Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn Crawlย is on through Sunday, September 25.

How to Have a Great Weekend Despite a Relative Lack of Erotica

Dear Kay,
Ohhh, Memphis. What a town. Every time I looked up, I’d see the top of this bridge–a reminder that right over there is the mighty Mississippi River. People all the time compare and contrast Nashville and Memphis for one reason or another, but in my book, if you’ve got the Mississippi River rolling by, you win.
When I told one of my civilian friends (a non-knitter, bless her heart) that I was going to Memphis all by myself for the Southern Festival of Books, she said, “Oh.” Pause. “Isn’t that kind of . . . lonely?”
I said, “Ohhh, it’ll be OK.”
She doesn’t really understand the universal binding ingredient that is knitting. Knitting is to humans as mayonnaise is to cubed chicken.
If you’re a knitter, you can KNIT WITH OTHER KNITTERS. You can TALK ABOUT KNITTING WITH OTHER KNITTERS. You can show them pictures of knitting, wave around actual pieces of knitting–you can wallow in the glorious lifestyley lifestyle that is knitting. This hobby, this little pastime, gives you an excuse to open yourself up to new people–something that might otherwise be a dicey proposition when you’re, say, wandering around Memphis.
Consider a few of the knitters I met.
Adrienne Martini
We’d swapped emails, and having begun reading her book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood, I knew she would be funny and smart. I did not know, however, that she would bring along glow-in-the-dark yarn. We made a blood pact that we would each attend the other’s session, thus ensuring an audience of at least one.
Adrienne’s memoir is about her experience with postpartum depression after the birth of her first baby. I finished the book while in Memphis, and I have to tell you, it is honest, unsparing, and a gift to anyone who’s ever worried that their baby blues might be something more complicated. Writing a book in which you lay out the road map of your mind, when you’re in a tangle, is brave stuff. I was pretty awestruck that she would tell her story, and tell it so truthfully. And to emerge from her experience with her sense of humor intact . . . fab.
Karen Purdy and Most of Her Family
Karen was the person responsible for inviting me to the festival. She is a family practice physician in midtown Memphis, which means half the people we ran into during the weekend were patients of hers. I began to wonder if I was a patient too, only she wasn’t telling me.
Or maybe I was an honorary Purdy. Her ma Barbara was up from Pascagoula, along with Barbara’s husband Harry and Karen’s sister Kris, the brilliant and well-shod chemistry teacher. By the end of the weekend I had the entire family history down. If I put a K at the front of my name, I think I’d be in.
Among the many gifts Karen gave me were several rides around town in her sweet set of wheels, light-up knitting needles (which really ought to be used with Adrienne’s glow-in-the-dark yarn, you know?), and juicy details about all the authors.
The Memphis Knitting Guild
What a group! Stephanie said these women were a hoot, and she wasn’t kidding. (Adrienne at the far right is an honorary member, and Karen, third from the right in the back, is behind on her dues so they kicked her out. OK not really.)
I’m pretty sure that Mason-Dixon Knitting is the first knitting book ever featured at the Southern Festival of Books. We had a fine time, especially considering that the competing session next door featured a book called A Deeper Shade of Sex: The Best in Black Erotic Writing.
After my talk, we wandered down Main Street which is filled with untold stories (do Murray and Jerry hate each other’s guts?), a wedding taking place in a little park, and a friendly guy sitting on a bench waiting to pay everybody just the nicest compliments.
We ended up at Slopout Louie’s or Sleepover Larry’s or Slipover Lenny’s, a very fine bar. Our long-suffering waiter
(that’s a kerchief he’s knitting for his friend who’s walking in the Atlanta Breast Cancer walk–oh wait maybe that wasn’t his project?) quickly let us sit outside in the beautiful afternoon which was great and meant that the twenty knitters would not interrupt the Mississippi-Alabama football game being watched with good-God-do-not-interrupt-those-guys fervor. Which brings me to:
Maria and Mary Heather
What a pair! These youngsters came up from Oxford, Missisippi, for an afternoon of yarnish behavior, and they totally cracked me up. Maria kept running inside to see how Ole Miss was doing, and Mary Heather kept a running commentary on Maria. I learned that Mary Heather takes the photos for Maria’s blog because Maria won’t or can’t take pictures; they’re both biologists; and they will ditch children and boyfriends if there’s knitting to be done.
We did the things that knitters do: we sipped, supped, dropped a few stitches, and talked the afternoon away. It was all anybody could ever want, unless, of course, a person was really into black erotica in which case it wasn’t so great.
Wish you had been there. I have a few noveltyies for you, but the light-up knitting needles? Don’t hold your breath.
And, tragically, I must report that Ole Miss came up short in overtime. Moment of silence, please. It was the only hiccup in an otherwise poifect weekend.




  1. Maybe Ole Miss lost, but Auburn whupped up on Florida and that’s got to be worth something. How do you like the light up needles? Just a novelty, or are they actually useful? I’ve been eyeing those for bar knitting….

  2. Any chance either of you will be back in the mid-Atlantic states for this book…or for your next one?
    I missed you when you were in DC and have been kicking myself ever since. It’s starting to hurt.

  3. Does this mean we have to address all your emails with KAnn?

  4. But, did you chat at all with the erotica crew? Show them the thrill of turning a heel, talk about the kinky ones who love intarsia… Swap books?

