Savannah’s Flannery O’Connor Birthday Event

Author Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia on March 25, 1925. Flannery wrote two novels and a few dozen short stories in her lifetime and is one of the best short story writer’s of all time. Her Savannah home at 207 East Charlton Street is a museum and I highly recommend that every writer, reader and Flannery fan make time to visit.

Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home

This past weekend (and for the last seven years) Savannahians have celebrated Flannery’s birthday with a quirky parade and book sale by local authors. I first joined the celebration six years ago, long before Waving Backwards was published by SYP Publishing. I was not yet a book author, but adored Flannery’s fiction.

This year, I attended the event with my dear friend Rosemary Daniel, who has written a gaggle of brilliant books and runs the Zona Rosa writer’s group. The event has grown by leaps and bounds and weaves a heartwarming and artsy atmosphere with local authors, art vendors, chicken-poop bingo, a giant birthday cake, and a huge parade of costumed characters. Marchers are led around Lafayette Square by the Sweet Thunder Strolling Band.

Author V.L. Brunskill

Savannah is my heart place, and since so many of you write asking what to do when visiting our glorious city, I am sharing a few photos from the weekend festivities. Enjoy and come on down for next year’s Flannery-fest. See you there!


Sweet Thunder Strolling Band
Happy Birthday Flannery!

My ‘Plane Son’ Called For Christmas

This past July, I was seated on a plane from New York City to Savannah when about forty young men and women boarded. These young people were charged with anxiety and excitement. Sitting in any seat available, many of these youthful, balls-of-energy were about to embark on their first flight. For most, it was their first time travelling without their families. They were on their way to Marine Corp basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina.

A particularly agitated young man sat next to me. He looked about as frightened as I had ever seen a teenage boy look. I said hello and he eyed my cell phone asking, “Can I use your phone to call my Mom?”

“Of course,” I answered, handing it over. My mothering instincts went into high gear as I realized the desperation in his voice. His mother asked him if he has eaten the meal she packed, and he replied, “Yeah Mom, but I threw it all up.”

I tried not to stare but had the urge to hug this soon to be Marine as I watched tears run down his face. Just then, the flight attendant walked by, announcing to the group that they had assigned seats on their tickets and that they needed to get in those seats pronto. The young man said goodbye to his Mom and stood, moving a few rows up to his ticketed seat.

In his place, another young man sat down. He appeared withdrawn, shy, and frightened. He stared at his hands. I looked over and said, “Hi, are you one of the Marines?”

In a quiet voice, the young man answered, slowly revealing that he was the only child of Chinese parents who came to America for a better life. Born in the USA, this young man had faced bullying for his ethnicity and feared more of the same in the Marines.

We spent the entire flight chatting. He listened mostly as I built him up with words of encouragement. They were the kind of words usually reserved for mothers and their children. I assured him he would do great, make lifelong friends and learn more than he could ever imagine about his inner strengths. He did not seem convinced but listened anyway.

At once excited for the opportunity he was pursuing and nervous for his anxiety about training in 100-degree weather and being screamed at by his trainers, I reminded him that no one owned his mind and that while his body would belong to the Marine in charge, he could think whatever he wanted. I told him that he was in control of his thoughts and that having this control would get him through the tough spots.

I could see the wheels turning as he seemed to take in what I said. His shyness melted away and he shared with me that he was an artist. Pulling a pad of stunningly rendered portraits and landscapes from his pack, he asked that I choose one as a gift. I suggested he should hold onto his creations. He insisted. I chose a landscape sketching.

As the flight ended, he handed me the artwork and thanked me for talking to him. I gave him my phone number, telling him to call if he ever needed someone to talk to. The intensity of our conversation left an indelible mark on this Mom’s soul. He had shared with me that he could not talk to his parents and that he did not get along with them. I suggested that he keep trying, for they probably loved him but had some difficulty telling him so. He did not seem to agree. IMG_20181226_110234.jpg

We parted with a hug. But my plane son (as I now call him) never left my mind. All through the Summer months, I would look at the pencil drawing framed on my office wall and say a prayer that he would be okay.

