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Tag: Tracking Happiness chickens

Tracking Happiness: Chapter 12

This is CHAPTER 12 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

Ok. Last we left off: Lucinda had suddenly realized that she herself might have led folks to believe her dead dad was involved in the drug scandal. She did NOT spew mashed potatoes all over the Gminsky’s dining table, but she almost did.

You might wonder in reading this chapter, how the word “quest” came to be in a modern fiction novel. Truth tell, it’s from Don Quixote. During the LONG period when I was writing this novel, I read Don Quixote. Don Quixote, the total title of which is Don Quixote: The Ingenious Nobleman Mister Quixote of La Mancha, was published by Cervantes in 1605. That’s 400 years ago. And there I was reading about Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho (who is lots smarter than poor old Don) and laughing like the thing was written yesterday. I find that amazing. That humans have changed so little in 400 years that I still find the same durn thing funny that Cervantes did. 

Critics have said Don Quixote is a work of nihilism (this is in the Wikipedia description that I’ve included in the footnotes below), which is really interesting because critics say the same thing about Celine’s novel Journey to the End of the Night. This is the novel I gave to Lucinda to buoy her spirits right after her daddy’s death because I found it full of exuberance . . .  and it’s known for its unrelenting pessimism. Oh, well. We all see the world in our own way. Let’s move on. 

Here, we get to some train talk. A tip: Don’t talk about riding the train unless you’re prepared to have people look at you like you’re a talking porpoise. “You rode the train when?” “Do they still have trains?” “With passengers on them?”

This may only happen in the South where, thanks to line closures, it’s almost impossible to get from here to there on the train. I understand the train is much more common on the Eastern Seaboard. They’re more sophisticated on the Eastern Seaboard. Here in the South, you talk about riding the train, folks look at you like you’ve just admitted you enjoy role-playing The Lone Ranger. With cap guns. My advice: talk about riding the train only amongst friends or people you know very well.

Okay. That’s enough preliminary information. 

Helpful Train Hint: An idling train may or may not blow its whistle before it moves again. If you for example, are lifting your bike and shoving it between the train cars because you’re impatient as hell to get to the other side, you may get no warning you are about to be squished. Please do NOT mess around with trains.

Now go read Chapter 12 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE

NOTES SECTION for Chapter 12

Don Quixote: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quixote

Celine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_End_of_the_Night

Tracking Happiness: Chapter 11

This is CHAPTER 11 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

Ok. Last we left off: Lucinda had just had sex with Augie Green, the stranger she met on the train. It went well, physically, but the experience left her wanting the emotional serenity she sees in Augie. As our current chapter opens, Augie is telling Lucinda a story from his childhood, and Lucinda is trying to sort through the underlying message he’s sending her. 

I could talk about how difficult we make life by encoding our conversations with hidden points, particularly between men and women, but I’m gonna give you a hint instead: this chapter has chicken names in it. Pay attention. They become important later on. 

This chapter gives you the low-down on barbecue contests, important information, particularly if you’re from the Pacific Northwest where they NEVER have barbecue contests. Which, by the way, in Memphis is called “BBQ” or simply “the Q” for short, even though the word “barbecue” has no Q in it. I didn’t know this until I moved to Memphis. I thought it must be spelled with a Q, or why not call it BBC? Life. I’ve included in the footnotes the link for an application to enter the Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Contest, if you’re interested.

Speaking of moving to Memphis, in this chapter we encounter firsthand what we’d been forewarned about: Erick’s mom doesn’t like Mississippi OR people from Mississippi. This is not that unusual. When I used to live in Mississippi and I’d travel, people would ask where I was from, when I answered Mississippi, they’d give me the stink eye. Or the cold shoulder. Or the open-mouthed, “Oh, really?” Then I moved to Memphis, and I answered the ‘where are you from question’ with ‘Memphis,’ and people loved me. They’d start gushing. I LOVE Memphis. I LOVE Elvis. Memphis is my FAVORITE CITY. I am undyingly grateful to Memphis for making it easier for me to travel. 

Okay. That’s enough preliminary information.

