A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend (my fourth time) and have been anxious to share my thoughts. Inspired by the biggest football game of the year, it occurred to me there might be a few similarities between the Super Bowl and the most beloved book event of the year – the 14th Annual Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas.
HYPE: For months, Pulpwood Queen Book Club readers bite their nails in anticipation waiting for the line-up of authors. Will their favorite be among them? Tension mounts as Kathy Murphy (formerly Patrick) announces the final program and schedule of events. Television stars! New York Times Best Sellers! An international author from Paris, France! A night with Elvis! Attendees make plans. Wannabe attendees vow that NEXT year, they will be there. There are hints about costumes and auction items. People program their phones for weather reports.
THE KICK-OFF: Opening night is a night of Rock and Roll as authors serve heaping plates of barbecue to the readers who’ve traveled from near and far and are ready to start the party. The author line-up is announced, every author getting a moment on stage to give a shout out about his or her book, and the crowd cheers!
THE ANNOUNCERS: Veteran Kathy Murphy handles the master of ceremonies duties with charm and enthusiasm, but for the author panel interviews, she pulls in color commentators for assistance. And not a single person gasps or thinks it odd that humorist and historian John Pritchard wears a tiara and promotes World Peace as he formulates probing questions for the authors – authors who are not privy to the questions beforehand and must come up with fascinating response on the spot.
THE STARS OF THE GAME: I’m not talking about quarterbacks and tailbacks and kickers here, but the authors and celebrities who have foregone the filled stadium to come to a small town and share their stories. One of the keynote speakers this year was actress and singer Gloria Loring (of Days of Our Lives fame). A lovely, humble woman who saw that the caterers on opening night were short-handed. She pulled up a chair and started dishing up baked beans and potato salad. I knew this lady was a “Star” in the truest sense of the word. The entire roster of keynoters was stellar – Jamie Ford, Melanie Benjamin, Cassandra King, and Katharine Pacol. But wait, there’s more!
THE COMMERCIALS: Everyone knows the best part of the “big game” is the commercials, right? Authors got the chance on the fore-mentioned author panels to throw out their best sound bites about their books to entice the readers to pick up a copy. This is one of those “anything can happen” parts of the weekend where authors bare their souls and may have the audience in tears one minute or rolling in the aisles with laughter the next.
THE HALF-TIME SHOW: Again, much hype, but on Friday night – the halfway point of Girlfriend Weekend – Josh Davis, an immensely talented young man, had everyone swooning with his tribute to Elvis!
Now that the “big game” is over, I can’t tell you a single play that was memorable, but I can tell you story after story about conversations I had at Girlfriend Weekend with readers and countless ways I was inspired to be a better writer, to mine the depths of my soul and pursue that one idea that is begging to be turned into a story.
THE FINAL SCORE: Here’s the best part. For the Pulpwood Queens there are no losers. Everyone comes away a winner. New friends. Treasured memories. And piles of books that will call out to us over the next year. And as I delve into the pages of one, I’ll smile, remembering that I met the author, that we shared a meal or had a brief conversation. And somewhere, I hope that a precious reader has picked up my book and remembers the connection we made or the words we spoke.
I love you, readers, and I’m forever grateful to you Kathy Murphy, for the honor of being a Pulpwood Queen author!