Yesterday was Christmas. So when my phone rang, I answered, “Merry Christmas”.  The voice on the phone said, “Merry Christmas. Do you know who this is?” I took a moment, breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Yes, this is my plane son, and you made it through training.”

We chatted for about 20 minutes before I had to cut the call short to serve dinner to waiting family members. He shared with me his successes and that he had made friends who he called “brothers”. I asked if he called his family for Christmas and he said, The Marines are my family now.”

I texted my plane son today, attaching a picture of his artwork on my wall. I plan to keep in touch with him.  I know our meeting was meant to serve us both and that no one is a stranger when you open your heart. The blessing of his phone call is a Christmas gift I will always cherish.

 

Cat Cuddlers- An Enlightened Species

catthreeWhen my daughter first suggested that we stop in at the Purrvana Cafe & Cat Lounge at 1402 Barnard Street in Savannah, Georgia, I was skeptical. I pictured a dining experience marred by a mess of furry seasoning. If I want pet-hair in my soup, I can eat at home.

As we approached the café, a billboard welcomed with an appropriate sentiment for the chilly Savannah day- “It’s kitty cuddling weather.” As we stepped into the slim shop, we were greeted by a croissant menu, wafts of freshly brewed coffee, and a large window divider that separates the café from cuddling headquarters.catone

We ordered our grub and thirty minutes of cat cuddle time for $5 each. The pretty cashier explained that the cats I watched leap to and fro in the Victorian style parlor behind the glass were available for adoption. All cuddle fees go to their feeding and care. Since the café opened in October 2017, the café has placed twenty-two cats in forever homes.

As soon as our food was ready, we were taken back outside to an outer door (separation of kitchen and animals is the law in Georgia) and into a small vestibule where we were asked to sanitize our hands before entering the surprisingly sweet-smelling feline abode.

Upon entry, we were warned that Noir (a large black cat with a leopard face) could swipe our bakery goods at any time, and that eating while standing might be best. We sat in a couple of wingback chairs, drinking coffee and eating without a single swat from the curious critters.

Melted onto high shelves without a care, diving and dancing up the bars on the front window and lazing in the noon sun on a window seat, a dozen creatures occupied the lounge. A laser pointer toy rested on a highboy armoire and I used it to entice a pretty gray gal into play.cattwo

While spending time with the lovelies was wonderful, the true benefits of the cat café were not clear until more patrons arrived. The first, a young woman wearing a heavy wool coat and cat-eared knit cap, sat next to a curled-up napper on the elegant sofa. She stroked its fur and chatted with us about missing her animals. They lived out of state with her parents while she attended college.

A light, tendril of artistry entered the café next. Calling himself Flannel, and wearing red plaid pants and low, button-covered hat, this young man might be taken for a musician in some circles for his long locks and sprite-like appearance. When he spoke, I found him to be enlightened beyond his years. An illustrator, protector, and lover of animals, he illuminated the room.

It turned out that both of our cohorts in the business of cat cuddling attend Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). At fifty-something, I oft forget the bright wash of twenty, when life stretches in front of you like an endless prairie to be inhaled and explored at a gallop. I also forget (and part of my healing journey is to remember) that there are still so many creative, humble, gentle conversations to be had with the generations of now.

At the Savannah Film Festival this year, I brushed sleeves with these young people, intoxicated by their sparkle. At the cat café, I was privy to the depth of the light they encompass. They are a generation of twenty-somethings not content to follow old rules or expectations. They are forging paths of love, planning escapes, and walking toward a light some of us older folks have allowed to dim.

Perhaps, healing this old soul is best accomplished by seeking the youthful light of younger souls.

Animal lovers are earth’s meek, yet mighty warriors and I already adored them before we visited the café.  However, a love of animals is not the only reason to visit the Purrvana Café and Cat Lounge.

In our fair city, the café attracts young art students and the lessons they can teach those of us who have lived long (and perhaps lost touch with our spiritual gifts) are worth far more than the five-dollar cost of admission.

P.S. The croissants are warm, buttery bliss.

