Minnie Pearl was the first guest speaker of the Friends of Shelbyville-Bedford County Public Library (SBCPL) luncheon on Oct. 6, 1987. Thirty-five years later, the community is still gathering and …
Minnie Pearl was the first guest speaker of the Friends of Shelbyville-Bedford County Public Library (SBCPL) luncheon on Oct. 6, 1987. Thirty-five years later, the community is still gathering and sharing its love of reading.
Those purchasing tickets for Tuesday’s event at Blue Ribbon Circle say a highlight is always selecting those free books from their table that are supplied by SBCPL.
This year, authors ranged from Stephen King to Mary Higgins Clark. Of course, as many in the community know by now, the gathering is also for a good cause, which is to financially support the library at 220 South Jefferson St. Shelving is on the wish list at the current time, according to Monica Lewis, Friends of the Library chair, who welcomed the crowd at Blue Ribbon Circle on Tuesday.
The invocation was given by Zach Fisher, pastor of Bell Buckle United Methodist Church. Lis Ann Morehart, library director, gave a SBCPL update. This year’s guest speaker was local author and retired restauranteur, David Hazelwood.
Writing should be a passion, he shared, and something he highly recommends everyone explore. He’s been an attender of past library lunches.
He expressed Tuesday that at the core of all of his experiences is his desire to help things “grow.” That includes animals, people and organizations like the library.
Hazelwood, who has several degrees and has done quite a few things in his life professionally, has also written books on everything from historical perspectives on southern food, “Cooking Southern Recipes and Their History,” to his latest personal memoir, “My Short Life as a Stepdad.” The later book was officially released during the SBCPL luncheon on Tuesday at Blue Ribbon Circle.
With the same sense of humor as perhaps author and speaker Garrison Keillor and the same passion for writing as perhaps Jesse Stuart, Hazelwood explained Shelbyville is the perfect location for a writer.
“Shelbyville is one of the world’s leaders for writing,” said Hazelwood. “It’s a fact . . . because of all the millions of pencils that are made here.”
On the back of the program, Hazelwood requested space. At the top of the page were the words, ‘I will write about . . . .’ He asked his audience to write something there, particularly during the times when he might hit a lull in his speech.
In all seriousness, he advised, “Part of the reason I want to encourage you to write; you have your own unique story to tell. No one else can tell you . . . . And if you haven’t told anybody, the story is going to be gone when you’re gone. That’s kind of how I got started writing.”
He explained how he once shared with his daughter, Whitney, a story from his own life experience. She told him that was one she hadn’t heard in the past. There were chuckles, as the audience mostly knew already that Hazelwood is sort of a late-in-life author.
“I had no intentions of ever publishing . . . writing. Frankly, I’ve not published most of my work. I’ve got dozens of notepads and notes from things I may write about some day . . . .”
He addressed what he believes to be the qualities of a good writer. He said first and foremost, write about things that mean something to you and your family or community.
“It’s yours,” he advised. “Get that down on paper.”
At least let your future generations be privy to your life stories, the author added. Hazelwood said reading and writing are essential skills in life.
“We ought to be good at both of those things.”
He’s an avid reader. Most of his reading material supplements his creative writing, though he explained carefully how he would never plagiarize but seeks to learn from other writers. This is essential to one’s own creative style, he suggested.
The author then held up his reading device and mentioned the app Tennessee Reads, a regional eBook and audio download system.
“I have a 135,000 books in my library, thanks to our library here that is a partner.”
Referring to playwright Oscar Wilde, he said reading can transport anyone across the world.
“That’s what reading can do for us. We can go around the world. It can take us to places we’ve never been to . . . .”
Hazelwood talked about his 2021 cookbook, which he co-authored with retired Nashville restauranteur David G. Smith. “Cooking Southern: Recipes and their History,” includes family heirloom recipes and a history about their importance in southern culture.
The author said if he could grind up all those recipes cards they discovered in closets and attics— those stained to perfection with sauces and gravies— he would have a flavorable stew.
At the conclusion of his talk, the guest author, who by the way was for decades the owner and operator of Cortner Mill Restaurant in Bedford County, advised his audience he was giving away a copy of his new book, “My Short Life as a Stepdad.” The winner was a student from The Webb School in Bell Buckle.
The audience was prompted to ask questions. Of course he was asked when he started writing.
“I started writing life. I was probably 55 years old . . . . I tried to write a historical novel about my great-grandfather . . . nothing happened. I discovered stream of consciousness writing [a narrative style that captures a character’s thought process in a more realistic way.]”
His next book, he advised, will likely be on his late father’s “sayings.”
He shared how his dad’s life-long expressions shaped his life. So that is important to get published, the author said.
As for a genre, he said that’s hard to define, because he writes on a variety of personal experiences.
Bidding adieu to his audience, Hazelwood simply said, “Goodbye Shelbyville writers.”