The Cracker Queen - Lauretta Hannon  
 
   
 
   

 

ellin' it like it is: occasional missives from the Cracker Queen





February-March 2014


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Lots of good things happening here in Crackerville. First and foremost is the interview I did for C-SPAN. The feature, which you can watch here, aired throughout Valentine's Day weekend. And I have felt the love--and the thrill of introducing new folks to the book as a result of this coverage.

CSPAN Interview Lauretta Hannon

Lights, camera, C-SPAN!

I'm also gearing up for the spring writing seminars. Here's an interview about the sessions.


Down Home Writing School

The March 15th memoir master class is sold out, but tickets are still available for the Seven Questions That Will Revolutionize Your Writing seminar on April 19. I hope some of you will join us!

And whether you're a writer or not, always remember and honor the value of YOUR story.


October-November 2013

Thanks to everyone in attendance at the She Who Laughs Master Class in Joyful Living. Y'all were badass. November 2013. Photo by Jennifer Carter.

Cracker Queen She Who Laughs Master Class in Joyful Living

Cray-Cray Herself showed up for the master class in November 2013. Photo by Jennifer Carter.

Cray-Cray at the Cracker Queen She Who Laughs Master Class in Joyful Living

Flanked by Susan Crane and Kee Carlisle, November 2013. Photo by Jennifer Carter.

Cracker Queen She Who Laughs Master Class in Joyful Living

Don't tangle with a Cracker Queen. Seen at my women's retreat on Sapelo Island, GA, Fall 2013. Photo by Judith Ann.

Cracker Queen Women's Retreat on Sapelo Island, GA


August-September 2013


CQ Photo Contest Winner & Runners-Up!

And the winner is...this lovely, wistful photo from Lisa Edwards. Here's her description of the shot: My brother and I playing on a striped swing set in cowboy boots and Mary Janes. Columbus, GA, trailer park. Waiting for Dad's return from Vietnam, 1968. Smiles and love of family.

I selected this image because of the different feelings it evokes. Says Lisa, "The Air Force may have moved my body to Utah, but I'm still a Southern gal."

Cracker Queen Photo Contest Winner



First Runner-Up
Cracker Queens will style, smile, and profile!
Submitted by Cheryl Dent of Macon, GA

Cracker Queen Photo Contest First Runner Up


Second Runner-Up

Big hair at the flea market: CQs in their golden years
Submitted by Jamie White Wyatt of Fayetteville, GA



Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the contest.

Remembering CQ Mama

-the following piece was written for the Courier-Herald in Dublin, GA

Most of you never knew her real name. You knew her as "Grandma." Or "Team Grandma" if you were involved with East Laurens baseball in the early 2000s. This 92-pound powerhouse will go down as the most enthusiastic--and loud--fan in Falcon history.

Her name was Sybil Hannon, and her impact reached far beyond the dugout. She lifted the lives of countless strangers through extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity. There are so many stories of her helping the down and out that this newspaper couldn’t contain them all. In the interest of space and ink, I’ll share just one.

Hannon is at a local grocery store and notices the gentleman ahead of her doesn’t have enough money for essential food. Seeing he’s at wit’s end, she waits until he leaves the store and then pays for his groceries. Noticing the kinds of items he needs, she goes down the aisles and fills up her cart with additional goods for his family. Hannon understands being broke. In her first 40 years she was broke, too. She also appreciates the beauty in the broken. This man was both broke and broken. She knows what to do: put love into action.

With more than two-hundred-dollars’ worth of food loaded into her car, she goes to the man’s house (someone in the store tipped her off to the address). Rolling her oxygen tank behind her, she slowly makes her way to his front door.

After several knocks, the man finally cracks open the door just wide enough to see who was on his stoop. “What do you want? Whatever it is, I can’t afford it, been out of work for over a year. Go away.”

“Sir, I don’t want a thing other than to tell you that I have a car full of groceries for you.”

"Yeah, right, lady. This must be some kind of scam.”

At this point his wife comes to the door.

“Ma’am, I’m trying to explain to your husband that I have a gift for your family in my car. I’m not physically able to get the groceries out, but y’all are welcome to go and get the bags out of the car,” says Hannon. “And I’ll be out of your way.”

The woman is baffled. “I just don’t understand what you’re telling us. People don’t do this for folks these days. What’s the catch?”

Hannon has the perfect answer. “There’s no catch, honey. Let’s just say God sent me.”

She didn’t stop there. Hannon returned to the grocery store, talked with the manager, and procured a job for the man. Returning to his home, she told him the good news and instructed him to report to work the next morning. The man wept, and his wife and children joined him on the stoop to thank the unnamed stranger who had just done so much for them. A lot of us show occasional kindness to others, but she did it as often as we check Facebook.

Hannon’s contradictions were fascinating. Despite having no use for religion, she was a one-woman ministry. She bought school clothes and supplies for children she never met; beautified prison grounds with flowers; and always encouraged the hurting. Working hands meant more to her than praying mouths.

Never claiming to be a saint, she was fierce, sassy, and pulled no punches. She would tell it like it is and then fudge the facts in the same breath. This only made her more endearing.

Hannon had a poet's heart and took in strays of all kinds. Years ago she was named Humane Citizen of the Year for her support of the Laurens County Humane Society. A master gardener, Hannon believed that one was closest to heaven when in a garden. She planted many seeds.

Sybil Hannon passed away on July 9 after a rough-and-tumble battle with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Her legacy burns bright in those she loved. In her case that would include most of humanity--with a few notable exceptions.

In the words of a Courier-Herald article about her in 2005, “This grandma has enough love to give to the entire team.” 


April & May 2013

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

A few musings that will hopefully make sense in the end...

School in River Wall Georgia
This is one of the places I associate with the lowest low of childhood: the old school in "River Wall." I attended part of third grade there. Life then was the bleakest, the saddest--and damn near unendurable. When I learned the word nadir (point opposite the zenith of the celestial sphere), I knew that place was it.

My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother attended the school but never graduated because they had to drop out to work, pick cotton, or have babies.

Mural in the Circus Room at Reynolds Mansion
Mural detail from the Circus Room in the glorious Reynolds Mansion, Sapelo Island, GA

I was first besotted with Sapelo when I was 19. I marveled at the Reynolds Mansion while the tour guide explained that groups could reserve the mansion. But when he stated the cost involved, I thought, "Oh well, I'll never be able to stay here."

So it is particularly sweet that this fall I will hold my women's retreat at the mansion. 

Terry Kay my Writing Mentor
With Author Terry Kay, my writing mentor, at Waffle House, Athens, GA

Years ago I couldn't fathom the possibility of having a mentor such as the Great Terry Kay. 

As you can tell, my mind was full of reasons why good things weren't going to happen. A theme of my experience has been about moving from that way of thinking to dwelling in possibilities. 

These days I'm officially off the chain. Like the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass, I now sometimes believe in "as many as 6 impossible things before breakfast."

If I've learned anything, it's that spells and curses can be broken. If you do your part, the stars will not just fall into alignment, they will conspire in your favor.

I know the tricky bit is figuring out what your part is and how it should be carried out. With that in mind, I'm presenting She Who Laughs: a Master Class in Joyful Living on Nov. 16. This will be THE CQ EVENT of 2013, and I'd love for you to join us. Advance tickets are required, so make sure you get yours before they are gone. (And take advantage of the Early Bird Discount.)

In the meantime, this is your charge: think outside the box; bust out of your comfort zone; blow the roof off the mutha; and imagine the outlandish possibilities. 

Here's my latest interview--this time on VividTalk Radio

NEWS FLASH: 
My advice column has become syndicated in 23 newspapers! We've renamed the column Empathy--With An Edge, and it's now enjoying widespread distribution around Metro Atlanta. Tell your local editor that you want it, and we'll make it happen! Herewith a sample column


Cracker Queen Merry Christmas 2012

December 2012

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The last months have been an unmitigated blast!

In October I launched a weekly advice column in the Marietta Daily Journal. Titled "Because I Said So!--not your granny's advice column," it offers empathy with an edge--a butcher knife kind of edge. I'm having great fun with this, but I do need your help: please send questions for the column (nothing is too silly, serious, or strange) to notyourgrannysadvice@gmail.com. We plan to syndicate the column early in 2013, so tell your local newspaper that you want it. Badly.

Waffle House Surprise
My Advice Column Advisory Board reviews submissions to the new column. Sheila and Pam, my Waffle House waitresses, never steer me wrong.

Fall is the season for my Down Home Writing School seminars, and this year I was again delighted to be in the company of fellow writers. Here's a little essay I wrote about the lessons of autumn and winter.


Down Home Writing School, Fall 2012

Finally, at the end of the summer I found myself in the middle of the Honey Boo Boo media frenzy. I weighed in on the phenomenon on Headline News, and CNN Radio.


Celebrating after my appearance on Headline News

PS-A big honkin' THANK YOU to everyone who attended the All Lit Up event at the Marietta Museum of History. I couldn't ask for a better, more spirited community of readers!

August & September 2012

Honey Boo Boo and Lauretta Hannon The Cracker Queen

The Cracker Queen Meets Honey Boo Boo!
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a new reality show on TLC, has become a sensation and sparked fierce debate. Thousands of viewers disapprove of this rural Georgia family and its way of life. They accuse them of inbreeding, child abuse, and over-consumption of processed foods.  I recently decided to visit Honey Boo Boo and her family in order to see for myself.

I must say that my worst suspicions were confirmed.
Here’s what I found.

-A shocking abundance of love among all the family members
-A mother who is bright, stable, and exceptionally self-aware
-A little girl brim-full of self-confidence, sweetness, sass, and cheer
-A father who is present, engaged, and supportive

As I suspected, Honey Boo Boo and her clan are my people. I come from that area of Georgia; I grew up by the train tracks like them; and their values (and flaws) are my values. Some of those are authenticity, resourcefulness, humor, love, fun, generosity, and trying to learn from bad choices. We don’t particularly value physical perfection or designer fashion. And we certainly don’t give a damn what you think of us. We are free of that bondage, and that makes some of you mighty uncomfortable.

