Friday, May 7, 2010

I have that shirt.

Cathy: I have that shirt. J.C.Penny, right?

That was the greeting I got from The Book Exchange owner, Cathy Blanco, as I headed in to her book store for another night of listening to an author. This time -- two.

The Book Exchange hosted Wendy Wax and Karen White; I have only read one book, White's The Lost Hours, even though these two had published eighteen novels between them.

Thankfully, you don't have to have read the writers to go see them. That would be too much like school.


Both Wax and White are local writers, and actually real local -- as they both are East Cobbers.

As usual, I spent the first minutes perusing and tasting the goodies in the back of the store: seven layer Mexican dip, fruit, pimento cheese sandwiches, and petite cupcakes. A man, serving beverages from a cooler, offered me a mimosa, but I declined and took his offer of a Diet Coke.

I moseyed back to the front where Cathy told me there were two other bloggers there.

Me: Two other bloggers?
Cathy: Yes. [points to one and head nods the other]
Me: Yikes. Competition.
Cathy: Free press for me.
Me: Those guys are professionals?
Cathy: [nods] I'll introduce you.
Me: Nah, that's okay -- I'll just sip my Diet and eat my goodies.

I checked out one of the press -- a gal from the Marietta Daily Journal's Cobb Magazine.

Young, tan, eh, maybe twenty-five, she sported a black ensemble, very chic, with designer red sun glasses tucked in her sun-streaked hair, and finished the outfit with a cute pair of purple tennis shoes.

She smiled as she was introduced to Wendy Wax, and she pulled out a professional camera and began to snap photos of Wax and Cathy.

Me: Nice camera. She's got a distinct advantage.


I sat down on row four of about eight rows to get settled and eat my goodies, and of course, that always allows me to eavesdrop since my friend Marilyn always shows up at the last minute. That's a nice way of saying "late."

In front of me two suburban types sat, both in black -- one in linen with long bright pink nails, the other a long knit dress, and discussed Dean Koontz.

Suburban Type 1: Look. Dean Koontz books on tape.
Suburban Type 2: [inaudible response] He turned me on to Koontz.
Me: *thinks* Ugh.
ST 1: He [Koontz, I assume] writes one book for pleasure and one book for the public.
ST 2: Problem is figuring out which one is which.
Me: *thinks* Does it matter?
ST 1: So, tell me about these books. [runs long nails over paperbacks of the two featured writers]
ST 2: Well, this one is set in..... blah, blah, blah...

My mind drifted to the other blogger -- resplendent in purple -- nice expensive sweater set, tall, perfect silver hair, and cute little readers propped on her nose...

Eh. Probably a PHD in something.


Marilyn arrives and pulls me from my seat behind the Koontz fans to the back of the seating. and tells me she's not staying long and will have to sneak out since her daughter and boyfriend are in town and they want "her to go out with them."

Me: Okay. I'll be fine by myself. The only thing that might happen to me here is that I eat more than my share of cupcakes. Man. One petite cupcake is not enough. Who thought of making such tiny muffin tins? What kind of spoon would you use?

As we settle in, the girl from Cobb Magazine asks if she could take our picture.

Me: Sure if you make me look good.
Marilyn: What magazine?
Me: Cobb.
Marilyn: Who?

I spell our names for the journalist as both Marilyn and I have last names that need to be spelled or they will be misspelled. {see comment at end from Cathy, the bookstore owner}

I am also happy when I spell Marilyn's last name correctly -- she married this Miami boy with this exotic, Lithuanian name.

Aside: I remember stories from Marilyn's thirty year stint as an elementary teacher that it would take her kindergartners weeks to learn to pronounce her name and all year to learn to spell it.


Of course, some of her kindergartners spent all year spelling their own names.

I have a few traumatic kindergarten stories myself about cursing my parents for giving me such a long name -- I longed to be Pat or Sue or Lynn --- I mean, H-A-R-R-I-E-T-T? You give a five-year old that name to write with that big, fat pencil on that paper?