Fun Chicken Fact: Breeding chickens for single selection factors has really messed up roosters. I’m not gonna say any more than that because it’s really, really sad what breeding has done to them. Just know that if you’re raising chickens and your rooster acts TERRIBLE, it is not normal. Blame it on genetic manipulation, and keep him away from your hens. You can research the rest of it yourself. 

Now go read Chapter 11 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE

NOTES SECTION to Chapter 11

MIM BBQ contest: http://www.memphisinmay.org/events/world-championship-barbecue-cooking-contest/team/

Tracking Happiness: Chapter 10

This is CHAPTER 10 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

OK. Last we left off: Lucinda had completed a romantic interlude with Augie, including dancing in the moonlight to the song “Moon River.” Very romantic but with hints that hearts might be broken in the future.

There’s a running joke in the novel that’s included in this chapter about the Polish Women’s Association. It might be considered offensive, because it’s a joke based on country of origin. The only thing I can say in my defense is that a Polish woman suggested I use it. Please don’t laugh if you don’t find it funny.

Speaking of which, my aunt has a squirrel coat. In this chapter, I give the coat to Lucinda’s mom. In real life, my aunt wore her coat during our Groundhog Day’s parade, which we held on the Pearl River levee in the morning fog of Groundhog Day’s right before the sun came up, because the point is where the shadow’s gonna fall, right? My aunt—who would probably be mortified if she read this book—was born on Groundhog’s Day, so, even though she was over 75 years old, she joined in the parade, marching down the levee in February at the crack of dawn wearing her squirrel coat and carrying a beachball, for the summer/winter thing. I come from a great family.  

Also in this chapter is a reference to Big Blue. That’s Lucinda’s mom’s blue Cadillac. I stole that too, from my Bigmama’s big blue Cadillac that we call Big Blue. (I didn’t even change the name to protect the innocent.) We cousins loved Big Blue so much, we asked Miriam Weems the famous Jackson, Mississippi artist to paint a portrait of three of us and Big Blue. You can read the link at the footnotes to tell you more about Miriam. It’s a little morbid because it’s her obituary, but it’s a great write up about her and her work.

In this chapter we also have a scene about killing mice in the club car. Normally, I do NOT advocate violence, and I don’t even have anything against mice (ask my husband who was forced to shoo a teeninsey white mouse into a paper bag with the broom so I could set it free in the yard.) But I needed an “interlude,” and the surreal scene in the club car seemed appropriate. 

Which brings us to the hardest thing of all: this chapter has a sex scene. (Of course, nothing at all that I’ve been talking about brings us to sex, but I’ve got to address this one way or another so we’re pretending it just naturally flows.) Y’all will feel me blushing as you read this scene.

So this chapter has offensive jokes about the Polish Women’s Association, a squirrel coat, a big blue Cadillac, mousicide, and sex. Bet you’re raring to go, right?

Okay, I think that’s enough preliminary information.

Helpful Train Hint: Be prepared to meet foreign tourists riding the train. They’ll ask you questions. If at all humanely possible, be kind and helpful. You are the train ambassador for all us Americans. 

Now go read Chapter 10 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE

NOTES SECTION

Web site on Miriam: http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Miriam-Weems&lc=7249&pid=153245529&mid=4785287

TRACKING HAPPINESS: Chapter 9

This is CHAPTER 9 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

Ok. Last we left off: Lucinda and Augie had actually de-boarded the train. Earlier, I promised you wouldn’t get claustrophobic reading the novel because they would get off the train and have adventures. Now you know I don’t lie. 

One more word of advice: in this chapter, Lucinda wears a jacket she bought in the teen department at Target. I have occasionally thought, given how small I am, I could wear clothes from the children’s department. Why would I want to do that? They’re cheaper. But what I consistently found was that shirts from the teen department are too small under the arms. It’s not that I’m too big around; my trunk is too long. So the armholes just about strangle my arm pits. In other words, don’t try this at home. It’s not safe.

