Reminiscing the 2014 Alabama Book Festival

It was only three weeks ago, and we’ve been busy since then, but we are so delighted about and thankful for our one-of-a-kind experiences as a part of the 9th Annual Alabama Book Festival, last month on April 19, 2014.  I promised a recap and details, and now that I have the photographs all together, I’m thrilled to share our remembrances with you.

What a day; what a day, indeed!  It was sunny and pleasant for the Festival down in Montgomery, Alabama, a welcome change from the chilly soaking in which we arrived the day before.

My handsome husband, Robert, and I jumped right in to the weekend’s activities after unpacking at the hotel and crossing our fingers for the rain to stop.  My “appointed big sister,” Suellen (see previous post, Writing from Gratitude), and her beautiful daughter, Abigail, graciously came to babysit our three little ones, and treated them to a fun night of pillow-and-blanket forts and relentless spoiling.

Robert and I were invited guests of the Governor and Mrs. Bentley, next door to the Governor’s Mansion, at the Author Party inside the elegantly antebellum John Blue Hill House.  What a beautiful spread, all planned by Mr. Bob McLain (Executive Director, Old Alabama Town) and the sweet and precious Ms. Heather Hannah (Mansion Affairs and Assistant to the First Lady), featuring amazing company, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and a chance to discuss all things literary.  It was a night I’ll not forget!

Pictured:  Top Row, L to R: Alabama Governor's Mansion, John Blue Hill House Middle Row, L to R: Director of Mansion Affairs and Assistant to the First Lady, Heather Hannah and me; Signing a copy of "Otis Goes to School," to my home state of Alabama; A double selfie with the fellow who makes me my best self, my husband, Robert. Bottom Row, L to R: Robert and me with Pulitzer Prize author nominee and Mississippi native, Clifton Taubert; Making a little history with Otis Goes to School at the Governor's Mansion

Pictured:
Top Row, L to R: Alabama Governor’s Mansion; John Blue Hill House.
Middle Row, L to R: Director of Mansion Affairs and Assistant to the First Lady, Heather Hannah and me; Signing a copy of Otis Goes to School, to my home state of Alabama, to be a part of the First Lady’s reading initiative for young children; A double selfie with the fellow who makes me be my best self… my husband, Robert.
Bottom Row, L to R: Robert and me with Pulitzer Prize author nominee and Mississippi native, Clifton Taubert; Making a little history with Otis Goes to School at the Governor’s Mansion

After a short night of sleep, we all woke up to sunshine and high hopes as we packed the car for the 1/2 mile ride over to Old Alabama Town.  What an expertly maintained piece of living history!  We found ourselves in awe, in the setting of a 19th century village, surrounded by authentic, restored southern buildings and log cabins, a one-room schoolhouse, grapevine canopies, heritage rose borders and lush, dew-sparkled shade trees.

We were first on the list for the children’s author line-up, and we had such fun visiting with old friends, meeting new fans, and sharing Otis Goes to School with everyone.  It was a proud moment to see the book for sale with Capitol Book and News, the official bookseller of the Alabama Book Festival.

That's me and Otis, hearts filled with appreciation and excitement for our involvement in 2014's Book Festival.

That’s me and Otis, hearts filled with appreciation and excitement for our involvement in 2014’s Book Festival, and really enjoying being a part of Old Alabama Town.

It was a homecoming for me, as my roots run deep in Montgomery and Autauga Counties.  Cherished teachers of mine from Montgomery Academy came and brought hugs and smiles and welcome memories. Dear, dear friends, who have treated me like family since my own whippersnapper days, filled the audience and my heart with love.  Alma Mater classmates surprised me with their presence and their children, and new fans of Otis (human and canine!) emerged and hopped aboard this train, all throughout the day.

Pictured: Top Row L to R: Ella, my unforgettable 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Betty Saunders, her darling granddaughter, Claire, me, and my amazing third grade teacher, Mrs. Vivian Barfoot; a new young fan and her tiny and cute puppy, Romeo, me and Ella. Middle Row, L to R: Otis enjoys the love; my best-friend-of-all-time's family, the Winslows; With Montgomery's most fabulous friend of the arts, Jackie Berry. Bottom Row, L to R: My fellow Montgomery Academy classmate and friend, Lida Cunningham and her adorable Sarah; Signing a book to my dear Mrs. Barfoot... what an honor for me!