I chuckle when I hear comments about how poor this family is. Compared to many, they are upper middle class. Dad has a solid job and a nice truck in addition to a work truck. They live in a house, not a caved-in singlewide. Honey Boo Boo has more sparkly heels than entire villages of drag queens.

I think your reaction to Honey Boo Boo depends on where you’re coming from and where you’ve been.  This dialogue is oozing with class snobbery and “better than thou” judgment that folks don’t even detect in themselves. But plenty of others adore the show, partly because it’s more real than anything calling itself a Kardashian.

The best part of my visit with Honey Boo Boo was when we read together. She is advanced for her age and took pride in flaunting her ability with words. I can’t predict her future, but compared with many of my people, she’s far ahead in the game. Why? Because she understands her inner worth. And she already has proof that her dreams are well within reach.

Some of the comments (and my responses) from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution article about our visit.

“Somebody take this child away from her inbread parents, before they home school her!”
Yeah, and I bet your public high school gave you the Top Speller Award.

“Straight up ‘TRAILER TRASH’”
You say that like it’s a bad thing.

“This show is disgusting. I watched for 5 minutes and almost threw up…”
Take some Pepto and GET OVER YOURSELF.

“Lord, most Southerners try to hide the white trash in their families. This one puts it all out there.”
There’s no shame in our game. And there’s nothing to hide when you accept who you are.

“The only redeeming grace is the fact that the mom coupons and helps people in need.”
Funny, I never quite equated couponing with grace.

“This represents Georgia as bad as the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Sadly, it makes those crazy women look better!”
Honey, only a top-notch embalmer could make them look better.

 “I deplore the perpetuation of the stereotypical dumb, slow-witted, and uneducated Southerner.”
There is nothing dumb about this family. You might have a look at your own “inbread” biases.

You can see photos from my visit with Honey Boo Boo on my Facebook page.



dear worshipful fans & comrades,

It's time to get your glow on. Join me Sept. 29 as I read from the new book. Let's glitter, sparkle, and glam it up as we get ALL LIT UP!

All Lit Up

Read more about the event here

REVEALED: the ugly truth about my writing process

Running hot lately? Cool down with THE CRACKER QUEEN COCKTAIL!

Let's get ALL LIT UP on Sept. 29!


June & July 2012


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Here are some of the wonderful quotes you submitted for my Bucket O’Quotes. If you’ve never heard of the bucket, then you’re missing out and should join the mailing list for my e-newsletter (join via the link on the left)! That way you won’t miss out on a thing. Enjoy!

PS-Expect an announcement very soon regarding the Annual Gathering of The Cracker Queen Tribe on Sept. 29.

Bucket of Quotes for Cracker Queen


FROM LAURETTA’S BUCKET O’QUOTES
At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.-Jean Houston

I wrote the story myself. It’s about a girl who lost her reputation and never missed it.-Mae West

A tough girl, more than anything else, is a girl who doesn’t care if you’re shocked. A tough girl doesn’t sit like a lady or laugh like a little girl. She goes where she shouldn’t and when she gets there she does exactly what she wants…and she likes it.-Claudia Shear

There ain’t no cure for the dumbass.-Rhonda Walton quoting her papa

The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.-Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird, submitted by Alan Wells

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.-Anais Nin

Everybody knowed she was crazy as a run-over dog, bless her heart.-anonymous contributor

Heaven is my home, but I’m not homesick.-Boo Stafford, 94

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is saying, “I’ll try again today.”-Vicki Evans Hough

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.-Mark Twain, submitted by Kalin Thomas

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”-MLK, one of my favorite quotes

Shit fire and save matches.-Betty Gwen Barlow

I’m fairly certain that with a cape and a tiara…I could save the world.-anonymous contributor


nancy-grace-lauretta-hannon-cracker-queen
Hangin' with Nancy Grace. She will be giving the book another plug soon, so stay tuned.


See photos from my recent writing residency at the
Hambidge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences

Erin Go Bra-less! Read what the media said about my visit to the Irish Breakfast in Dublin, GA (March 2012)

March & April 2012

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The results of the 6-Word Memoir Contest are in, and Brooke Simpson, of Pittsburgh, PA, is the winner! Here's her 6-worder:

Surrounded by beige, I was fuchsia.

Brooke's memoir certainly reflects our CQ credo! In fact, as I was musing over 6 words to describe the CQ Posse, I came up with this:

Ours is no caravan of despair!
(-to paraphrase a line from Rumi.)

Contest voting was conducted via my Facebook page. Thanks to everyone who participated as an entrant or a voter.

As you'll see below, the entries mirror the depth and breadth and joy and honesty found in CQ readers. Man, I am one lucky author.

Here's my list of the 39 Most Notable 6-Word Memoirs submitted.

Unintentionally channelling Lucy Ricardo every day!
-Jennifer Whittaker

Tried everything once. No regrets. Truly.
-Sheila Hutcherson (SH)

Surrounded by beige, I was fuchsia.
-Brooke Simpson

I got out of the bed.
-Gayle Gullick

Perpetual motion, not a good notion.
-Rose Parsons

First friend was a speckled chicken.
-Donna Campbell (DC)

This square peg seeks circular opponent. 
–Crystal Rood

Kissed by John Wayne, never bested.
-Elizabeth Plunkett Buttimer
(Really happened at a Cattlemen's Convention)

The turkey vulture started my meltdown.
-Linda Rehkopf

Lipstick wearing kid toting wonder woman.
-Carol Welch

No "I love you" left unsaid.
-SH

Falling Down and Getting Up Again.
-Glenda Cimino

closer to home, thicker drawl gets.
-Michael Saffels (MS)

Bathroom rockstar released from childhood prison.
-DC

cornbread lovin' boy in the city.
-MS

have ties older than some coworkers.
-MS

Gave my all. Was not enough.
-Iris Williamson

Screwed over? Orgasmically destined for satisfaction!
-Shelly Fay Graves (SFG)

Churched no more. Karmatic soaring commenced.
-SFG

Sedated in babble. Finally, revived fully.
-SFG

Damaged. Return to Sender. Postage Due.
-DC

Two cats. One husband. No kids.
-DC

Great Things Happening - Please Stay Tuned!
-Beth Hermes

Don't milk that kind of goat.
-Myra Coker Crawford

Daddy died, Mama cried, I thrived!
-Leita Cowart

BEST REVENGE--Living well without him!
-Dar Sery (DS)

Men who cheat lose the most!
-DS

Scarred by Struggle--Transformed by Hope!
-DS

Lost in dreams, wrapped in memories.
-Sue Lay

If life imitates art I'm abstract.
-Teresa Howard

The Master turns messes into miracles.
-Barbi Burris (BB)

Grace and mercy--God's recyclable resources.
-BB

Love yourself first....others will follow.
-Donna Crousen

Dancing Mama loves Jesus, family, friends!
-Jamie Wyatt

Any other day, this'd be weird.
-Cheryl Dent

Searched for answer to unknown question.
-Nancy Cher

dances to music, penny whistles preferred.
-Treva Fitzgerald (TF)

closes one’s eyes, opens a world away.
-TF

Life, a joy in my heart.
-Rachel Bowen Frey

Life, a pain in my ass.
-husband of Rachel Bowen Frey 


January 2012

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Happiest of new years to you--Mayans be damned! Here's a good little article that I think you'll enjoy. Thanks to Ed Grisamore of the Macon Telegraph.

Lots happening in Cracker Land. Stay tuned--and be sure to see all the new photos on the Picture Show page.

Carry on!


December 2011

Merry Xmas from the Cracker Queen


September 2011

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

In preparing for The Hive Grand Opening, I told the caterer to plan for 50 guests. Well, 250 of you showed up and gave me the highlight of my summer. THANK YOU!

It was a wild, raucous, theatrical, unruly, untamed, and unbelievably beautiful gathering. Read the account in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

View the photo evidence here



THE HIVE--it's where the big girls play and STORY is Queen.


Members of the Beehive Brigade arrive for the Grand Opening of The Hive. It was an afternoon of sass, sisterhood, and story. (photo by Judith Ann Photography)

Until next time, carry on!

The latest review from Blogland.


June 2011

Read the pre-buzz for THE HIVE.
Click here to read the story

A Few Words About Memoir. Click here to read the story

May 2011

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The last two months have been unusually rich.

-I hung out with Elvis.



-I went back to high school.


Well, I got a great surprise when Donna Havrilla, my beloved English teacher,
showed up at a book club gathering in Macon. I worship her still!

-I was asked to christen a pick-up by pouring Past Blue Ribbon over the hood.


The owner named the old heap "Lauretta." Some authors are honored with Pulitzers;
I am honored with old pick-ups.

-And I prepared to open my new literary loft: The Hive.



Speaking of The Hive, you must drop by for the Grand Opening. There will be
beehive hairdos and white lightnin' lemonade. What else could we possibly need?

Here's the skinny:

GRAND OPENING of THE HIVE
Saturday, June 25
2-4pm


March 2011

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Watch me run my mouth on the topic of writing & other things

I'm so thrilled to tell you about The Hive. Part den, part seminar center, and all fun, The Hive will be the headquarters for my programs and confabs beginning in June. It will also be a hub of learning, laughter, and good times. I hope to see you there this year. More than anything, know that you are always welcome at The Hive!

The Hive

-Listen here to my radio interview for the Savannah Book Festival

-Read this little story I wrote about Howard Coker. I wondered about him for years; now I wonder at who he is.

-Here's an interview done recently for The South magazine.

CQ Buzz @ the Savannah Book Festival (January 2011)


January 2011

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Three things...

1. I hope to see you next month at the Savannah Book Festival, one of THE literary happenings of the year. Let's just say that the stage might be aflame by the time I finish my presentation.

The lineup is stellar; the venues are spectacular; and it's free. So get yourself down to Savannah. I might even let you buy me a PBR at Pinkie's.