Referenced in this chapter is a very famous Milwaukee beer joke. My cousin told me this joke when I was a teenager because he liked puns and so did I. I researched to confirm it is a real joke (it is).  I then spent an inordinate amount of time reading the other jokes on the website. I’m including the url to the site in the footnotes below, but it’s not my advice you go visit it. You will waste precious moments of your life that you will never get back.

I have also included in the footnotes some information on Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which the characters talk about in this chapter. This is one of my favorite movies, and it is a TERRIBLE movie. The plot is fixated on drunken cocktail parties. The movie features a terrible racist stereotype by the worst actor of all times—Mickey Rooney. The heroine, Holly Golightly, is a 100% gold-digger trying to catch a rich man and, in pursuit of this goal, keeps hooking up with older, unattractive men. The movie features Jed Clampett in a serious role, child marriage, and, worst of all, it takes Holly the ENTIRE FILM to notice how gorgeous George Peppard is. It won 2 Oscars. It features Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” which is my mother’s favorite song. I named my dog Lucy Gardenia after Holly’s mob connection, Sally Tomato. I own a rhinestone necklace and earrings EXACTLY like Holly’s necklace and earrings. I would kill to look like Audrey Hepburn. The movie is a comedy. 

Okay, I think that’s enough preliminary information. 

Fun Chicken Fact: Chickens will eat lizards. They’ll eat mice. They will eat tin foil. They’re what’s called omnivores. They will eat anything, though I haven’t put this statement to a scientific test, particularly the tin foil part. 

Now go read Chapter 9 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE

NOTES SECTION for Chapter 9

Milt Famey joke http://research.udmercy.edu/find/special_collections/digital/cfa/index.php?term=6677.1&field=boggsNum&start=80

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
https://www.vogue.com/article/audrey-hepburn-birthday-breakfast-at-tiffanys

TRACKING HAPPINESS: Chapter 8

This is CHAPTER 8 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

Ok. Last we left off: Lucinda is about to prance off on a grand adventure with Augie Green, the stranger she met on the train. Drinks are being served in the club car, and Lucinda is going to the party with Augie.

One very particular action triggers EVERYTHING in this chapter. The train stops. It won’t go forward. Why? Because someone laid down on the tracks to take a nap. THIS is a true story from when I first started practicing law many years ago. In that case, a man died. (Okay, this part isn’t funny, but it’s true.) He died because he lay down on the tracks and went to sleep. He’d been drinking. I think that affected his judgement.

We also have returned in this chapter to the Billy Goat Curse. I’m not going to talk about it. If you want to know more about the Billy Goat Curse, go to the footnotes below. More interestingly, in this chapter there’s a conversation about boudin. Boudin is food. You eat it. Augie, who’s talking about boudin, is from New Orleans, but boudin isn’t really a New Orleans dish. (Augie’s dad who cooks the boudin is from Lafayette, LA). I’m not a particular fan of boudin. It’s sausage with rice, basically. But it’s a good word. I’ve included in the footnotes a video from the Eater series that features boudin at Cochon and Cochon Butcher, two restaurants in New Orleans. Big Disclaimer: Cochon and Cochon Butcher are sister restaurants to our son’s Peche Restaurant, also in New Orleans. So I like Cochon Restaurant. The video shows boudin being prepared, and you can watch that, or you can turn off the video and just listen if you don’t want to, literally, see sausage being made. The video also shows you how to eat boudin so, if you’re in New Orleans and order boudin, you won’t make a fool of yourself. 

I think that’s enough preliminary information. 

Helpful Train Hint

If you ride the train, don’t arrive too early at the train station. It’s not like the airport where a two hour advance time is needed. If you do that, you’ll likely wind up standing outside a closed station that’s not even open yet. On the other hand, make your reservations as early as possible. You might think no one rides the train anymore, but you’d be wrong. Particularly if you want a sleeping compartment. Particularly if it’s around a holiday. Really, call ahead.  

Now go read Chapter 8 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE

NOTES SECTION

Billy Goat Curse. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_the_Billy_Goat

Eater video on boudin.https://www.eater.com/video/2017/1/11/14238084/boudin-cochon-butcher-new-orleans-meat-show

TRACKING HAPPINESS: Chapter 7

This is CHAPTER 7 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in now, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

OK. Last we left off: Lucinda had stepped into the Great Hall of Union Station in Chicago. 

