Stephanie Tyson speaks at UCF Book Festival March 31, 2012

As one of Florida’s premier literary events, the UCF Book Festival features renowned national and local authors, book signings and sales, exhibits, book appraisals, and special children’s activities. This year, they invited Stephanie L. Tyson, author of Well, Shut My Mouth! The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook. She’ll appear with Nathalie Dupree March 31, 2012, at 3 p.m., for the panel “Southern Cooking at its Best: Biscuits, Sweet Potatoes and More.” Just talking about it makes our mouths water!

Born in North Carolina, Chef Tyson spent countless hours dreaming of leaving for the bright lights of anywhere else. But once she left to travel and cook around the world, she could not believe what a relief it was to come home again. Trained in culinary arts at Baltimore International College, Chef Tyson opened her award-winning restaurant with her partner Vivián Joiner in 2003 in the downtown Arts District of Winston-Salem, where they live.

Well, Shut My Mouth! The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook is recipes—recipes from the Sweet Potatoes restaurant, recipes from the families of Chef Stephanie Tyson and co-owner Vivian Joiner, recipes that are Southern, plain and simple. But beyond the how-to’s for Gullah Shrimp and Crab Pilau, Cheerwine-Glazed Country Ham, and other lip-smacking dishes, this soul food cookbook is also the history of the two women who started a locally and nationally acclaimed restaurant. As Tyson says in her introduction, “Every part of me is a part of Sweet Potatoes.” In Well, Shut My Mouth! she shares a culinary experience that has been a favorite of Winston-Salem natives and visitors for years, allowing readers and patrons to recreate it in their own kitchens.

View the entire festival schedule here. And if you can’t make it to Orlando, perhaps Stephanie’s sweet potato biscuits will tide you over? Nancie McDermott, chef in her own right, shared her thoughts on the recipe here.

Book launch: Melinda Rainey Thompson, author of “I’ve Had It Up to Here with Teenagers”

Are your teens driving you crazy? Then join Melinda Rainey Thompson at her book launch in Homewood, Alabama, this week:

Thompson’s three teenagers bury her under an Everest of laundry. They send her for groceries so often that she once heard a store employee cry, “Incoming!” They leave such a quantity of half-eaten sandwiches around their rooms as to provide a buffet for roaches. They complain for hours about 10-minute chores. They spend their parents’ money like it magically regenerates and hoard their own like it’s the last dose of the elixir of life.

To put it another way, they’re typical teens.

In her inimitable style, Thompson makes I’ve Had It Up to Here with Teenagers both a humorous rant against teens and a celebration of seeing them rise from the ashes of battle to become well-adjusted, responsible humans. “Parental love is fierce and illogical,” she writes. “I think it is the strongest force on earth. It trumps everything, thank God: sleepless nights, hard stadium seats, endless recitals, broken hearts, losing seasons, throw-up viruses, bad grades, poor choices, and everything else life throws at teenagers and their parents.”

You’ll find printed copies of this book’s reading guide at the launch event. (It’s perfect for book clubs!) If you can’t see the invitation above, here are the details:

Thursday, March 2, 4 – 6 p.m.
Alabama Booksmith
2626 19th Place South
Homewood, AL 35209

Judy Goldman spills on the real “Mad Men”

When we found out that our author Judy Goldman whose memoir Losing My Sister will be released in October worked as a secretary and ad copywriter in New York City during the 1960s, we had to ask if she’d write a little guest blog for us as a celebration of Mad Men‘s upcoming series premier. (It’s this Sunday, March 25, at 9 p.m., for those of you living under a rock.) For anyone who can’t get enough martinis, cigarettes, skinny ties, and bouffant hairdos on the show, you have to read about the real thing. Enjoy!

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The Original Mad Men

By Judy Goldman

            1965, post-college, post-teaching English in Atlanta for two years, I planned to move to NYC with a friend — a long journey from my childhood in Rock Hill, SC.  Just before we were to leave, though, she called to say she’d decided to get married instead.  Uncharacteristically, I went on alone — and landed at the Barbizon Hotel for Women, a very proper place that was also home to girls from Katherine Gibbs, the secretarial school where students wore white gloves to class.  My room was so tiny I could lie in bed and open the door.

I wanted a glamour job, and got one — at  Filmex, which made TV commercials.  I was assistant to a production assistant.  So it wasn’t so glamorous.  At $70 a week, I could cash my paycheck on the bus.

When ad agency execs came to view their commercials, my job switched to bartender.  I still remember the pamphlet I had to memorize — how to make a vodka gimlet.  A Manhattan.  Black Russian.  I could tend bar and engage in small talk at the same time.  Be friendly, honey!  Me, in my sheath dress and three-inch heels, brown hair streaked with blonde.

