What would make fifty authors hightail it down to the tiny town of Jefferson, Texas for the chance to dress like clowns, 80’s prom queens, fortunetellers, circus animals and big haired divas with glittering tiaras? Why, Kathy L. Patrick’s famous Pulpwood Queens 12th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend Extravaganza!
Kathy’s the genius behind the mega-membered, Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys bookclubs. (I’m honored that my novel, Pictures of You, was a Pulpwood Queens selection.) She’s also the owner of the only hair salon/bookstore in the world, and she’s a tireless promoter of literacy. For this event, all the Pulpwood Queens (and Timber Guys) groups came to the convention center and got a table to decorate as outlandishly as possible for the most wild and wooly four-day event ever. There’s over 500 chapters of the Pulpwood Queen book clubs, and I heard there were over 400 people at this sold-out event, and over 50 authors.
The theme (it changes every year) was Circus and authors were told to bring a series of costumes: a clown or circus outfit (because we had to act as waiters for the welcome dinner); an 80’s prom outfit for the Pretty in Pink 80s Prom; and something knockout glamorous for the Great Big Ball of Hair Ball. I had really worried over my costumes, but I cobbled together a clown dress over my jeans. put my hair in pigtails and added freckles and lots of blush and eye shadow. For the Pretty in Pink Prom Party, I festooned myself up in black lace gloves, black lace tiara, blue eye shadow and taffeta skirt. The Great Big Ball of Hair Ball was the most fun, and I donned a pink wig, and tons of makeup and attitude. Of course, my red cowboy boots were with me every step of the way. Even so, I couldn’t dare compete with the Pulpwood Queens themselves. There were tables of people all dressed up in full clown regalia with the same hot pink bob wig and big green shoes. Other groups came in leopard print, and of course, there were dazzling tiaras everywhere! My absolute favorite were the Pulpwood Queens who came to Prom Night dressed in pajamas and curlers and cold cream on their faces. They were the girls who hadn’t been asked to the prom! But the showstopper was when a big pink sheet was pulled off a life-sized circus cage and inside were Pulpwood Queens dressed like wild animals rattling the bars of their cage trying to escape!
This Greatest Show on Earth had a clown alley dinner, a side tent vendor room full of earrings and knitted scarves and other great things to buy, and tons of books from A Real Bookstore, a great indie in Fairfax, Texas. There was even a silent auction, where each author donated a personal item. I gave a vintage red plastic purse from the 1950s, and I drew coffee cups all over it.
The panels were as much fun as the costumes. On hand to talk it up were Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters), Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters), Carolyn Turgeon (Mermaid), Meg Waite Clayton (The Four Ms. Bradwells), Sarah Jio (The Violets of March), Victoria Zackheim (He Said What?) and keynote speaker John Berendt (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and more, more, more. I watched, open-mouthed (that seemed to be my facial expression for most of the event) as author Deeanne Gist presented an intimate look at Victorian women’s undergarments, donning bloomers and corset and all the other essentials until she was fully and fashionable dressed, and ready to promenade. My panel, Books to Share Like Popcorn With Your Bookclub, was with my friend Victoria Zackheim and new friend, Donna Johnson, author of Holy Ghost Girl. So I got to purr to the crowd, “We’re up here putting the GIRLFRIEND in the Girlfriend weekend!”
This is one of the most hands-on, hands-down outrageously fun events in the world. The Pulpwood Queens know the meaning of warm Southern hospitality, and all I wanted to do was talk with them, and not just about the books we loved, but about our families, our lives, the things that obsess us. One of the Queens told me to be sure to tell people who might have a misconception about the Deep South, “We aren’t hicks down here. We’re educated. We travel. And we read, read, read.”
Kathy (she’s the gorgeous pink-haired lady with the vest in the photo) is one of the warmest, funniest, most enlightened book lovers around. At one point during the Big Hair Ball, when I was all decked out in a wig and green taffeta skirt and red cowboy boots, and just grinning in astonishment at the costumes, Kathy nudged me. “Didn’t I tell you this would be great?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you you had to experience this to believe it?”
Oh, Kathy. You were so right.
Tags: Caroline Leavitt, Carolyn Turgeon, Deanne Gist, Donna Johnson, Eleanor Brown, He Said What?, Holy Ghost Girl, John Berendt, Kathy Patrick, Meg Waite Clayton, Mermaid, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Pictures of You, Pulpwood Queens, Pulpwood Queens 12th Anniversary Girlfriend Weekend Extravaganza, Rebecca rasmussen, Sarah Jio, The Bird Sisters, The Four Ms. Bradwells, The Violets of March, The Weird Sisters, Timber Guys, Victoria Zackheim