I’m gonna include photos of the Great Hall in the footnotes ‘cause it’s impressive, y’all. I want you to go look at the photos and then think of a young woman who has been outside the state of Mississippi exactly once in her life. Think about her stepping into that space. Even though I’ve been all over Europe. England. Scotland. Into the Caribbean. Mexico. Canada. The Middle East. Still, when I walked into the Great Hall, I was mesmerized.

In this chapter, Lucinda talks about the oyster on the chicken. It’s a real thing, and I went on YouTube to find y’all a video on how to locate the oyster (and also, you know, to prove it’s a real thing). But after looking at a few of those videos, I decided NOT to do that. There’s cut up chicken parts ALL over those videos. The novel you’re listening to is about being KIND to chickens. You don’t need to see dismembered chickens strewn all around. Nope. No video. Y’all are gonna have to trust me: there’s two small, dark meat “oysters” on the backside of a chicken. They’re considered choice.

What else do I want to tell you?

I have a pair of silver lame pants. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. When you finish reading this chapter, you’ll know why I felt compelled to tell you that. 

I think that’s enough preliminary information. Now go read Chapter 7 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE

Fun Chicken Fact: Did you know that each chicken has her own personality. A calm, relaxed chicken lays more eggs. That’s the goal: calm, relaxed hens with lovely personalities.

NOTES SECTION

The Great Hall: https://www.architecture.org/experience-caf/tours/detail/union-station-icon-of-a-great-age/

Tracking Happiness: Chapter 4

This is CHAPTER 4 in our series offering gossip, novel backstory, and personal confessions about TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE. We’re working our way through a novel here. If you’re just now discovering us, you can jump in now or go back to the first entry and catch up. If you jump in, I can’t promise you it won’t be confusing, but it might be interesting too.

Ok. Chapter 4. Last we left off Lucinda Mae had made it to Yazoo City on the train. 

Stop here a moment and repeat after me: “Ya-zoo City. Ya-zoo City.” NOT yah-zoo city. As a Public Service Announcement, I’ve included in the footnotes below a pronunciation guide to certain often-mispronounced Mississippi cities. I’ve chosen to offer the local pronunciation so that if you visit these cities, you won’t be walking around talking about, durn, you didn’t know Elvis was born in Two-pellow. Go read it. You’ll thank me later.

In this chapter Lucinda returns to talking about sex. There’s a lot of talk about sex in this novel because it’s a humorous novel for adults, and sex can be really funny . . .  or not, but most of the time it makes us giggle. There’s also some actual sex described in this novel, which I know you’ll be reading, which will be embarrassing, but you must sacrifice for your art. The point being, if you are squeamish about sex you might want to stop following along right now so that you don’t get all involved in wondering what’s gonna happen to Lucinda, and if Erick’s gonna win the Mall of America Your Idea Can Save the World contest, and what about the poor chickens who are being abused under the new Chicken Palace Emporium fried chicken management philosophy, and then you’re put off by the sex talk and you have to give it up, forever left hanging. Better to give it up now. It’s not graphic sex. I’m not a graphic person. But sex is sex. You can’t make it anything else.

There’s also a reference in this chapter to the Chicken Dance which is a a famous polka song, which if you’ve ever been to an Octoberfest anywhere, you’ve probably seen. In case you haven’t, I’ve included a link to a couple of YouTube videos, because we’re developing a chicken dance theme in the notes. They’re thousands of these things, y’all, and I’ve curated them for you, including a  disco remix. You’re welcome. 

Finally, Lucinda makes a disparaging remark about the dinner she and Erick are served in the dining car on the train. This has NOT been my experience riding the train. The food I’ve gotten has always been wonderful. But, you know, that’s why a novel is called “fiction”: most of the stuff is made up. 

Okay, I think that’s enough preliminary information. 

Now go read Chapter 4 of TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE (I know, I know—no Helpful Train Hints or Fun Chicken Facts today. Come back later.)

