We’re just like you

Ronda Rich's picture

It’s sometimes amazing the coincidences that can bring a person into your life. How they can be plopped down into your life, just like they’ve always belonged there.

Such was the case of Southern writer and humorist Celia Rivenbark and how she landed in my life. Here’s how it happened:

Several years ago, a friend called to say that she had just read an excerpt in Reader’s Digest by a Southern writer, Celia Rivenbark. It was a passage from her book, “Bless Your Heart, Tramp.”

“Have you heard of her?” she asked.

No, I hadn’t but as soon as I hung up the phone, I did an Internet search and found Celia’s latest newspaper column on line. Lo and behold, that week’s column was about me and my first book. It was an incredible coincidence.

“I fell to my knees and wept with admiration,” Celia had written. Since it’s usually a no-brainer to like those who like us first, she became my new best friend. I sent an email of appreciation and a new friendship was begun. In another peculiar twist of fate, we now share the same fabulous New York literary agent.

Over the years, Celia and I have stayed in sporadic rather than constant contact but one thing is always consistent: We understand and admire each other. So, when I heard that Miss Celia’s latest book tour for Belle Weather was bringing her to nearby Atlanta, I sent one of those sporadic emails.

“Let’s go into the studio and record a Cover to Cover interview for Public Radio,” I suggested.

She agreed enthusiastically.

“Then we’ll have dinner and charge it to your publisher,” I continued.

She agreed with greater enthusiasm.

Interview finished, we left the studio and headed out for dinner at a quaint restaurant owned by one of the Indigo Girls (“My husband will be so jealous,” she reported. “He loves the Indigo Girls.”) then we sat down to do what Southern women do best – dish about commonalities and the hilarious side of life’s travails.

“Are you always funny?” I asked.

She frowned and shook her head. “No. There are some mornings when nothing’s funny so I have to read something that puts me in the mood.”


But one thing that’s always consistent about Celia is her funnybone delicious titles. A couple of years ago, she wrote a book called “We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier.”

“That title could get you in trouble,” I warned. After all, I’ve been whacked enough to be an authority on such. Some people don’t have a funnybone or even a funny pinky nail.

Turns out that the title got us in trouble.

A newspaper guy up in Memphis wrote an entire Sunday feature on Southern women writers and railed against Rebecca Wells (“Ya-Ya Sisterhood”), Jill Connor Browne (“Sweet Potato Queens”), Celia and me.

“Shut up!” he screamed through the pages. “We’re tired of hearing it.” One by one, he tore us apart but reserved his most venomous comments for the title of Celia’s book. He posed a question. Instead of writing a book called, “We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier”, why don’t one of you write a book called “We’re Just Like You, Only Smarter?”

“Because you can’t!” he snorted.

Well, we’re sisterhood – these Southern girlfriends and me. So, I stepped up and stood up for my sisters. I wrote him a thank you note. The publicity had been grand, I noted. Then, one by one, I listed our accomplishments.

“So, you see, writing about Southern womanhood has been rewarding for us. We make a nice living by just being ourselves. Unlike you, we answer to no boss. We’re independent.”

I concluded, “So, I guess we could write the book you suggested because we are just like you. Only smarter. Apparently, much smarter.”

Celia and I still laugh about that.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Her newest book is “What Southern Women Know about Faith.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.]

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