Everything You Probably Never Wanted To Know


I used to blog here. Until this week, apparently. Because sometime early Monday morning, the weight of every single responsibility that I’ve sort of brushed to the side while I’ve been traveling hither and yon for book stuff pretty much crashed down on my shoulders and made me wonder OH SWEET AGNES, HOW WILL I EVER GET ALL OF THIS STUFF DONE?

So, you see, I really couldn’t blog because I was too busy assuming the fetal position and trying to block out my mental to-do list. Plus, the Bulldogs were playing in the College World Series championship, and I could’ve had a complete come-apart over that little fact alone. However, somehow I’ve managed to spend the last three days wearing the biggest blinders I could find – all the while trying to plan and supervise Meaningful Summer Activites for a certain ten year-old – and I’m just now starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel.

This is a huge development, really, because at the beginning of the week all I could see was the front end of a train barreling in my direction. And, understandably, that was not my most favorite feeling.

Anyway, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been wanting to write a post that answers some of the questions that have come up several times at book signings, and now that I’m sitting at Starbucks and there’s a beautiful sunset outside and I only have one thing left on that massive MUST BE WRITTEN list, I thought that tonight would be a fine and wonderful time to address those pressing issues.

Except that they’re not really pressing.

Or even, you know, important.

But still. Upwards of four people have asked these questions, so clearly this information is going to change the course of your life forever.

All righty. Here are the questions. And all of them pertain to my book. You’ve probably figured that out already since I mentioned that people had asked these questions at book signings. But you can always count on me to over-explain!

1) Why did you change the name of your hometown to Myrtlewood?

Well, there were several reasons. I originally started writing the book with the real name of my hometown, but I found myself struggling to balance the history of the town with stories about my people. And since the book was supposed to be about my family, the history part became a bigger and bigger distraction. So one day I tried changing the name, and HEY, MAGIC, I suddenly didn’t feel like I needed to explain who set up a shop on the corner of This Street and That Street back in 1847.

Another reason I changed the name was because I didn’t want to presume to speak for my hometown. I haven’t lived there in almost twenty years, and it’s changed a lot since then. I wanted to be safe to describe certain things the way I remembered them, but I didn’t want people to get frustrated with me if that’s not how those things are anymore.

Finally, one of my Tyndale friends and I talked a lot about this, and at the end of the day, we felt like it was a good idea to put a little bit of a buffer between Google and my family. I know good and well that anyone who’s determined to figure out everybody’s full names and where they live could probably do that – but I also didn’t want to give away too much because I am confident that if a book-reading stranger turned up at Martha’s house and knocked on her door, she would ask said stranger to please come inside so she could make them a fresh pot of coffee and serve them a brownie. She just made them! They’re delicious!

2) Where’d you get the name “Myrtlewood”?

One afternoon last summer Sister and I spent about an hour on the phone trying to come up with alternate names for towns and for people. It was way more difficult than I anticipated, and it made me more certain than ever that I will never, ever write fiction because I wouldn’t be able to name all the characters. Anyway, I had tried using “Dogwood” for my hometown, but it didn’t feel right. I’d also tried using “Tulip Creek” for my grandparents’ little town, and for some reason it made me feel like I was writing a script for a soap opera.


There’s a little town called Myrtle, Mississippi that’s north of Tupelo, and every single time we pass the sign on our way to Memphis, I say something along the lines of, “That is THE BEST name for a Southern town.” So Myrtlewood is my little wink at Myrtle, Mississippi – and I just added the “wood” part from “Dogwood.”

(I “feel” like I’m “using” a “lot” of “quotation marks.”)

(“Help” me.)

After we settled on Myrtlewood, Sister said, “Well, you HAVE to change that Tulip Creek business.” She came up with Moss Rose. I thought it sounded delicate and Southern. So it was perfect.

3) How have the people in your family reacted to the book? Have they been okay with everything?

I will probably cry the whole time I type this answer. Just so you know.

If there was any part of the whole book thing that weighed heavily on me when I was writing, it was wondering how my family would respond. Naturally I was hoping that my affection for them would be evident, but you just never know what might rub somebody the wrong way – or what memory might be funny for a few people but painful for somebody else. So last summer, after I’d turned in my first draft, I gave all the chapters about Martha to Martha, all the chapters about Mama and Daddy to Mama and Daddy, etc. They were so great about every bit of it; the only change I made, I think, was to say that they don’t ALWAYS put enough peaches in the cobbler at Western Sizzlin’ – because Martha didn’t want anyone from Western Sizzlin’ to read and think that she doesn’t like their cobbler! Because she does! She just happens to like a lot of peaches!

Anyway, once I’d finished all the edits for Tyndale and the book was totally finished, I started to feel panicked that I had written something that was going to upset somebody, or maybe so-and-so didn’t see one particular part and what if they didn’t like it, or what if the edited version was too different from the original, or what if or what if or what if.

But now that the book is out and everybody has read all the chapters, here’s what I can tell you without hesitation: my family has been so great – just big, wide-open grace on all sides of the family tree. They have been unbelievably supportive and encouraging and patient and wonderful. I don’t think that I’ll ever get over it.

