Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Plot of the New Book Thickens

December 17, 2008
I posted here a few months about about the publication of my new book, the one you see pictured. I was excited to have completed it--I thought in time for Christmas publication--and expected to be in Fairhope early in November for booksignings.

Things do not always go as expected. There was a snag somewhere. I had misunderstood the publisher's timeline. Or just maybe they had misunderestimated their own ability to get the thing in print fast. I'm now expecting to have a book in my hand in early January, and to be signing copies of it at Page & Palette January 24 from 2-4 P.M. Thicker than the first book, it will be hard cover, and will retail for about $25.

The Fair Hope of Heaven is similar to Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree. It has some of the same chapters--most expanded to include more information--and a lot of new ones. It deals with the history of Fairhope, with chapters about Clarence Darrow and Upton Sinclair, along with some about other interesting Fairhope characters like Dian Stitt Arnold who rode horses and raised six children and always wore miniskirts and cowboy boots and Willard Edwards who moved his family to Stalin's Russia during the Great Depression, finding Fairhope not Socialistic enough.

I'll get the publicity out, am putting together a new website, and will be seeing you at the bookstore. Update: The Fair Hope of Heaven is available at or on my website.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Man in My Garage II

December 5, 2008

Before I left Fairhope I participated in the 100th anniversary reunion of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education, one of the city's venerable and venerated institutions. People flocked to town from all over the country to celebrate the lives they had lived and thank the school itself for all the possibilities that had been opened for them.

I obliged one of them, Rupert Schmitt, by putting him up in the spare room in my garage. At the recent reunion of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education, a.k.a. The Organic School, people came into Fairhope from all over. I expected to have a couple sharing one of the little bedrooms upstairs in my cottage, a student teacher in the other, and a man living in the little room at the back of the garage for the duration. The only one who could make it was Rupert.

Playing hostess to him as well as partaking of all the events of the reunion weekend and giving something of a lecture at one of them (plus reading a chapter from Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree at another) gave an offbeat dimension to my participation in the proceedings.

He turned out to be in some ways typical as a product of our unconventional school, but for the main part, a man like no other. He likes to go which ever way the wind blows him, and this has taken his windblown persona in many directions. A delightful raconteur and observer of details, he carried big blank notebooks with him wherever he went, asked questions of everybody, and wrote down almost every damn thing anybody said. He was quick with a quip, but quizzical about many of the answers he got. I had a wonderful time with him.

Now Rupert has published a book of poetry called The Interview. I commend it to you. Written by an observer of animals and nature, it has cat poems, bird poems, leaf poems, and poems about his family and his outlook on life.

As a writer, Rupert is whimsical, tangential, and utterly charming. He captures many facets of a life lived for its own sake, full of love and the adventure of small events and odd creatures. He looks at the world with wonder, humor, and sometimes anger. He is always original, not always 100 per cent satisfying -- but always delicious. The book can be ordered from or I searched for a Fairhope poem but found none, unless you count the overarching old-Fairhope tenet that nature is nearby and it is our fairest hope to do our best by it, a mood which pervades all the poems in his book. I'd like to think Rupert learned some of that at the Organic School.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A (Fairhope) Book Is Born

August 9, 2008

This blog was created to draw attention to a book I'd written about Fairhope which I thought related to the world at large. Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree was just printed and I'd put up a website to promote it. A few visit the web page every day, and even now a few come here having seen it. If you haven't yet visited the site, all you have to do is click on those blue words and read more about me and my book than you ever dreamed you wanted to know.

Although this blog came to discuss life in general, philosophy, art, love, and the afterlife, I still plug the book from time to time, and spend what time I do here writing about the Fairhope in my mind. My own life is unfolding its chapters in Hoboken, New Jersey, and I have a very active blog detailing my adventures there. Check it out!

In the meantime, also mentioned at length on this blog, I had written a second book about Fairhope called When We Had the Sky. Where Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree was a memoir of people I'd known in the 1950s in Fairhope, When We Had the Sky goes back in time to chronicle the Fairhope's founding days in which its visitors included Clarence Darrow and Upton Sinclair. It expands the first book and continues with memorabilia from Fairhope's past.

Not able to find a publisher for When We Had the Sky (it got super rejection notices from the University of Alabama Press and River City Publishing -- both suggesting it was an excellent book but that there would not be enough of a market for "another book about Fairhope" for them to put money into printing it) I let it go for a couple of years.

