November 13, 2016
On her website, alongside her professional bio, is a short comment from Lauretta Hannon. It reads, “My childhood was hard, but I was well loved. Through it all I had books, and stories sustained me.”
Lauretta has collected a lifetime’s worth of stories that blend of hardship and joy, engender laughter and tears, and evoke memories of my own youth. They are epitomized by my favorite Cracker Queen quote:
“Life is short, wear mink at the Waffle House.”
For me, writing about Lauretta Hannon is a challenge. How can I understand someone who is, I think, my total opposite? How can I walk in her shoes or view the world through her eyes even for an instant? How can I marvel at what she marvels at or judge as she would? And, to make it more difficult, how do I write something new about a person who has been written about everywhere, who has frequent and regular public appearances, and who “talks” daily to her legions of fans and total strangers?
On second thought, no total strangers live in Lauretta’s world. And maybe that’s a first clue.
To learn more, I read her advice columns in The Marietta Daily Journal, her blogs on The Huffington Post, and her book, The Cracker Queen. Hoards of raucous, rebellious fans, on reading her stories, roll around on the carpet with hands clutching their midriffs and belly laughs filling the room. But for me, the subtitle of her book (and her life, I suspect) with its hint of yin and yang is what grabs my attention: A Memoir of A Jagged, Joyful Life.
By her own admission, Lauretta writes of people on the margin, people who live on the fine line between joy and hardship and occasionally fall on one side or the other. They’re people who have much to say. Southern Living calls Lauretta the funniest woman in Georgia, but it’s the lessons for finding joy in spite of hardship that ring true and deep and resonate after the last page is turned. By popular request, Lauretta has compiled her syndicated columns on the topic of joy into a booklet, What the Joyful Know.
I also listened to recordings of Lauretta on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered where she shared her sources of inspiration: music, spirituality, and Leo Tolstoy. Yes the Leo Tolstoy. Lauretta offered her favorite line from the great Russian writer’s A Calendar of Wisdom: “Life should and can be limitless joy. And more importantly, When joy disappears, look for your mistake.” Wrapped in a familiar southern cadence, her voice brings Tolstoy close, rural Georgia into our living rooms, and adds depth to a memory she shares of chain gangs spotted along a country road so many years ago.
What did I take away from my encounter with Lauretta? More evidence I’ve spent most if not all of my life on the joyful side of the line, but reminded of the two sides to life. I’ve learned too, even I can become a Cracker Queen. By Lauretta’s definition, a Cracker Queen is a strong, authentic Southern woman, an anti-Southern belle. I have my copy of A Calendar of Wisdom, I’m working on my southern accent, and I’m looking closer at the interesting people populating my world.
For more on Lauretta Hannon, go to her website (TheCrackerQueen.com), listen to her on NPR’s WABE-90.1, attend a “Down Home” Writing School, and of course read The Cracker Queen, one of the Georgia Center for the Book’s Top Twenty-Five Books All Georgians Should Read.
Featured Bookstore Nearby: The Book Worm Bookstore
For over a decade Susan Smelser’s independent book store has occupied a prominent spot in the heart of Powder Springs. It’s a popular place, drawing locals and visitors alike, some from as far away as Cumming, Newnan, and Conyers. Take one step inside and you’ll know why. Books line the floor-to-ceiling shelves on every wall and here and there a cozy overstuffed chair waits for anyone who wants to linger. “But, there’s a method to the madness,” Susan says. She and a tireless staff keep everything where it should be, whether it’s new or old, a novel or nonfiction, a children’s book, a book of true crime, science fiction, inspiration, or mystery. And if by chance the Book Worm doesn’t have exactly what you are looking for among its 30,000 titles, Susan will find a copy for you. Finding long sought books for customers has been Susan’s trademark. That along with her dedication to serving her customers. It’s not just lip service. Everyone gives the store high marks for friendliness and helpfulness.
See for yourself at 4451 Marietta Street in Powder Springs. And for more information visit TheBookWormOnline.com.