2. Fellow writers take note: Hollis Gillespie is presenting a Book-Writers Boot Camp Weekend. I'll talk about how to bust writing blocks and barriers.

3. I'll announce the dates for my Down Home Writing School seminars and the Second Annual She Who Laughs Retreat soon, very soon. Stay tuned.


I'm a souther girl. We have mud on our feet.

Valley Pharmacy Dillard Georgia

A visit to the lunch counter at Valley Pharmacy in Dillard, GA, turned into an impromptu book sale and signing! Thanks to everyone there. (December 2010)


Cracker Queen Christmas 2010


November 2010

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The last weeks have been so rich. Among the highlights:

-Unleashed the First Annual She Who Laughs Retreat in the North Georgia mountains. What an amazing group of women; I'm sure our cackles are still reverberating in those hills!
She Who Laughs
 
-Gathered around this fire at the retreat. A good ol' Cherokee man named Jerry built it for us and then shared his peach moonshine. (Come to think of it, that 'shine tasted suspiciously like Listerine and cough syrup.) The moon and stars were bright, and the stories flowed.

fire gathering
 
-Signed books for women named Secrett Paine, Kibby & Cacky, Essie Mae, Omie Lou, Sarah Pearl, Betty Gwen, and Pokey.

-Saw the old grave of a lady who perished from banana ice cream poisoning. It'll get you every time.

-Met all kinds of folks at all sorts of places: soda fountains, country clubs, dives, libraries, and even a rooftop.


More than anything though, I have been THANKFUL.

skeleton
If you have skeletons in your closet, you'd best teach them to dance.-Geo. Bernard Shaw


October 2010


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

One in seven Americans is poor. Welcome to my world. Or should I say the world I grew up in. I detail it in my memoir, and since it came out last year I’ve been known as poverty’s poster girl.

Come and see my bad teeth from a childhood without dental care. Watch scarcity ground my people down to nothing. Marvel at our measly dreams of one day owning a car or winning the lottery. We’ve often been the ugly spectacle, but these days we have new company. Those who used to watch us are becoming the watched themselves.

This new poverty will break more of us than it will strengthen. In certain situations there’s only so much bootstrap to lift. But for those it strengthens will come extraordinary character, resourcefulness, gratitude, grit, and tenderness. It’s a hell of a way to get it, but some of our greatest leaders, parents, and artists will emerge.

The current economy is humbling. The newly-poor are tasting the things we’ve long been familiar with: the lines at the food bank, the old shoe smell of the thrift store. Telling our kids to do their homework by flashlight when the electricity is disconnected.

To those who’ve joined our ranks since the economy tanked, dig in and take heart. So much of this poor folks stuff is about choosing your mental attitude—deciding to be the one it strengthens. In that regard we are powerful and in control of our outcome. The air is thick with fear and worry, but you don’t have to be full of those things. Inner freedom is still yours for the taking. Those who realize that and seize it will be just fine. In fact, they will become rich beyond measure.

Josh Graff - All is well garage painting

All is well. It says so on my garage. (That's nephew Josh Graff; he'd just finished painting the words.)


One of my childhood homes in Warner Robins, GA.

Warner Robins GA Cracker Queen Childhood Home

September 2010

dear worshipful fans,

This is where I come from. It's desolate, brokedown, and abandoned now. Daddy's ham shack was in the back room on the left. We conducted our telepathy experiments there and spent summer nights listening to The Planets, Zoot Sims, and Cannonball Adderley (as described in the book).

I bring this up to say that it's not the shell, or what's outwardly apparent, that matters. Sounds awfully hackneyed, I know, but it really is the inside that counts.

Do you have what it takes to be a Sassy Omega? Click here

My greatest regret, success, fear? All is divulged HERE.

Tires or Testicles--listen to the new song inspired by The CQ. Written and performed by the Apostles of Bluegrass. Listen here


July-August 2010

3 Things To Do This Summer

1. Raise a little hell.
2. Forgive someone.
3. Laugh. Hard. Repeat.

Read the latest review from the Land of Blog click here

Green Loncar
 
Cracker Queen cupcakes! Life is good.
Cracker Queen Cupcakes

Father's Day Essay: For the Fine Old Men
click here

June 2010

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Here's a short video about the fabulous Savannah Book Festival click here. You'll find me in the clip at 2 minutes and 5 seconds (now you see why I wear loud clothes!).More importantly, I hope you'll attend the festival next year--you won't regret it.

What am I doing this summer? Writing, of course! And I hope you'll follow my lead and do whatever gives you the greatest joy.

Listen here to my latest radio interview


Lauretta in the Kitchen

The Meaning of Reading & Books click here

May 2010


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

A number of you have asked me to say something about my experience working with juvenile offenders, so here you go...

In a room with a rapist, a murderer, and assorted petty criminals, there is serenity in this place. It is a sanctuary, a privilege, and they know it. They sacrifice their recreation time to be here.

When I tell folks I volunteer in an art and writing class in a juvenile detention center, they always ask, "What do the students draw?" They imagine gruesome scenes of blood, violence, and darkness.

"Mostly hearts, crosses, angels, flowers, and praying hands," I reply.

"Huh? Well what do the writers write about?" Same kind of thing.

jesus

They all turn to God and love. When they enter this room, they don't dwell on why they're locked up, what they've lost, or anything else negative. They choose to express the love they have for their family, their friends on the inside, their yearning for spiritual connection. Personally, I'd like to see some rage and anger because it makes for great writing, but they don't want to go there.

In many ways they are typical teenagers. They don't cross the threshold of the classroom and automatically become peaceful, enlightened beings, but they try. And they hunger for better. I feel a kinship with these young men. They don't realize it yet, but they too are Cracker Queens.

Procrastination as Self-Sabotage: My latest essay for Maria Shriver's Women's Conference click here

Scenes from the CQ Porch Party on May 1

Our fundraising event was a BLAST! We raised enough moolah to buy more than 1,000 pounds of nutritious food for local needy families.

Lauretta and Kathy former Waffle House waitress

With Kathy Norton, the former Waffle House waitress who supported me while I wrote parts of the book at her counter. She received long-overdue recognition at the Porch Party.

porch party 2010

The rain threatened, but the setting was enchanting. Thanks to Judith Ann Photography for hosting the shindig in her backyard Portrait Park.

Royal Crown Cola

Royal Crown Cola, of course (photos by Jennifer Carter)

A Blogger Stumbles Upon The Cracker Queen click here

The Cracker Queen Porch Party

March 2010


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

I'm counting down the days until the paperback edition is unleashed on April 6. We'll be having a porch party to celebrate, and I hope to see you there!

Click here to view the Porch Party Invite

Finally, you won't believe what The Great Pat Conroy has to say about The Cracker Queen...

"I knew I'd found my own Cracker Queen when Lauretta told me I reminded her of the leper who once sold her boiled peanuts from the back of a llama."

Pat Conroy and Lauretta Hannon

Conroy is so damn funny. All hail the power of laughter!


Thanks to Birmingham Magazine click here to view the article for naming The Cracker Queen one of the Top Four Reads for the New Year!

February 2010

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

No one said I had any talent as a writer. Ever.

A college professor once wrote, in what was supposed to be a letter of recommendation  to grad school, that I was most "mediocre." Even after doing commentaries on Georgia Public Radio, some said I was nuts to do them for free, and no one said they were any good.

I share this in hopes of encouraging you. Whatever your crazy dream, go in its direction. Run from those who would dissuade you through their silence or outright negativity. I am proof that it can be done, and I am no different than you.

Do not squander your gifts and talents. You're cheating yourself--and all of us--when you do.


January 2010

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

2009 was the best year of my life. Why? Because I put fear in its place and chose to be my authentic self. I quit my job in the midst of the Recession to be what I was born to be: a writer.

It's no wonder that my next book will be a spiritual memoir. But don't you Cracker Queens worry: this ain't Granny's bedside devotional. It is...well, you'll see. And you will laugh. Hard.

In the meantime, The Cracker Queen will begin anew as a paperback this spring, and I have quite a few things up my sleeve for you in 2010. Carry on!




Look at what Nancy Grace held in her hot little hands on January 5, 2010. Click here to watch.





Watch my interview on Atlanta & Company


November 2009

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

After months of non-stop Cracker Queen tomfoolery, I find myself in the mountains, under a full moon, digging deep into my next book: a sequel centered around my spiritual life. Humor has always been tied to that life, so I was delighted when Southern Living named me "the funniest woman in Georgia" last month. I shall wear that mantel merrily and milk it for all it is worth! 

I'll leave you with a fine and funny article published recently by the daily newspaper in Athens, GA. Get the scoop on my obsession with Tolstoy, the importance of rhythm to my writing, and my taste for devilish accessories. I hope you enjoy the story.

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/102509/mar_508571532.shtml




Cindy Setlock, dressed in full Cracker Queen attire, works a street corner in Atlanta.

At Outwrite Books in Atlanta
At Outwrite Books in Atlanta


October 2009



Click Here to view the Southern Living Blog!


It's All About Authenticity--Read my essay for Maria Shriver's Women's Conference


September 2009

The Queen Slums Up Southern Living, Goes Back to Middle School, & Heads for the Mountains


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The October edition of Southern Living magazine will hit the stands later this month and feature the funniest interview I've done so far. Be sure to give it a look; it will at least make you giggle--promise.

And speaking of funny, I have been invited to talk to over 300 eighth-graders who've read excerpts from the book. I had to swear on a stack of nerve pills AND splatter bullets that I wouldn't cuss or make sexual references during the speech. This could be the hardest gig of my career. Ahem.

Finally, a question for all you creative types: have you ever wondered what it would be like to be given the time and solitude to do nothing but make your art? Thanks to a fellowship from the Hambidge Center for Creatives Arts & Sciences, I'll be able to do just that. For two weeks I'll work on my new book from inside a secluded cabin on 600 pristine acres in the North Georgia mountains.

From September 15th through the 27th, I'll post daily reports on Facebook about my experiences and progress. I hope you will follow me on this latest adventure. 