Judy Goldman and her bouffant

Judy, in her sheath dress and three-inch heels, brown hair streaked with blonde, at the switchboard.

Every day at lunch, I relieved the switchboard operator.  Once, a guy in the studio called:  “Honey, we’re having trouble with the sound system.  Would you count to ten over the loudspeaker?”

I went slow.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.  Seven.  Eight.  Nine.  Ten.

From where I sat at the front desk, I could hear the crew laughing.  What was so funny?

Another call.  “Sweetheart, we’ve just about got it figured out.  Count again.”

That’s when I figured it out.  My slow, Southern syllables.

I didn’t stay at Filmex long.  Who wanted to work at a place where the guys never learned your name?  The ad agency people seemed more my type; I especially liked the copywriters.  And, I’d always loved to write.  Copywriting seemed the obvious next step.  Of course, the route to any good job for a woman began in the secretarial pool.

Next, Ogilvy & Mather — secretary to copywriters.  Then:  junior copywriter at Benton & Bowles.  Two of us were hired the same day.  We were told that the head of the agency was betting on me to surface first; the VP was betting on the other gal.  I envied her.  The VP was better-looking.

One month in, the other gal left to get married.  Not to the VP.  He was already married.  Which, at times, didn’t really seem to matter.

It was up to me.  During the day, I wrote ads for Vick’s Cough Syrup.  Evenings, all those office parties.

Just before I’d started at Benton & Bowles, I flew home to see my parents, and my sister fixed me up on a blind date.  Home again for date #2.  He drove his Volkswagen Beetle to New York — date #3.  That’s when we got engaged.

Three months after the head of Benton & Bowles bet on me, I left to get married.

I didn’t know then what I know now.  That the life I’d lived for two years would one day be a TV program.

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Judy Goldman is the author of two novels, Early Leaving and The Slow Way Back, and two books of poetry. Her new memoir, Losing My Sister, will be published in October 2012.

Her work has been published in Real Simple magazine, and in many literary journals—including Kenyon Review, Southern Review, Ohio Review, Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner—as well as in numerous anthologies. Her commentaries have aired on public radio and she teaches at writers’ conferences throughout the country. She received the Fortner Writer and Community Award for “outstanding generosity to other writers and the larger community.” She’s also the recipient of the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, the Mary Ruffin Poole Award for First Fiction, the Gerald Cable Poetry Prize, the Roanoke-Chowan Prize for Poetry, the Oscar Arnold Young Prize for Poetry, and the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize for Poetry.  Judy lives with her husband in Charlotte, North Carolina.

On this day in 1974: A March Madness highlight for the history books

So how are your brackets doing? It seems like when I pick the upsets, they don’t happen, and when I pick the favorites, they fall like dominoes. But I digress.

Now that things are heating up in the NCAA tournament, we thought we’d take a moment to look back on a March Madness highlight from 1974. The following is excerpted from Instant Replay: 365 Days of North Carolina Sports Trivia, by Jimmy Tomlin.

March 23, 1974

North Carolina State, led by stars David Thompson and Tommy Burleson, snaps UCLA’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA championships with a thrilling 80-77 double-overtime win over the Bruins in a national semifinal game at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Wolfpack, coached by Norm Sloan, overcomes an 11-point deficit in the second half and a 7-point deficit in the second overtime to defeat John Wooden’s Bruins, led by Bill Walton and Keith Wilkes. Thompson finishes with 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Burleson scores 20 and grabs 14 rebounds. Point guard Monte Towe clinches the win by sinking a pair of free throws with 12 seconds remaining.

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Instant Replay: 365 Days of North Carolina Sports Trivia by Jimmy Tomlin

In Instant Replay, Jimmy Tomlin covers the state’s entire sports landscape—from tennis and track to football and fighting to hockey and horse racing—with anecdotes for every day of the year that transcend mere box scores.

While the book documents the unforgettable exploits of some of the state’s best-known athletes—Michael Jordan, Richard Petty, Catfish Hunter, and Choo-Choo Justice, just to name a few—it also tells the compelling stories of more obscure athletes, such as the high-school baseball player who homered five times in a single game and the slow-pitch softball stud who slugged more than 6,000 homers in his career. Tomlin revisits many of the state’s famous sports moments, like the year the Rose Bowl was played in Durham, but he also includes lesser-known moments, like the time a professional basketball player’s monstrous dunks shattered two backboards in the same game and the day a fisherman caught a record catfish with a Barbie fishing pole. Interspersed throughout the book are interesting sidebars detailing the state’s links to the careers of sports legends like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Rocky Marciano.

