, and I continue to promote it daily. I will be travelling to book events starting next month, with an eye toward doing as much in person as possible. I am reaching out to book clubs and speakers’ organizations. I believe eye-to-eye contact with readers makes a difference, and it is my sincere honor and privilege to speak with any I meet. My travel schedule has already taken me into 2019, and I have Mourning Dove submitted to 2019 book festivals, from whom I am waiting to hear. There are book award contests I’ve entered that announce awards for books published in 2018, in the year 2019.
In the meantime, I have another release coming on November 1st of this year. Currently the wheel is turning for this. It is a novella; one of four novellas in a book titled A Southern Season—each novella set in the South, and promotion began six months ago.
When you hear writers say that writing is a full-time job, it’s because it is. Each release has its own life-span, which begins with a sense of urgency and continues as long as the author is willing to work it. But the good news is if an author has a backlist, all effort put into each release aids and abets the life of the backlist. In my mind, each release is an independent wheel that helps drive a writer’s career forward.

http://clairefullerton.com

 

 

Balance in A Writer’s Life

I exchanged messages this morning with Michelle James, whom I had the pleasure of meeting online years ago, when Dancing to an Irish Reel came out. This shows me the beauty of WordPress—there are wonderful friends here, and I’ve found the community to be extraordinarily engaging and supportive. And it’s not just about books that we talk about. Books may be the reason why we’re drawn to the page in the first place, but typically exchanges lead into other places, and this morning Michelle and I talked about Pilates.
Michelle and I both incorporate Pilates into our weekly schedule, and it caused me to think about why I do it. It’s because I spend so much time at this computer, and it occurred to me that a writer needs balance. In order to find balance, it takes the realization that balance is a requirement of a writer’s life.
I have a wheeled chair on a hardwood floor that fits up tightly under my desk. I am a little-bitty ol’ thing, and I’m in the habit of sitting Indian style (can I say this in this PC world? Apologies for any offense) for hours at a time. I go through phases when a project is pressing, even if the immediacy is of my own making. Looking back at the past five and a half years, it’s staggering to realize that I produced four novels, but part of the explanation is I got myself into it because one door opened then things happened at once, in a flurry that felt like putting out fires.
Which brings me back to the subject of Pilates. I’ll add ballet because I still go to class. I’m a believer in the adage that the mind and the body are one, and I’ve found that without finding a balance, I suffer. Without reading and writing, I am aimless, and without tempering the way I sit at my desk, there are particular areas in my lower back that tighten to the point where my whole body locks up. Basically, I have to undo what I create, after I spend so much times sitting in the form of a pretzel. But it’s more than that, really. It has something to do with needing to get out of my head and into my body, and I think it matters, with respect to grounding myself on God’s green earth.
I’m going to take this subject further and talk about a decision I made once I came up for air after completing the edits for my next book, which I wrote after Mourning Dove (This book is another Southern novel in the capable hands of my agent, and hopefully it will be signed somewhere!) Because I spent so much time during the week and then some in self-enforced isolation, save for the occasional social outing or doing whatever it takes to tend to home and hearth, I decided to switch priorities. I know a group of wonderful women who live near me in this seaside community, and every morning they meet to walk the beach. I had to wrestle with the hour of joining this group. 8:00 in the morning is a questionable hour to be up and out of the house, and I have a bad habit of getting coffee then going to my computer the second my feet hit the floor. Once at my computer, away I go.
My commitment to leaving the house was made in favor of physical and psychological balance. Once the decision was made, the effort was easy because I knew the stakes, otherwise. If I start the day by getting outside and walking by the ocean, it gives me a certain perspective. The enormity of the ocean; the people out walking their dogs; the surfers sizing up the waves; the conversation of friends; and the simple act of movement reminds me there’s a big world outside of my office, before it’s time to close myself off when I return to my desk.
I think balance is imperative in a writer’s life, and writer’s need to aim for it. It takes commitment to write, especially when one writes novels, but it also takes commitment to lead a well-balanced life.