Many of us these days are grappling with great losses and fears. On that note I'll leave you with a favorite quote from the Persian poet Rumi.

Your life has been a mad gamble.
Make it more so. You have lost now
a hundred times running.
Roll the dice a hundred and one.

-Translated by Coleman Barks


Lauretta and Shelly for Life's Pursuit
Being interviewed by Shelly Miller (at right) of Life's Pursuit, a website about people who are going after their dreams and embarking on their Life's Pursuit. The website will launch later this year.

Nicks
Nick's Tavern & Deli in Clemson, South Carolina
I met with a fabulous book club that gathers there. Give me free beer, and I'll visit your book club too.

Cracker Queen Welcome
Being welcomed in Milledgeville, Georgia


August 2009
Listen to my interview on Georgia Public Radio's
Cover to Cover



Oh, the people I have met!

A criminal investigator from Alabama who proudly owns a crochet sweater once worn, and sweated in, by Loretta Lynn. An auto body expert in Georgia who reconditions plastic bumpers and says she's "feisty as hell." Women from around the country who go by names such as Mess'a Beans, Bubbles, and Chainsaw.

And men, too: gay, straight, elderly, college kids, accountants, artists, and regular guys.

They've all written in recent weeks to tell me that they enjoyed The Cracker Queen. Their letters are among the greatest joys of my writing life. I tell you not as a braggart but as someone deeply grateful to my readers. So to those who have been in touch: THANK YOU.

Cracker Queen Lauretta Hannon
 It looks like I'm about to issue the altar call. Book Party in Powder Springs, June 2009

Kiss my Grits Badge Photo
KISS MY GRITS

Whup-Ass Waitress Awards
With The High Order of Whup-Ass Waitresses. I wrote parts of the book while in their restaurants. They received special recognition and gifts: KISS MY GRITS buttons and nosegays adorned with plastic spoons and forks.

Down Home Writing School Seminar
Students at my Down Home Writing School Seminar, July 2009
It's always good to be surrounded by fellow writers.

Read this wonderful blog:
Lisa Golden Blog


June 2009

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Listen here to a thirty-minute radio interview I did in Memphis. The interviewer asked some great questions about the book.

I'm also excited to report that the Down Home Writing School is in summer session. The next seminar will be held on July 18 at Bailey's Diner in Powder Springs, GA. I'm saving a seat for you aspiring writers out there.

Fun times are afoot in the Queendom: I'll be arriving at a local event on the back of a turquoise '55 Thunderbird, and a little later I'll do a reading from atop the bar at Pinkie Master's in Savannah. (Readers know that Pinkie's is my favorite dive bar on the planet.)

To paraphrase Helen Keller, life is either an adventure or nothing at all.


May 2009

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Just landed home from the first four weeks of The Southern Tour. What an unmitigated blast it has been!

Highlights, Adventures, & Observations On The Road

-Valley, AL
The first day of the tour was marked by a good omen: a delicious vegetable plate at David’s BBQ. One of my favorite songs was playing when I walked in: “Lola” by The Kinks. Through the window I saw a man walking the highway, carrying a cross on his back and pulling a small cart behind him. A blue police light was mounted on the cart. Dear hearts, we are in THE SOUTH.

-Montgomery, AL
Went to the Hank Williams Museum and was so moved by a letter Hank wrote to his baby boy. I reproduce it here as Hank wrote it:

Son, this is my old guitar and it’s for you only to play, and I hope you make it ring and talk in our good old family way. And if you make it to the top Bosephus boy, I’d be so proud. But listen to me son, when the time comes, take this guitar and hand me down, hand me down if your weary, hand me down son if you get sick or tired. Hand me down when the time comes. Don’t hang on too long to these sad old songs. Hand me down my son to your son. Teach him all your songs and have his grand daddy moan, and tell that boy to carry on.

That letter reads like a song, doesn’t it? The best writing always does. I’ve just signed the petition to reinstate Hank Williams in the Grand Ole Opry.

http://www.reinstatehank.org

-Birmingham, AL
I drove through storms, hail, and a tornado to get to Birmingham for a TV interview. Then an email came telling me the interview was cancelled due to storm coverage (that’s okay, this still beats real work).

Lee Davis and Lauretta Hannon
With Lee Davis in Birmingham

The next day I had a rip-roaring time on the Lee Davis Show. Lee is The Man. Josi Squires, who is the sales diva there, is a Queen of the Highest Order. I noticed she had what looked like Saran Wrap tied tightly around her wrists and ankles. She explained that she was in the process of having her tattoos removed. That’s a Cracker Queen: learning from past bad choices and eliminating the scars. I love me some Josi!

-Observation
A great joy of the road is finding little restaurants along the way. Old places with tin-stamped ceilings and tile floors and a view of the train tracks. There’s nothing like getting the hell off the interstate.

-Road Thrill
My heart raced as I passed the exit for Monroeville, AL, home of Truman Capote and Harper Lee.

-Greenwood, MS
My introduction to the Mississippi Delta was fantastic Greenwood. The Delta is just like in the movies. Shotgun shacks, grand mansions built by cotton money. A man sits in his front yard drinking corn likker out of a jelly jar, and it isn’t even noon yet. A rooster crows at the Delta Feed Company.

Club Wispers
Club Wispers—This Is The Place Where The Grown Folks Play, Greenwood, MS

-Oxford, MS
In Oxford to appear on Thacker Mountain Radio with one of my heroes: memoirist Rick Bragg.

Rick Bragg and Lauretta Hannon

Excited and humbled to share the bill with Rick Bragg

But first I made the pilgrimage to Rowan Oak, home of William Faulkner. The grounds were spectacularly lush, serene, and loud with songbirds and woodpeckers. I’m glad to read that Faulkner enjoyed writing and sometimes laughed while doing so. I certainly enjoy and laugh and have never quite understood those “tortured” writers for whom writing is endless struggle.

-Chapel Hill, NC
One of my obsessions is drugstore lunch counters, and I found one here. Sutton’s Drug Store made the grade: crushed ice, in business since 1923, and a decent fountain service.

-Asheville, NC
Another lunch counter! This time it’s a replica Woolworth’s counter, and my waitress is named Krush Groove. This counter gets points for having a large selection of phosphates.

I took a tour of Thomas Wolfe’s home—the miserable boarding house operated by his mother. Never a happy place and you can still feel it.

-Savannah, GA
The Cracker Queen Book Party



Good Lord we had fun. Mama flung her arms wide and hugged everyone in attendance. A total success. The icing on the cake: we learn that the book has been named a Bestseller by Southern independent booksellers!

-Dallas, TX
Visit Legacy Books if you’re in Dallas. It’s a gorgeous store. There I met my youngest reader, a delightful eighth grader named Sarah Etier.

-Nacogdoches, TX
Kathy Patrick, the illustrious Pulpwood Queen, invited me to a Girls’ Night Out event sponsored by Charm Magazine. I was in good company with fellow authors Carolyn Turgeon, Carol Lay, and Marian Henley.

-Jefferson, TX
After Girls’ Night Out, I drove several hours to get to the McKay House, the B&B where I was to rest my weary head. Even though I arrived after 11pm, Darla and Hugh welcomed me warmly. Darla then foisted a giant slice of homemade Cracker Pie in my hand. This darlin’ woman had read my book and made the pie just for me. I devoured every crumb and fell into sweet slumber. The McKay House is special indeed.

-Houston, TX
I’ve never seen as many breast implants as I did at the Houston Airport. Every “set” was identical to the next. Is it all the work of the same doctor? Facial plastic surgery was rampant too. Imagine what could be accomplished if those women turned their considerable energy and devotion to something that actually mattered.

-Nashville, TN
Good times with my friends Nancy and Libby.

Lee Smith and Lauretta HannonChatting with novelist Lee Smith in Chattanooga

I also had a rare day off and spent it at the magnificent Nashville Library. The collections are vast and well-selected. The Grand Reading Room is a palace. My favorite place to be: surrounded by books.

In the Nashville Airport a singer/songwriter was playing an original composition titled “Somewhere Between Jim Beam & John 3:16.” This seemed the right ending to a tour that began in Valley, AL, with a drunk misfit carrying a cross on his back.

-Final Note
It has been an honor to meet my readers across the Southeast. Thanks for your support--and much appreciation to all the fine booksellers who made it possible.


April 2009

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

I can't believe that The Cracker Queen will make its debut in less than a week! It's getting good reviews around the country, and my publicist is filling up the calendar with media interviews. In the meantime I'm scurrying around, getting ready for the best part of all: meeting some of you on my month-long book tour.

Don't forget that the Cracker Queen Book Party in Savannah is just around the corner.



March 2009


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Overheard at Waffle House this week:

That government cheese will never melt. Never melt.

Lots to report.

-We've finalized everything for the CQ Book Party in Savannah. Here it is.

The Cracker Queen Book Party & First Annual Observance of the Day of the Cracker Queen
Saturday, May 2
4-6pm
Reading at 5pm will be followed by a book signing to benefit the Live Oak Public Libraries
Blowin' Smoke BBQ (in the Beer Garden--where else?)
514 MLK Blvd
Savannah, GA
Free & open to the public
Ample parking

YOU'D BETTER BE THERE.

-Spent a weekend in New York and ate at my favorite restaurant there--the Kabab Cafe in Astoria's Little Egypt. Chef Ali is so charming he could make cow chip tea seem tasty.

-The book tour, otherwise known as The Southern Tour, is continuing to grow. The complete details will be posted shortly on the Appearances page. Promise.

-I did a fun interview with The South Magazine. The story will run in the April/May edition.

-I gave my notice at work. I will soon be a fulltime writer. Hell yeah--makes me want to let out a Little Richard holler!


Mama and me. I guess I developed an early penchant for PBR. Okay, I was just pretending to drink it. We were depraved but not that depraved.


