Sunday, January 22, 2012


Okay, ladies. It's time to fess up. Do you love shoes? Really love shoes? Or are you more of a purse person? Recently, I saw a woman holding six shoe boxes standing in line at an upscale department store. Her companion had three purses. Both ladies were thrilled with their finds. I admit that I too had perused the shoes!

How many pairs of shoes do you have? Do you keep them in the boxes? Do you still have the shoes you wore with your wedding dress or wore for a special occasion? I honestly can't say how many shoes I have, but my mother's closet is a marvelous sight. Stacks of shoes in the original boxes are everywhere. She is a shoe lover. In fact, I can thank her love of shoes for Sylvia's love of high heels in my novel, Mama's Shoes. Growing up, I can remember how my mother would comment on people's shoes, and how often she said that women had no shoe sense! When she saw a woman in a nice outfit and terrible shoes she had to comment - "Just look at that woman wearing that expensive suit with those cheap shoes!"

And heaven help you if your shoes were dirty! There is absolutely no excuse for dirty shoes. She has told me many times how she polished my white baby shoes every night. (Remember those sturdy white shoes we used to put on toddlers who were learning to walk?)Those I don't remember, but I do recall her shining my black patent leather Sunday school shoes with a leftover biscuit. Those biscuits were made with lard and left a high gloss shine on black patent leather.

One of my favorite stories about shoes was told me by my mother. When she was in high school, she wore brown and white saddle oxfords. She, of course, polished them every night. Her home economics teacher was proud of her and would tease her about how, unlike other girls, she kept her shoes clean and polished. Mrs Smith, her teacher, would say to her every morning, "Gladys, let me see your shoes." To which my mother would stick out her foot and wait for Mrs. Smith to say, "Perfect, as always." Mrs. Smith was the mother of the beloved Appalachian author, Lee Smith, who was born in Grundy, VA, my hometown.

I admit, I'm more of a comfort lover than a shoe lover, but I do admire a lovely pair of shoes. Recently, I snapped a shot of a pair of red shoes that I know my character Sylvia would have adored.

I do admire a pair of beautiful high heels, even if I can't wear them. In the words of Sylvia Richardson, from Mama's Shoes,
A woman knows that when she puts on high heels, she’ll stand and walk more graceful. And do you know why? Because when a woman puts on high heels, she feels like a lady.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hair - The Long and Short of It

We cut it; then we let it grow. We curl it; then we straighten it. We add highlights; then cover them up. We go lighter; then darker; then lighter again. The sky’s the limit in today’s hair world.

How much do you know about the billion dollar hair care industry. Let’s test your knowledge!

You can have any color of the rainbow and change it as often as you like. But who is responsible for this wonderful world of hair products?

1. Hair dye is one of the oldest known beauty preparations, and was used by ancient cultures in many parts of the world. What country marketed the first modern hair color called “(golden fountain of youth water”? A. Germany B. United States C. France

2. What company developed the first hair dye in the United States? A. Clairol B. L’Oreal C. Avon

3. What company developed the first one-step home hair color? A. L’Oreal B.Clairol C. Redkin

Have you ever permed your hair? It’s a long and somewhat “smelly” process. The first permanent wave was called a Marcel wave named for Marcel Grateau in 1872.

4. What did Marcel use to perm hair? A. an alcohol based solution B. heated tongs that fitted inside of each other C. brass curlers that were heated with hot water

5. By the 1930’s hair was permed by A. hair wrapped around rods that were covered in plastic B. chemicals placed on the hair to induce curling C. the system of winding and holding the hair on a former which was inserted into a heater

6. How often did women in the 1930’s get their hair permed? A. once a year B. every six months C. once every three months

7. The precursor to today’s modern perm was called A. regular wave B. cold wave C. constant curl

8. The method that became the modern day perm was first used in what year? A.1942 B. 1951 C. 1938

9. What percentage of modern women color their hair? A. 65% B. 50% C. 45%

10. At what age does the average woman begin coloring her hair? A. 21 B. 18 C. 25

In my novel, Mama's Shoes,the character Sassy gets the shock of her young life when she finds out her Mama, Sylvia, colors her hair. Sassy has heard the women who frequent the Cut and Curl Beauty Shop, where her Mama works, ask Sylvia to color their hair the same auburn color she wears. Sassy has also heard her Mama say time and time again, "Honey, this color don't come from a bottle."

No doubt Sylvia was living by the now-famous catchphrase by Clairol, “Does she…or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure."

How did you do??? Leave me a comment with your score!!

Answers: 1.c 2.b 3.b 4.b 5.c 6.c 7.b 8.c 9.a 10.b

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Close your eyes. Now think back to your past hairstyles. Are you smiling? Or are you cringing at the memory of that perm that went SO wrong? Now, go way back, let’s say, to your high school prom. How did you wear your hair? Did you go to the beauty shop?

I literally grew up in a beauty shop. My mother was a beautician (as they were called in the 60’s), and I probably spent as much or more time at a beauty shop than I did at my own home. It’s no wonder my first novel is set in a little coal mining town where everything you wanted to know about anybody (and a whole lot you didn’t) could be found out at the beauty shop.