NOTES for Chapter 4:

Biloxi: Bu-LUCK-see (not Bi- lox-see)

Tupelo: TWO-pah-low (not Two-PELL-o)

Lafayette County: La-FAY-ette (not La-fay-yette)

Tishomingo County: tish-a-MING-go

Yazoo City: YA-zoo (not yah-zoo) City

Belzoni: Bell-ZONE—ah

Waveland: WAVE-lan

Monticello: Mon-ta-CELLAR (this is my grandmother’s pronunciation, you’re going to have to accept it)

Coahoma: Ca-HOE-ma

Corinth: CAR-inth

D’Lo: DEE-lo

Natchez: NA-chez (not Na-chaay)

Iuka: I-YOU-ka

Kosciusko: Coz-ee-ES-ko

New Hebron: New HEE-bron 

Tchula: CHEW-la

CHICKEN DANCE

TRADITIONAL

DISCO REMIX

CHILI WILLY

BOOK CLUBS!

BOOK CLUBS!

I’ll be joining several book clubs in the Memphis area during December. TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE makes a great book club selection. Memorable characters. Intriguing plot. Life wisdom. All leads to a lively discussion.

If you’re in the general Southeastern United States, and you’d like Lucinda and me to visit your book club in 2019, use the contact form to give me a holler. We’ll jump on the train and be there. 😉

Lucinda Mae takes off on a cross-country train trip to, among other things, escape from the goings-on back in her hometown of Edison, Mississippi

 

So, Yes, It Really is Coming

When I decided to be my own narrator on TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE, I had no idea what I was getting into. The process has about worn me out. I thought I’d let you, my loyal followers, know what’s going on.

TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE is now available for sale on Audible! That’s the good news. Really good news. And, if you’re not a current Audible listener, you can listen for free with a 30 day trial. (That sounds like an Audible commercial, but I like my work to be available to everyone, even those who can’t pay).

The bad news is that, at some point along the way, I chose exclusive distribution with ACX. I can’t have exclusive distribution with ACX because I’m using the audio content as Season 1 on the podcast ELLEN’S VERY SOUTHERN VOICE: NOVELS TOLD WRITE.

Novels coming at you, one chapter at a time . . .  plus extra goodies.

I confirmed that this use—even though it’s not an audiobook—requires non-exclusive distribution. Fortunately, I realized this mistake within 45 seconds of the book being approved for sale on ACX. (Yes, 45 seconds; the ACX rep, Jessica, said, “I see where it’s just gone up today…right now.”) So, as we speak, sweet, kind Jessica is switching the distribution to non-exclusive, and we will delay the launch of the podcast for a week or two until I get a confirming email from Jessica that all is back to where it should be.

So.

Despite the hype, no podcast launched on Friday. 🙁

Despite the lack of hype, an audiobook launched on Audible. 🙂 Annnnnnnd. It’s free with a 30 day trial.

TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE is also still available on Amazon in regular ol’ print book or ebook. You can also get to the audiobook using this link (because ACX/Audible is an Amazon product).

I feel like I have learned soooooo much with this venture. And it is cool to see that audiobook button next to the ebook and paperback buttons on Amazon. But I will be glad when I can go back to writing. 🙂

Lucinda Mae takes off on a cross-country train trip to, among other things, escape from the goings-on back in her hometown of Edison, Mississippi

 

All the Way From Canada!

Please enjoy this kicking review of Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure found on Susanne Fletcher’s Wuthering Bites blog. I am thrilled Susanne compared the comic dialogue to P.G. Woodhouse, whose Jeeves collection I long ago fell in love with and read in its entirety (how one gets so lucky as to be compared to a beloved writer, I don’t know.) It’s an extra special bonus when a review quotes some of your very own favorite lines from your book (“…a woman who represented everything I was not: sophisticated, voluptuous, and a really good speller.”) A well-written review is surely a gem unto itself.

If you haven’t discovered Susanne’s Wuthering Bites blog, take some time to look around. She is a great creative nonfiction writer, a true wordsmith who combines spectacular turns of phrase with insights that make you nod in recognition. I have followed her for years and thoroughly enjoy her work.