With Culinary Legend Ali El Sayed in his famed Kabab Cafe

Late-January 2009

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The upcoming memoir has been whuppin' some serious ass in the new year:

-The galleys are in, and my publicist is sending them to national media folk

-The book has received words of praise from Terry Kay (author of To Dance With the White Dog & The Book of Marie) and Lee Smith (yes, that Lee Smith)

-I made a demo tape for the company that's producing the audio book; in other words, I had to audition to read my own memoir--that amuses me to no end

-I'll be a featured author at the Alabama Book Festival on April 18 in Montgomery

-The Southern Tour is taking shape; I'll post the details next month

-And my new website is almost ready to unveil, and you're going to love it

But until then, keep your guns clean and your Pabst cold.



December 2008


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

I don't know about you, but Christmas-time is an intense experience for me. It seems that all emotions are in overdrive. One minute I'm on the verge of tears over all the dead people in my address book--and the next minute I'm donning reindeer antlers and doing a jig at an office party. It's a messed-up and magnificent season in my life.

My favorite Christmas story is Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. Themes of love, imagination, and indomitable spirit drive the story. It's a celebration of two "little" people who fight the world and do it well. To paraphrase my friend Bob Strozier, if people have a Christmas sensibility--the giving, receiving, anticipation, waiting for the surprise, giving the surprise, looking beyond and behind at the mad, mysterious self of Christmas--if people have all of that--the story resonates. In my mind no one has conveyed the pleasure-pain of Yule like Capote. Consider reading or re-reading A Christmas Memory this year.

Oh, I forgot to mention that we have sold the audio rights to The Cracker Queen, so you’ll be able to listen to it next year! More on that later.

In the meantime, jig and cry and laugh and grieve and lose patience and gain love--’Tis The Season.



November 2008

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

You won't believe how the folks at Southern Living heard about me. Apparently, the editor of the magazine's Georgia Living section happened upon one of my postcards at a welcome center in Macon, Georgia, or on Interstate 20 near the Alabama line. He can't remember which. The odd thing is this: I have never put postcards in any such place.

So to the unknown person out there who engaged in this act of guerrilla marketing on my behalf, I say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. And I'd love to know who you are.

My trip to New York went well. My publisher plans to send me on a four- to six-week book tour of the Southeast. It will be called The Southern Tour. I cannot wait to meet some of you on my journey. That will be the best part.


One of the photo shoots for Southern Living magazine, October 2008



October 2008

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Let's bring on the bear with a story from a reader.

Scatter Me Next To Mama
By Syndee Reardon
Savannah, GA

Grandma was as mean as a rattlesnake and she scared me to death. She lived two blocks down the road from us but I only saw her a total of ten times during my whole lifetime. She was old from the beginning. The day I was born in 1958, Grandma was already 73. She lived to be 98 years old and Daddy says she was healthy until the end. I wondered what healthy meant to Daddy. Grandma was blind in one eye. She had severe osteoporosis that left her with a dowager's hump the size of Quasimodo's on her back and she was toothless. I guess healthy meant she was still breathing.

Grandma had given birth to seven children but only five survived. Grandma blamed the death of her two toddlers on a broken window that my Grandpa's lazy ass never repaired. She said the cold winter air blew right through that window into the lungs of those babies creating a deadly pneumonia that killed them in five days flat. Grandpa got blamed for most anything that went wrong in the family and everything imaginable went wrong in the family.

There were 3 boys and 2 girls all born two years apart and they all hated each other with a passion. They grew up in Savannah on Macon Street and were born and bred to despise their siblings. My daddy hated his brother and his brother hated his sister and so it goes right on down the line. I remember thinking that with a family like this who needs enemies. We had a truckload of them all with the same last name.

Grandma died in 1984 and she was buried up in Sylvania next to Grandpa who had luckily died thirty years before her. There were three other burial plots next to them and their children fought tooth and nail over who was to be buried next to Mom and Pop. My two aunts argued the most over the burial plots. The three boys only argued over the plots when they were drunk and that in itself is another story. My Aunt Margaret would say to my Aunt Barbara, "You'll be buried next to Mama over my dead body."

It worked out just that way.

Aunt Margaret died first and was buried next to Grandma while Aunt Barbara was planted at the head of Aunt Margaret's gravestone in a vase since she had been cremated. The three remaining sons decided not to speak to each other for the rest of their lives but when two of the brothers died they had requested in their will to be cremated and to have their ashes scattered
"next to Mama." Neither one of Grandma's sons had spoken to her in the last twenty years but their final request was to be "scattered next to Mama."

Today one son remains and I'm sure his final request will be "scatter me next to Mama." It's a family tradition.

This may sound strange, but I just love all the hatefulness in her family. It's a refreshing and honest depiction rather than the sugary confections we typically read about families. Good job, Syndee!

Lots of exciting news to share with you:

Last month I went back to high school--with a writer from Southern Living in tow--to visit Donna Havrilla, my all-time favorite teacher.  What a joy to see her after twenty-two years. She is as luminous as ever and just as passionate about teaching literature. She lit a fire in me that blazes still. Here’s to the Mrs. Havrillas of the world! Consider raising a glass tonight to a teacher who has meant the world to you.

Now, let me tell you about Nancy, the fine lady from Southern Living. Well, she is simply fabulous—a definite Queen. She understood this CQ business immediately and was great fun to be around. Mama liked her, too, and if Mama likes you, YOU ARE IN. The article will appear next year. I’ll keep you posted.

My schedule over the next three weeks is buck wild. A few highlights include:

-a photo shoot for Southern Living
-a business trip to New York to go over book plans
-a good bit of final work on the manuscript
-an appearance at a conference in Athens, GA

I will have stories and photos of those adventures to share with you soon. In the meantime, laugh hard and keep your fires blazing.


We have us a book cover design!


I am gazing adoringly at Mrs. Havrilla, my high school literature teacher. A writer from Southern Living interviewed us about my high school years.



September 2008

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

My revised manuscript is due in one week and just look at what I've been through these last five days:

-Severe carpal tunnel flare-up
-Cortisone Shot From Hell
-Meltdown of computer hard drive (total loss of all documents)
-Retyping of fifty-eight manuscript pages that were not backed up
-Had MRI on bum knee
-Meltdown of computer in my car

So what are the chances that both the computer in one's home AND one's car would die in the same day?

But guess what--I still feel like the luckiest ol' Queen around because my book is getting better and better in these final days and closer to making its debut.

By the way, I'll begin to update and expand this site more frequently this fall, so do check back more often.  


That's a starstruck me standing next to the Legendary Rosemary Daniell. She's an exceptional author and an inspiration. I was attending one of her fabulous Zona Rosa writing workshops.

Dear comrades, as I have often said, we are in this together. I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories, so do keep sending them in. Here's one I just received from Mary-Elaine Jenkins. I met her at my last reading in Savannah.

In September of 2006, I began my first semester at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Originally from Hilton Head, South Carolina, this was a change. I love Dixie and my Faulkner-esque roots, but I was ready to get the hell out of Dodge and broaden my horizons. When I told folks back home about my upcoming transition, they'd always have some pearl of wisdom for me about big city livin': watch your purse, don't ask strange men to hold your drink while you're in the bathroom, etc. My favorite was "You know, it's cold there." "Really?" I'd indulge, "DC? Colder than coastal South Carolina? Thanks for the tip!" Conversely, my new Yankee friends were surprised when they found out I wasn't a Republican who spoke in tongues and talked like a NASCAR driver. Although, when I asked what "club clothes" were, my roommate responded with a cocked head and a sympathetic "awww!"

"Clubbing," in urbanite culture, refers to a ritual where girls line up and compete, by showing lots of T and A, to get past heavily muscled men with walkie talkies and power complexes. Once inside the establishment, the girls huddle together, moving to frantic music, then proceed to get felt up by Lebanese businessmen and Abercrombie-clad frat boys in exchange for drinks. I was used to bars where the chairs and tables were nailed to the ground. Nonetheless, clubbing was worth a try.

We chose "Platinum," which had two levels and girls that danced in cages. Classiness defined. Having done a little "pre-gaming" back at the dorm and made it past the biceps, I was ready for the ritual to begin. Then, out of nowhere, something hard and rigid landed on my skull. A beer bottle. Here I was, removed from Dixie, in the heartbeat of the Free World, with a laceration on my forehead from a wayward beer bottle. My companions offered to take me home. "Hee-eel no!" was my response. Cracker Queens run toward flying bottles, not away from them. So I did what any respectable CQ would do. I snatched up a Marine and danced until the blisters on my heels hurt more than my head-wound.

Still, I was confused. Was this a sign? Were the cracker gods trying to communicate with me? I had to reconcile my background with my new surroundings. Now, instead of hitting Platinum, my bohemian pals and I gather in my place, in an area my mother dubbed the "Turkish Opium Den" due to the red curtains and white lights. We listen to Janis or Willie, drink Southern Comfort or cheap wine from Trader Joe's, and trade stories. Their backgrounds and perspectives are manifold and colorful. My honkie-flavored tales are always a hit. Clubbing may not be my scene, but a CQ never turns down an experience; and as a constant reminder, on the wall next to a photo of St. Tommy Lee Jones, is my personally autographed CQ poster.



July 2008

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Toil--
Solitude--
Prayer.
-Paganini's formula for creativity


I submitted the book manuscript to my editor on June 15! Paganini's words best describe what it took to get to this point. As I hit the "send" button, I felt 1,000 tons lift from my shoulders. But then I had this odd mingling of emotions: sadness at letting it go, elation over letting it go, and a generalized melancholy. This state lasted a few hours before being replaced with a feeling of blessed, and I do mean blessed, relief.

Talk about highs and lows: in the ten days leading up to my deadline, my aunt died unexpectedly and a writer from Southern Living Magazine called to say she'd like to do an article about me. Wonderfully strange days indeed.

I’ll meet the writer in my hometown of Warner Robins, Georgia, in September and we'll visit old stompin' grounds. From there we'll drive to Dublin, Georgia, to spend a little time with Mama. The article will run next year. I'll keep you posted.