My mother became a beautician when she was just eighteen. She began working right after WWII started. Wasn’t she beautiful?

It was her beauty, style, and grace that I gave to my novel's main character Sylvia (but that’s the only characteristics they share!)

Apparently, when I came along, my mother didn't have much hair to work with until I was almost three.

Growing up, I had the usual short haircut with the standard bangs that my mother ALWAYS cut too short. My sister, who was eight years older than me, had the classic style for a teenager of the 60’s. I can remember sitting in the bathroom, watching her fix her hair. First, she would take the curlers out of her hair, second, she would hold up clumps of it and tease it until it stood straight up. When she got it to stand up all over head so that it looked like she’d just been struck by lightning, then she took her comb and smoothed it back down. To my amazement, it looked beautiful! Next came the hairspray assault. When she started spraying Aqua Net (for hard to hold hair) I would run out of the bathroom before she asphyxiated me.

My high school days were in the late seventies, and I wore my hair long and straight. The fact that my hair had a slight wave in it could be easily remedied with my mother’s clothes iron. I would kneel and spread my hair over the ironing board. My sister would cover my hair with a towel and then proceed to iron it with my mother’s iron. I even became adept at doing it myself when no one was around to do it for me. With the wonderful product “Sun-In” I could even create my own blonde highlights. Only we called them "streaks." There was a short time when I wore the “winged” back sides that Olivia Newton-John made popular.

In college, my hair was long and straight. I occasionally curled the ends with pink spongy hair curlers so that I could sleep in them without too much discomfort. It wasn't until after I married and later had my twins, that I cut my hair up to my shoulders. Through the years, it got shorter (and blonder), but I suppose all things come full circle. I now have my hair long again, at least until the next trip to the beauty shop.

What is the history of your hairstyles?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Books I Read in 2011

I decided to keep a record of the books I read in 2011, and frankly, I’m shocked I actually did it. Usually, I begin such a list and along about springtime, forget about it. But with the publication of my first book,Mama’s Shoes,in October, my life centered on books this year (more than usual).

Every author knows, that to be a better writer you must be an avid reader. It’s important to read what others are writing in your genre, but don’t restrict yourself to that genre. Read a wide variety of genres and authors, and don’t forget the classics. Those novels you found so boring in high school get more interesting as you get older – well, most of the time.

To be a better writer, you must read like a writer. Silas House, author of many brilliant works such as his young adult novel, Eli the Good says, “Read like an animal.” Think about it! An animal makes use of its senses at all times. It sees, hears, smells, and feels what we can’t. We should use all of our senses to get the most out of the words on the page. The better reader we are the better writer we become.

Here is my 2011 list of books I read or reread.

Bloodroot by Amy Greene
The Condition by Jennifer Haigh
This Rock by Robert Morgan
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Eventide by Kent Haruf
The Quickening by Michelle Hoover
Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy
This Much is True by Wally Lamb
Chinaberry by James Still
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Room by Emma Donoghue
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larrson
Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
Black Mountain Breakdown by Lee Smith
The Day the Dogbushes Bloomed by Lee Smith
On Writing by Stephen King
The Scarlet Thread by Doris Betts
Christy by Catherine Marshall
The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gilmore
All the Living by C.E. Morgan
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children by Ransom Riggs
The Typist by Michael Knight
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman
Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Cataloochee by Wayne Caldwell
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Night Woods by Charles Frazier
Return to Cold Sassy by Olive Ann Burns
Hunger Games II Catching Fire
Hunger Games III The Mockingjay
Rescue by Anita Shreve
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

If I was pressed to pick my favorite book from this list, it would be Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, simply because I loved it on a myriad of levels. After I saw the movie, I read it again to make sure I got every ounce of energy from it. The only other book I can put in that category was The Typist by Michael Knight. The characters in that book were so complex and their conflict was riveting. Room by Emma Donoghue was, by far, the most emotionally wrenching book I read, second only to Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. I couldn’t read Room before going to bed because I couldn’t sleep for worrying about what was going to happen to the mother and her son.

Even though I don’t usually read science fiction, I read the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and loved every word. I know that part of the reason is that I adored the strong female protagonist, who was beautiful, smart, and brave. I also enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children by Ransom Riggs. It created a wonderful fantasy world, and I was happy to spend time there. I also enjoyed the Stieg Larrson thrillers; here again I relished a strong female protagonist.
I can’t stop without mentioning how much I loved Plainsong and Eventide by Kent Haruf. Even though his were Midwest tales, they struck the same cord with me as the books about Appalachia from this list that are so dear to my heart. It was an incredible thrill to read Chinaberry by James Still, a genuine gift from Still via Silas House, ten years after Still’s death.

Each book I read enriched my writing in some way. And don't forget the audio book! I have Amy Greene's Bloodroot and Stephen Kings', On Writing, on CD and listen to them over and over. I’ve already started my 2012 list by rereading Lee Smith’s classic Fair and Tender Ladies. I can’t think of a better way to kick off my new list.