After reading Instant Replay, even the most diehard North Carolina sports fan will come away with a deeper appreciation for the state’s athletic heritage—and likely learn something new in the process.

Join us at Words Awake!

Words Awake! Wake Forest University

Join us at Words Awake! this weekend, March 23 through 25, at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. This festival celebrates generations of Wake Forest writers who will return to their alma mater to engage the campus, alums, public schools, and broader community.

Words Awake! will look back to Wake Forest writers of the past; hear the work of current writers; debate the nature of writing today and tomorrow; and honor writers important to the heritage of writing at the University.  Attendees include poets, screenwriters, novelists, journalists, critics, and nonfiction authors who share and shape that legacy.  If you ever wanted to learn from Frances O’Roark Dowell, best-selling children’s book author; Malcolm Jones, Newsweek book critic; or Ben Brantley, chief theater critic of The New York Times, this is your chance! The event is free and open to the public.

Blair editor Steve Kirk will be exhibiting on the fourth floor of the Benson Student Center Saturday. Make sure you stop by to say hello, buy a book, or pick up our manuscript guidelines (sorry folks, but he can’t take manuscripts at the event). Then pop by some of the panels or readings–I’d suggest you hear Eric Ekstrand (a friend and fellow alum) read from his poetry collection at 3:15 p.m. in Benson 401B. Find out who else is attending here and see the full schedule here.

Go Deacs!

National Book Critics Circle fiction prize goes to Edith Pearlman

It’s official: short story author Edith Pearlman took the big fiction prize at the National Book Critics Circle awards last night for her book Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories, a collection of 34 Chekhov-like short stories that was also nominated for the National Book Award. The publication is the first from Lookout Books and a triumph for Pearlman’s distinctive storytelling, bringing it to a larger audience. Congrats to Edith and Lookout Books!

EW.com had this to say about Edith’s achievement:

Book awards, unlike film awards, can be wildly unpredictable and frequently go in favor of the author with the least buzz — in November, the National Book Award for fiction went to Jesmyn Ward for Salvage the Bones, arguably the least known of the nominated titles. I was predicting that the NBCC would go to Teju Cole, a young, New Yorker-anointed author who wrote about a Nigerian immigrant in Open City. But Pearlman’s meticulously crafted sentences dazzled critics when Binocular Vision was released last year with little fanfare from Lookout Books, an imprint of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Binocular Vision is the first book to be nominated for the National Book Award, the Story Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the same year.

The three finalists for the Story Prize, an annual award for books of short fiction chosen from among a field of 92 books that 60 different publishers or imprints submitted in 2011, are: The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo, We Others by Steven Millhauser, and Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman. The winner will be announced March 21, 2012.

We’re so thrilled for Edith and her publisher, Lookout Books!

Check here for the full list of last night’s winners.

This Women’s History Month, Orlean Puckett is a 2012 Virginia Women in History Honoree

Mountain midwife Orlean Puckett (1844-1939) endured many trials during her lifetime. A bride at the age of 16, she had given birth to and buried 24 babies by the time she was in her mid-thirties. When John Puckett, her husband, deserted the Civil War, Orlean was besieged by Home Guard Troops. Still, she secretly carried food to John and others who hid out near her home. Orlean became a midwife when she was 45 years of age. During the next 49 years, she successfully delivered over a thousand babies.

Orlean Puckett: The Life of a Mountain Midwife (Parkway Publishers), by Karen Cecil Smith, is the only biography of this fascinating woman. Traveling on foot or by horse, Orlean never failed to make her way to a birthing. When ice covered the mountain paths, she hammered nails into the soles of her shoes to assure proper footing. A year after Orlean “caught” her last baby, construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway forced her from her home. Three weeks later, at the age of 95, she died. You can view the marker honoring the life of this remarkable woman now stands at milepost 189.9 along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway.

Thanks to her heroic actions in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Orlean Puckett left her mark on the people she worked and lived with and the generations following. This year, she is celebrated as a Virginia Women in History honoree by the Library of Virginia.

Women have played an integral part in Virginia from its beginnings, yet their contributions have often been overlooked in the history books. Until well into the twentieth century, written histories tended to focus on the historically male-dominated fields of government and politics, the military, and large-scale landholding to the virtual exclusion of all other venues of leadership or achievement. They ignored women’s critical roles as wives, mothers, educators, nurses, lay leaders, farmers, artists, writers, reformers, pioneers, business leaders, laborers, and community builders. But this National Women’s History Month, join us in celebrating these Women in History Honorees. Visit the Virginia Women in History website for more information.