Saturday, April 7, 2012


I am embarrassed to admit that in all the years I have lived in Alabama I have never spent any time in the western part of our state. Which is one of the reasons I was so thrilled to be invited to share LEAVING GEE'S BEND as part of this year's Black Belt Symposium at University of West Alabama in Livingston.

And wow, what a great experience! Lesa Shaul tended to every niggling detail, and I've got to say, that woman is a powerhouse. I felt so well taken care of. And the kids! What to say about the kids?! It was my great fortune to work with not only college age students but also students from three area middle schools. What thoughtful readers and polite young people. All of you were pure joy. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And now for some pictures:

Here's where I spent the night, after a lovely meal with students and teachers at local joint Diamond Jim's Steakhouse (which was sort of like walking onto the set of Sweet Home Alabama). I loved this house instantly, because it reminded me of my grandmother's house. And when we opened the front door, it even smelled like Granny's.


Here's my room. That night I could hear students on the street and "Star Spangled Banner" chiming from the bell tower and an occasional train. Really, really wonderful. All that was missing was a cozy old quilt!

 Here's me on the steps of the Callaway Schoolhouse, where I delivered the keynote.

And here's lovely Lesa Shaul in front of the Moon House.

Here I am with part of a great group of girls who joined me for lunch and book discussion. I was so impressed by their attention to detail -- SO impressed that I will forgive them their fandom of one Justin Beiber. (My goodness, those gals love the Beiber!)

.... and okay, I had to throw in a candid shot, even though it is hardly becoming.

Do you know how hard it is to get a good pic of someone while they are speaking? Between gestures and odd facial expression, it's just about impossible. OH WELL. Big thanks to Ashlee Gillespie for doing your best! I loved meeting you and your daughter.

Finally, a shot of me with Ms. University of West Alabama who dashed home to collect her crown so she could get some pics for her Ms. Alabama scrapbook. It was especially appropriate, as her platform is all about reading. She was so sweet and gracious (and tall and thin and tan!). As was her photographer. Great to meet you gals, and thanks for the ride back to my van. :)

One more thing: if ever you are in Livingston, or just passing by, and it's morning, do not miss a stop at Touch of Home Bakery. It's run by the Mennonites, and I'm so glad Lisa thought to take me there.

Best. Donuts. Ever. (My twelve year old said so, and that was after we just ate at Donut Hole in Destin, which, if you've ever been, you KNOW is really saying something!)

Thanks, everyone, especially Lesa, for making my visit one I'll always remember! Hope to see y'all again real soon.


  1. Love it! And yes I do know how hard it is to get a good photo while speaking. Yours came out beautifully, as I'm sure everyone there thought you and your keynote were, too.

  2. What a wonderful event! Thanks for sharing it with us (and I agree, I do not get the "Beibs" thing. At all.).

  3. It's nice to hear about another part of the country & that you had such a wonderful time, Irene. I would have liked to have heard you speak, too! Love the pics, even those you thought weren't good!


Your thoughts?