Geez. My parents had great ambitions for me.

Gawd. It took all morning to write that on my paper. I think I remember missing recess to finish it.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. The Book Exchange.

After Marilyn and my photo op, the two writers took their places at the front to speak -- with Karen White (pictured left) going first and then Wendy Wax. They remained seated which from the back made it difficult for me to tell who was speaking when -- they sounded a great deal alike.

They look like two gals from an Alta Tennis team out of East Cobb.

I know that's a stereotypical observation -- but they did -- it was like they stopped by the Book Exchange on their way to play Bunko and sip Mohitos.

Karen White, dressed in a black and white sun dress, is fit and trim -- and has a million dollar smile.

Equally attractive, Wendy Wax has jet black hair which sets off her eyes , and she wore an electric blue jacket, black Capris, and black patent ballet slippers.

I call them ballet slippers. I'm sure they have some designer name that's tough for this Birkenstock wearing West Cobber to remember -- or should I say, care to know?

Is that too catty?

These gals just didn't look like writers, but as each talked about writing their books and their characters, I could tell that they were passionate for it -- and loved the opportunity they both had been given to make a living writing.

They mostly spoke about their current novels -- White's is On Folly Beach, and Wax's is Magnolia Wednesday.

I enjoyed listening to them summarize the stories, but what I found more interesting was their comments about titles and covers.

Apparently, titles are "a problem."

White: "My titles come early as I work my novels around themes. I don't have a lot of time to think on the titles since I am writing two books a year. There is little lag time."

Wax. "Some times the publisher will send you a cover and you have only written 80 pages."


White: "I get attached to a title I've thought of -- and then it will get changed. It's hard. On my last book, I needed title suggestions and it was down to the wire."

Wax: "You get desperate -- the cover and the title are so critical to what happens to your book. You may be consulted on your cover, but unless you are a pretty significant writer, you control very little. I want it to be about the story, but so many times, it's just not."

Interesting enough, as an English teacher and instructor of novels and short stories, I have always told students to pay attention to titles. Then these gals come in and make these comments. Of course, I'm not sure that their novels will be studied, but still --- I like to think about the titles.

White: "If I want a book to sell, it has to have 'beach' in the title."


White: "Seriously. It's the market I'm in."

Wax: "A cover of a book is like buying shampoo -- you don't want it in an old oil can."

Then Wax proceeded to tell how her publisher changed the title of her current book in such a way -- that details of the plot, setting, and character had to be changed to fit it.

I guess, if the book has to be marketed to sell, then it needs to have the right elements in the title and the cover. It's a business -- I guess.. I romantically thought it was more of an art.

*rolls eyes at self*

As I sat there, I remembered reading the letters that Fitzgerald exchanged with his editor Max Perkins about the title of his 1925 novel, and Fitzgerald was not that fond of the title that ended up being The Great Gatsby.

So why was I surprised? I dunno. I just was....

Even though I enjoyed White and Wax, I am usually more interested in their lives, their writing influences, or how they approach the writing process, but the folks gathered to hear White and Wax were more interested in their books.

Eh. I was the odd gal out in that...

As I left, Cathy looked at her friend who works at the bookstore with her and commented to both of us: "Hey, do you know I have that shirt."

Cathy cracks me up.

After my last visit there, I left her my blog address, and she read it.

She told me that it's "Cathy with a C" and that if I wanted to see a "sketchy" shopping center, I needed to see where her first store was.

I should know the importance of getting a name spelled correctly, but I dunno about learning the different levels of "sketchy."

BTW: It's a nice shirt.


  1. "They look like two gals from an Alta Tennis team out of East Cobb."


    And there's no such thing as too catty. Or too many mini-cupcakes.

  2. I can't believe you thought you were the odd girl out! :) And let me tell you I am sure those bloggers have nothing on you!

    And be kind to East Cobbers, I used to be one ;)

  3. Hey. Just finished The Lost Hours by Karen White at your suggestion. It was a fun read with good characters. Thanks.