Author speaks to members of Cottageville Book Club

by | August 4, 2018 5:01 am

Last Updated: August 4, 2018 at 12:53 am

By JULIE HOFF
widdleswife@aol.com

 

Laughter filled a meeting room at the Colleton County Library’s Cottageville branch Saturday during its first-ever book club meeting.

The featured author was Charleston resident and New York Times best-selling author Andra Watkins. Her wry, witty memoir, “Not Without my Father,” (NWMF) was the book club’s first selection.

Watkins has also written several novels: “To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis” and “Hard to Die,” an imagined memoir of Theodosia Burr, who disappeared off the coast of Georgetown in 1813. A sequel to that, “I am Number 13,” will be published in November.

Watkins was a guest of the Cottageville Library because of her longtime friendship with librarian Rhonda Kierpiec. They met while acting in the Footlight Players theater troupe two decades ago.

More than a dozen readers encircled Watkins as she settled in a rocking chair to discuss NWMF, the writing process, how her parents reacted to the memoir (her mom didn’t speak to her for two weeks), and the challenges of writing fiction vs. nonfiction. (For the record, she prefers writing novels.)

One reader confessed to postponing her family’s vacation to hear Watkins’ talk; she was rewarded with a spontaneous hug.

Watkins, who recently completed a six-week residency at an artist’s colony in Wales, “in the middle of nowhere,” was animated, witty and self-deprecating.

She majored in accounting at Francis Marion University because, she quipped, “My mother thought I should. I wanted to major in musical theater, but she was afraid I’d end up making porn films.”

After years of being an accountant and participating in amateur theater productions, she decided to commit to writing full-time.

“Not Without my Father” is her experience of walking the 444-mile Natchez Trace through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee — 15 miles each day for 34 days. Each night her father — with whom she’d always had a distant relationship and whose help she’d reluctantly accepted — would pick her up to get a hot meal and a night’s sleep in a motel room.

The book is wry and engaging as Watkins begins to understand her father more. In the end, “it changed our relationship. We’re much closer now,” she said.

Watkins said that for her, writing novels is more challenging than a memoir. “My fiction isn’t genre-driven, so it’s a lot of fun to write.” She enjoys speaking to book clubs “because it’s fun to see how your work impacts people. It’s nice for me to get that feedback.” She is also a faithful and highly-decorated Rotarian.

 

Photos by Julie S. Hoff

 

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