Thursday, April 22, 2010

Karen Spears Zacharias

I once again headed with my friend Marilyn for a "meet the writer" at the Book Exchange on Canton Highway.

For the second time, I gave a listen to a writer whom I knew nothing about, but when I called to make my reservation, the owner said, "She's a hoot. You'll love her."

Kathy was right. This writer was different .... and in a good way.

Kathy runs the Book Exchange, and she met us at the front (there was no one else there at 6:45) laughing and said, "we're in the back gabbing -- get you a seat and something to eat."

I looked around -- there were twenty chairs and no one was in them. I grabbed one about four rows back and set off to the back to take advantage of the food ---- a ham and cheese on a Sister Schubert roll and a nice thick piece of banana bread with cream cheese smeared from side to side. I chased it with a Diet Coke.

Bubbly and quirky, Kathy operates her book nook in this old run-down shopping center -- nearby is a laundromat and a tag office -- I doubt that either brings in the book worm.

I wonder how she makes a go of it -- I hope it's through loyal customers because Kathy brings not only local writers in to her "exchange," but also writers like Zacharias, who lives in Oregon -- even though she was originally from the South.

Whatever you do and however you do it, Kathy, keep it up! Just keep it legal. :)

On a blog from last July, I described the Book Exchange as one of those great independent book stores --[I'm afraid there aren't many left --- ;( ] where the owner works there, knows books, and can find anything you ask for ---- festive with lights and bookcases from floor to ceiling, the store smells and feels like you want to pull up a comfortable chair and get lost in a book.

By the time for Zacharias to speak, there were about fifteen people sitting in the folding chairs and munching on the free snacks.... not much of a crowd for a writer, I didn't think, but maybe Zacharais doesn't care.

When Kathy stood up to introduce her, she flipped through her notes and swore, "Lord love a duck, I've lost my place."

Lord, love a duck?
Lord love a duck?

Not a saying I'm familiar with..... LOL .. but since we were about to hear from a writer, who was a Christian, "Lord, love a duck" or "Lord love a duck" is a pretty appropriate segue.

Kathy introduced Karen Spears Zacharias, [but I didn't take good notes] so the following blurb comes from her website:

"Christian Humorist Karen Spears Zacharias had her first kiss in a trailer, smoked her first and last cigarette in a trailer, asked Jesus into her heart on bended knee in a trailer, fell madly in love in a trailer (a couple of different times), and gave birth to her firstborn child in a trailer."

"Karen is a former crime beat reporter, wife, mom, Tennessee Volunteer, Georgia Peach, Beaver graduate of Oregon State University, sister in faith, water moccasin bite survivor and 25th Infantry Gold Star daughter. Her commentary has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, and National Public Radio. Karen and husband, Tim, plan to raise any grandchildren in a double-wide trailer with a plasma TV on an acre of land in Point Clear, Alabama."

Her latest book and the one she talked about at the Book Exchange is --- Will Jesus Buy Me a Double Wide (Cause I Need More Room for my Plasma TV)?

And once Zacharias began to talk, I wanted to listen.

She began the evening by saying she was a mess. She had just found out that her publisher and editor were the next victims of the economy. She said, "I cried all day and my makeup is gone. BUT, I'm here and so are you. So let's do it."

One of the first stories she told was about the idea she has for her next book, In Lieu of Flowers, Send Fried Chicken, which will be a collection of humorous obituaries that folks from all over the country have been sending her. She said that line actually appeared in an obituary in a small town newspaper.

She also told another story from an email about a man who cremated his wife and then because he didn't know where to put her ashes, spread them over the food that had been brought to the house after the memorial. The woman said the moral of the story is "Don't eat the funeral food unless you've seen the body."


She also told us that she had a different definition for the Second Coming.

She said, "The second coming is when a broadcast journalist says, "I've read your book." Since she has traveled from place to place on book tours, she says that the journalists who are sent to interview her never read her book -- "unless it's moving, they haven't seen it."

She laughed when she said it because she said, "I was a journalist, I know."

The idea for her current book mixes with a little bit of her past. When she was nine years old, her father was killed in Vietnam. She said on that day, "I lost not only my father, but my mother." Prior to her father's death, her mother had been a devoted Christian -- she said afterward, she was a twenty-eight year old widow with four children, and that her mother looked for community.

"After the flag was folded, I was in a new life," she noted.

There was no "program" at the local church for such a young widow, and women there even suspected her of hunting for a husband, perhaps theirs, so she found her community at the tavern.

When Karen was in her teens, a friend brought her to church -- and she became a Christian at fourteen after a trip to Six Flags. One of the kindly youth pastors sought her out, gave her Bible verses to read , and told her to read them when she got home. They "loved me to Jesus."

Her mother took the 10,000 dollar military insurance money and spent 6, 000 dollars on a trailer. The rest is Karen's story -- about how what she learned about faith was that "it wasn't gonna bring her Daddy back -- it wasn't gonna change her momma -- but it was nice to have Him to lean on."

The premise of her book -- Will Jesus Buy Me a Double Wide? -- is non-fiction. Zacharias traveled the United States and interviewed old and young, rich and poor, and examined how prosperity is connected to our faithfulness -- or put simply, God and money. The book is a collection of single stories titled simply, "The Lawyer," "The Marine," or "The Mogul," and with these stories she tries to delve into "What does it mean to have the favor of God? Can We Earn the Favor of God?"

Zacharias just makes observations and claims not to know the answers... but she sure has some interesting questions.

I haven't read the book -- but I bought one. Two reasons --- one -- to support Kathy -- but the second reason is that -- this is a book I can lend out -- my friends can read a story or two -- pass it on -- read the whole book, and pass it on -- regardless, Zacharias looks for authentic Christians -- and I'm curious to see if she found one.

ETA: In my book, Zacharias signed, "Live a good story." :)


  1. "Lord love a duck!" I can't believe you have never heard this. It's what MY PEOPLE were saying when your people were talking about death walking on crackers or whatever that saying of yours is. My grandmother said it all the time when I was younger, but I haven't heard it in years. I think I'm going to start saying it again.

    I just Googled it and discovered it was in Joyce's Ulysses. I suspect I must have said "Lord love a duck" about a hundred times before I put down that book and gave up in exasperation! Come to think of it, tomorrow's Spring Fling, and I should have scores of opportunities to say Lord love a duck!

  2. I love Karen just from reading your review. I will buy this book this week, read it and keep it in my guest house for my friends to enjoy. Thanks for this one. It sounds like something I really need to read and would not have found. L

  3. So I finally got to read this installment and I have to say I loved it. The way you described The Book Exchange reminded me of Meg Ryan's character in "You've Got Mail". She knew every inch of that store and where to find a book. Such a lovely vision. I hope you are enjoying the book it sounds very interesting! :)

  4. you should read Walking from East to West. It's Ravi Zacharias' autobiography.

  5. I really want to read her book also. Karen Zacharias also came and did the sermon at my church in auburn. She was kind of boring at first when she was just talking about her ideas for book title but once she dug into back story for the book it became very interesting.

    This is really odd that when both met the same author.