Blessings for cat cuddles and renewal,

V.L. Brunskill

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
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Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

The Quiet Revelation of Tea Leaves- E. Shaver Bookseller

On Saturday September 19th, I arrived at E. Shaver Bookseller to sign copies of my debut novel Waving Backwards. I unrolled my ‘Author Inside’ banner, unpacked my Penguin Sharpie, and headed to the antique-filled room behind The Tea Room.

During the three years I spent rewriting my novel, while sprouting gray hairs, and dreading the idea of allowing anyone to read my work, I visited E. Shaver often. I tiptoed through room-after-room of the 1842 Greek revival home (turned bookstore) immersed in a reader’s oasis of classics, bestsellers, and rare finds.

During these visits, posters announcing book signings, and shelves filled with local author’s works, tantalized and tempted me to think about someday joining their ranks. Daydreaming of my Savannah novel, and how it would feel to hold a bound version in my hand, or (mercy me) see it on an E. Shaver shelf, made each visit to the store a mystical trip into the realm of possibilities.

Anywhere one dreams is magical.

After my book was published by SYP Publishing in July, it was far easier for me to contact local chain stores about carrying it, than to approach E. Shaver.  Sometimes we hold something so dear that we also hold it at a distance. So, when the lovely ladies at the store contacted me about carrying my novel, I waltzed around my living room. Later, when I approached them about a signing and they said ‘yes’,  dizzy does not begin to describe my reaction.

eshaver2On the day of the signing, the ancient building welcomed me with the same creaky floorboards, and bookish aroma of freshly bound dreams.  I sat at the signing table, peering at the store’s heavy wooden entrance doors with a fresh perspective. A new aroma joined the sensory party as the scent of fruit, jasmine and joyful spices made its way to my nose. A relatively new addition to E. Shaver’s offerings is The Tea Room that now resides where large format books once rested.

From my signing spot, I was privy to the whispering of the Tea Room ladies as  they described in aromatic detail the hot and cold beverages they had freshly brewed for patrons that afternoon. Adding to the ambiance were a delightful array of bookish shoppers, and the symphonic calm of classic forties tunes playing quietly throughout the store. eshaver

I met wonderful friends, an adoptee (who found that his mother became a nun after his relinquishment), and signed a book for a young man who wore a Cheshire grin when he asked me to inscribe his book to, “the amazingly handsome Doug.”  I also met the resident kitties, who pranced through tea cup and saucer displays with enviable feline grace. However, it was a moment of solitude that made the signing a true success.

As I partook of a cup of hot ‘Emperor’s Bride’ tea (a name that made me giggle) I  picked up a copy of Waving Backwards, and reread the back cover describing the story that lived in my heart for so long. I teared up at the blurb written by author John WarleyA Southern Girl, The Moralist, Bethesda’s Child). I admired the texture and color of the richly designed cover, and I gave thanks.

The hectic pace of launching, marketing, and selling a book (when you’re not J.K. Rowling) steals a bit of the achievement’s sparkle. In my little corner of E. Shaver, a quiet knowing replaced success metrics that rely on the latest positive review or sales ranking. I found among the steeping tea leaves, a solitude and pride of completion. Not showy, nor outward, I caressed my story, amid people who appreciated words, and felt for the first time what it really means to be an author.

Thank you to E. Shaver Bookseller (and all independent booksellers) for embracing local authors, and breathing life into the continued sharing of words  and stories.

Blessings for thankful insight and a great read,

V.L.
———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

‘Waving Backwards’ Book Launch Reminds that Family is All

To say I was nervous on Friday July 10th is an understatement. I arrived at the Marriott Riverfront in Savannah a couple of hours early for set up and to  sign dozens of pre-sale books. My niece who was visiting from North Carolina sat in the passenger seat assuring me that it would be a grand success. She was one of many angels who helped me shine that night.

After speaking to spectacular Marriott staffer, Cindy Johnson, about the arrangement of food tables, I was finally able to greet my publisher Terri Gerrell of SYP Publishing. She found me a signing spot at a large table, suggesting that I sit and breath. She reminded me that I was the author.booklaunch5

I watched as the lobby was transformed into a sparkling party place. Musician Greg Williams arrived on time, wearing a guitar and easy smile. The palm rose maker, Peanut (the oldest artisan on River Street) sashayed  in with a shoulder loaded with palm fronds. Plans fell into place. Imaginings became reality.

