Tag Archive for: grits

Now, I’ve never been an activist. I am somewhat apolitical, or at least laissez faire. I live by the Paul Simon credo: “I get all the news I need from the weather report.” Don’t be haters. There is room in this world for Simonites.

But my point is that all of that has changed. I have now taken up not only a cause, but arms to defend that cause. “Freedom of the press?” you may ask, since I have a journalism background. Nah, that will work itself out. Freedom of speech, since I am a communications major and a writer? Nope, I hear plenty of free speech going on. The right to bear arms? Well, yes, but only incidental to my main cause.

I was on the front porch this morning in the first rays of sunlight, actively fighting for the rights of birds to enjoy their feeders and their supply of gourmet, species-specific seeds unmolested by marauding bands of rogue squirrels. There are oak trees in the yard with a billion acorns, for heaven’s sake. The lawless rodents have no need to go seed rustling. It’s pure greed and a lack of regard for their fellow  – ah – phylum mates. It really comes down to a class war, kinda like the Clantons and the Cowboy Gang against innocent ranchers and townsfolk. On the battleground of my little Fairhope habitat, the Sciuridae Family has become the enemy.

So that is why I was on the porch in my PJs in the dim pre-dawn light, wild-eyed and tousle-headed, armed only with random shoes for throwing at the gang leader. I do have a BB gun somewhere, but no ammunition, and I have packed up most of my belongings for an impending move. What I DID have at hand was a collection of shoes taken off at the front door, and the first cobbled missile hurled from the porch sent Curly Bill Sciuridae scrambling up the nearest oak.

After seven more forays toward the feeders, all defeated with footwear, the Sciuridaes had turned back and an array of blue jays, cardinals, and chickadees were breakfasting peacefully on black-oil sunflower seeds and such. I had regathered my ammunition and had a cup of fresh-ground coffee in my hand. I brought my laptop out so I could work and still remain vigilant. I didn’t dare take time out for a shower, so I was still garbed in nightwear with my hair sticking up on one side and plastered down on the other. Peace reigned in my world, though, so I was content.

My attention turned from the birds to the young school children who were now making their way from the neighboring cul-de-sacs toward the bus stop near my house. I smiled and waved at the ones familiar to me, and at the parents who accompanied the youngest ones. Totally distracted by the morning ritual, I failed to see Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo sneaking in from the leafy cover of the overhead canopy. I sighed happily, then turned my head to gaze on my little flock, and there they were. The Sciuridae ring leaders were perched on top of the feeder nearest me, stuffing their nasty, greedy, furry little cheeks and staring at me in total defiance.

In my recovery of the shoes, I had discovered a cache of magnolia pods, and I quickly catapulted one of these toward the outlaws. They fled and I chased them from my yard to the neighboring trees. Maybe I was bleary eyed from doing battle before coffee, but I would almost swear Curly Bill had a red bandana tied around his hind leg. “Run, you lily livered gray coated fiends. RUN!” I yelled. Caught up in the moment, I continued, “Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’! You tell ‘em I’M coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?” Then I nodded to the startled young man who was hastily moving his four small children to the other side of the road and hurried inside to unpack a big box of shoes.



Okay, the truth must come out. I am a bit of a technophobe. This is not new, just not something I freely divulge. In today’s digital, instant world, admitting to technophobia is akin to the Biblical leper running around yelling, “Unclean! Unclean!”

I remember when microwave ovens began to become common place–yes, that is an age giveaway. After turning one dinner roll into a landscape stone because I thought I had to heat it a mere 10 minutes, not 10 seconds, I began to wonder if such potent laser beams could escape the oven and microwave my brain. Turns out I wasn’t so far off the mark, but back then I was just viewed as an old fashioned, lily livered anti-progressive.

A couple of years after that, I bought a word processor. Now that one I was all for because it meant the end of carbon paper, correction tape and endless do-overs when editing my writing. I do love cut and paste. Now, however, I approach the latest generation of computer with fear and trembling because it auto-corrects, auto-updates and auto-improves itself to the point I can no longer even use it, much less understand it.

Case in point: I am charged with maintaining a website for an economic honor society. That may sound made-up since I just confessed my lack of computer saavy, but it is true. That has gone reasonably well until now. NOW is when the distant webhost said he had to move the server. I am advanced enough to know he didn’t meant it would look better on the wall by the window, but “moving the server” could have meant transferring the files to a flash drive or to an intergalactic orb far far away.

Whether new computer or new galaxy, I was notified that the move went well and I could update the site at my leisure. Ha! None of my log-on credentials worked, so I emailed the webmaster. I was told I just needed to set up a new website connection with FTP. He might as well have said I just needed to jot over next door and perform a frontal lobotomy. At least I know what a frontal lobotomy is.
This came at a time when I had just learned at a writing conference that successful book marketing is done primarily online these days. The website is the new business card and marketing tools are blogs, Instagram, Facebook posts and Twitter. Last I knew, twitter meant the sound birds make. Although you could be excitable and get “all a twitter” over something. Pretty sure neither of those are the Twitter I have to get to know.

The upshot is that I, who have been known to turn off the electricity and read by the light of an oil lamp to protest the screeching rate of “progress,” must now learn not only to navigate FTP, but to do Facebook posts, post boosts, FB ads, hashtag stuff and tweet somewhere to promote my books.

Maybe I will light the oil lamp and then jot over next door and talk about that lobotomy instead.