4) Did Martha really have a friend named Rubena?

Oh, yes ma’am. She most certainly did. I tried changing Rubena’s name, too, but as you can imagine, no other name would do. So Martha asked Rubena’s daughters if they were okay with me telling a story about their mama, and they were so sweet to say yes.

Which reminds me: look at this photographic treasure that a family friend of ours found a couple of weeks ago (thanks, Bruce!).

 photo 1025329_10201235368585905_1642089294_o_zps67def744.jpg

That’s Beth (another lifelong friend of Martha’s), Rubena, Martha, and Ann, who I’m guessing was engaged at the time. I think this picture was taken sometime in the mid- to late 80s, and it makes me so happy. Daddy actually took one of my books to Beth when I was home a few weeks ago, and since Beth can’t see very well anymore, Martha was planning to go sit with her a couple of times a week and read a chapter out loud when she visits.

(Seriously. This is too much. It makes me so emotional. I may require a sedative.)

So. Those are all the questions I can remember right now, but hopefully I’ve cleared up a few things. And if there’s anything you’ve been wanting to ask, just let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer. Because let’s be honest: we’re sitting smack-dab in the middle of the no-man’s land between baseball season and football season. What else am I gonna write about? CAMPING TIPS? I THINK NOT.

Have a great weekend, y’all!

Edited to add: the very kind folks at ParentLife are giving away five copies of my book. Here’s the link. And there’s another giveaway for three books over at 5 Minutes for Mom, so here’s the link for that one. Just FYI and in case you’re interested. :-)

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  1. I love hearing that Myrtle, Miss was your inspiration! I’m a Yankee by birth but a Southern girl at heart and my granny was from Myrtle, Miss!

  2. I don’t know why I love this so much, but I do. Makes me want to write the book I’ve dreamed of for so long. I can’t wait to read yours!

  3. Shelly Elston says:


    First of all, please forgive me for being so informal but I feel like I know you. After reading your book and stalking – I mean FOLLOWING – you on Twitter, reading your blog, etc. I feel as if we are long lost friends. You truly are a wonderful writer and I absolutely love your sense of humor. Your book sits on a shelf in my kitchen with 5 of my very favorite cookbooks because I cannot wait to try some of the recipes you put in the back.

    My question for you: Is there any way that I could get my book autographed by you? I’d have loved to come to a book-signing event but I don’t think you had it on your schedule to come to Portland, Oregon. ;) If there is no way for you to sign it, I understand. Just know that I loved every page of it, have shared it with family and friends, and – like I told you on Twitter – I find myself missing your family. So weird of me, I know, but true nonetheless.

    I hope you’ll be writing another book because this one was pure delight!


  4. Merri Jo says:

    Oops… I’m reading your blog in bed next to my previously asleep husband. My spontaneous, loud laughter when I read, “Oh, sweet Agnes…” woke him up. After he asked what was so funny, I tried to read it to him, but I was laughing so hard that he couldn’t understand me.
    You are just priceless! Reading your book just affirmed that feeling. Your humor, talented writing and love for Christ & others just endeared you even more to my heart!

  5. You have a sweet, dear heart and I love it.

  6. The last part reads like a good southern movie script. Martha reading to Beth from your book. Wow.

  7. I just finished your book and it brought back so many of my own memories for growing up in a small town in Kentucky with a wild, crazy, fun loving family. You really brighten up everyday and God has truly blessed you such a good heart to share this with the world. Thanks for being wonderful you!

  8. Come for your foot massage! I will do essential oils on your feet with some reflexology & all of the cares will go away :) You have one waiting whenever you can get to Pelham!

  9. I just adored your book & I’ve told anybody who would listen to RUN , not walk, to buy it!!!! I felt like I was reading about my people! & Martha has changed my life forever … I will from this day forevermore refer to target as THE target & food lion as THE food lion.
    Emma @ from my little pink couch

  10. Mary Kat's Mom says:

    You precious girl!!!! Thank you for answering these questions and writing that wonderful book! ! Also, Sweet Melanie from the office just gave me a pound of bacon for my upcoming birthday and I couldn’t help but want to share it with you. I’m afraid that I can’t because I will be cooking it for dinner tonight BUT I wanted you to know I thought about you!

  11. No questions from me…..I just loved your book. The chapter about the Pippin pies cracked. me. up. I was laughing out loud to the point my husband came out of his office to say, “What in the world is so funny?” I read the chapter out loud to him and he, also, had quite the chuckle. Your book was a delight! Thank you!

  12. I finished your book last week and miss it! I want to know what Martha is up to! What is she doing?! Did you have this written and then submitted it to the publishers to see if they’d publish? Or did you have the IDEA of the book and then they agreed to publish that and THEN you wrote it? (Did you follow that? Not sure I did. Reading it back now.) I have a similar family and would just love to write them down like you did. Such a great legacy for families to leave–their stories in print.

  13. I read your book last week while at the beach and it was as expected, delightful! But I was also thankful for sunglasses as I was brought to tears just as often as I laughed out loud. So it was extra special to see Rubena & Martha’s smiling faces here today.