Like the moment when a storm passes, and a first ray of sunlight appears, the literary launch I had dreamed of was born. Three years prior, as I sat in the same lobby writing Waving Backwards, I had no way of knowing that we would launch the book there. I did not even know if the book would be published.booklaunch9

Perched happily at my very first book signing table on Friday night, I had hardly taken a breath before a stream of well-wishers arrived. Family, friends, new friends, book lovers, tourists, all stopped to say hello; purchase a book; take a photo. When the first reader asked to have her photo taken with me, I glanced over my shoulder wondering if she meant someone else.booklaunch2

An hour or so into the signing, a voice rose above the murmur of party goers. It was instantly recognizable, and transported me back to the age of seven. I said, “That cannot be the voice I think it is.” When I finished signing the book in front of me, I looked up and there stood a woman I had not seen in a dozen years. It was my adoptive mother’s youngest sister. The aunt who taught me about Barbies and The Beatles had traveled from New York to Savannah to attend my book launch.

In rare moments, when I was able to pause from signing and look around that booklaunch6night, I witnessed my biological and adoptive families in a wash of commonality that sent shivers down my spine. My birth mother posed with my adoptive mother. My adoptive and blood brothers discussed movies and shared a toast. My nieces from both sides of the adoption triad chatted, smiled, shared.

I searched thirteen years to find my biological family, and while they have met my adoptive family before, this was the first celebration we shared as one brood, one clan, one bright reminder of the importance of nature and nurture.

My friends too, joined the fray of family that night as they learned who I look like, who I grew with, who I love, and who loves me back. From our local book club; to a group  I spend Sundays with exploring the world via documentaries; the night was a perfect celebration of the ‘Waving Backwards’ message.booklaunchbertice

Family is all. No matter how they come to join you, family is made of the connections that define us. 

Open records for all adoptees at age eighteen, and access to Original Birth Certificates (OBCs) is essential! All adoptees deserve to experience the completeness and co-mingling that permeated my book launch.

The time for adoptee rights is now.

Blessings and thanks to everyone who attended the Waving Backwards book launch. Thank you city of Savannah, friends and family!  I love you!
Hugs, V.L.

——

Twitter- @RockMemoir
Facebook- www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwardshttp://www.syppublishing.com/waving-backwards/
Amazon author page- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

You’re Invited to the ‘Waving Backwards’ Book Launch Party

You have never experienced an adoption search mystery like this.
Adoptionfind readers, it is with great pleasure that I invite you to the book launch party for my Savannah Novel Waving Backwards.

invitation
To learn more about the book,
or pre-order,
and get your copy personalized by me,
visit

 

Hope to meet you there in July!
Blessings for a shared Savannah adventure,
V.L. Brunskill

Savannah novel ‘Waving Backwards’ scheduled for Summer 2015 release

Waving Backwards, a Savannah novel
By (adoptionfind blogger) V.L. Brunskill

COMING TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU
SUMMER 2015

keyhole1

The baby’s roots are with the southern lady who waves forever.
Her heart was Pearced, and so was that of her mother.
Pearced was she by the cotton race that will never end.
Buried in the first city is a man who holds the 9th key.

     These are the words that set Lara Bonavito out on a quest for answers, away from her college life and into the sigh-worthy historic district of Savannah Georgia. Found in a bible belonging to her adoptive mother (and absent but violent father), the note makes Lara question what little she knows about her past and there’s no way she can resist investigating.With the help of a devilishly suave and decidedly wealthy trolley driver with a penchant for pretty young tourists, Lara peels back the layers of her southern roots, discovering how her birth story intertwines with the bronze beauty of the town: the Waving Girl statue. How are they related and what does the note really mean?

 “Searching is difficult.
Finding is life-altering.”- V.L. Brunskill

View the sigh-worthy Savannah settings for Waving Backwards on Pinterest.

Copyright 2014