04/18/07 — Area columnist makes stop at library meeting

View Archive

Area columnist makes stop at library meeting

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 18, 2007 1:45 PM

Author Celia Rivenbark brought her own brand of humor to Goldsboro Tuesday night, as featured speaker for the annual meeting of the Friends of Wayne County Public Library.

Originally from Duplin County, Ms. Rivenbark recalled the last time she had visited Goldsboro, in the early 1960s.

"This is where we came to get school clothes every year," she said.

For someone from Teachey, population 150, "Goldsboro was downright exotic to us, it was ... where the streets were paved with asphalt," she said.

Ms. Rivenbark has come a long way since then, becoming an award-winning newspaper columnist and author of three books.

"Bless Your Heart, Tramp," was nominated for the James Thurber Prize in 2001. Her second book, "We're Just Like You, Only Prettier," was a finalist for the James Thurber Prize for American Humor and winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Nonfiction Book of the Year. Her third book, released last year, is entitled "Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank."

Ms. Rivenbark now lives in Wilmington with her husband and 9-year-old daughter and continues to write about the idiosyncrasies of life as a southerner.

"We're the last group it's OK to discriminate against," she told Tuesday night's audience. "We're not like the rest of the world, and we never will be."

Poking fun at herself as much as anyone, she spoke about food and faith and family.

"My cousin Reba still uses fatback and lard in virtually everything she cooks," she said, sharing how Reba had the "worst case of 'front butt' and brags that when she wears her orange Capri pants, you can't tell if she's coming or going."

Ms. Rivenbark is currently working on her fourth book, which will have a home improvement focus. It is expected to be released next spring.

Long before Ms. Rivenbark became a writer, she was an avid reader, crediting libraries like the one in Wayne County with giving her direction.

"It's a community treasure," she said. "I was raised in the stacks, in the library in Wallace."

Growing up in a small rural community, sometimes the library provides the best chance to expand one's mind and imagination, she said.

"It exposed a dreamy-eyed kid like myself .... I wouldn't see New York or go to a Broadway play for another 15 years, so this was my introduction," she said. "It introduced me to Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner and Truman Capote -- I embrace those southern writers."

Her grandmother had a floor-to-ceiling bookcase in her kitchen that contained first edition Nancy Drew books.

"I would sit there and devour those Nancy Drew books," she said.

But for every bright, engaged book lover, she noted, there are many families who consider books a luxury.

"You should know that you are doing a life-changing powerful work" by having and working to provide a library, she said. "I know because it changed my life."