Discover more from The Writing Shed with Tommy Tomlinson
A good ending
RIP to a fellow storyteller, plus my weekly shareables: sweaty college football, exhausting burpees, and a bold prison thief
A couple of updates to start us off: First, thanks to all of you who checked in on us after I wrote about how we got slammed by COVID (among other things) last week. We’re all feeling much better … the symptoms at this point are a little coughing and drowsiness, like having a cold. I’ve run a couple of short errands (masked up) and it feels fantastic to be out of the house again.
My atrial fibrillation has also leveled off … the medication seems to be working and I haven’t noticed any symptoms since I started taking it. I’m going in for a couple of follow-up appointments in a few weeks and we’ll see what the doctors say. But in general, the health of the household is good. We’re nearly human again!
Update two: The marketing folks at Avid Reader/Simon & Schuster have created some gorgeous social media banners for DOGLAND … I’ll be adding them to my profiles on Twitter, Facebook, etc., over the next few days but I thought you might like to see them here.
Aren’t those awesome? If you want to share them on your own social media, feel free and thank you.
You might have gleaned from those graphics that DOGLAND is coming out in April 2024. And if you have read previous newsletters carefully, you might remember me mentioning once or twice (actually 674 times) that the book is now available for preorder. The official DOGLAND page at Simon & Schuster’s site has portals to some leading booksellers … but just a reminder, I also have a deal through my favorite bookstore, Park Road Books in Charlotte—if you preorder DOGLAND through them, I’ll sign and inscribe your copy (or copies!) however you like. Jump on that here:
A few weeks ago, we went to a party for Steve Crump. If you live in or around Charlotte, you knew Steve one way or another—he was a longtime reporter for WBTV, the CBS station here, as well as a documentary filmmaker specializing in black history. We spent many an hour together in courtrooms and at press conferences. Steve often got the scoops. He was kind and generous and always an excellent hang.
The party was to celebrate his survival after being diagnosed five years before with colon cancer. The years of treatment took a lot out of him. Before the cancer he had been burly and robust but now his suits hung loose and he could not quite hide the pain in his eyes. Still he would call every so often to check in. Besides his family and friends, he loved two things: his hometown of Louisville and whatever new project he was working on. He always had something going.
They held the party at his church, Our Lady of Consolation Catholic. Hundreds of people came from all directions of his life. There was the current mayor and a former mayor and at least one former member of Congress. There were dozens of his co-workers from the TV station. There was a new group of fraternity brothers—he had just been initiated into Omega Psi Phi. There were multiple preachers. There was a DJ and a buffet with banana pudding for dessert.
Steve got up to speak near the end and I wondered if he would get through it. He looked a little wobbly. But he steadied himself and his voice was strong. He thanked everyone for coming. He mentioned how he had made it five years despite a doctor recommending hospice after he had been diagnosed 12 hours. He was proud of that.
We gathered in the middle of the room and laid hands on one another and said a prayer for Steve.
He made it one more month before passing away Thursday morning. I hope his last days were as peaceful as possible. Alix and I were so glad we went to that party. The secret—and I suspect Steve knew this—is that the party was for the rest of us as much as it was for him. He gave all of us one last great gift: The chance to celebrate his life while he was still living it.
If and when I end up in the same situation, I plan on remembering that lesson.
10 things I wanted to share this week:
My guest on this week’s SouthBound was Ryan Nanni, one of the co-hosts of the strange and wonderful Shutdown Fullcast—the college football podcast that dares to discuss almost everything except (occasionally) college football. Ryan and I get right into the spirit of the Fullcast when I ask him a question about AIR BUD.
My weekly for WFAE was about the kindnesses of friends during our household’s sick days.
I got a delightful little book in the mail this week—OUR STATE’S GREATEST HITS. It’s a compilation of 24 stories from North Carolina’s state magazine … I’ve got a story in there on sweet tea, and it also features my friends Jeremy Markovich, Michael Kruse, Matt Crossman and Joe Posnanski, among others. A great gift for the North Carolinian in your midst.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in the newsletter yet, but I’m the keynote speaker at the N.C. Writers’ Network fall conference here in Charlotte. The conference runs from Nov. 3-5 and my speech is on the 3rd. Lots of great panels; here’s the details if you’re interested in coming.
DOG NEWS: From now until DOGLAND comes out (April 2024!), I’m devoting this slot to dog stories. This week: One of my favorite Substacks is Art Dogs, which is devoted to the animals (not just dogs) of artists of all stripes. I didn’t know the poet Eileen Myles before this post, but I love this quote about life with her dog Rosie:
I don’t think you were a friend, you were more like dating life itself, meeting it head-on so every time I went into it with you, or if I was in my apartment, home alone or with someone else, you always threw us back on what we were doing and how we were doing because you needed us, and your stuff, your toys, your water, your food, your in and out and that was it and why was I ever suffering, why did I think life was so complicated when it was simply this. Us here now.
It’s officially college football season and my friend Amanda Heckert has a hilarious piece on the ninth circle of hell that is the early-season noon game in the SEC, especially in the concrete sauna that is Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Bonus points to Amanda for getting not just “butt crack” but “sweat-marinated thighs” into Garden & Gun magazine. Double bonus points for the fascinating left turn the piece takes about halfway through.
Nobody on earth writes about the physical absurdities of sports like my pal David Fleming, and here’s another gem: How the Detroit Lions are building team spirit through burpees, the goofy-sounding exercise that will wear your ass out. Featuring the creator of burpees, a man named (I kid you not) Dr. Royal Huddleston Burpee. (ESPN)
Charles Bethea gets to write for the New Yorker out of Atlanta, which means he has my dream job, and he makes the most of it: Here’s his latest, on the man who fleeced billionaires out of millions of dollars … from prison.
Good news for fellow British detective show fans: THE CHELSEA DETECTIVE is back for season 2. I look forward to Max Arnold upsetting many more rich British criminals.
YouTube music find of the week: Sierra Hull and her band’s cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.” It’s one of those songs that’s been covered a lot, but somehow it feels suited for bluegrass, and you should definitely stick around for the solo at the end.
See y’all next week, everybody.