Monday, June 13, 2011

Kathryn Tucker Windham

Sad news in Alabama, Mes Anges. Kathryn Tucker Windham passed away yesterday. Now, some of you may not know who she is, but if you like the HEX HALL books, then you owe her a bunch. I can honestly say I don't think I would've become a writer without her.

The first time I ever heard of Mrs. Windham was in my elementary school library. It was Halloween, and I was in the 1st or 2nd grade. Our librarian, being awesome, held up a book called Thirteen Alabama Ghosts And Jeffrey.(Jeffrey was the ghost who allegedly lived in Mrs. Windham's house in Selma.)

I can remember being like, "HOLY CRAP THERE ARE GHOSTS IN ALABAMA? I LIVE IN ALABAMA OMGWTFBBQ!" Our librarian read us a story from the book- a TRUE story- about a place in Newton, Alabama, which was only like TWENTY MINUTES AWAY FROM WHERE I LIVED. It involved a Confederate soldier (most ghost stories in the South do), and when he was hanged for desertion, he was too tall and his feet touched the ground. This was, as you can probably imagine, somewhat problematic when trying to hang someone.

So the Bad Dudes Who Were Hanging Him dug a little hole under his feet so that he would slowly strangle to death.

Yeah, my librarian was kind of bad-ass.

Although not as bad ass as THIS librarian who has a Dewey Decimal code tattooed on her body. That is one hardcore librarian.

And, legend has it that even to this day, that hole is still there, and if you ever put anything in it, it will MYSTERIOUSLY VANISH OVERNIGHT. *cue spooky music*

So while most of my classmates were all 0_0, I was more :D because scary stories set in my home state? That was, as far as Wee Rachel was concerned, AMAZEBALLS.

Okay, I didn't really think it was amazeballs because I didn't know that word yet. But it was 7 year old me's version of amazeballs, so probably "Unicornglitter" or something.

And then! Even more amazeb- er, unicornglitter, I got to go to this cool thing called a Young Author's Conference (shut up, it was totally cool), and Kathryn Tucker Windham was there! And I got to buy my VERY OWN COPY of Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey! AND I GOT HER TO SIGN IT! And not only did SHE sign it, but Jeffrey did, too! Okay, so maybe it was just her using funny handwriting to scrawl his name, but WHATEVER. To a 7 year old, that was MAGIC.

I still have that copy of Thirteen Alabama Ghosts, although it is pretty worn out these days. I can't even tell you how many times I read it. How I practically memorized the stories. How I annoyed my parents on car trips by reading the stories to them and then wanting to DISCUSS the stories. How I wanted to visit every place she talked about in that book.

It wasn't until many years later that I realized just how formative both meeting Mrs. Windham and reading her books was for me. She was the first author I ever met, and even though I probably couldn't have thought this at the time, I'm sure that meeting her helped make authordom seem like an attainable goal. There she was, just a lady from Alabama, just like me, writing books.

And not only that, her books were about Alabama, and though her, I learned that every place has stories and myths and legends. Any place can be magic if you know where to look.

So I wanted to take a minute and pay tribute to that. I never got to meet Mrs. Windham again, and I wish that I could have told her all of this. But since I can't I encourage you to go out and find her books (she did a number of them, all on ghost stories/folklore set in the South.) And don't just read her books. Find the stories in your own places. The legends and the myths. I think she'd like that.

Until next time! XOXO!


Stephen L. Duncan said...


Rachel @ Bookshelf Lust said...

This is a wonderful post! Now I definitely plan on picking up "13 Alabama Ghosts..." sometime in the future. And I love that you said to find the stories in your own places. Those stories can be the best kind!

Carrie said...

This is really awesome (unicornglitter)! I'm going to go look for her books right now. Also, you're very funny. It's fun reading your blog.

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