As an extra special super bonus, if you follow the link below, you can enjoy a haunting rendition of Gordon Lightfoot singing “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which, yes, is relevant to the review. Happy reading!

“Tracking Happiness”

Lucinda Mae takes off on a cross-country train trip to, among other things, escape the goings-on back in her hometown of Edison, Mississippi.

Now, Now, Now!

Today, today, today! Time to buy TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE

AUGUST 1st: Time TO BUY TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE has arrived!

E-BOOK

PAPERBACK

BOTH ON AMAZON

For you go-getters who’ve already bought into Lucinda’s antics, TODAY IS THE DAY TO POST A REVIEW!

Join others who’ve found Lucinda’s adventure “uproariously funny” with “gritty Southern determination” and a feel reminiscent of Confederacy of Dunces and Wicked while presenting a story that “truly entertains the reader” and “defines the greatness of the human spirit.” All in all, “perfect summer reading.”

To post a review on Amazon, follow this link and click on Write a Customer Review.

“I personally don’t see the point of being in business with chickens if you’re not gonna be nice to them.”
Lucinda Mae Watkins

Single-again Lucinda Mae Watkins—of the “Edison, Mississippi, fried chicken royalty”—learns Big Doodle Dayton is blaming her dead daddy for the drug scandal exploding at the local Chicken Palace fried chicken joint. She takes off cross country on the train to clear her daddy’s name, while hopefully discovering the secret to happiness along the way. Join Lucinda on the most hilarious—if slightly ribald—adventure of her life.

Lucinda Mae takes off on a cross-country train trip to, among other things, escape from the goings-on back in her hometown of Edison, Mississippi

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

What Makes a Good Book?

A good book should remind you of another book you really loved.
Ellen’s incredible imagination, keen wit, perceptive knowing, and spoofy style is reminiscent of John Kennedy Tooles’ “The Confederacy of Dunces,” as she captures the delightful craziness of small-town Mississippi life. Amazon review

It should have values you share.
gritty Southern determination
and a particularly strong confidence in her abilities
scoops of endearing drama that spell out what honor, integrity, loyalty, sex, and determination are made of
Amazon Reviews

The writing should be awesome.
The book is beautifully written, with phraseology reminiscent of Gregory Maguire’s writing In “Wicked”. This is a fun story that you will love. Amazon Review

You always want a page turner, no draggy plots allowed.
“Tracking Happiness” kept me turning the pages to see what could possibly happen next to such goofy but very likable characters. Amazon Review
It only gets better from there. Amazon Review

A healthy dose of humor is a must.
Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure is an uproariously funny and refreshingly different look into life in the modern South and beyond. Amazon Review

It really, really can’t be fake or a stereotype.
Author Ellen Morris Prewitt, a Jackson, Mississippi native, utilizes her unerring eye for the real south to bring to life a story that truly entertains the reader with a quirky hilarity that defies description. Amazon Review

You want a deeper message mixed in with the fun times and entertainment.
Ellen Prewitt shares Lucinda Mae’s cross-country, coming-of-age journey that paints not only a picture of the New South but defines the greatness of the human spirit. Amazon Review

It should all come together and work.
Prewitt has produced perfect summer reading. Amazon Review

When you finish, you want to know your time was well-spent.
It’s worth the ride! Amazon Review

So there it is. The reviews are in: TRACKING HAPPINESS: A SOUTHERN CHICKEN ADVENTURE is all a good book should be. Hope you enjoy it soon.

“I personally don’t see the point of being in business with chickens if you’re not gonna be nice to them.” Lucinda Mae Watkins

Single-again Lucinda Mae Watkins—of the “Edison, Mississippi, fried chicken royalty”—learns Big Doodle Dayton is blaming her dead daddy for the drug scandal exploding at the local Chicken Palace fried chicken joint. She takes off cross country on the train to clear her daddy’s name, while hopefully discovering the secret to happiness along the way. Join Lucinda on the most hilarious—if slightly ribald—adventure of her life. 

