Pulpwood Queens – More than just a “Big Hair” Ball
It’s been two weeks since I returned from the Pulpwood Queens’ Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas. Much has been written already about this fun, inspiring weekend. Pictures have been posted for all the world to see. Is there really anything I can add? I can only try.
First of all, I feel incredibly blessed to have been part of such a magical time. This was my third time to attend, and I’ve experienced similar feelings each time. The weekend – touted as a place for book club members to meet and mingle with their favorite authors – is larger than all of that. It’s surprise. Engagement with old friends and new. Meaningful conversations. Out-of-this-world fun. Craziness. Tenderness. Laughter. And tears.
For those who don’t know, it starts with a Thursday night gathering where the authors serve plates of down-home Texas Barb-B-Q to the book club members who’ve just pulled into town, plopped tiaras on their heads and sashayed into the convention center dressed in their finest animal print outfits, animal print being the signature pattern for the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. Pink is the official PWQ color, so that’s plentiful, too. This year, the waiters (sometimes known as authors) were to come dressed as silent movie stars. From this picture you can tell which duck-walking film star was the most popular choice.
All day Friday and Saturday, authors sit on panels where they answer questions that Head Queen Kathy Patrick or Co-Moderators Robert Leleux and Michael Morris spring on them. This can be frightening, embarrassing, enlightening, or downright hilarious! The fun of it is that you never know what’s going to happen.
And you never know to what length some people will go to honor a friend. The book club from Kingwood, TX brought a life-sized cardboard cutout for member Susan who was unable to attend. She’d been looking forward to coming, but a cancer diagnosis and recent bone marrow transplant changed all that. So her club brought “Flat Susan”. Here a group of authors send their best PWQ love and prayers to Susan.
Every year Girlfriend Weekend has a theme. This year’s was The Gilded Age. Creativity sizzled for the costume events on Friday and Saturday nights. Jane Ryder, fascinator and hat designer extraordinaire, brought her creations which authors had the honor of wearing during a style show on Friday night. They were breath-taking – and here’s a little secret – Jane had no idea what we would be wearing, but somehow every fascinator went perfectly with our “dressed for the theater” Gilded Age outfits.
On Saturday night was the Big Hair Ball. Book clubs decorated their tables and came as characters from Out of Africa, Boardwalk Empire, ghosts of the Titanic, The Great Gatsby,and others. Writing chums Lisa Wingate, Kellie Gilbert, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Julie Cantrell, and I gave it our best as Gilded Age Bathing Beauties. Which only goes to show that sometimes you will do anything to make readers smile
The moon backdrop was in honor of the Pulpwood Queen Book of the Year, Man in the Blue Moon by Michael Morris. It is a stunning book. Michael gave a riveting luncheon presentation that benefited the Jefferson Methodist Youth Group. I’m so glad to call him friend and am humbled by his gracious endorsement of Sweet Dreams (May, 2013).
Fun. Books. Laughter. Costumes. Readers and authors. That in itself would be enough for a memorable weekend, but the strand that holds it all together is that ALL of this is done to promote literacy. The proceeds from a silent auction (items furnished by authors) go to the local Dolly Parton Imagination Library project. And every year, stories are told of book clubs who have ongoing literacy projects in their communities and beyond. A “Kat” Award is given to a person or club whose efforts have been extraordinary. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Alyse Urice from Golden, CO, received this year’s award. Through her non-profit Literacy and Hope, she has almost single-handedly started a library for an Indian Reservation school that had NO library. How? By collecting left-over books from library sales that were destined for the pulp mill. Her goal next year is to do the same for another school on a different reservation. Sharing books. Promoting literacy. Coming together for a fine weekend.
See why I have such a hard time describing Girlfriend Weekend? It’s almost more than my heart can hold. It inspires me to be a better writer, a better friend, a better person. I saw the hand of God in small ways and large. And I became a fan of readers who do more than I can even dream.
Thank you, Kathy Patrick. Thank you Pulpwood Queens!