april 20, 2018

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“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


two gooduns’


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.


old friends


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. 

april 19, 2018

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“It is not what we get. But who we become, what we contribute… that gives meaning to our lives.” ~ Tony Robbins


pleasents (Hipstamatic)


These things right here topped off a wonderful evening adventure at Apollo Pizza in Richmond with most of the Happiness Gals. I’m exhausted, in a good way, but there will be more about this fabulous night in another post. Suffice it to say, I’ve had a string of fantastic days here lately. Throw Ronni Lundy and Robert Gipe into the mix, and I’m feeling pretty dang happy. 

may 31, 2015

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain


two great folks (snapseed)
two great folks (snapseed)


I found out my friend Robert Gipe, author of Trampoline, was reading today at Morris Book Shop. Annie Bassoni agreed to meet me there. We enjoyed Robert’s easy manner as he brought his characters to life with his natural southern mountain drawl. I even ran into Nick Stump whom I hadn’t seen in more than a month of Sundays. In fact, every time I see Robert lately I also see other favorite people I haven’t seen in a really long time. I’m beginning to think he’s my good luck charm. Did I mention that Trampoline is a wonderful book? He did the illustrations, too, which I find a real addition to the story. Afterward, Annie confessed that she had never attended a reading before today. Well, that just made me proud as could be, that she would make Robert her first. She’s recently taken to reading a lot of Appalachian writers, so who better to introduce her to the joys of hearing an author sing their words than a tall, smart man from the mountains of Virginia? I call this a winning day.


lefty (snapseed)
lefty (snapseed)

march 28, 2015

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“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” ~ Vince Lombardi


done (Errol and Stewart)


Today felt like Old Home Day. I ran into friends I haven’t seen and spoken with, in some cases, for close to twenty years. Meanwhile, I met and made new friends, too. As you can see from Errol’s smile above, we survived our presentations. They were sort of in the middle of my exciting day. Lots of great things happened before and after that. Here’s a brief list of what happened.


Rich and Brett
Rich and Brett


It started when I met up with Jeanne Marie (JM) Hibbard at lunch, but first, we cornered old pal and writer Robert Gipe (below in green) to say hello and have him sign my copy of his latest book titled Trampoline. I’ve known this sweet, sweet man for decades, and it was so good to reconnect. JM and I had a good, long talk over lunch during which she introduced me to her colleague, Brett Ratliff, who, as it turns out, knows all my favorite people like Pam and Jim Bob Meade. I ran into Brett a little later as I was talking to distant cousin and all around great guy Rich Kirby. Incidentally, both Rich and Brett are fantastic musicians. Then, I was off to see Jim Webb (below in hat) who regaled me with stories galore as only Jim can do. I also had him sign his book, Get In Jesus. He threw in a plastic cup and coozie (sp?) from Wiley’s Last Resort. I told him it was my lucky day and I was going to buy a lottery ticket! My night ended with new friends and colleagues Stewart Plein and Lori Hostuttler at the Ricky Skaggs show. I skipped out at the first encore to make the last three minutes of the UK/Notre Dame game. That last 30 seconds was enough to do me in. Thank goodness they won. I’m telling you, this was a most excellent day start to finish. And how lucky am I to have all these completely awesome people in my life? Pretty daggone lucky!


the gang's all here
the gang’s all here