Pictured:
Top Row L to R: Ella, my unforgettable 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Betty Saunders, her darling granddaughter, Claire, me, and my amazing third grade teacher, Mrs. Vivian Barfoot; A new young fan and her tiny and cute puppy, Romeo, me and Ella.
Middle Row, L to R: Otis enjoys the love; My best-friend-of-all-time’s precious family, the Winslows; With Montgomery’s most fabulous friend of the arts, Jackie Berry.
Bottom Row, L to R: My fellow Montgomery Academy classmate and talented friend, Lida Cunningham Sease and her adorable Sarah; Signing a book to my dear Mrs. Barfoot… what an honor for me!

The Alabama Book Festival is an event for everyone.  There are book genres and authors to suit just about every taste and level of reading, delicious BBQ and tasty treats of all kinds, talented local artisans sharing their gifts… and who knew we would be rubbing elbows with the likes of SkippyJon Jones!  I’m so thankful that to pursue the success of Otis Goes to School, means that my children are involved in what I do.  You can see, they loved this day!  They especially enjoyed spending time with their beloved godparents, LaGard and Ruth Smith, who took charge with loving arms and their protective, caring presence, while mommy and daddy took the stage with Otis.

Pictured: Top Row, L to R: Preston and me with our children's godparents, author F. LaGard Smith and his truly lovely wife, Ruth; Paul Kent being sure folks know which book to buy! Middle Row, L to R: Paul Kent always has a smile for mommy; Paul Kent and Ella meet the one-and-only, SkippyJon Jones; Ella shows off her expert hula hooping skills in the children's area. Bottom Row, L to R: Smiley photo op with Ella and Preston; Paul Kent and Ella help carry mommy's book supplies; With my mom and longtime family friend and 5th grade Trinity Presbyterian teacher, Gidget Smith.

Pictured:
Top Row, L to R: Preston and me with our children’s godparents: acclaimed Christian author and Faulkner University/Jones School of Law Professor, F. LaGard Smith and his truly lovely wife, Ruth; Paul Kent being sure folks know which book to buy!
Middle Row, L to R: Paul Kent always has a smile for mommy; Paul Kent and Ella meet the one-and-only, SkippyJon Jones; Ella shows off her expert hula hooping skills in the children’s area.
Bottom Row, L to R: Smiley photo op with a face-painted Ella and giggly Preston; Paul Kent and Ella help carry mommy’s book supplies; With my mom and longtime family friend and 5th grade Trinity Presbyterian teacher, Gidget Smith.

My favorite moments are those when all of my family is involved.  After we had our third and last child, Preston, it became easier to refer to ourselves as the Bramlett Five, rather than listing all our names.  That reference stuck pretty well, and appropriately so, as we work as a team.  We made the choice, many adventures back, to do this life together.  Whatever challenges or celebrations come along to any one of us, we approach them together.  When one of us falls, there are four loyal sets of hands to pick him or her up and encourage the next try.  When one of us receives an accolade, you can bet there are four sets of similar hands applauding and calling for an encore.  And in all things, we pray together (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Pictured: Top Row, L to R: Robert and me before the Author Party; My treasured Alabama Writers' Forum pin, commemorating my new status as an honorary Alabama writer. Bottom Row, L to R: The Bramlett Five, in front of the quite amazing one-room schoolhouse; In action with Robert and Otis (photograph courtesy of

Pictured:
Top Row, L to R: Robert and me before the Author Party; My treasured Alabama Writers’ Forum pin, commemorating my new status as an honorary Alabama writer.
Bottom Row, L to R: The Bramlett Five and Otis, in front of the one-room schoolhouse; In action at the author presentation with Robert and Otis (photograph courtesy of the Alabama Book Festival)

It can not go without mention that my Robert, just after the photo above, helped me with my author presentation.  The week before the Festival, I had a horrible sore throat and cough… wouldn’t you know, during my speech, that lingering cough decided to wake itself up and pay me a little surprise visit!  Upon an understood, mutual glance between us, Robert jumped right in to tell the tale of how Otis came to join our family after the Nashville floods of 2010, while I stepped aside to regain control of my vocal cords.

Definitely unscripted, it was the perfect reminder to me that whatever future is ahead for Otis Goes to School, and my path as an author, it is not a one-person show.  My family is my everything, and my Robert gives flight to my wildest dreams.

THANK YOU, to my family, my friends, the 2014 Alabama Book Festival Committee, Old Alabama Town, the Alabama Writers’ Forum, the Governor and First Lady of Alabama, their staff, and our new fans.  This was an auspicious day in the life of this author, and quite a moment of arrival for a Tennessee rescue pup with a polka-dotted tongue and white fur tie, named of course… Otis.

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