Lucinda Mae takes off on a cross-country train trip to, among other things, escape from the goings-on back in her hometown of Edison, Mississippi

Running for Dear Life

The summer I went to camp, it rained every day for eight weeks. I was in the eighth grade. It was my first major camp experience. I’d been to church camp (Baptist and Episcopalian) and Girl Scout camp (in Brandon, Mississippi, where we chased a greased watermelon around the lake), but not to a camp where girls traveled from Puerto Rico to attend. We were in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, me and all the rich kids. And every day, it rained on our heads.

I was at the camp on sort of a scholarship. My grandfather had left me and my two sisters trust fund money. Yeah, you might think that made me one of the rich kids, but it didn’t. Our trust fund money was largely unavailable, to the extent I told one of my friends that I had money in the bank, I just could never get to it. My parents couldn’t have afforded to send three girls into the mountains at hundreds of dollars a week for no reason other than to have a good time. “The trust includes education funds,” Mother said. I guess learning to live in the pouring rain was an education.

At the last minute, Mother had gone to Sears and bought ponchos for us to take with us, because ponchos were on the list of required clothing (any hints there?). The other girls’ ponchos were daisy-flowered in soft baby blues and spring greens. The Morris sisters’ ponchos were fluorescent orange like highway workers wear. Every day, head down and trudging to lunch, I could pick us out of the sea of ponchos: me; my one-year older sister; and baby Bettie, bright orange flames in the wavering line of little girl ponchos.

The spots of orange were about it for my interaction with my siblings. Summer camp is segmented: first by age group and then by cabin and finally by bunk bed. I had a great cabin, I remember that. But at the foot of my bunk bed, in the locker we’d bought for the camp experience, my clothes grew moldy from all the rain.

It did not rain the entire day, only every day. Spurts of sunshine appeared, but even then, when your horse passed beneath a low branch, droplets showered you. The tennis courts carried puddles. When you held the bow taut on the archery range, wetness tickled your ankles. We wrote home: “It’s raining.” Back in Charlotte, Mother moaned: “All that money!”

But in the snatched sunshine, on the steeply sloped hills, along the dirt paths, I learned to run. Up and down, swerving to miss grabbing roots, feet pounding—I ran. Looking back, my body may have been overwrought with the need for physical activity. In summers past, I’d spent my time on the tennis courts, every day, all day, smacking the tennis ball. The inactivity of rainy camp chaffed, and my need burst through. 

So I ran. This was long before “jogging” was an activity. And I wasn’t jogging. I was full-tilt running, pausing only when I had to choose a fork in the path. If you say to me today, “Camp Ton-A-Wandah,” this is the memory that rises to the surface: me on the paths, running. At the time, it was the purest form of physical activity I’d ever experienced. Later, I would recognize that physical immersion in sex, but that was a long, long way off.

No, the summer of the eighth grade, my camp nickname was “Stick.” I had yet to get my period. I can’t remember if I even wore a bra. Stuck in a place between childhood and teenage-dom, I was loath to take the next step. I rightly surmised it meant swapping the joy in my body for angst. Too soon, freckles would become blemishes, the smooth front of my soft tennis shirt a defect. Teenage girls, in those days, frequently did not appreciate the way we were built. 

But that summer, on the pine straw paths of the North Carolina mountains, before I began worrying about whether my hair looked stupid or my poncho was something a construction worker would wear, I waited for a break in the rain and, when the sun appeared, I ran for dear life.

A photo from a recent trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains where it didn’t rain every day

The Chick in the Eye Patch

On the flight to Jerusalem,  I watched my Israeli seat mate, a seasoned traveler, do a nifty trick with her contacts, using no water. I followed suit, and two days later I couldn’t see out of my right eye. Of all things, one of the priests on our trip had been an ophthalmologist before taking his orders. “The human eye,” he said, “is the fastest healing organ in the body. But it needs to be covered up.”

Again, in a tumble of coincidence, one of the other priests in our group was blind, the result of a high school accident that severed his optic nerve. He produced a black eye patch. I put it on. Moshe Dyan was reborn.