My great new editor, Lauren Marino, is reading the manuscript now. I'll spend the next two months revising. I'm looking forward to working with Lauren and making a helluva book for you. I'm not worried about it either, because I can honestly say that I've spent the last sixteen months giving it every ounce I had--toiling, making much time for solitude, and praying. It has been grand.


Heady days: that’s me in the middle! I was preparing for the photo shoot for my book jacket photo. Hair and makeup artists can work some serious magic. My fake eyelashes were so long that I feared I'd take flight if I blinked. Also, my lips were so glossed and gooped up that a bug flew onto my top lip and got stuck there. The photographer had to remove the poor motionless creature before we could proceed.

To the left is the incomparable photographer Judith Ann. At right is Dee The Makeup Artist—as you can see, that woman knows her business.



May 2008

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

As I work to finish the memoir, I keep thinking of stories I wish I could include. Stories such as:

The night I had dinner in Amsterdam with the Former Head Witch of the Netherlands. The famous Anton LaVey, founder and leader of the Church of Satan, hand-picked her for that position. She described the Satanic Mass in riveting detail, but the best part came when she started naming celebrities and musicians who secretly belonged to the church. TASTY STUFF--almost as good as the Guinness on the table.

For every story like that I have five more, but for various reasons they just don't belong in the memoir. Hmmm...I'm smelling a sequel in the works...

In other news, I did a CQ comedy gig last week in Moultrie, Georgia. The hospital there held a banquet to honor the nurses in the county, including Miss Nadine, who at 98 is the oldest nurse around.  

It was a fantastic event, and I was glad to be a part of it. Mama tagged along and almost stole the show right out from under me! Many thanks to Queen Terry Jackson for the invitation.

After the show, a number of nurses shared their CQ experiences with me. Some tales were so deliciously Crackery that they whispered them in my ear to avoid a scandal. Dear Reader, it doesn't get any better than that.


With Terry Jackson, the whup-ass woman who invited me to do the gig



Late-March 2008


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

If it has testicles or tires, it's gonna give you trouble. -saying posted on Mama's fridge

I just returned from a long weekend in beautifully funky, alcoholically haunted Savannah. It was good to see old friends and consume my two favorite foods (salt and grease) at Ben's Neighborhood Grill.

A highlight of the trip was a private tour of the newly-restored Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home. It was exciting to see the new Bruckheimer Library and the acquisitions they've made. The CQ debuted in Flannery's parlor, so the place is forever dear to me. I plan to return later this year to read from the book.

After the tour some comrades joined me at Pinkie Masters, the best dive bar on the planet, to slurp down a few tall Pabst Blue Ribbons.

Without a doubt the most unusual thing I acquired during the trip was a clear vial containing the glittery "cremains" of a friend of a friend. The departed was a seriously fun lady who arranged for her ashes to be mixed with glitter. You know I love that. Anyhow, I am in possession of said vial because my friend wants help in coming up with a fitting way to set them free. Let me know if you have any ideas. In the meantime it makes for one wicked show and tell.

En route to Savannah I stopped over briefly at Mama's. I went with her to the county dump where a man known as Elmo's Brother works.

"He's one of 18 or 21 in his family. I don't remember which," Mama said. "Hell, I guess you stop countin’ at some point."

The memoir is cookin'. I will tell you all about it once I submit the final manuscript in June. Until then keep reading and telling your own stories. If you don't, who will?


The best dive bar in America


Glittery up to the end



Late-January 2008

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Creative work always ruins one's nerves for a time.-William Butler Yeats

The deadline for turning in the book manuscript is staring me down, mocking me with maniacal-horror-movie laughter. I'm in full-blown psychobilly mode right about now. Nerves shot completely out...Loving every minute of it.

Each day I rise hours before daylight to write. Then I go to my regular job. The funny thing is: that which is depriving me of sleep is filling me up at the same time. It’s quite thrilling to have to write everyday. That tells me that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do.

On a final note, I was so happy to get such a huge response from my Georgia Public Radio story about the Goat Man. He was a folk legend in the Southeast, and in Georgia especially, for more than fifty years. If you missed it, you can LISTEN HERE. The Goat Man lived as I aspire to live—simply and with imagination. Long live the Goat Man!





Late-November


dear worshipful fans & comrades,

I've been in writing lockdown for weeks. Having a full-time day job means that I have to snatch any free moment to work on the book. I write and revise while at stop lights, during my lunch hour, in the midst of reading other books, even during bubble baths. I keep neon-colored index cards handy in case I get a flash or think of words I love such as "caterwaul" and "cattywampus."

I've always been a slow writer, but this book has forced me to up the amperage. Who knew that pens and printer cartridges could run out of ink so quickly? Pens used to last years!

Don't get me wrong: having a book to write is a beautiful, glorious burden to bear. If only all of our burdens felt so good, we'd be in a perpetual state of Thanksgiving. Come to think of it, that's not a bad place to be.

PS A month ago I recorded four new stories for Georgia Public Radio's Georgia Gazette. Several have aired; let me know what you think of 'em.


Promoting my history book at a fundraiser for Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society in October. That's the fabulous Libby Parks standing next to me; she's one of the trustees of Cobb Landmarks.


Photo from childhood: come on, admit it, doesn’t this make you want to read my book?



October 2007

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

A number of you have asked for more information about me. So here you go:

10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me (in no particular order)

1. I have worked as a cocktail waitress, horse photographer's assistant, and Tarot card reader.

2. I come from a long line of women who fought to make a better world.
My Great-Great-Aunt Minnie was a suffragette. One of my most prized possessions is the beaded purse she carried during marches and into jail.

My Great Aunt Martha was equally driven and was president of the Hartford, Connecticut, school board for several terms.

My Aunt Ellie was at the March on Washington and has devoted herself to various social causes. Now in her 80s, she continues her longtime volunteer work as associate pastor of the Washington, DC, city jail.

3. I am obsessed with drugstore lunch counters and old radios, especially shortwave models with illuminated dials.

4. I'm an unhealthy vegetarian.

5. I know how to handle and shoot a gun.

6. When visiting a new town, I like to see the cemeteries first.

7. Like most Southerners, I like anything in ruins--from houses and outbuildings to kudzu-covered cars.

8. I loathe cell phones.

9. Yeats, Blake, and Tolstoy are my literary gods.

10. I'm scared of tornadoes and automatic car washes.

July 2007

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The latest trip to New York was thrilling beyond words. Some of you have wondered what was going through my mind during this whirlwind visit. Here it is: "Oh my God, I am actually in New York to meet my agent and editor because I actually HAVE an agent and editor AND A FRIGGIN' BOOK DEAL!"

I stayed fairly calm until we got to the publishing house and I saw the penguin on the wall--the Penguin Books logo, I mean. You know it: the famous penguin inside an orange oval. My knees went all weak and wobbly, but I pulled it together just in time and didn't mess the crease in my seersucker trousers.

Several folks have asked recently for advice on writing. The most important thing for me has been to have a space away from everything else, the room of one's own that Virginia Woolf describes. Having such a space will do wonders, even if you’re not a writer. Joseph Campbell explains it perfectly:

This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so in a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don't know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe anybody...This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is a place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

This book that I’m writing has been living in my mind for twenty years. But it couldn't show itself until I made a proper place for it. I invite you to make your own place. You'll be delighted beyond measure at what will turn up.


Doing a little CQ comedy at a local fundraiser on the 4th of July. Mama saw this photo and said, "Boy, it looks like you were laying it on thick."



May 2007

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

I head back to New York next week to meet my agent, editor, and publisher for the first time (woo-hoo!). Check back for photos and news next month. In the meantime, read this fabulous letter I received from Anne Hall of Clarkesville, GA. I’m delighted that she took appropriate CQ action when she saw the prisoners.

Dear Lauretta,

Today I was a Cracker Queen!  On my way to town I saw a prison bus with inmates picking up trash.  One inmate was on break and sitting in the very back of the bus out the back door with a handmade sign that read: "Need Cigs!".  I went on into town and did my errands.  A couple of
hours later as I was returning home, that same prison group was on the other side of the highway still picking up trash.  I drove to the closest convenience store and bought 4 packs of Marlboro.  I drove back and tossed two packs out to the happy surprise of the guys.  I then
turned around to head back home and tossed the other two packs to another gleeful response.  How exciting is that?

My other story is from the laundry mat where I was washing and drying comforters.  Two ladies were there washing a ton of laundry.  When they were almost finished, a man drove up in an old car.  He was wearing overalls with no shirt underneath.  The women were a mother in her late 40's and a daughter in her late 20's.   They had driven a camping van with a trailer attached and parked in longways in front of the laundry mat blocking about five parking spaces.  They were putting bed linens inside the van and tying down large black plastic bags of laundry on to the trailer.  While the mother still worked inside, the daughter was out smoking a cigarette and talking to her father.  All of a sudden she said, "Daddy, Daddy, look what I found!  Isn't that the biggest black widow spider you've ever seen!  I bet it came off this here trailer."
She bends down and spots a small spider egg case.  They both talk about how she has probably already eaten the male spider. "Quick, let's get a stick and turn it over to see the red on her tummy."  She looked over at me and say a large stick next to the bench where I was sitting.  She said, "Are you using that stick?"  Of course, I wasn't.  So she grabbed it and preceded to push the spider over to see its belly.  Her father said, "That spider will sure kill you."  And the next thing he did was stomp it dead on the pavement.  (Bless its heart.)

Just had to share my Cracker Queen experiences with you.




March 2007

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

I GOT A BOOK DEAL. Yep, it has finally happened. I have signed with Gotham Books, a Penguin imprint, to write CRACKER QUEEN: Stories of a Jagged, Joyful Life. It will hit bookshelves in 2009, and I'll spend the next year churning out the stories of my life--and having the time of my life doing it.

I'm elated to be working with Erin Moore, my editor at Gotham. This girl's got it goin' on, you hear me?

A deep-down thank you goes to my agent, Joanne Wyckoff, AKA La Agent Suprema. She "got it" from the moment she heard me on the radio in Boston last spring.