Today marks one calendar month since The Trouble with Grits was officially published. Our first post-publication step was to move onto the shelves of our hometown book store, Page and Palette in downtown Fairhope, Ala. Page and Palette is also the hometown bookstore of Fannie Flagg, one of my favorite authors. The official book launch party is set for July 26 at the self-same book store’s Book Cellar, their venue for such fun events. Page and Palette is also the traditional launching point for all of Fannie’s books since she wrote Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man (first published as Coming Attractions), sitting by the bay in our very own Fairhope. Did I mention that I love Fannie Flagg?

The second step was to take Vangie and Grits on the road. So we packed the car and lit out. There is a chapter in the book about the MacRaes of Kintail and since there was an official McCraw family reunion (the US descendants of the MacRaes of Scotland –we think– and MacGraiths of Ireland – we know) taking place in Mount Airy, NC, I was able to get a place on the program to read the chapter and sign some books. Mount Airy, the inspiration for Mayberry of Andy Griffith fame, also has a lovely indie book store/coffee shop called Pages Books and Coffee and they were gracious enough to offer me a signing there the Saturday following the McCraw event.

Both events went really well, and Vangie and I did a little sightseeing while we were traveling. Of course, we had to see the Andy Griffith museum. And since Vangie’s daddy just loved the Hanks, Hank Williams and Hank Snow, we stopped in Georgiana, Ala. to visit Hank Williams’ boyhood home. We spent a little time on the porch just chilling.

There are readings, signings and radio shows already scheduled and more in the works. Keep up with Vangie and her adventures right here and on our Facebook page, Phyllis Pittman, author, while we take Grits on the road and see some stuff.

The Grits are hot and bubbling — well, The Trouble with Grits is published, available in book stores, and on its way. I have found that the trouble with getting a book out and going is the same as the trouble with grits, there are going to be some lumps to work through.

Right about the time I heaved a big sign of happiness and relief that the manuscript was done and uploaded and in the proof stage, a great big lump came bobbing to the surface. I had corrected the paperback version, duplicated the correction for the hardback, and went to do the same for the Kindle version, only to discover that the un-proofed manuscript had gone live on Amazon with all its inglorious errors. Worse yet, someone had purchased a copy, read it, and reviewed it. They said it was “a good read,” but that it had problems and left a loft of questions unanswered.  I’ll say! It was a fairly early version and was a typo minefield. Not only that, it was missing the last two chapters. Talk about unanswered questions. I can only say thank you for the good read assessment and apologize for the glitch.

This all came together the night before I was to leave on a long-planned vacation. But finally, all the bugs were worked out, the corrected — and correct – versions were in place, and hard copies were ordered. Another big sigh here.

Things seemed to have smoothed out– for a week anyway, until today when I hit the road for the first official TTWG events. I was making my way toward Mt. Airy, NC for my first book signing when, near Montgomery, Ala.,  I saw a Hank Williams Museum sign. My enthusiasm for the historical site was enhanced by the fact that a gas station was promised on the same road sign and I had enjoyed a good bit of coffee before leaving home, so I took the exit.  Vangie’s daddy (Vangie is the main character in Grits) just loved the Hanks — Hank Williams and Hank Snow, so I figured it was only right to take her by there and kill a couple of birds with one stop, so to speak.

Georgiana, Ala. is not right off I-65 and neither was the gas station or the Hank Williams Museum. I traveled along, reasonably patiently, until I finally got to the town. It unfortunately has seen more prosperous days and I was worried that I had made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up nowhere near any Hanks that I would recognize. After a few twists and turns, I no longer saw signs for the museum or anything else that looked promising. I have a handicap; I was born without a sense of direction, so I could well have been on my way to Atlanta, Georgia instead of Georgiana, Alabama. Google Maps had no signal out there either. I finally did find the gas station, or at least A gas station, so I killed one bird and asked about the other one. I was, indeed, in Georgiana, and a very nice lady directed me toward the museum. I got there just fine and let Vangie take a rest on  the porch with Hank’s wooden Indian, and then proceeded to lose my way again hunting I-65. God loves me, so after a few scenic detours and some wild guesses, I was back on the road, with no more lumps. Well, Waffle House was out of Bert’s chili to top my cheese omelet, but I made the best of it. After all, as Gator says, “You cain’t never git ALL the lumps out.

Anyone who has known me for very long knows I just love adventure. They don’t have to be big adventures. I can make an adventure out of finding a cantaloupe. I am also a huge fan of Jan Karon, the author of the Mitford series.  I make it a point to revisit Mitford once a year, reading the whole series.

I discovered that Mitford is patterned after Blowing Rock in North Carolina, so when I came up to see my sons and vacation near Blowing Rock this week, I made it a point to visit. (I call Blowing Rock the Mountain Fairhope, the lovely little town where I live). Walking around there, I remembered how much Dooley Barlowe’s grandfather, Russell Jacks, loved livermush. It was apparently a favorite in Mitford, and in North Carolina for real. They also seem to put down a lot of Cheer Wine around there. So I loaded up in the car and set out on a quest to see what all the fuss was about. An adventure, you know.

I scored Cheer wine at Mast General Store, a historic old timey authentic general store outside of Boone, NC. Those Mitford folks know their stuff. I like Cheer Wine. I might see if there is a Cheer Wine Club and get a crate delivered once a month. That left livermush. I know. Livermush. The name does not elicit  confidence. But Russell Jacks sure thought it was mighty fine.

Today we stopped for breakfast in Chesterfield, NC, at the Chesterfield Family Restaurant, and what to my wondering eyes did appear on the menu but livermush. It had to be done.  We ordered eggs, biscuits, gravy, and livermush, with steaming cups of coffee. I was pleasantly surprised. I smacked it down and called it a mission accomplished. I might stop short of  joining the Livermush of the Month Club, though.