Imagine 40-plus authors and 100-plus readers/bookgroup members in one room. Now visualize them in hot pink, leopard print, and tiaras – all talking about books, reading, their favorite characters, their latest discoveries, and how those all those stories got writ, and you’ve got a rough idea. The genius brainchild of the incredible Kathy L. Murphy, the Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend is an annual celebration of readers, a total immersion in a world of fun and reading.
The set-up is simple: Every year, from Thursday through Saturday night of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, all these book people (which includes men, the Timber Guys) gather in the piney woods city of Nacogdoches, Texas (Texas’s first city!) for shared meals, chat, panel discussions, and parties. The fact that it’s a single-track event – all the events (save for one dinner) took place in the beautifully restored retro-chic Fredonia Hotel – means that everyone hears everything. And that means that after Jamie Ford’s emotional address or the panels on Southern Gothic or the stories of motherhood and adoption, it’s easy to turn to the person next to you and say, “Wow! Did you know that writer? What did you think about that?” Thus, conversations begin, and friendships are formed.
(The one off-site event – the Friday night Texas barbecue dinner – was right around the block at Mast Hall. That’s where we authors gathered, in costume as hippies [see the pic above] to go with this year’s theme of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” first to dine among ourselves, and then to greet and serve the readers – all while keynote speakers M.J. Rose and Randy Susan Myers had everyone in stitches.)
By the Saturday night Big Hair Ball – more costumes, each more outrageous than the last – we were all buddies – and that meant the dancing and jokes were wild! (Lorna Landvik’s salute to Kathy, almost a Mad Libs kind of mockumentary of how they *might have* met in a strange Central European republic, helped set the tone for sure.)
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I’d fit in with this crew at first. Not only am I a New Englander – a majority of the Pulpwood Queens are Southern – but Kathy’s bookclub choices tend toward historical fiction and the kind of relationship-based books that at one point were called “women’s fiction.” Yes, my World Enough is about relationships – and about my protagonist’s discovery that her memories and nostalgia are, at best, suspect – but there wasn’t a lot of crime fiction at the weekend. Still, I found the crew incredibly warm and welcoming. I had wonderful in-depth conversations with readers (Betty Hunt Koval, I’m looking at you), bloggers (Tonni Callan), authors (Romalyn Tilghman, Judithe Linse Little, Christa Allen, Laurel Davis Huber, Bren McClain), and dozens of others! (Excuse me if I left you out – I’m still a bit dazed.) And both Kathy and her right-hand woman, Tiajuana Anderson Neel, made sure that even this newbie felt at home. Yes, it’s a bit of a trek to get to Nacogdoches, but I honestly don’t know anything like it.
There’s more, of course – like the silent auction of author’s themed gift baskets to raise money for the Pat Conroy Literacy Center, the tiara and costume contests, and prizes given for some truly wonderful books (Bren McClain! Lisa Wingate!). Finally, as this year’s Girlfriend Weekend came to a close amid hugs and tears, the theme for next year was announced: How the West Was Won. Did I whet your appetite? Check out the PQ site at http://www.thepulpwoodqueens.com – early bird discounts are available. And maybe I’ll see you there again. This was one weekend, I’m never going to forget!