I've just returned from a celebratory weekend in New York City where I raised a glass to all of you out there who have supported the ol' Cracker Queen. Your part in this grand adventure will never be forgotten. Ever.


A late-night out in New York with Ray Lee, one of the cast members of MAMMA MIA!, the Broadway show based on the songs of ABBA. How could I make this up?


Showing my cracker cred: that's me driving the camo-covered golf cart at my sister's hunting lodge down south. Again I ask, how could I make this up?



Late February 2007

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

I am about to have some super exciting news to share with you. I can't talk about it just yet, but check back in mid-March for a sizzlin' hot news flash--and have your case of chilled Pabst Blue Ribbon at the ready!



January 2007

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

It's a thrilling time here in Crackerville. The book proposal is done, and my agent is about to go forth and see if any publishers take the bait. You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll keep you posted at every step of the way. It seems the perfect occasion for a favorite quote by Goethe:

“Whatever you can do,
Or dream you can,
BEGIN IT.
Boldness has genius, power
And magic in it.”

Whatever your dream, BEGIN IT.






October 2006

Life is short, misery sure, mortality certain. But on the way, why not carry those two inflated pig bladders labeled Zest and Gusto. (Ray Bradbury)



Photo shoot outtake

-Another Story on National Public Radio

-Progress Report on The Book

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

My latest National Public Radio story, which deals with a childhood church memory, has stirred up a swarm of Episcopal priests. Oh, how I love that! A favorite line of William Blake comes to mind, "And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys & desires." In all fairness, I should note that an Anglican chaplain liked the story and understood what I was trying to do with it. I hope you'll listen to it here and let me know your thoughts.


SIN QUITTIN’ REPENTIN’ GOD FEARIN’ MEETIN’, Demorest, Georgia, October 2006

These days I'm churning out a new story every week or so for The Book. I'm still in the early stages of the process. Next month I will give my agent these new stories and we will see what happens. I'll keep you posted.


Not the first time I've been behind bars...



August 13, 2006

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The July 22nd show was a ball. The after-party, however, is still a blur, but I do remember much merriment amidst the bottles of champagne. Happily, the show sold out a week before the performance, so I didn't have my usual nightmares about facing an audience of


Camo, champagne, and potato chips: a scene from the After-Party

The folks at the venue were wonderful. Special thanks to Tommy, Terri, and Jan. Thanks also to David and Terry for taping the show and giving up their entire Saturday in the process. Alan and Anne Hall deserve a most spirited thank you.


Showtime, July 2006

I'm now heading back to the cave for a good long while so that I can give my energy and time to the memoir. But first I'll leave you with the best line I've read recently:

"Being a white Southerner is a bit like being Eichmann's daughter: People don't assume you're guilty, but they wonder how you've been affected." (Blanche McCrary Boyd)


July 2006

-Meeting the Head Munchkin

-Latest Story on NPR's All Things Considered

-Talking With an Agent

Dear worshipful fans & comrades,

I had no idea I'd meet a celebrity when I went home to Middle Georgia last weekend. This is how it unfolded...

Mama: Hey Retta, you wanna meet the head munchkin from the Wizard of Oz?

Me: HUH?

Mama: You know, the lead munchkin from the movie. He's at a nursing home here. We can go see 'em if you want to.

So off we went on a crazy-ass search to find the big-time little guy. Turns out that the munchkin is a delightful and gracious gentleman named Karl Slover. He was only two-feet tall when the movie was filmed, and he had four parts. He spun marvelous stories about his Hollywood adventures and his life as a little person. It was great fun to be in his company.


The Cracker Queen meets the Head Munchkin: Karl Slover of Wizard of Oz fame. That's my nephew Dusty at right.

Last month my newest story aired on NPR's All Things Considered. On the surface, the piece is about the brutality of dog fighting, but it's really about what William Butler Yeats spoke of in "The Second Coming:"

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world;
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


My recent story on dog fighting struck a nerve with folks. I received responses from listeners across the country. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write.

In other news, a literary agent heard me on NPR and we're now putting a book proposal together. It looks like it will be a childhood memoir--talk about a rollicking, bumpy, zesty, laugh-out-loud ride of a read! The agent tells me that I shouldn't produce a self-published book in the meantime, so I'm sorry to report that I won't have that book available to you as previously reported. I CAN promise you that the memoir will be oh-so-worth the wait.

I'll leave you now. It's time to go burrow in the writing shed. I'll be spending the next two weeks preparing for the show on July 22. I hope you'll join me there.



May 2006

-NPR Airs New Story

-One-Woman Show to Debut

-CQ Book Available This Summer

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Lots of things are afoot...National Public Radio aired my new story, Rutabaga Woman, on April 27. I hope you'll listen and let me know your thoughts.

Preparations are heating up for the debut of my one-woman show this summer. Think Steel Magnolias Meets Larry the Cable Guy - that's how the folks at the venue are billing it.


For more information about this performance, please email me or visit their website.

I'm busier than a cat covering shit on a tin roof trying to get my book ready. It will ooze with stories, new and old, told and untold. I'm packing it with photos, jokes, and lots of extras. You're going to love it. I'll "launch" the book at the one-woman show on July 22.

Finally, I have a quote for you from the great Wendell Berry. I think it captures the state of things in the South. "We are a remnant people in a remnant country...We have come, or are coming fast, to the end of what we were given."

Okay, one more thing...Somebody wants to know what's on my bedside reading table, so here's the list:

-The Complete Illuminated Books of William Blake
-Electric Light by Seamus Heaney
-Granta, my favorite magazine of new writing
-You Have Seen Their Faces by Erskine Caldwell & Margaret Bourke-White
-Best American Essays of 2005
-Anna Karenin by Leo Tolstoy
-Losing It All to Sprawl: How Progress Ate My Cracker Landscape by Bill Belleville



March 2006

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Just returned from Amsterdam where my time was spent doing one of two things.

1. Having a decadent good time
OR
2. Recovering from too much of a good time

Let's see - lots of news to tell you about. "Rutabaga Woman," my latest story for NPR, has been recorded and should air before too long; I'll keep you posted.

Upcoming gig: Join me on Saturday, July 22, 2006, at the Sautee Nacoochee Center in the breathtaking Sautee Nacoochee Valley in the Northeast Georgia mountains. I'll be doing a two-hour show and am counting on CQ fans to be there.

What's ahead: I'm devoting the next three months to producing a book of stories, photos, and CQ miscellany. In a startling nod to commercialism, I'll make it so that you can order the book directly from this site. As if that wasn't bad enough, you'll also see a few other CQ items available for purchase in the coming months. After six years of doing this, my best friend insists that I simply must sell product. Although I've resisted the notion, I have to admit that it would be nice to pay the ol' American Express bill on time.

That's it for now. Until the next time, remember Muriel Rukeyser's glorious words, "The universe is made up of stories, not of atoms."

The Haunted South
I adore taking photos of old, falling-down buildings and have lots of photos like this one. New, pretty things hold no interest for me. Give me a kudzu-engulfed old homeplace like this, and my imagination goes berserk. This is the Old Brantley Place, somewhere in Middle Georgia.




Old Brantley Place, side view of the back portion of the house



January 16, 2006

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

You might be a Cracker Queen if you ring in the New Year with a black pig in your Mama's backyard. More on that in a minute.

Story News: Hot Damn! I was on NPR again on January 11. Listen here for a very different version of "Winged Skeletons." I'm now working on all new stories, and I'll keep you posted.

Now, back to the New Year's Day Pig Incident. We're gathered around the dining room table in Mama's double-wide. I'm sitting next to her Elvis curio cabinet. It showcases twelve Elvis collector's plates, one for every month. Each is encrusted with the appropriate birthstone and depicts a different Elvis (Jailhouse Rock Elvis, Army Elvis, bloated junkie jumpsuit Elvis, etc.).

Here's the conversation that ensues with my sister--

Me: I was so excited this morning when a bobcat ran in front of my car! I've never seen a bobcat before. What a beautiful creature he was.

Sister: Shoot, if you want to see a bobcat, just drop by the house. I have one in the freezer.

Me: Why do you have a bobcat in the freezer?

Sister: 'Cause he's dead of course! I shot 'em. We're keepin' 'em on ice until we take 'em to get stuffed. You ought to come see him.

Me: I don't want to see 'em! Have you forgotten that I've been a vegetarian for twenty years out of love for animals?

Sister: Aw, you should come by; all you can see is his face.

Me: Oh my God, is that a pig in the backyard?


The New Year’s Day Pig Incident
(note: the deer in the background is not real—he’s cracker yard art)

At this point everyone looks at me like I'm the crazy one, that a pig in the yard is perfectly natural. Mama explains that the man down the street owns the pig and allows it to roam freely. (You can see why my supply of story material is endless.)

By the way, have I told y'all about the cat I had in my freezer in Athens? No joke. Maybe I'll tell you that one next time.

In the meantime, recite these words of Tennessee Williams, "Make voyages! Attempt them! There's nothing else."



December 2005

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

What a long, strange trip it's been--since Tuesday, I mean. That's when National Public Radio (NPR) aired "Mama & the Chain Gang" and infected 16 million listeners with the CQ virus. Since it was aired, I've been thrilled to get emails from folks around the country.

Those familiar with the story will notice that it changed a lot from the version on this site. I'd love to know what you think of the new version. Click here to listen, or go to npr.org and type my name in the search engine.

NPR has accepted another story, and I'm deep in rewrite mode at the moment. I'll let you know when it is broadcast.

Until then, don't forget that Cracker Queens always get the last cackle.



Late-September 2005

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

A poem is on my mind as I sit and write these words:

Barn’s burnt down—now I can see the moon.-Masahide

I suspect that a lot of folks’ barns are burning…

New story alert: Next week I will be at Georgia Public Radio recording three new stories. If you’re on the CQ mailing list, I’ll send you the audio links once the tales are broadcast. Shoot me an email if you’d like to be on the list. I’ll tell you more about the stories in my next epistle.

