You Might be Ready To Be a Writer When…. (Cuttin’ a Wide Southern Swath)

        You might be a writer and a book peddler when you check the Weather Channel and realize a major storm is on the way and it might snow you in and tangle up your gig, so you toss three boxes of books and your mandolin in the car along with your lap-top, stuff a handful of duds in a duffel bag, then rush out and try to beat the storm. You realize in your haste you forgot to pack any pants other than the ones you have on, so you stop a hundred miles down the road at the Walmart for some new threads where you tell the customers they need Tommy Bibey books in the store.

        You’re on towards a high-falutin’ famous author when you’re stranded in Atlanta two days ’cause you miscalculated the exact hour the snow would blow in, and you had stop along the route to pee three times instead of two. You get caught in a blizzard where the MARTA buses swapped ends and blocked “Spaghetti Junction” in the worst storm in twenty years and the 18 wheelers on I-285 are frozen solid to the Interstate and have to be dug out one at a time by the DOT.

        But you, one brave solitary writer that you are, along with your fine wife, slip-slide up the down ramp and snag the last room at the Airport Hilton. You view the situation as one big fortuitous circumstance; as a writer you see it as a book peddler land of opportunity ’cause you and your mandolin are the only entertainment in the lobby.

        Everyone was on edge ’cause of the rush, the weather, and the inconvenience, but the music renders a strange calm to the chaos. Several folks buy your book. You aren’t sure if they really like it, felt sorry for you, or just came over to check it all out because of the music and the fact you were parked right next to the warm fireplace. Maybe they just wanted you to go away. (To be a successful book salesperson you have to calculate at what point your pitch borders on obnoxious and stop just shy of that)

        You’re ready to be a Literature pitchman when they only restaurant open in Atlanta metro area is the Waffle House and they are so over-worked your wife offers to help ’em bus tables. (The boss wouldn’t allow) You play ’em a song, leave ’em a card, thank ’em for that fine coffee, tell ’em everyone knows the Waffle House is the bluegrass breakfast of champions, then recommend they read Tommy Bibey when the spring thaw comes. You get in the parking lot, and step back inside. “By the way guys, ask corporate to consider a bluegrass coffee sponsorship for the Tommy Bibey tour.”

       They you wave goodbye, slide back down the off ramp, and escape town while you have a two-hour one degree above freezing window of opportunity.

       When you break into the clear in the sunny Southland a hundred-fifty miles south of Hotlanta you stop at a feed and seed to get a “Big Al’s Strawberry Alligator Ice” and a bag of cashews. It looks like some kinda tropical oasis and reminds you of the Sun Drop Slushies back in Harvey County. If you feel like that’s high cotton and better than an invitation to snorkel with the rich and famous at some exotic beach, you might be a southern writer.

        It’s just like home; a sign out front sports ads for Marvin’s live minnows, Happy Jack dog food, and Bud Light. You leave ’em a card and tell ’em the bluegrass people know the truth. In the rearview you watch as they scratch their heads and turn the card over with a curious look that seems to say, “Who was that masked man?”

        You’re a writer when you drive halfway across the South and four states through the snow to have a chance to talk to school kids about books rather than a bunch of rich guys at a some bank ’cause you have this hopeless romantic notion your words will somehow make the world a touch kinder.

        You’re ready to be a writer when you fall head over heels in love with a cool independent book store like Reed’s Gum Tree Book Store in Tupelo, the home bookstore of John Grisham and Elvis for Heaven’s sake. All the best pickers in that neck of the woods, “The Saltillo Circuit Riders” show up in force. It’s not every day the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer is in town, and they want to show support for one of one of their own. Me and Smitty get our picture taken with Elvis; I’ll post it soon.

        You leave behind a dozen signed copies and hope maybe Mr. Reed, the mayor, John Grisham and every good-hearted school teacher in Mississippi will scarf ’em up. I loved Mississippi. As Pa Smith says, “Come to Mississippi. We have so many ways to treat you good you’re bound to like one of ’em.”  

         As a writer you dream you might be a small part of something bigger than you; a place where smart people exchange intellectual ideas instead of venom. Reed’s was like that.

        You’re a writer if you sow seeds and plant word trees when you know quite well it’s unlikely you’ll be around long enough to partake of the shade. You do it ’cause you can’t bear for the dream to die when you do.

