Well, first of all, let me tell you . . . Jan Karon is awesome.
I was tickled beyond belief to be invited to moderate best selling author Jan Karon‘s appearance in Fairhope earlier this week. Page and Palette Bookstore hosted the popular author of the “Mitford” series at an exciting event which benefited the Shepherd’s Place Foundation.
These kind ladies manned the busy ticket table where they distributed gorgeous maps of Mitford, NC, the fictional town which is the setting for most of Karon’s novels about an Episcopal Priest, his loyal flock, and a community of deeply caring, kooky and colorful characters.
The Chairman of The Shepherd’s Place Foundation, Susie Caminiti, welcomed the crowd of about three hundred to Fairhope United Methodist Church.
I was up next, and asked the audience who had traveled the farthest just to see Jan Karon. There were probably about a dozen people who had come from over 300 miles, and the two winners came all the way to lil’ ole Fairhope from Massachusetts and Northern Kentucky! One lovely family drove down with their three beautiful daughters all the way from Tennessee. The eleven year old daughter brought Jan Karon a pot holder she had crocheted herself. Such very loyal fans! Those who traveled the farthest were given autographed Mitford maps.
And then, the star of the show arrived. Jan Karon is beyond charming, talented and funny. She is truly blessed with a real gift. I wish I had recorded the entire interview, because there were so many deeply moving things she said, you would just melt. Jan talked about how she quit her advertising job when she was 50 so she could focus on writing a book.
While praying and thinking of what to write, she had an image of a “short, balding, overweight priest,” and the story evolved from there. It wasn’t until she had written many pages that she finally came up with the name, “Father Timothy Cavanaugh,” an Episcopal Priest the world would come to love. The first installments of the book were actually published in her local newspaper . . . and that’s how the Mitford tales began.
Jan spoke of her love for animals, how she made a conscious decision to use only clean language, and how she felt called to be a pastor when she was a little girl but was told that was only a job for men. The crowd laughed through many of her stories and sat spellbound when she encouraged us all to follow our dreams no matter what our age. “God has plans for us all. Go boldly before the throne.”
I’m not too nervous speaking in front of crowds and worried more about falling off the stage, since I’m known for falling down a lot (see my skinned knee?). I looked down at one point and realized I was only inches away from the edge of the stage, so I tried to just stay really still.
I mentioned my former book club in Marietta, GA, (hey Georgia girls!) where I read Jan’s first book, “At Home in Mitford” and while eating the famous Orange Marmalade Cake, had the seed planted to move to a place like Mitford. (It’s Fairhope!).
I shouldn’t have worried a bit, because with Jan Karon on stage, all conversation rolled naturally. Jan told us how she’s already on chapter seven of her next book, but when I asked her to give us a hint as to what we can expect, she wouldn’t reveal a thing. She did tell us that she hasn’t yet decided on a title. Oh, the thick excitement of anticipation!
There is already a cast of over 750 characters in her series of 11 books, and any one of them could have a major storyline of their own. (I’m not making that up . . . 750!).
The latest book, which was released this past Tuesday, “Come Rain or Come Shine” centers around the much anticipated wedding of favorite characters Dooley Barlow and Lace Harper. Karon said writing about a wedding was like planning a real-life wedding with all the details she researched.
Jan Karon is strikingly beautiful in person, but her true beauty lies within her heart. She makes everyone around her feel comfortable, and is so truly lovely, the folks in Mitford would be thrilled to have her for their next door neighbor; as would all her fans in Fairhope . . . and beyond.