My readings earlier this year were grand. Thank you to everyone who attended the shows in Springfield and Hinesville, GA. Thanks to Robin Shader and Melissa White for inviting me to their libraries. A special appreciation goes to Kathy Bohannon for her review of the Springfield gig.

I must tell you about a woman I met in Springfield. Her name is Annselma LaFavor, and she’s a strong contender for the CQ Hall of Fame. I mean, come on, her name is Annselma AND she’s on Husband Number Eight. She also has some tales to tell.

Until next time, don’t worry if your barn is aflame. It will surely be replaced with something you can’t even imagine right now. After all, this is the promise that keeps a good ol’ Cracker Queen going.


Animated audience at the library in Springfield, GA (April 15, 2005)


The Cracker Queen makes the front-page news—and this time it’s not for violating her probation!

Spring 2005 CQ Gigs: April 15 @ the Springfield Library & April 16 at the Hinesville Library. Both readings will begin at 7pm.

“You might be a Cracker Queen if…” Contest Email your best “You might be a CQ if” joke, and I’ll send you an appropriately trashy Cracker Queen prize. Every entrant will receive a gift.

See lots of new photos on the Picture Show page.






March 2005

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

“We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” said Oscar Wilde. I’ve been stargazing a lot in the last year. Some of the highlights:

I wrote a photo history book of Powder Springs, GA in less than seven weeks


Attended the Yeats Winter School in Sligo, Ireland


After a liter of mulled wine and a few incantations, I nearly fainted at the grave of the master: William Butler Yeats.

Fled from haints at a haunted B&B in Cave Spring, GA

Bought cologne in Cologne, Germany from a gruesomely-tanned woman with body odor worse than my Uncle Buddy when he had that skin condition

Produced a CD of my stories

Had a 12’x12’ writing shack built in the backyard

I’m in the shack now as a heavy rain falls and the fire in the woodstove blazes. There is no electricity in this space—the Cracker Queen’s playhouse. My place to write, read, play flute, and just be. I realized six months ago that I needed a remote room of my own. Virginia Woolf knew what the hell she was talking about. (Note to those of you who pay attention to such things: I left the 12’x20’ shack mentioned elsewhere on this site when we moved to a new house.)

The William Butler Yeats study was an ecstatic few days. We drank liters of mulled wine and listened to his magnificent words. The deeper one goes into Yeats, the greater the delights. He offers everything: love, death, sex, magic and alchemy, politics, philosophy, spirituality, theatre, prophecy. Earlier this year astronomers reported of a dying star whose light outshone the Milky Way’s other half-trillion stars combined. That is Yeats’ place in the galaxy of poets.


During the Yeats study in Ireland, I hooked up with some hilarious women from northern Ireland. Cathleen, at left, and Margaret, at right, helped promote the Cracker Queen by posing with CQ postcards.

After the study I took the train to my great-grandfather’s birthplace near Ballymote. As a young man, he was stuffed in a barrel by the little people and rolled down a hill. I was on a quest to see the hill and the mythic caves of Keash. Tales abound of those of entered the dank, mysterious caves and were never heard from again. Wolves sought shelter there 12,000 years ago. What a thrill to see these things that have been in my mind since I was knee-high to a leprechaun.

During my few hours in Dublin, my main goal was to view the Book of Kells. As it turned out, I lingered in the tourist shops and arrived at Trinity College too late to see them. But I did buy cheap tea towels imprinted with designs from the book. Typical American.

I’m writing all kinds of things—more stories for Georgia Public Radio, perhaps a screenplay, and some scraps on living joyfully in a miserable world (stargazing again from the gutter).


In Cologne, Germany, in front of the famous cathedral: those creepy rays of sunshine remind me of the Jesus picture Granny kept in her living room.


Last year’s gigs at the Clarksville Library and at Savannah’s Flannery O’Connor Home were great fun. Get your taxes done and come see me on April 15 at the Springfield Library and on April 16 at the Hinesville Library.

In the meantime, send me your stories and be one hellraisin’ cracker.



February 19, 2004

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

The Cracker Queen is hittin' the road again. Here's the scoop on upcoming readings.


March 25, 2004
Clarkesville Public Library
7 pm
Clarkesville, GA
Sponsored by the Habersham County Libraries

Clarkesville is in the North Georgia mountains, so use the reading as an excuse for a road trip or a long weekend in that beautiful part of cracker land.

May 23, 2004
Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home
3 pm
Savannah, GA
Part of the Flannery O'Connor Spring Lecture Series

Savannah is the most fabulously decadent kingdom in Georgia. Join me as we raise all manner of hell in Flannery's house.



November 16, 2003

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

It took a broken big toe to slow me down enough to write this long overdue epistle. Yes, several weeks ago the CQ was bouncing barefoot on a game called the Velcro Wall. The goal of it is to bounce high and hurl oneself onto a sticky wall. Instead it turned into a game of Rush Lola to the ER.

I've had three stories air on Georgia Public Radio since last we met. The first, “You Put a Root on Me,” describes a series of near-death calamities I endured after writing an article criticizing a Savannah politician. Was this voodoo or just Irish Cracker Bad Luck?

This story aired on May 16 on the Georgia Gazette program and appears about thirty-five minutes into the hour-long show.

I still can't believe the response I've received from the second story, “Blood Knowledge.” It deals with a mysterious glimmer of understanding I gained while grieving for my father. The Marietta Daily Journal (Marietta, Georgia) ran a printed version of the story in its Father's Day edition.

When I send words out into the ether I wonder if anyone is listening. And so I was thrilled to get many emails from folks who were touched by this story. Let me know what you think.

This one aired on June 13 and appears at the fourteen-minute point in the program.

The third story is entirely different. It is a straightforward profile of a quartet of blue-haired, country mountain musicians known as The Myers Sisters. These CQ grannies rock!

The story appears near the end of the program, at the forty-second minute point, and was broadcast on June 27.


It was a hoot to interview and record the country mountain music of The Myers Sisters.


The CQ meets up with one of her role models: Comedian Brett Butler.

More stories are in the oven, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I leave you whup-ass women (and the men who adore them) with these words from Isadora Duncan, “You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you.”

PS-Thanks to everyone who continues to submit stories to this site. Click here to read a fabulous story about the Weed Lady of Alexandria.




january 16, 2003

dear worshipful fans & comrades,

Good Lord—things at CQ-HQ have been a mess these last months, but as Gilda Radner says, "I can always be distracted by love, but eventually I get horny for my creativity." Here's the latest from the always hoppin' world of the CQ.


The gleaming turquoise and chrome dashboard of the Cracker Queenmobile: a '62 Mercury Comet that will be the official CQ Summer Tour vehicle.

 

  • Preparations are underway for a Cracker Queen Summer Tour in June. I will load up the '62 Mercury Comet and spend a week on the dirt roads and trailer park trails of Georgia, reading my stories to anyone, and I do mean ANYONE, who will listen. Tentative stops include a public library in the mountains, a bookshop in Savannah, a mental institution and a women's prison in middle Georgia (I know what you're thinkin'), a college in Macon, and impromptu sites along the way. Check back here for my tour journal and photos.

     

  • I'm working on some new tales and have started a longer piece (I'm too scared to say the N-word: novel) about my cracker relatives. Let's just say that these folks make Tobacco Road seem like a story of high-achieving, prosperous Southerners. One working title is "Marriage, Sadism, & Breakdown."

     

  • Several folks have asked me to list my favorite authors and poets, so here are some of 'em: William Butler Yeats (he stares at me from a framed photo by the desk), William Blake, Seamus Heaney, Pablo Neruda, Yunus Emre (a thirteenth-century Sufi poet),William Faulkner, and Dylan Thomas.

     

  • Whatever you do, keep sending me your stories.

  • A final admonition: never forget that ours is a vital and vibrant mission. The cosmos smiles when strong, authentic, whup-ass women have a voice. We are in this together.


june 13, 2002

dear worshipful fans & CQ comrades,

As I write this I am preparing to depart for the next stop on the Cracker Queen Global Domination Tour: Amsterdam. Time requires that I share only a few highlights from the fully-lived world of the CQ.

  • The Debut of the Cracker Queen in May was a huge honkin' success (see photos on the Picture Show page). More than 100 souls tried to attend my reading at the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home in Historic Savannah, GA. We admitted 66 folks into a room that officially holds up to 30. Let's just say it's a good thing that I like to perform close to my audience. I hated it that so many people were turned away at the door, but you KNOW that I love telling ya about it.
  • Many women in the crowd spoke to me after the show. It warmed my black little heart to hear them say how much they identified with the Cracker Queen. Maybe it was just the Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) they were swilling, but in between burps and scratches, I heard what they were saying: strong, beautiful, authentic Southern women need a venue for expression.
  • Connect Savannah, the city's alternative newspaper, printed an interview with me a few days before the reading.




a label from the CQ brand of whup ass


-A moment of delicious irony: audience members downing RC Cola and PBR while munching on pork skins (barbecue & regular), moon pies, and boiled peanuts-all in the ever-so-genteel parlor of the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home.

-We held a hell of a good time with a "You might be a Cracker Queen if…" Contest. The winning entries were:

"You might be a Cracker Queen if you discover your husband's having an affair with the school janitor when you see he's charged the Viagra to your credit card."

"You might be a CQ if you can sell the crumbs from your satin sheets."

"You might be a CQ if your father is featured in the Federal Registry of Child Sex Offenders."

-I was thrilled to get reports from a Savannah bookstore owner of more than 2 dozen requests for my books and CDs in the week following the reading… I guess I should work on producing some books and CDs now.

-Some folks have been asking about where they can get copies of my new stories. Just e-mail me here and I'll send you fresh CQ tales from time to time. The stories on this site are a mere sample of a much larger body of work (CQ translation: these stories are only part of the shit-load of writing that I'm doing).

-Thanks to everyone who has submitted stories to me. Please keep it up.


In the meantime, be a good cracker.

  The Cracker Queen A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life Order Your Book Here!