No tall tales!
“‘Tales from the South'” is a showcase of writers reading their own true stories. While the show itself is unrehearsed, the literary memoirs have been worked on for weeks leading up to the readings. Stories range from funny to touching, from everyday occurances to life-altering tragedies.”
“Tales from the South” is uniquely Southern, in that while we don’t require that stories are set in the South (though a majority are), writers must be either originally from the South or live here currently, and the distinct Southern art of storytelling rich in language, detail, and voice is alive in all of them. Contributors are from all walks of life and include professional writers as well as those who have never been published.”
MY TURN TO TELL MY TALE
In late October of this year, my dear and funny friend, Taylor Kidd, mentioned a radio show on NPR, “Tales From The South”. I was vaguely familiar with the program, although I had never listened to an episode. I think I knew they accepted submissions and recall thinking at some point prior to that day, “I need to submit.”
But I never did.
Until Taylor encouraged me to do so.
Why hadn’t I before? I have no idea. It wasn’t out of fear of rejection, as I have a thick skin and know my abilities. I think I simply kept forgetting about it.
Fortunately I had been, (and still am), working on a book entitled “Mister Fancy Pants”. An observational humor book along the lines of so many observational humor books. A collection of stories about travels, friends, family, living and life. Just things I find funny or interesting. Several people had read what I had written thus far and the one chapter which struck a chord in so many was the one entitled “The Son of Miss Sharon”.
The chapter is the story of how I discovered, quite by accident when I was 15 years old, my mother had been when I was one year old, Miss Sharon on television’s children’s educational program Romper Room. The chapter is actually posted in one of my earlier blog entries entitled “The Son of Miss Sharon”. Check it out.
I thought this might make an interesting submission, so I shaped it up a bit making certain I was within the required word count and electronically submitted the story on a Monday.
The very next day I was booked for the Tin Roof Series of Tales From The South.
“The first Tuesday of each month, we feature a well-known Southerner for a special show we call the ‘Tin Roof Project.’“
I was thrilled. For several reasons. First, obviously it’s an honor to be booked on Tales From The South, an internationally syndicated show. And two, to be booked on the special Tin Roof series – a bonus!
But most importantly, I was thrilled my parents would be in the audience for the taping. I would be given the privilege of honoring them. And that was, well, thrilling.
My taping was scheduled for December 4th with an air date of January 3rd, 2013. The taping took place at the wonderful and ambient Starving Artist Cafe. Such a beautiful platform for artists. Great atmosphere, food and service. Located in the equally wonderful Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock, Arkansas, I was to arrive at 4 pm. It’s about a three hour drive from where I live in Fayetteville and since I wouldn’t be done with the taping until 8.30 pm, I didn’t want to drive back that late at night alone. So I made a plan to spend the night – UNTIL I saw hotel prices.
The Hampton Inn? $109 a night.
What? Do they now have gold taps?
Of course there were cheaper hotels which one could rent by the hour.
So I reconciled myself to the fact I would have to drive back after the taping.
THEN, I get an email from the producers telling me if I planned to spend the night, they would put me up complimentary, (FREE), at the every-so-lovely Robinwood Bed and Breakfast.
The Robinwood Bed & Breakfast.
So I excitedly packed my little overnight bag courtesy of Louis Vuitton and headed for Little Rock with audio book at the ready.
I enjoy driving. I enjoy driving by myself. I enjoy driving by myself while listening to an audio book.
I arrived in Little Rock around 3.30pm and having printed off directions to the B&B, I navigated my way through strange territory and eventually became lost as I missed an all-too-important hidden turn off. Thank goodness for GPS and maps as I entered in my current position and destination and quickly found my way after that.
Oh, the B&B was heaven. Such wonderful hosts and the quest count that night, including myself, was…two.
I was led to my room where I discovered a jacuzzi tub, plush bathrobes, snack & drink bar and a bed so soft and delightful that it was not to be believed.
So I took a quick nap before leaving for the taping.
A quick nap and snack before heading out for the taping.
And to my immense disappointment when I asked my hostesses if the house was haunted, she said no.
The interior of The Starving Artist Cafe. Home of Tales From the South.
I arrive at The Starving Artist Cafe just as my parents are arriving.
