As an avid reader, and a blogger I've wondered at times what it is like to be a writer--not just someone who pecks away at the computer as a hobby, but someone who writes stuff and tries to sell it. What kind of person would do such a thing? How would you even go about it? Well, now I can say that I know a published author. I know Jimmie Meese Moomaw, author of Southern Fried Child in Home Seeker's Paradise.
Where did we meet? Well, we haven't exactly ever seen each other---though because of photos, I'd know her if she walked in the door. We met on the Mississippi University for Women Alumnae listserve many years ago, and are both active members of Mississippi's First Alumnae Association, the original Alumnae Association of MUW. Jimmie has always had a certain down-home wisdom, spiced with some Southern sass so that you know that she is not one of those people with whom you should trifle.
I'll be writing more about Southern Fried Child in Home Seeker's Paradise in the next few weeks, but I'd like to introduce her to you now:
Readers, meet Jimmie Meese Moomaw.
Jimmie, who was born and raised in Brookhaven, Mississippi, graduated from Mississippi University for Women with a double major in speech and English. About her post-school career, she told me "After getting my bachelors and masters degree in 4 ½ years without going to summer school, and teaching high school for one year, I was hired at Mississippi State where I formed and coached an award-winning debate team. One of my proudest achievements was starting the first communication department at State." After her time at State, Jimmie attended University of Missouri where she completed her Ph.D. while teaching classes and coaching the freshman debate team. Next, she taught in Kentucky where she also coached debate.
While in Kentucky, she married. She and her husband moved to Atlanta. She had two daughters, Betsy and Amy. In Atlanta she taught at a local community college where she chaired the department of speech and theatre. She spent the last 21 years of her 41-year teaching career at Georgia State University, retiring from teaching in 2000. For past 35 years Jimmie has also been a communication consultant with a diverse client base.
As I've said, especially since I've been blogging, I've wondered about being a writer, so I sent Jimmie some interview questions, and she graciously answered them.
Why, after a long career in academia, did you decide to write a book?
My cousin shared a journal with my children and me that she had made in a creativity class. I thought it was a beautiful way to leave bits of yourself for your children. I realized I knew very little about my own parents. They were not prone to introspection and would never have set out consciously to share details about how they came to be who they were. I wanted to leave more of myself for my own children to know. So I began writing as a gift for my children.
But it soon morphed into a book that was being written for a broader readership. I realized that the perspective changed rather than deciding to change it.
Which anecdote in the book is your favorite?
The funniest one and the one I most enjoy reading to an audience is called "the Hot Perm." It is about the time when I was 7 or 8 that I went without my Mama to a local beauty parlor to get a hot perm...and the unintended consequences that followed. I also really like "How My Daddy Really Said "I Love You."
Why did you decided to self-publish?
Two reasons: fear of rejection and at age 73 fear that I did not have time to send out a manuscript and wait months for an answer and then do it again and again. I published through Author House and it was a great experience.
How similar do you think your life experiences are to other Southern women of your generation? In other words, is Southern Fried Child simply your story, or is it one in which you think many Southern women will find a piece of themselves?
I think core elements of the experience were shared by many, if not all, who grew up in the time period in a small town in the South. Girls or boys. All in all it is more my story than the story of girls who grew up in similar circumstances.
By all accounts I was unusually independent and self-contained as an only, often lonely child. I had experiences that were not to my knowledge at all typical. When I was ten I worked for a year as a cashier at a shoe repair shop and saved money to by my Daddy a new suit, hat, and tie for Christmas. At about the same age I ran away from home. I didn't just take off running around the block. I made a plan, borrowed 26 cents from a family friend, bought a ticket, caught a bus and left town.
What have you learned about yourself by writing this book?
I really thought that I would learn a lot...but I didn't. In the epilogue I note that I didn't learn much about myself. What I did was learn how transient our life's experiences are...how quickly things are lost and fade from memory. The essence of what I learned is: "We have a duty to remember."
Tell me what you are doing to publicize your book.
A group of wonderful friends in Mississippi instituted and organized a book tour for me. I will spend 23 days visiting libraries, book stores, and churches reading from and signing the books. There is person in each city to get out the media material and beat the bushes to get the word out and turn out an audience. Betty Ruth Hawkins prepared an absolutely professional press kit that is being used in a variety of ways. My volunteer tech team has me tweeting, a face book page for the book, and a web site is in the works. I use flyers, posters, and postcards to get the word out. The best way is through word of mouth and friends are already calling for me to do a presentation for their chapter, club, meeting, etc as much as a year ahead of time.
Are there any more books in your future?
Funny that you ask. Two months ago, I would have said "no." But on the way back home from a presentation to an MFAeA chapter meeting in Chattanooga, a friend, Donette Lee, asked when I would write the next book and I said I don't have anything else to write about. She disagreed and nudged me more so I started thinking about it. I am now jotting down notes and thinking of episodes that might bear visiting. If there is a next book, it will be called Southern Fried Child Goes to College.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Not really. I did not even consider myself a writer until very recently.