The Next Big Thing

“The Next Big Thing” is a blog hop where writers around the world share what they’re working on (or have recently published) by responding to the same ten questions.

Thomas Alan Holmes and Sherry Chandler invited me to participate. You can read their responses here: Holmes http://inthebackhoesshadow.blogspot.com/2013/04/next-big-thing-blog-hop.html

and  Chandler http://sherrychandler.com/2013/03/06/the-next-big-thing/

In turn, I am tagging Floretta Blumley who will post her responses here on my blog next week.

1. What is the title of your book?    Butter in the Morning – subtitled pieces of a Kentucky life. Let me hasten to say that it is NOT a new diet or cookbook!  I borrowed the phrase from a story my mother often told about the frog who fell into the farmer’s cream can. Although he feared he would never get out of can’s deep, dark hole, the frog refused to stop paddling. When morning came, he was sitting on a pat of butter.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?     Over the years, I have published numerous essays in my newspaper column, “Georgia: On My Mind,” in journals and magazines. Some, I have read on NPR member station WUKY affiliated with the University of Kentucky. Radio listeners would ask for printed copies, or readers of the column would tell me they clipped the articles and sent them to relatives and friends in distant states. I realized there might be an audience for a book length collection of my essays. The first, You Can Go Anywhere, was published in 2008. Butter in the Morning, released at the end of December, is in some ways a sequel, “part two” of a long story I am telling in short pieces.

3. What genre does your book fall under?    Oh, that’s not an easy question to answer. I am essayist who tells stories -- is that even considered a genre? Most would say Butter in the Morning is a memoir told in a non-linear narrative. I like to think of it as a quilted memoir because I believe – hope – that when read together the fragments form a pattern that tells a unified story of place and family. But then there are the humorous satirical essays dancing here and there throughout the collection, reluctant to wear memoir's hat, although such humor was integral to the philosophy and culture of my people.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?    Oh, what a funny question! Offhand, Nicole Kidman is the only actress I can think of who is pale and washed out enough to play me. Oh, or maybe Gwyneth Paltrow.  She’s younger than Nicole, isn’t she? Maureen O’Hara, were she alive, would be my choice to play my mother. Daddy? He had a lot of Atticus Finch in him but didn’t look a thing like Gregory Peck. Oh, I know! Tom Hanks! There are too many other characters in the book to go on with this game – but what a wonderful thing it would be to see my stories filmed for screen. My first love, you know, was theater, in college, and then I directed high school plays for years.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?   “A quilted memoir – subtitled “pieces of a Kentucky life” – Butter in the Morning balances on the fine line between laughter and tears, and, in the end, takes the reader not only to Stamper’s Kentucky home, but to Everyman’s.” (Yes, that was a long sentence, but it WAS only one.)

6. Was your book self-published or represented by an agency?  Neither. My work in regional publications and broadcasting was fortunate to catch the attention of Charlie Hughes, the publisher of Wind Publications, an independent/literary small press located in Nicholasville, Kentucky.  Wind has published both of my books.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?   Drafting my manuscript of Butter in the Morning involved editing and organizing previously published essays. That sounded easy to me – after all, the book was already written - and this was my second book, too. How long could it take to slap these stories together into another full-length manuscript? It turned out to be a challenge that nearly defeated me. My first hurtle was to decide what to include and what to leave out. Having written a bi-weekly newspaper column for years (“Georgia: On My Mind”) plus this blog (“Talking to Myself”), I had too much material for a single book, ranging over too many topics, and perhaps – I worried – of uneven quality. Next, I struggled with how to organize these separate moving parts into something that worked together. Then, when I thought I was done, I spotted gaps in the narrative, which required my generating new essays almost up to the final deadline. Oh, yes – I missed the first two deadlines that my publisher suggested. So, how to answer this? With a few exceptions, the essays were written during a period of time that extended from 2008 and into 2012.  I spent all of 2011 and much of 2012 molding them into a cohesive manuscript, and revising/rewriting each essay. War and Peace was probably drafted in less time. I was fortunate to have the ear of a gifted editor, Leatha Kendrick, from time to time throughout this process, or I think I would have despaired.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

“Compare” is a verb that makes me uncomfortable when it comes to my writing and others’. Certainly, I have been influenced by the connected stories in Wendell Berry’s Port William series. Time and again, from different slants, Berry writes about his people and place, so familiar to my own.  His Henry and my Owen share the Kentucky River, a county line, and the same tobacco driven agrarian culture.  But Berry’s stories are fiction, finely crafted by one of America’s most respected writers, and mine are essays, simple in comparison, and flavored by a female’s senses and point of view. Rebecca McClanahan’s The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings, inter-connected essays about her family, now and then, and musings about her own life, comes as close to what I’ve tried to do in Butter in the Morning as any book I’ve read. I greatly admire her work , and look forward to meeting her someday.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?     It has become important to me to preserve the stories of my particular people and place, and my life and times.  As Wendell Berry writes in Andy Catlett, “And now, as often before, I am reminded how grateful I am to have been there, in that time, with these I have remembered. I was there with them, they remain here with me.” I also believe as Joyce Dyer has written that “story begets story begets story.” My hope is that in telling my stories, I help my readers remember, recover, and treasure their own.

10. What else about your work might pique the reader’s interest?     L. Elisabeth Beattie, book critic for The Louisville Courier-Journal, describes Butter in the Morning in this way: “That Stamper can evoke heartfelt emotion while sidestepping the counterfeit drama of sentimentality would be reason enough for her writing to rule. But the fact that she can sift through the prosaic to capture the consequential and, thereby, show readers how even one’s most routine encounters can shape life’s meaning elevates her work from formulaic writing to art.”   

Next week, look forward to hearing from Floretta Brumley.                      


©Copyright Georgia Green Stamper

Butter in the Morning is available at your favorite independent bookstore and from Amazon.com