Author Interview on The Reading List

Claire Fullerton is an author who was born in Wayzata, Minnesota and transplanted at the age of ten to Memphis, Tennessee. Although Claire Fullerton now lives in Malibu, California, she says that she’ll always consider herself a Southerner. Claire first found her niche in music radio as a member of the on-air staff of five different stations, during a nine-year career. Music radio led Claire to the music business, and the music business led her to Los Angeles, where she worked for three years as an artist’s representative, securing record deals for bands. Claire Fullerton would go on to write a creative, weekly column for The Malibu Surfside News, and submitted to writing contests and magazines as she focused on developing her craft. Claire Fullerton then wrote a paranormal mystery about a woman who suspects she has lived before, and titled it A Portal in Time. Vinspire Publishing published the book, so she decided to show them the manuscript of a novel she had written in previous years, which they also published under the title Dancing to an Irish Reel the following year. Her third novel is titled, Mourning Dove. It’s a sins-of-the-father, Southern Family Saga, set in 1970’s and 1980’s Memphis, and it will be released in June of 2018. Please enjoy my interview with Claire Fullerton.

How do you describe your occupation?
I am a full-time writer.
What is something about you that people might find surprising?
On the side, to keep myself engaged in humanity (because writers spend much time in isolation,) I teach ballet and Pilates. I’ve been doing this for years.
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
I have a friendship with the most artistically, off-beat woman I’ve ever had the good fortune to come across. She is fifteen years my elder, from New York City, and erudite at an impressive pitch. Out of nowhere, she brought me Nutshell by Ian McEwan. Since I’m a Southerner from Memphis, now living in Southern California, I’ve been on a Southern writer kick for a long time now. Southern writers write in a language I’m comfortable with, but I was starting to feel myopic. When I read the Washington Post’s blurb on Nutshell (“No one now writing in the English language surpasses Ian McEwan) I dove right in and was enthralled by this author’s genius.
What was your favourite book as a child and why?
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown as read to me by my father. I can still hear his voice reading this classic. The book gave me a sense of connection to everything around me and taught me about the importance of interacting in the world from a premise of awe-struck wonder.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I wrote a first-person story for my college English class based on personal experience. It was about two young girls on a beach in California, suffering the unwanted attention of a strange man. Unbeknownst to the girls, a local surfer watched from the water. He rose like Poseidon from the waves and placed his surfboard between the man and the girls as a blockade. The moral of the story was chivalry isn’t dead. The teacher read my story aloud in class and gave me an A.

