Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Guest Post: Oliva deBelle Byrd
A ROMP THROUGH THE DEEP SOUTH
While Olivia deBelle Byrd was repeating one of her many Southern stories for the umpteenth time, her long-suffering husband looked at her with glazed over eyes and said, “Why don’t you write this stuff down?” Thus was born Miss Hildreth Wore Brown—Anecdotes of a Southern Belle. If the genesis for a book is to shut your wife up, I guess that’s as good as any.
On top of that, Olivia’s mother had burdened her with one of those Southern middle names kids love to make fun. To see “deBelle” printed on the front of a book seemed vindication for all the childhood teasing.
What began as a quest of a husband to keep his wife quiet segued into a collection of Southern stories assembled as a Christmas gift for her children. Thirty-one months and fourteen rejection letters later, Miss Hildreth Wore Brown—Anecdotes of a Southern Belle was published by an independent New York publisher.
Thus was the beginning of Miss Hildreth which is a humorous, satirical romp through my Southern life. I like to call it real-life fiction as all the people, places and events are real but like all good Southern stories exaggeration and embellishment have been added to these real events. Because they are actual occurrences, the reader is drawn into the warmth and familiarity of the characters and their stories. What Southern mother has not threatened her offspring with grits and water for supper if that thank you note does not get written? What quaint Southern town does not have a grand dame who wears turbans and dark sunglasses and calls everyone “dahling” whether they are darling or not? Where else but the South can a mink be mistaken for possum?
Being raised by a Southern father and grandmother of great wit, humor flowed as freely as water from a faucet in our household. More years into adulthood then I am going to reveal, when prodded by my husband’s bid to shush me I put pen to paper, the stories poured forth as though an age-old tap had been discovered and turned on. With hours of sweat, spoonfuls of tenacity, and several strokes of plain good fortune, the amusement and idiosyncrasies that are so unique to the Deep South came to life on the pages of Miss Hildreth Wore Brown-Anecdotes of a Southern Belle. The stories are punctuated with everyday mishaps that Southerners seem to have a knack for turning into entertainment. It turns out Bostonians do not always appreciate being called “ma’am” and New Yorkers can have Southern manners.
My humorous foray through Southern life has led me into a joyous romp through the land of authors and readers. As an old reader and a new writer, it warms the cockles of my Southern heart to know there are so many book lovers in this world. Through books, we become what we dream, we are educated and inspired, we travel into the souls of characters and find ourselves. To be a new author in the presence of so many creative minds has been a gift. To be in the presence of so many lovers and readers of books has been an inspiration. I believe deeply in the written word. Very simply, it gives meaning and beauty to life.
Olivia deBelle Byrd is a self-proclaimed Southern Belle who resides in Panama City, Florida, with her husband, Tommy. She is the author of Miss Hildreth Wore Brown—Anecdotes of a Southern Belle, which is her first collection of satirical essays.