        You’re a writer when your best little young country music friends like Miss Megan say, “Doc, the reason this gig works is you and Marfar are playing. It ain’t work for you. Have fun; go for it.”

        You do it because that’s what you are. You don’t write for money. You write because when you get home, you say to your tireless life-long sidekick, “Hon, I’m beat. As best as I can figure if you include the royalty check that came in the mail while we were gone we only lost $273.34 on the trip.”

       And she smiles and says, “Yes, dear, but we’re living large. When’s the next gig?”

        “Let’s see. Bluegrass First Class. February, Asheville. Can’t wait. But for now, I gotta jump into a phone booth and turn into a doctor.”

        She shakes her head, laughs, and replies, “Able to leap tall buildings….”

        “Yeah, hide the kryptonite kiddo, Doc ain’t done for yet.”

Dr. B


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14 Comments on “You Might be Ready To Be a Writer When…. (Cuttin’ a Wide Southern Swath)”

  1. Felix Miller Says:

    That was an epic account of your journey, Dr. B. All the best stories involve a journey of some kind, from Huck Finn on the Mississippi to Dr. B. going book touring in the teeth of the biggest winter storm since ’93. I laughed, and grinned and felt like I was there.

    Good on you!

  2. Beth Says:

    Sounds like fun!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. inkspeare Says:

    Love it! The adventures of Dr. B

  4. Doc B, this was a great post. I loved the way you wrote it, although I’m so sorry for all the delays/storm stuff you had to go through on your trip!

    I hope you remember to tell me when you come to the Big Apple – I want to hear you read and see you play :).

    • drtombibey Says:


      The snow made it tough, but I was glad we were safe.

      Me and Marfar are gonna take you out to eat when we hit the city. Not sure exactly when we’ll get up there, but we won’t forget.

      Dr. B

  5. Megan Says:

    Dr. B,
    This is one of my favorite posts of yours!
    1. Because I am starvingggg and you mention alot of great words, i.e., spaghetti, Sun Drop slushies, and Waffle House…
    2. Because the wife offers to bus tables at the infamous joint…lol I love her.
    3. Because you’re playing and living the life.
    Keep on doing what you love! That’s karma right there 😉

    • drtombibey Says:


      Kid, if anyone ever had the singing karma it’s you. Hey speaking of food, me and Marfar still gotta take you and the Rev for that plate of chicken in Nashville. Keep on singing, girl.

      Dr. B

  6. Cindy Lou Says:

    Welcome to Atlanta! I have experienced that scene first hand. Can’t say that I have ever forgot my pants but, I did forget a slip for under my dress. Mafar can attest that this can cause as much a problem as forgetting one’s pants. Glad you are a writer dude that can describe the trip so well I feel like I was in the car with you!

    • drtombibey Says:


      That trip was kinda easy to write about and describe, ’cause it made a big impression on me. I was afraid we were gonna get stuck and freeze to death.

      Dr. B

  7. tpbiii Says:

    It is I-285, not I-275.

    I read your book. I can’t get it signed since I read it on Kindle — I suppose you could sign the Kindle, but that would be a bit like marking a good fishing spot on the side of the boat.

    “Acquisition Syndrome” huh? My wife and I are founding members of the Acquisition Syndrome Society — in addition to guitars (GAS), we also acquire banjos, mandolins, fiddles, basses and a few others could I never admit in public. My wife has six basses, including three five-sting Kays — she is the best equipped wife in the world. There are a lot of members to our society, but they seldom use the Society initials after their name — no pride to speak of.

    So I have a test for you to see if you are for real. No cheating by asking local experts. It is indeed possible to tell the differences between (some) 1936 D-28s from those from ’35s and ’37s from across the room. Bones did it in your book — a strange talent from someone with a composite mandolin. So how did he do that?



    • drtombibey Says:


      Too dang good! Oops. I will correct the I 285 typo. Thank goodness for sharp readers.

      My wife and I also have a bit of Acquisition Syndrome, though we don’t have any vintage instruments.

      Hm. Maybe this explains the author’s guitar boo-boo, or then again perhaps Bones was telepathic. I’ll ask him next time I see him. Again, no question you are a sharp reader.

      Hey since you got it on Kindle if you’ll send me an e-mail with a mailing address to my email at, I’ll send out a “Mandolin Case” signed post card which can be used as a bookmark on regular books. (You’re right, the Kindle does have some limitations, but I also love mine)

      All the best,

      Dr. B

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