Of all the sights in Jerusalem—a city filled with extreme costumers—apparently nothing was as odd as a white woman wearing an eye patch. Crowds parted at my approach. Staring abounded, as did laughter. At age forty-eight, I learned what it felt like to be made fun of for a physical difference. A schoolboy spied me in the window of the tour bus and pointed, doubling over with laughter. Then he poked his friends so they, too, could howl. “You look like a model,” one of the women in my group said, because I had cut my hair so very short for the trip. Not to the little boys, I didn’t.

Most surprising, though, was the effect the patch produced on the notorious groupings that make up Jerusalem’s Old City. The city is visually divided into tribes. You can tell who belongs to which tribe immediately based on their clothing. The Palestinian women wore monochromatic pantsuits. Orthodox Jewish men were draped in black with their distinctive beards. Armenians tended toward traditional dress that complemented their blue eyes. We Americans were well-recognizable in our typical tourist attire. My black eye patch acted as a talisman of acceptance, or at least tolerance.

When I misstepped (literally) and bumped into someone, the automatic gesture of annoyance interrupted itself mid-expression and became a hand blessing. Jew, Muslim, Armenian concentrated to figure me out. Who was I? Why was I wearing a patch? I was no longer a Christian, American, Westerner. I was a chick in an eye patch. I will not forget the bright eyes of the Muslim boy who wanted to sit beside me on the stone steps to find out who I was, discover what this new and strange thing might be. 

Within my own group, I shunned the obligatory souvenir photographs. Why did I want a reminder of this? But my friends clamored, “We need you in the picture!” and I relented. Now I have a photo of myself in a limestone café at the top of a hill in the Old City. A pensive look bathes my face, as if I were listening to the far-off call of the city. In the background, the Dome of the Rock gleams in the sun. It is, for me, the image of Jerusalem: a place where God was rendered human.

 

 

 

 

Not In Cahoots with the Nightmare

I have been grappling with—what the hell, that makes it sound so sophisticated; I’ve been moping around the house wondering—the “Why?” question. Actually, it’s a “What?” question. What am I doing with my life right now that matters?

When I was facilitating the Door of Hope Writing Group, the answer to this question was easy: I’m bringing to a group of folks who might not otherwise have it a tool to understand and speak their truth into the world.

Champion Award

Even earlier, when Paraclete Press published Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God, and I conducted ALL THOSE WORKSHOPS, I could tangibly see what I was doing: giving a tool to folks for them to better understand their relationship with God.

So, okay—maybe the problem is my history of “purpose” sets the bar kind of high.

Be that as it may, even when I was recording my short story collection, I knew exactly why I was doing it: to transition from everyone knowing me as “the cross lady” to seeing me as a fiction writer. And I paired the stories with charitable contributions, so all was good.

Cain't Do Noting with Love - audio book by Ellen Morris Prewitt

And—here’s the important part—that venture was laying the foundation for Something Big. For my novel. Which would be Full of Importance. Even if the Importance was wrapped in words and plot that were funny as hell. It would Matter.

But as my telescope narrows to focus on my own writing career, I’m getting lost. Yeah, TRACKING HAPPINESS has as a major theme being nice to chickens. Raise them humanely. Treat them like living animals sharing the planet with us. But still. It’s mostly funny. And fun. It’s not earth-shattering. Where is the “What?” of it?

Then I read this article entitled Teaching and Purpose by Jon Chopan on the Glimmertrain website sent to me by the Jane Friedman emails (total aside: her emails are great; if you’re a writer and don’t already get them, you should sign up.) Mr. Chopan said a lot of things (though the essay is mercifully short), but he quotes Tim Seibles as saying, “I certainly don’t want my poems to be in cahoots with the nightmare.”

I read this and thought, ahhh, that’s it: my purpose is to not be in cahoots with the nightmare. And it’s enough. (Are poets the smartest ones among us?) I can go with that. To gently ask us to be kind to chickens. To explicate grief rather than shoving it aside. To offer folks an escape, if just for a moment, from the grind of our lives. This I can do. Thank you, Jon Chopan and Tim Seibles. Thank you.

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