“I have found that among others benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” ~ Maya Angelou
If I’m not mistaken, many years ago, Andrea and Erin were roomies when they were both going through UK’s undergraduate theater program. Look at this top photo. Don’t they look like they’re in the throes of some serious thespian dialog? Both women are so expressive. They’re expressive in their faces, actions, voices. They’re eat up with expression! And it’s a real travesty that I don’t get to hang with Andrea very much (because she lives in NKY raising an NBA team). Everybody loves Big A, and rightfully so. She’s one in a million, just like Erin. No wonder they’re still BFFs after all this time.
These three friends – Erin Chandler, Andrea Sayer Brooke, Stacy Yelton – go back over 30 years. I love seeing my old friends, and I take great joy in seeing other old friends reconnect. It makes me feel hopeful.
I had the honor of celebrating Erin Chandler’s trip around the sun with her and some of the most interesting women I know. Seriously: every woman at the table had an inspiring story of life. Erin, being one of these women, made her own birthday dinner and had party gifts for her guests which included a book she personally chose for each of us. I was really touched by these acts of kindness. It’s a very cool thing to do to entertain people you love on your birthday. We laughed, we talked, we ate hearty, and most importantly, we spent quality time with Erin who looked more beautiful than I’ve seen her in a long time. She inspires me every day and I’m incredibly proud of the work she’s doing these days. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for her because her light continues to shine brightly in our world. Happy Birthday, Erin. I love you from the bottom of my heart and I’m proud to be your friend.
These gals tickle me. We’ve been talking about dieting this week. Almost all of us Happiness Gals are trying to drop a few pounds. Thanks to Weight Watchers – again – I’ve dropped ten pounds in the last three weeks, even after Apollo Pizza (Did I mention their cauliflower crust? It’s a must for the dieting gal). Deb has since gotten on the WW train, and Erin is thinking about it. Weight Watchers ought to pay me commission I do so much advertising for them. We Happiness gals make our own support group though. We’re supportive and entertaining.
Apollo Pizza in Richmond is a groovy little pizza and beer joint that also happens to have a big brain. Their Pages and Pints gatherings feature a variety of local and regional authors who read from their works while patrons enjoy pizza on handmade crust, or cauliflower crust if you need to go gluten-free, or in my case, you’re on a diet. A bunch of us Happiness Gals met last night to hear readings from Ronni Lundy, author of the James Beard Foundation Award winning Victuals, and my old friend Robert Gipe whom you met back in March 2015 signing his first book Trampoline. Here’s a great little video of Robert talking about Trampoline and how he came to create it. You ought to watch it. Last night he read from the second of his trilogy released last month called Weedeater.
In virtually every writing class I’ve had the subject of writing an accent, specifically a mountain or southern dialect, always comes up, and without fail everyone says the same thing: don’t do it because it inevitably reads like a bad face job looks. It’s extremely rare to find a writer who can make it work. But there’s one writer who can and it’s Robert Gipe. His books are transformative in several ways, not the least of which is his ability to stay true to the regional vernacular without losing his reader or making the characters sound devoid of intellect. Plus, if you ever have the chance to hear him read his work, take it. You will be changed. And ask him to read his ghost sex scene (tell him I told you to ask). His brilliant words will make you howl with laughter, raise an eyebrow, and most importantly, think hard about the lives and circumstances of his characters. He just gets better all the time. I’m real proud of him.
Then there’s Ronni Lundy. She’s sweet as the day is long. I heard her read for the first time last night, and what a delight she was. Though Victuals is touted as a cookbook, it’s far from your run-of-the-mill Betty Crocker tome. The description reads; “Victuals is an exploration of the foodways, people, and places of Appalachia. It explores the surprisingly diverse history–and vibrant present–of food in the Mountain South through recipes, stories, traditions, and innovations.” Ronni’s insights into how food is a gateway into the larger Appalachian culture is as thought provoking as any prose out there. I’m a fan for sure. Remember I said last night was awesome? Robert and Ronni are just two reasons why.
I finally made it to Erin’s new venture in downtown Versailles; Rabbit House Books and Notions. She always wanted to open a bookstore, and by dern she did it. I love that about her so much. It’s an absolutely adorable space with a great selection of new and used books. She’s gearing up for chakra workshops, essential oil workshops, and yoga. She’s already offering acting and writing workshops. It’s all fantastically forward thinking; right up my alley. Plus, she’s perfectly located with easy access and great parking. Tonight was Rabbit House’s first author reading. Erin hosted an open mic prior to inaugural author, Courier Journal columnist and soon-to-be Spalding University grad, Taylor Riley. I adore Erin, and I’m tickled as can be to watch her follow her dreams. She inspires me every day. It was a great way to spend a cold, rainy Saturday evening.
Like yesterday’s photo where we saw Harriette and Silas meet the first time, here we see the moment when Erica Chambers and I met. This is sometimes what it looks like when photographers meet. She was a pure delight.
Erica and I have a lot in common. The more she talked, the more I felt like I was meeting my younger self, but a much nicer version. It was very trippy actually. We’re both photographers, and both use Canon. We’re both musicians. At least we play different instruments. We’re both from Eastern Kentucky, neighboring counties no less. It’s uncanny how similar we seem to be. If Erica was older we probably would have met sooner. Leave it to Erin Chandler to connect people. Erica designed Erin’s book for which she used one of my photos on the back cover. We were destined to meet. As if meeting wasn’t enough, she was kind enough to snap the bottom photo of Deb Chenault, Erin, and I. If only Stacy Yelton had been in it we’d have the original Happiness Girls foursome. It was a great day and I feel like I made a real friend in Erica.
Erin Chandler held her book release party today at The Cabin; her home in Versailles that’s a central character in her story. The Cabin was built as a gift to her grandfather, Gov. Happy Chandler, by the state. It was bequeathed to Erin’s dad, Dan. He is the youngest child in the photo taken at the Governor’s mansion hanging over the desk. It’s a beautiful photograph published in last week’s Ace article about Erin’s book, and inaccurately attributed to me. Though I wish I could take the credit, I’m not old enough…for once. Ha! Erin’s party was wonderful of course; packed full of people that adore her, and rightfully so. I had the chance to meet some really wonderful people today, and catch up with others I haven’t seen in a while. I never go to one of Erin’s parties that I don’t come away having met some of the most interesting people on the planet. I enjoyed watching her sign copy after copy of her memoir that I just finished reading yesterday. I can’t say enough about it, and not because we’re friends, but because it is a deeply compelling story. I’m extraordinarily proud of her.
Finally, after ten long years of work, Erin Chandler has published her memoir. She graced me with the opportunity to read an early draft some years ago, and let me tell you, even then it was an engrossing, heart-tug of a read. I got my copy of the real thing today, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it’s finished glory. I’m incredibly proud of Erin, and in awe of her determination to see this project through. She is one of the strongest, most compassionate, creative, driven woman I’ve ever known. It is a true honor to call her my friend.