Saturday, May 29, 2010

From Tiaras to Tourists: "Book" Your Adventure!

Photos: The Pulpwood Queens Book Club
Attraction: Beauty and the Book Hair Salon
Location: Jefferson, Texas

Connections can lead to very interesting places. Recently, one of the writers I profiled on SELTI, Patricia Neely-Dorsey, sent me a message about a local chapter of a large book club that was coming to see her in Tupelo, Mississippi. The club is called the Pulpwood Queens, and one of the local chapters from Alabama is called Heart of Dixie. The “Queen” of the Heart of Dixie chapter, Olivia Wright, loved Patricia’s book Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia ( ). In fact, Olivia loved the book so much that she wanted to come meet Patricia in person—in Tupelo—to set up a tour of Tupelo with Patricia for the whole chapter.

Patricia sent me the links to the larger book club also, run by Kathy L. Patrick ( ). Kathy started the club about ten years ago as the only book club/hair salon, and it caught on fast. Really fast. The national media covered the grand opening, and Kathy has since been on Oprah, to name just one of the many media venues covering the amazing growth of the Pulpwood Queens. Each chapter wears tiaras at official meetings, and Kathy puts out a list of good books to read every month and discuss. There are now 306 chapters (ironic for a book club) nationwide. There are also members and chapters in ten foreign countries.

The actual hair salon, which often has famous writers as clients, is aptly named Beauty and the Book. Check it out here: Kathy also launched her salon with a book that covers not only how she selects books for her monthly list but also how reading has impacted her entire life in such a positive way. Learn more about her book The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life at:

The first thing I read when visiting the Pulpwood Queens blog were several wonderful articles by Kathy about her family trip to Monroeville, Alabama, to visit the place that inspired Harper Lee’s fictional town of Maycomb in the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird. These articles were especially interesting to me because I recently profiled a biography titled Up Close: Harper Lee by Kerry Madden. The article centered on the tourism aspect of Monroeville through the excerpt, links, and photos. Kathy’s articles did the same in a wonderfully fun way. By the way, that's the actress who played Scout in the classic film signing a book above! And she's sitting in the courthouse that Hollywood movie producers replicated for the film. She's just one of the many interesting people Kathy met on her tour of Monroeville.

Kathy’s Pulpwood Queens hold many author events throughout the year. Now, the phrase “author events” is an understatement. A Pulpwood Queens event is more like a large party, complete with bands, entertainment, and great food. Her annual Girlfriend Weekend gathering in Jefferson, Texas, has drawn 1,000 visitors and 35 renowned authors, including Fannie Flagg, Pat Conroy, and Rick Bragg. Kathy also does a Christian and Inspirational book festival called Books Alive the second weekend in November. This year’s keynote speaker there will be Sam Bracken.

One thousand is a magic number. Why? Because that’s the size of a large convention—the kind that cities and states around the country are eager to attract these days. Most cities and states spend millions of dollars a year together in advertising targeted at tourism. Those television commercials, although beautiful, only last for thirty seconds and usually interrupt someone’s favorite show. Some people even tape over such commercials on their DVRs. However, tourism books are the show, and people devote their entire attention to them for hours at a time. How much is that worth in advertising, I wonder?

If I were a tourism official, I would hire literary agents to encourage their clients to write tourism novels. Novelists already write entertaining stories that are often based on real places. Suppose a novel included the real tourism information at the end, so that curious readers could learn more? And suppose that the novel were on a monthly book club list read by thousands of people at the same time? Then suppose that same book club held a large event where the thousands of fans could tour the real settings together and meet the author. Not only could books be signed, but hotel rooms could be booked at group rates, local restaurants could be filled with patrons, and local retail stores could be packed with new customers.

And it wouldn’t have to all be based on a classic novel; the book could be a contemporary novel set in any state in any tourism attraction. The South is filled with incredible settings that could inspire many authors. I’ve profiled a few such books on this site, although they did not include the tourism information in the actual books. Maybe someday soon, “booking a tour” will have a whole new meaning.

Don’t miss the upcoming feature from the Pulitzer Prize-nominated team of novelist Sibella Giorello and photojournalist Dean Hoffmeyer. The feature will offer an excerpt from Sibella’s novel the clouds roll away, set in modern Richmond, Virginia. Dean will provide photographs of some of the charming tourism attractions in the novel. Until then, why not pull out an old classic like To Kill A Mockingbird? Then, go see the real settings for yourself with other literary tourists. Please visit the archives in Kathy's blog to learn more about what Monroeville has to offer. Step into the story!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saturday Evening Blog Post

A friend (Heather VanHoose Truett--featured on this blog in December) introduced me to this great concept of blog sharing by Elizabeth Ester. I was able to publish a link there to my most recent post, Vampires V. Pancakes: Literary Tourism For Kids (found below this post). I read a couple of the host writer's articles and laughed really hard. I see in the comments that there are also some very serious articles by her that I have yet to read but plan to. Isn't it great to discover a really good writer? I look forward to reading more of Elizabeth's work and the other blogs. Here is a link to The Saturday Evening Blog Post: (and by the way, love the cover!):