  5. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to hang out with such fantastic people? (Um, I mean, ANN SHAYNE?!) Just killing me to have missed the opportunity to pass myself off as Southern. I mean, didn’t Faulkner used to hang out at Sleep Out Louie’s–back in The Day? Or am I getting him mixed up with Eudora Welty again (I hate when that happens)?
    xoxo Kay

  6. Dear KAnn,
    You said it so well… knitting creates a common ground where people from different locations, different ages, and different backgrounds can meet and share with one another. The knitting community, whether at the LYS or in blogland, is a very special community and one that I am glad to belong to.

  7. We went to Memphis a few years back – stayed at Peabodys, the place where the ducks walk from the elevator into their ornamental pond in the lobby. Spent the evenings in various bars listening to the blues……unfortunately I didn’t have any light-up needles at that time, could have done with them, those bars are very dark!

  8. Well, of course it’s novelty-ies — you were at a book festival, right?

  9. Of course I’m heading to Memphis just one week after you were there! Le sigh. The important question is this: WHERE did you eat? Huey’s? Harry’s? Rendezvous? I plan my Memphis trips in close consultation with my stomach.

  10. Hey, that Noveltyies place was just on Oprah! It’s Tuesday which means Gayle and Oprah Road Trip footage, y’know. What are the odds, tho? And I didn’t know her dad and stepmom live in Nashvegas. They showed them eating at some restaurant in the Hillsboro area. Just so’s you know.
    I’m glad you had a great time in Memphis. I love Sun Records. I wonder if you and Kay could do your book on CD here. That would be very poetic. As well as very Cash-y. And that has to be a good thing.

  11. Oh, goody, I’ll be watching my mailbox for my noveltyies! And I totally feel deprived for not having ever had a PoBoy Sandwich. Dayum.

  12. My family thought I was a little odd when I told them one of the first things I did for my move to Pasadena was look for a knitting group. When I explained to them that locating a knitting group meant that I would have an instant community of friends, it made a little more sense to them.

  13. Adrienne Martini used to write for Metro Pulse in Knoxville! Which means nothing to you, BUT, as a displaced Knoxvillian, is brilliant to me! It’s one of those weird six-degrees moments because I saw that name (not easy to forget) and thought “huh” and then thought “huuuuhhh” and then- “Metro Pulse! Knoxville! Home! Meeting M-D!” Life is so weirdly and deliciously small (even though I don’t actually know either of you, of course, but it feels like I do) I think it’s important to acknowledge these moments when they come along.
    I realize this is a bit of a waste of time post, in the sense it is of absolutely NO interest to anyone else, but now I’ve written it so I’m certainly not going to delete it. Anyway.
    Adrienne meets Ann- gaaaw.

  14. Ok, enough of this going right up to the edge of the Mississippi River. When are you going to *cross* the Mississippi and come see us Left Coast folks? Specifically, Seattle. We have lots of beer and wine up here. Come see!

  15. Sounds like the friendliest book fair ever. Sorry I missed it, and I rilly want to see the light up needles.

  16. But KAnn…you forgot to mention the m&m’s and Andrei’s phone #!!! The Purdy girls had a blast with you and Adrienne. Thanks for entertaining us and letting us entertain you for a bit!

  17. Man, I wished I had knitting to take the edge off that Ole Miss-Bama game! Happily for me, the Tide won out in the end, and I started a log cabin afghan for my niece who has been known to shriek, “I want Big Al!”

  18. Mary Heather, now that’s a first. Being a Mary person myself I love all the variations. I once was in a new mothers group with a Mary Rose, Maryanne, Mary Lou and Mary Liz. Our friend Debbie took to referring to herself as Mary Deb. Ok back to my knitting…

  19. I’m glad I had some socks on the needles to help me survive the auditory onslaught of the play-by-play recap of the bama/ole miss game Sunday afternoon by some of the tide’s self-appointed, extended coaching staff. Please fill us in on your experiences with the light-up knitting needles.

  20. yep–ROLL TIDE!!!!

  21. ‘how Ole Miss was doing’– some elderly lady was doing something important? (kidding! i am kidding you! obviously there was some sports event that i was blissfully unaware of…) thanks, ann, for the info. about adrienne’s book. probably required reading for anybody who’s had any experience w depression, from near or far.

  22. Thanks for the rec of the Hillbilly Gothic book — I just requested it from the library. The PPD after my second nearly killed me; I’m delighted to say the treatment has improved my life one gazillion percent.
    Glow in the dark yarn? I’m knitting with it right now. Yowza — so cool. I blogged about it in my “dream” post. Not the most pleasant fiber to knit with, but the final effect is definitely worth the effort.

  23. yay memphis! i’m impressed you got any knitting done, though. the last time i was there, my friend and i tried to knit in a restaurant for about two minutes before we got distracted by the ribs, and the bbq nachos (definitely new to this northern palate) and the memphis sausage and cheese plate and the oysters and … drool. looks like you had a great weekend!

  24. I was heart-broken to find out from a friend that I had missed your visit – dang it!! Seems you had a great visit though – come back ya’ll now ya hear!!

  25. So funny – so much fun. Thanks for the tour.

  26. Oh, yay, Mary Heather! It makes me so happy that there are TWO Mary-Heather knitbloggers. Thank goodness for the hyphen/no hyphen, eh? Ann, I think you’re the only person that’s met us both! I hope to meet her someday! Looks like a great time in Memphis.

  27. Ahem.
    In no particular order:
    1. Roll Tide.
    2. I am knitting a sock. A Sock. One sock!
    3. There are 4 copies of your book at the local Barnes & N. I checked.
    4. I love this entry.


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