Wednesday, September 21, 2011

She-Crab Soup

So I went down to Charleston, South Carolina, last weekend for the Southern Independent Booksellers Assocation (SIBA) Conference.  What an amazing place Charleston is!  I last visited when I was thirteen and it was wonderful to revisit many of the house museums I saw then (yes, even back then I couldn't get enough of house museums!).  I have some great images from a few of them, but first I'd like to talk about some of the amazing people I met.

Almost on arrival, I was embraced by a group of amazing and gracious Southern women, all of them amazing writers.  First, was Patti Callahan Henry, a New York Times bestselling novelist with eight books under her belt.  Her newest one, Coming Up For Air, is on sale now.  I heard her read from it and it is beautiful!  Be sure to pick it up--I got a copy and can't wait to read it!

Patti introduced me to Mary Alice Monroe, another bestselling Southern writer with a book out, The Butterfly's Daughter.  I also got a copy of it and can't wait to read it!

Then the spiritual and lovely Karen Spears Zacharias, whose latest book, Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?, takes a hard look at "prosperity gospel" and faith.  I am reading another book by her, Where's Your Jesus Now?, and am so impressed by her clear-eyed journalistic style and explication of faith in a time of great fear.

I was quickly taken under the wing of the amazing and dynamic poet laureate of South Carolina, Marjory Wentworth.  Wow!  I can't wait to read a book she co-wrote with Juan Mendez, Taking a Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights.  

And through Marjory I had the great pleasure of meeting Ellie Maas Davis, who wrote the text for a beautiful book of photographs of Folly Island, South Carolina, called The Humours of Folly.  What a great book!

Other noteworthy books from the conference (other than my own!) were Jonathan O'Dell's beautiful and haunting book, The Healing, set amidst black midwives in Mississippi in the 1840's and 1930's.  The book is due out in February and is sure to be a big hit.  It is beautiful!

Equally compelling was Neil Abramson's book Unsaid, which explores the unspoken relationships between humans and animals as well as between humans.  This book is on sale now.

Other noteworthy encounters included novelist Dorothea Benton Frank (new book is Folly Beach), funny woman Shellie Tomlinson (new book Sue Ellen's Girl Ain't Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy), the amazing, AMAZING cook and cookbook author Nathalie Dupree (new cookbook, Southern Biscuits) and exquisite tart maker Holly Herrick (new cookbook, Tart Love), among many others.  What a whirlwind!

And in between all the elbow-rubbing and chit-chat, I was able to visit a few historic homes (four, actually) and see some sites of Charleston.

In Charleston, I found many beautiful "single houses", the local architectural vernacular...

palmetto trees in all guises....

beautiful churches virtually everywhere you turn, Charleston is known as the "Holy City"....

a surprising amount of art deco architecture (the Riviera Theater)....

beautiful avenues....

Confederate memorials....

very rich Southern food (this is an Eggs Benedict made with a fried green tomato on the bottom, a delicious crabcake and then the poached egg with hollandaise and a side of cheese 82 Queen)...

more churches....

and beautiful house museums...this is my favorite, the Joseph Manigault House (pronounced man-ee-go....?).  Unlike many of the house museums, they welcomed photography inside and out...

As they explained, glassware in the late 18th century was so expensive and difficult to replace, you would typically have one wine glass for dinner and simply rinse it in a tumbler of water between courses.  Gorgeous.

And this mirror is the most extraordinary thing I saw.  Regency, probably around 1800, with heavily stylized gilt palm trees around the glass.  Where can I get one???

And to my surprise, a memorial to the South Carolina poet, Henry Timrod, in Washington Square in the heart of Charleston (right off of Broad and Meeting Streets).  I used an excerpt from a Timrod poem in my novel, The Rebel Wife.  The poem was written in 1866 and called "Addressed to the Old Year".

Art thou not glad to close 
Thy wearied eyes, O saddest child of Time,
Eyes which have looked on every mortal crime,
And swept the piteous round of mortal woes?

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