Good Advice, Great Grits, and a Grand Time

My first book tour for Catfish Alley was a combination of the familiar places and faces that remind me of my rootedness in Mississippi, combined with the brand new experience of being a published author—something I will always consider a privilege.    

My first morning at Mama’s I was up early before the sun drinking in the scents of the Southern spring along with my coffee. I think it must be the dirt coming to life as it warms up, the moisture in the air, and the sweetness of wisteria. All of it combined says “home” to me.    

A misty Mississippi morning from Mama's porch

Dogwoods at sunrise

On Tuesday, April 5th – publication day – my sister and I hit the road for Jackson. First stop: Lemuria Book Store where the kind staff helped me have a great first book signing experience. John Evans, who opened Lemuria 36 years ago, even listened to my reading and gave me valuable advice on how sharing my book with booksellers helps them know how to describe the story to prospective readers. I listened closely to every word!    

Signing at Lemuria

On to Oxford, where we walked through the beautiful little town that was home to William Faulkner.    

Azaleas downtown Oxford

I had a great time getting to know Lyn Roberts, the manager of Square Books. Lyn came to Oxford for law school at Ole Miss, and her part-time job at Square Books turned into a 20-plus year career in bookselling – yet another wise person for me to learn from!    

With Square Books Manager Lyn Roberts

 Before leaving Oxford the next morning, we indulged in the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time at a highly recommended place called Big Bad Breakfast.  And believe me it was! I even bought the t-shirt (“Lard Have Mercy!”).    

Big Bad Breakfast, Oxford, MS

Chef John Currence, who also owns restaurants City Grocery and Boure in Oxford, is originally from New Orleans and has an amazing menu of locally ground grits (best I’ve ever had – really), homemade preserves, on-site cured tabasco/brownsugar bacon, fresh tomato gravy, and biscuits that melt in your mouth! No wonder Currence is a top competitor right now on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters (, and a winner of the James Beard award.    

The food was incredible and my sister, who doesn’t usually rave, did. She said the strawberry preserves were the best she’s had since Florida, and that’s saying a lot since when she was a child in Florida, my parents were truck farmers (strawberries among other things) and you can imagine how good our Mama’s strawberry preserves were!    

But back to the tour–I’m easily distracted by food.    

Third stop: Hattiesburg, Ms, at Main Street Books where, thanks to my dear sister’s gracious friends and owners Diane and Jerry Shepherd’s excellent hosting, I had a wonderful time. Diane, like John, helped me with great advice and pointers for making the most out of every book signing/reading experience.    

With Diane Shepherd, owner Main Street Books, Hattiesburg, MS

In Natchez, it felt like spring turned to summer. As I gazed out over the Mississippi River toward Louisiana, the temperature was hitting the 90s and my hair was getting bigger in proportion to the humidity’s climb.    

Looking out over the Mississippi River from the Natchez Bluff

We had the opportunity to spend some time walking the streets of Natchez and viewing some of her beautiful homes before the book signing.    

The iconic Stanton Hall in Natchez, MS

I enjoyed spending time with Mary Emrick, owner of Turning Pages Book Store, and members of the book store staff, Becky and Donna. As usual, Southern hospitality abounds at Turning Pages!    

With Mary Emrick (r) and Becky Spears (l) Turning Pages Bookstore, Natchez, MS

My final stop was a book signing in my hometown of Columbus. What a terrific experience that was thanks to Nancy Carpenter, Director of the Columbus Pilgrimage Tour.   

With Nancy Carpenter, Director of the Columbus, MS Spring Pilgrimage

 I was so excited to share Catfish Alley with my family and friends. My third grade teacher, Mrs. McKay, who is 94 years old, was the first to arrive – what an honor! Being in Columbus in the first of home of Tennessee Williams for a book signing was a lovely conclusion to my first book tour. I’m so appreciative of everyone who made the events and the experience a success!  

With my third grade teacher, Mrs. McKay - age 94!

3 Responses to “Good Advice, Great Grits, and a Grand Time”

  1. tom honea says:

    you are the perfect person to whom this should happen.
    the quissential southern lady.

  2. Arie McBride says:

    just finished “Catfish Alley”,excellent book,thank you so much.I’m a southerner (florida) living in Nova Scotia,my Mom always made cathead biscuits & unfortuately I never got her recipe,now I’ll use yours,please tell me how I can get your recipe for muscadine jelly ? I can’t wait until April to get Alligator Lake. Thanks again.

  3. admin says:

    Hi Arie,
    Thanks so much! Hope you enjoy the biscuits. Unfortunately, I don’t have my mama’s muscadine jelly recipe. I know it involves the basics – muscadine juice, sugar, and Sure Jell – but that’s as far as I’ve gotten!

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