And I am SO excited to be sharing this with them. Which can, admittedly, be difficult to tell at times. Sometimes when I get too excited…too overwhelmed, I pull back. I become very quiet. Where others might be jumping up and down in excited energy, I tend to take a moment and a deep breath. In a sense I want to sit back and observe as I don’t want to get so caught up in the moments that I forget the moments. I want to soak it all in. All the details.
And as my parents become older…well, I can’t bear to think about, let alone write about that, but you know what I am thinking…
As we walk up to the cafe I notice my name on the sandwich board on the sidewalk.
I take a picture.
We then are escorted to our table – front and center, where I find a lovely note and (BONUS), a Tales From The South T-shirt. I am all about a gift basket. AND my meal was free.
I felt like Kate Middleton.
We have a terrific server, Andy, whom I later find out from his networking email he sent to me is a musician and is interested in breaking into musical theatre. Have I any advice?
I order a steak, which was DELISH!
During dinner a fantastic band plays. Bluegrass-style, which I adore.
And there is a bit of dancing by the patrons. One man is on the dance floor cutting a proverbial rug. And then announces he’s 91 years old.
Then the band finished their set and the show began.
Paula Martin Morell, the show’s producer and host, gave me a tremendous introduction. And it was tremendous because I wrote it myself. As requested.
If you have ever listened to the show, you know Paula mentions the set, which are a series of painted doors – which are, fabulous.
And for sale.
“And please welcome Mark Landon Smith…”
To applause and a few whistles, which I assume were directed as my posterior, I made my way up to the stage.
I do not get nervous when performing.
I get excited.
And this was an ideal situation. I felt very comfortable. Very at home. My parents were there. There was a good energy in the room. And I had my script in front of me. So there is nothing left to chance.
So I began my story. Which you can read, as mentioned earlier in this post, in an post posted earlier.
The audience was with me every step of the way. Laughing when they should. Being moved when they were. And being there, soaking in the moment, reading a story about my beloved mother, I became emotional. A bit teary. I had to take a moment. Stop. Continue.
It. Was. Magical.
On stage for Tales From The South.
I was proud.
Proud of my parents. Proud of my heritage. Proud of being of the South. Proud of the story I had to tell.
And very thankful.
At the end of the reading there was loud applause and whistles of appreciation. A short break was taken as a Q&A from the host and audience followed.
The host forwarded questions for me to review/approve before I arrived, which I of course did. Who am I to censor the questions of a host? They were far from invasive.
As we ended the hosts questions and opened it up to the audience, I became momentarily afraid no one would care to ask anything. But was wrong. The audience was fascinated with the fact Miss Sharon, a television icon whom they remembered from and had an impact upon their childhood, was there among them.
My mother felt like a rock star. Because she is.
At the end of the evening audience members introduced themselves to my parents, which was thrilling to watch and I was pooped.
It really was a perfect evening and over by 8.30 pm.
I thanked the host and our server.
Earlier in the evening they had an audience giveaway. The winner of which was Jean Kerst. A name I recognized. I glanced over at the table and saw a large family sitting together and locked eyes with one of the menfolk. A moment of recognition.
“Paul? Paul Kerst?”
An old friend of mine from high school I had not seen since 1982. He and his family live in Conway and discovering I was being featured, drove in with his family to celebrate his wife’s 50th birthday evening. What a treat. We spoke for a bit and had a picture taken.
What a small world.
My parents and I said our goodbyes in the parking lot and I would see them in two and a half weeks for Christmas. Hugs. Thank yous and as they pulled away, a few tears from myself.
Now all I wanted to do was to get back to the Robinwood, pop open a Coke and soak in that jacuzzi tub.
Which. I. Did.
And watched television and slept soundly.
The next morning I hit the jacuzzi one more time before heading down for breakfast.
Post morning jacuzzi time.
A yummy breakfast and visiting with the B&B owners and playing with their dogs completed my morning before departing. And saying goodbye and thank you and what a beautiful Christmas tree and what a treat this was and I will tell everyone about your wonderful place, I left.
And driving home I finished my audio book and arriving back in Fayetteville before noon, went straight to work at the theatre.
And that is my tale of Tales From The South.
You should try it sometime.