What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
I bought An American Marriage by Tayari Jones because of the hype. It deserves every bit of praise it’s been given.
For someone starting out in your career, which three books would you make required reading and why?
A Separate Peace by John Knowles for its character-driven, coming of age elements, which plummet the very heart of human, baser instincts, such as jealousy and feelings of inferiority. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, for its narrative, atmospheric suspense, and The Ron Rash Reader by Ron Rash, because this book has short stories, novel excerpts, and poetry by the man many call the most gifted and accomplished poet and storyteller of our time, or any time.
What book have you found most inspiring, what effect did it have on you?
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. Conroy was a master story-teller who made a forty-year career out of his own personal narrative. In writing The Prince of Tides, Conroy gave all writers the keys to the kingdom. He showed us how to take pain and turn it into art. What I learned from this book is that there is great beauty in the scars of the most dysfunctional family. In reading this book, it occurred to me that a writer need not look further than their own life for inspiration.
What’s the most obscure book you own; how did you discover it?
The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan. I have an author crush on this forty-something-year-old man, who lives in the wilds outside of Cork, Ireland. Talk about a unique voice and uncanny turn of phrase. I think this author is the best writer to come out of Ireland since Clare Keegan. He floors me, and my suspicion is this book is only obscure for now, as it was recently licensed in America. I came across O’Callaghan accidently on LinkedIn. It was the incongruous look of this quintessential looking, rural Irishman packed into a tuxedo at an awards ceremony that caught my eye. I once lived in the west of Ireland, so I didn’t miss the irony. Upon looking into O’Callaghan, I discovered he had three short story collections published. I bought each one and ordered The Dead House straight from the press.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.
What is your proudest achievement?
That I’ve stayed the course of a creative life. I believe there are many incarnations in an artist’s life. My path has seen me, in one form or another, in the communicative arts. I worked on-air in Memphis radio for nine years and loved every minute of it. I was an artist and repertoire representative in the Los Angeles music business, which basically meant I discovered bands and took them to record companies. Ballet is a communicative art. All the while, I’ve engaged in writing because it comes to me as second nature. And the thing with an artistic life is there is no “there” to get to. There is only the process of living it.
Can you talk us through your writing process, from the first spark of an idea, to having your first completed draft?
Thus far, I’ve written the stories I had to tell, as opposed to manufacturing something out of thin air for the sake of writing something/anything. Always, there is a point I want to make. I have a reason for wanting to tell the story, usually, it is to make some comment on this business of living as I experience and interpret it. I write to compare notes, so to speak. I always know the beginning, middle, and end of a novel, and I typically make an outline after I’ve started. Because I know the ending, I ask myself where my novel should go next as I’m writing. I’m mindful of what will be a case in point along the way to the bigger point. It helps that I write in scenes. I can “see” the story as if it were on screen. When I think I’ve told the story, I walk away for a week, then revisit. I read it all and look to see if it’s balanced, then re-read to look at dialogue and continuity. When I believe I’ve finished, I send the manuscript to my editor.
If you were trying to impress a visitor, which book that you own would you leave on the coffee table?
I have this on my coffee table now: Huger Foote, My Friend from Memphis. Huger (pronounced yoo-gee; soft G) is the son of author and Civil War historian, Shelby Foote, whom all of us who come from Memphis revere. Huger’s nickname is Huggie, and he is now a world-renowned photographer of the most creative, beautiful shots of what many would consider common objects. His photographs are sheer poetry.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Never compare yourself with another writer and resist the temptation to look over your own shoulder as you write.
If an alien landed in your garden; which three books would you gift them to showcase humanity in the best possible way?
Peachtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons, The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, and The Mermaids Singing by Lisa Carey. I wouldn’t say they showcase humanity in the best possible way, only that they, indeed, showcase humanity!

Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I am satisfied that I’ve mentioned the books that stand out for me, and I did mention Shelby Foote, but I’m going to go deeper with him. I recently read Foote’s book, Follow Me Down and I startled to realize what an incredible fiction writer he was. I, like many, equated Shelby Foote with his three volumes on the Civil War and had yet to read his fiction. Follow Me Down is a Southern classic about the murder trial of a white man in 1960’s Mississippi, who has already confessed to the crime. The book’s language thrilled me!
Which book sat on your shelf are you most excited about reading next and why?
I am looking forward to reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I loved his novel, The Rules of Civility.
If you’d like to learn more, you can find Claire Fullerton on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Southern Writers on Writing

The easiest way to portray how much I loved Southern Writers on Writing is to tell the truth as it happened: After reading each moving essay, I sighed and thought, “This one is my favorite.” Apart from the fact that I’m a lover of the first-person narrative, these confessional essays held me at every turn. What they all have in common is an honesty not easily revealed unless the recipient has earned complete trust. These essays are more than Southern writers pontificating on their “process.” These essays are personal—sometimes painfully so. As an assembly, they are variations of a truth that seeks to put into words the profound impact of what it means to be part and parcel of a storied land, more than the sum of its disharmonious parts. A sense of nostalgia runs through Southern Writers on Writing, and what strikes me most is its unified theme. Task a Southern writer with writing about craft, and invariably, all roads lead back home. Southern Writers on Writing is a treasure for both readers and writers. Each essay contains the intrigue of a gripping short story, and each compelling voice allures the reader’s undivided attention. Thank you, Susan Cushman, for gifting us with this book. And to each author who contributed to this gem, thank you for sharing your story.