Then I moved to New Jersey and read a book called Utopia, New Jersey, which inspired me to combine the two books and put the story of Fairhope into the context of the spate of utopian communities that spawned it. I omitted the contributions of Robert E. Bell, who collaborated on Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree, wrote a new chapter on the Fairhope's utopian origins, and selected a few of the favorite other character sketches, put it together with When We Had the Sky, and have come up with a NEW BOOK.

I'm working with an online publisher with whom I'm working to get the book for sale in store -- and online, of course -- in time for Christmas.

Watch the Fairhope papers, y'all, for news of the new book. It will be entitled The Fair Hope of Heaven/A Hundred Years after Utopia, and will be bigger and far better than the sum of its parts, which is to say better than either of the other books. I guess it won't be better than both, but it will be better than either.

I'll be in Fairhope to hold booksignings, I hope in November. I look forward to seeing you then.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Captain's House Has New Owners

July 1, 2008

Yesterday the deed was done; numerous papers were signed, a check was signed and handed across the table (and deposited in the bank), and it's official. The house in Fairhope is no longer mine.

I live in Hoboken, New Jersey, for real.

It's a good feeling to be free of the worry that I may be paying taxes and various bills on that house for years to come. It's an even better feeling to have met the new owners and to have found them to be parents of three small children. They have plans to add a bathroom, which the house sorely needed, and to remodel the interior to suit their needs -- but they truly love what the house is and was and they know it's in the ideal location for Fairhope. They'll get to view the fireworks from there on the 4th (or at least to walk down the hill to the bluff and not have to drive around looking for a parkin space). They'll be able to walk their daughter to the K1 Center when she starts kindergarten in the fall. They'll allow their children to play outside without fear of traffic or kidnappers.

And I'll live in Hoboken, for real.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finding My Way to Fair Hope

June 21, 2008

Look out, Fairhope! I'm coming back for a week!

Wednesday afternoon I should be back in Fairhope; the captain's house has been sold, and I'm gonna be at the closing on June 30.

I decided to give myself a week to look around, check out old friends, and maybe even say goodbye. I have been away for seven months and with the sale of the house I can leave with impunity. In fact, I've already left with impugnity, but this trip offers me an almost final look around.

Notice how I said almost final? I have family in the place, and I've just completed a book about Fairhope, so there seems to be no end to it.

I published Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree in 2001, reprinted it in 2005, and finished a second book which I called When We Had the Sky -- also about Fairhope in the past -- and couldn't find a publisher. Reading a book called Utopia, New Jersey inspired me to rework both books, combining the two and adding more historical information about Fairhope's history as a utopian community.

I'll bring along a copy and see if it flies in Fairhope. Maybe I can find sponsors to pay for the publishing, and, if that happens, I'll be back in Fairhope many times to promote the book.

Maybe I'll see you in Fairhope this trip, or the next, or the next. Look for me.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Brad Pitt in Fairhope

April 7, 2008

A noticeable spike in readership of this blog Friday revealed that the attendants all used the search words "Brad Pitt in Fairhope."

I once posted on a mythical remake of Gone With the Wind, suggesting Pitt as a candidate for the role of Ashley Wilkes. I still think that's a pretty good idea. That mention of the actor was the only reason for those seeking information about Brad Pitt -- and possibly Angelina Jolie as well -- in Fairhope last week visited this blog.

Not knowing anything about whether or not the couple actually came to Fairhope (and not living anywhere near there any more) I made contact with a few who might know. Two out of three had heard nothing about it, but the third wrote, "Yes, he's here for the first Fairhope Film Festival and the rumor must be true, but I haven't seen the dude, but maybe I'll drop in on tonight's movie. He is probably here because the festival showed "Forgotten Coast" this afternoon at USABC, so, it's not really much of a stretch for him to come over from N.O. where he has a pad out on St. Charles."

Later the press got into the picture. Reporters sought out Pitt by following the leads they had gotten from others, but nobody had seen him.

If you came because you thought you'd learn more about Brad Pitt in Fairhope, I hate to disappoint you. If you know something I don't, please make a comment and enlighten me and my readers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

And a New Reader Sends Me a Valentine

February 13, 2008

Received this picture with a message attached from a reader who used to live in Fairhope and has bought a copy of my book. Message: "had to put the book down and take a sip.
'ghosts constantly confront me in fairhope'
more later..."

Ah, yes.