Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Revisiting Heaven

I returned to Fairhope Monday for a business trip. The business was to promote my books about Fairhope: That Was Tomorrow and The Fair Hope of Heaven. It is not as peaceful as it used to be, but then, neither am I. I crowded my schedule with book signings, book talks, and meetings with various people who are interested in what I have to say about Fairhope's history and the story of the Organic School.

The first speech “Nostalgia and That Was Tomorrow” at the Fairhope Museum of History went better than I expected. Intrigued as I have been by a recent article in the New York Times about nostalgia, I gave my description of it--including the diagnosis of cowbells causing brain addlement, and how the young Swiss mercenary soldiers, missing their beloved homeland with its hillsides of cows and the soothing sounds of the bells, might well have been perfectly sane to yearn for a more pleasant time and place than war on foreign battlefields.

I read a little from The Fair Hope of Heaven, about the sky and the stars, the Fairhope I remembered fondly and the one I’d heard about from those who recalled the past. I read  from That Was Tomorrow about the young schoolteacher’s reaction to her first days in Fairhope, with my descriptions of the Fairhope of the day, the unpaved streets, the wandering children pulling satsumas off trees, the goats and chickens, the occasional eccentrics saying hello. Time travel to "Old Fairhope" is always rewarding. My audience seemed entranced, and I was heartened by what appears to be genuine interest in the topic, one upon which I can expound for hours.

Today I spoke at the Marietta Johnson Museum about the Organic School and Mrs. Johnson's commitment to education reform at the beginning of the 20th century. A large audience, (large to me, anyway, probably about 40 at one talk and 30 at the other) was stimulated to ask challenging questions and kept me on my toes. At both venues I sold some 20 books total--and there will be many more sold at the book signing at the indie bookstore (Page & Palette) Friday from 1-3.

I'll wind up my trip Sunday with a talk at the Unitarian Fellowship, and return to Albany (NY) Monday. I am having a wonderful visit and expect more surprises in days to come.

Will let you know as they happen.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Fairhope From Here

Fairhope is a world away from here, but I'll soon navigate that world and be there.

Where I am, New Paltz, New York, we call it a heat wave if we have three days in a row of temperatures over 90. In Fairhope, we called it summer--and it lasted from the end of May until at least the end of September. It was "cool" if the temperature went below 90. And humidity is another story. Summer is hot everywhere, but with humidity over 75 every day, it swelters in the South in a different way. I wasn't dry until I was in my 20s and moved to Atlanta.

I will spend a week in the heat and humidity of Fairhope, alleviated, I hope, not only by the ubiquity of air conditioning, but also by the joy of seeing old friends and talking with them about my book.   I wrote That Was Tomorrow from the perspective of a young woman who moves to Fairhope from New Jersey in 1921, before there was air conditioning, and she is constantly struck by the oppressive heat and humidity. My daughter, editing and proofreading the final draft, said, "Mom, you use the phrase 'heat and humidity' way too often!" I found ways to change it a few times, but could not imagine someone traveling to Fairhope for the first time--from the Northeast--not being confronted with the phenomenon of the heat/humidity of the region.

This time it's me. I try to restrain myself when people here in New York State complain about humidity. They can't take it. After 19 years back in Fairhope I learned to. I've been away for a couple of years and usually have the sense to return in the winter months. But this is something of a business trip.

That Was Tomorrow is available in paperback, and I'll be in Fairhope from July 15-22 to introduce it to the town where it was born. My schedule is:

2 P.M. July 16 -- Tea at the Fairhope Museum
3 P.M. July 17 -- Book talk at the Marietta Johnson Museum
1 P.M. July 19 -- Book signing at Page & Palette
11 A.M. July 21 -- "Fairhope Then and Now" at Unitarian-Universalist meeting

I can take the heat and humidity--thanks to air conditioning and the purpose of the trip. I hope Fairhope loves my novel as much as it loves Fairhope!