The past couple of months have been quite exciting for Audrey Atkins of the popular blog Folkways Nowadays. Not only did she publish her debut essay collection They Call Me Orange Juice with Archway Publishing, but she also attended BookExpo 2018 at the Javits Center in New York where her new book was on display at Archway Publishing’s booth!
Audrey is the See Jane Write Member of the Month for June 2018 for these reasons and so many more.
If you’re in the Birmingham area you can buy a copy of They Call Me Orange Juice at Audrey’s book launch party 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 15 at Rojo, 2921 Highland Avenue. There will be light hors-d’oeuvres provided, books will be sold and signed, and Audrey will do a short reading.
In the meantime, read on to learn more about Audrey’s book and her blog and why she loves being a part of See Jane Write.
Congratulations on your new book! Tell us more about your book and what readers can expect.
They Call Me Orange Juice is a collection of essays about growing up in my small hometown of Citronelle, Alabama, living in the South, and being Southern. Most of them are funny, some are poignant, and there is one that I still can’t read without crying even though I wrote it! You’ll meet the old men who congregated in the police station and the eccentric characters who worked on Main Street, hear words of wisdom from my Granny, and even learn how one superstitious old man could literally make it rain even during the dry dog days of summer. You’ll also find out how love really is like collards, what you should never do to grits, and the price they paid for calling me “orange juice.”
Who is this “They” that called you “orange juice”?
“They” is a little boy named Ronnie whom I was in elementary school with. He thought that Orange Juice sounded like Audrey and taunted me mercilessly…until one day I’d had enough!
I can’t wait to read that! How was your experience at BookExpo?
I’ve been to a lot of conferences all over the country, but the BookExpo was the biggest I’ve ever been to both in terms of the number of exhibitors and the sheer size of the Javits Center. It was exciting, exhilarating, and a little overwhelming. I was inspired and motivated by authors like Barbara Kingsolver, Nicholas Sparks, D. L. Hughley, Jill Lepore, Alex Wagner, Trevor Noah, and Mika Brzezinski who talked about writing, what motivates them and frustrates them, and their process. I got to meet and visit with a lot of really nice people who were fellow authors, illustrators, printers, agents, marketers, librarians, paper and cloth manufacturers, and, of course, publishers. And even though there are a gazillion shiny new books there waiting to get picked by booksellers from all over the world, to know that mine was one of them was probably one of the most gratifying and validating experiences of my life.
Tell us more about your blog.
I started writing because I had all these memories swimming around in my head about my childhood, my relatives, and other characters we knew. I had an overwhelming urge to share them in some way, and even though at the time I didn’t know what it was all about, blogging seemed like the best way to preserve and share these memories. That’s when I created FolkwaysNowadays.com. Shortly thereafter, I discovered See Jane Write and began to learn what blogging really was all about and how to refine and focus my writing. Over the last several years, the blog morphed from autobiography to commentary on what life is like for a typical Southerner — the things that define us, our struggles and triumphs, and especially our interesting and sometimes unusual (at least to non-Southerners) way of life.
How long have you been blogging and how did your blog help with both the production and promotion of your book?
I’ve been blogging for seven years now and have developed some loyal readers for whom I’m very grateful. When I decided I wanted to write a book, I went back and printed out every single blog post I’d written up until that time. I laid them all out on the floor and arranged and rearranged them while I thought about recurring themes, logical flow, and whether anyone besides my mama would care. Then I put them all away convinced that publishing a book was just a vanity project and a waste of time. But those loyal blog readers kept saying, “You should write a book!” so I pulled it all out again, reimagined the project, and got to work rewriting and editing. Without the following, especially a core group of readers, that I developed through my blog, I would have never worked up the courage to pursue publishing a book. And those core readers have been invaluable in helping me publicize the book from social media sharing to hosting signing events and everything in between. I could not be more grateful to all the people who follow my blog for their encouragement and criticism, the gift of their time, and for every laugh and tear they’ve shared with me.
Do you have any tips for anyone who’s working on a book but having trouble finding the time or inspiration to complete it?
You just have to make the time. It’s hard. I get it. Family, friends, day jobs, and other obligations pull you in all directions, but you just have to learn to say “no” (or at least “no for now”) and set aside the time you need. It might be a few minutes on your lunch hour, some time before your family wakes up or after they go to bed, or voice notes on your commute — but whenever that time is, make the most of it. You’ll find out that the more time you get to work on your passion project, the more excited you get about it, and the more time you’ll miraculously find to work on it.
What do you love most about being a member of See Jane Write?
The See Jane Write community has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration for me, which is why I’ve been a member since almost the very beginning. Being a part of such a creative and driven group of women constantly challenges me to be the best writer, and really the best person, I can be. And seeing other women successfully publish their books gave me the confidence and courage to follow in their footsteps. I can safely say that without See Jane Write, I probably would have never worked up the nerve to pursue this dream.
They Call Me Orange Juice can be purchased online here or at Little Professor Book Center, 2844 18th Street South in Homewood, Alabama, and Church Street Coffee & Books, 81 Church Street in Mountain Brook, Alabama. And don’t miss Audrey’s book launch party 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 15 at Rojo, 2921 Highland Avenue in Birmingham.