  14. Thanks so much for the picture of Martha and Rubena. I’m so glad I have a Rubena in my life. But that chapter just about did me in. So poignantly written. And I’m glad you changed the place names to such lovely “creations.” It makes sense, because I would have been one of those “stalker” types who went to the Google… oh, never mind.

  15. Margaret says:

    I read your book. Unfortunately, I was reading about the road trip and the “toots” as I waited for my husband in the doctor’s office waiting room. It is hard not to laugh out loud but the rest of the people had such serious faces. Maybe I should just go leave the book for people to read while they are waiting. It is such a great book and, yes, I have some of those people in my family. The stories we tell when we are together……..

  16. I loved every page of your book so much–and I promise that each chapter oozed with the love and affection you feel towards your family! it’s obvious you got your sense of humor from a long line of happy, loving people! thank you for writing it =)

  17. After picking up a copy at the book signing in Jackson I enjoyed every memory and lesson you shared. From page one I knew I had to share the way you so perfectly captured what I love so much about my family! So my copy of the book is being passed through my people. I can’t for us all to get together to share our favorite parts. I just know it will lead to comments like, “that story makes me think of the time…” I’m already smiling!

    My mama recently went on a historic journey to a place called Omaha. As she waited in line to get tickets to see the Bulldogs she and my daddy sat in their folding chairs on the sidewalk making new friends and reading. She called to tell me how proud she was that while she was reading your book her new friends around her asked about it. She shared with them how great the book was and how you loved the Dogs. The new friends were headed to get the book before they left Omaha! Isn’t it great how two loves combined into one! Hail State!

  18. “Haha”! This makes me so excited to read your book! Is it available at any “retail stores” or just “online”? ;-)

  19. I think the Rubena story was my favorite. And I’m glad to know that was her real name. I have a deep, deep love of names.

    Also, still waiting on that Atlanta book signing. ;)

  20. These comments just tickle me to death. :-)

  21. I would just like to say that as a fellow southerner it never crossed my mind that Rubena would be a made up name. Of course she was named Rubena.

  22. I will have to tell you that one of my (many) favorite things about your book was about Martha’s friend, Rubena. My beloved grandmother’s name was Rubena and I had never heard ANYONE with that name before. I figured it was just a Swedish name that never made it into Top Ten lists in the states. Loved your book and have given two copies to friends already, smiling in anticipation of how much they would love it, too.

  23. Sophie,

    My Martha brought me my autographed copy of your book!!! Loved it – well – I really have lived it!!! Our southern upbringings were very much alike!
    Again, loved the book! My whole Sunday School class is passing it around!!

    Martha’s Mother (Sherry)

  24. Kristen says:

    I finished your book this week and I loved it so much, I didn’t want it to end! I bought a copy for my cousin and passed my copy to my mom. I must say you definitely honored family life in the South with heart and humor! We are all the better for it! Congratulations on your success and I hope you have some time to relax this summer. Would love to see you come to Knoxville for a signing (since you named our city in the book!)

  25. Sophie, (because you do feel like an old friend!)
    Your heart shines through everything you write and that is a rare thing. Thanks for a wonderful book and for this blog, where I come often for a smile.

  26. Mary Beth says:

    Just finished reading your book last night – LOVED IT! I’m a Midwest girl, but it was so fun hearing how people do life in the South! Thanks for sharing your family and friends with us – your stories made me laugh AND cry….now that’s a good book!

  27. Best part of this post? Martha going to read your book out loud to Beth! Love that! Just love that!

  28. Lindsey says:

    Can’t wait to read your book, love your posts on Pioneer Woman and so glad to find your blog!
    ps Front end of a train is really the Head end…once a rail always a rail , oh my

  29. Jenny F says:

    Loved hearing this back story. I read your book about a month ago and I felt like I was with family. I loved it so much that I sent a copy to my Mom, who lives states away from me, so that she too could enjoy. I thought that she would love the family connections of the older generation. She came from a family of many aunts and uncles and I knew this would feel like home to her as well. Thanks for sharing your family.

  30. Debbie A says:

    Thanks for all the info, loved hearing more about your family and the background. I have read your book 3 times, I love it so much. It has touched me in so many ways! Thank you!!

  31. I call my niece, “Myrtle” and she calls me “Mimi” ~
    You represent southern charm more than anyone I know, Sophie!

  32. I just wanted to tell you that the chapter about Rubena was among my favorite Martha chapters. A favorite! Just an absolute favorite!!

  33. i have one question and one offer for you.
    1. is there anyway to have you sign my copy of your book? i feel like that is asking A LOT. so clearly, i understand if that can’t happen. but i’d just be over the moon if it could!

    2. the part about Miss Martha reading your book to Miss Beth? too much! i would like to offer to come and read parts with her. what fun! i feel like Martha is a perfect example of a precious, little southern grandmama. she reminds me so much of my memories of my very own precious, little southern granny. i’ll take her to Western Sizzlin’ for supper and peach cobbler after reading. and also to the Steinmarts if she feels the need for a new 3/4 length sleeve light jacket. :)

  34. Julie R says:

    I grew up in Myrtle MS. For the first 18 years of my life, my address was Route 1, Myrtle, MS. No house number or street name required!