Posted tagged ‘Reed’s Bookstore’

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

January 17, 2011

        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



My Reed’s Bookstore Gig Goals

January 14, 2011

        In my last post I promised I’d tell you my hopes for my gig tomorrow at Reed’s. At first glance you might say, “You’re a writer, your goal is to sell books.”

       On the surface, that is true I guess, but it isn’t my number one objective. “The Mandolin Case” has sold well enough that if it keeps this up in another year I’m gonna be on the bottom of the N.Y. Times best seller list and someone up there might just ask, “Who the h#** is Tommy Bibey?”

        I believe a man not satisfied with all that stands even odds God will strike him down to prove a point, and I’ve had the fear of God in me since my mama put it in me as a boy.

        So you might ask; what is my goal?

        I’ll be at Saltillo High School today. I hope some of them will come to Reed’s Bookstore tomorrow. I hope to show the kids that one can find a life of grace and dignity through the arts. If even one decides a life of materialism and celebrity is just too shallow a goal and decides to pursue another route to happiness, I’ve done my job.

        All I’m gonna do is what I did at West Henderson High; ask the kids to consider what folks like their teachers like Mr. Cliff Searcy there or Ms. T. in Saltillo have to say. Every so often an outsider needs to come around to remind folks, but your heroes are right there in your hometown, just like they are here in Harvey County.    

        And that is my goal.

        If I sell enough books to make gas money back home that’s just gravy on the biscuit.

        See you at Reed’s tomorrow. Y’all bring a guitar and come pick a tune.

Dr. B

The Return of Tommy Bibey- Reed’s Bookstore

January 12, 2011

        Well sure enough I wound up going to Mississippi in 2008. I met the school kids in the library and also their English teacher Ms. Turner. Some of the kids dubbed me as an “Honorary Mississippian.” I recall I said to a student named Carrie, “You’re a smart girl and a good writer.”

        Her little pal who stood next to her puffed up with pride and said, “Carrie is real smart; she’s going to Ole Miss next year to study pharmacy.”

        I like people like that. A friend of mine says “true friends are never jealous or envious.” This little girl wanted to make sure some stranger come to town knew she was proud of her friend Carrie.

      We stayed at the Jamison Inn, and I promised Mark the manager I’d play a mandolin tune before I left. April from housekeeping was there when I checked out and we sang “Glory Hallelujah Gonna Lay my Burdens Down.” I think we did it in “E.” The lady was a powerful singer.

        We did a Hee Haw show fundraiser at Smitty’s church and they had a slew of fine pickers there. Since then I’ve run into Marty Stuart. He’s a Mississippi boy; so there’s a lot of music in those parts. That night we went to Smitty’s mama’s house and had that fried chicken and Mississippi Mama’s famous chocolate cobbler. Lordy.

       Smitty and I played golf the next day with Elvis, Conway, and the Preacherman from the Hee Haw show the night before. I called my Lit agent to tell him how much fun I was having.

       He said, “Son, you don’t even know where you are do you?”

       I replied, “Yes sir, I’m right down here in Saltillo. It’s next door to Tupelo, the home of Elvis Presley. I saw his house and the hardware store where his mama bought his first guitar.”

       He laughed. “No, as far as books, you don’t even know where you are.”


       “Ask them about Reed’s Bookstore.”

       “OK. Sure.”

      Smitty gave me directions and we drove to Reed’s. We went in to visit. The lady who helped me was named Susan. I noticed a stack of Grisham signed copies on a table and inquired. Susan said when Grisham has a new book release he always debuts it at Reed’s. It’s hard to believe now, but when Grisham started out things were kinda slow an Mr. Reed was kind enough to let him do his book signings there. I guess Mr. Grisham never forgot it.

      I told Susan about my book, and played the staff a song on my mandolin. It was “The Kentucky Waltz.” I looked over at the stack of Grisham books again and said, “Ma’am, I’m no Grisham and never will be, but I think we do have one thing in common. I believe we both know to dance with who brung us.”

      “Yes, he is a very nice man.”

      “Well, let me ask you something. If I ever get my book published would y’all consider having me here for a book signing?”

      “Yes sir. You just call us.”

      “Great! I’ll be back someday, and I’ll bring my mandolin and my book too.”

      When I called last week young lady named Emily answered the phone, and she remembered me from 2008. “You were that tall gray-haired doctor who played the mandolin. I’d just started working here when you came through. Yes, we’d love to have you visit.” 

       And that is how Tommy Bibey, the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer wound up scheduled for a book signing this Saturday Jan 15, 2011 at 1:00PM at Reed’s bookstore, one of John Grisham’s favorite hangouts. Unbelievable.

       In my next post I’m gonna tell you what I hope to get done at the Reed’s Bookstore gig. (Hint: I’m a doctor, but I view part of my job as a teacher) One thing about it, I might as well relax and just be me, ’cause I sure ain’t Grisham. No one’s gonna top that cat, ‘cept maybe Twain. 

       If anyone reading this is from that part of Mississippi I hope you’ll drop by. Go see the home of Elvis Presley while you’re there; he’s really famous. It’s a good exhibit that shows all about his raising. Elvis was just a county boy who loved his mama and the gospel, but man could he sing.

Dr. B