It’s a hair salon. It’s a book store. It’s Beauty and the Book, a bookstore started by a laid off book publisher’s assistant who wasn’t quite ready to turn the chapter. Thank goodness for pink slips. This Texas storefront has earned its reputation in literary circles. Its Pulpwood Queen and Timber Guy Book Club, is said to be the largest book club in the world and serves as a hub for authors looking to mingle with book lovers, and maybe score a quick haircut too. It also serves as a tipsheet for the Alley-McKay House Bed & Breakfast Inn
, which monitors the assigned readings and reaches out to authors planning a trip to Jefferson.
Take the recent news that Karen Essex, author of Dracula in Love, would be in town to meet with the Pulpwood Queen and Timber Guy Book Club. Darla McCorkle who runs the Alley-McKay House with her lifemate, Hugh Lewis, quickly got to work. “I invited Karen Essex as soon as Kathy Patrick, owner of Beauty and the Book, made a big announcement on Facebook that Karen was coming. I found Karen’s professional page on Facebook and posted a note, asked her to contact me. She friended me and I sent her a personal message,” said Darla. Shortly after, yet another author was on her way to the inn. It’s a process the B&B repeats over and over.
“As a result we have at least one author a month staying with us,” said Hugh.
Essex recalls when Darla first reached out to her. “Jefferson is a historic town and Darla and Hugh have a beautiful Victorian inn and my book takes place in Victorian times. It just all seemed perfect,” she said; though perhaps she’ll most remember their warmth and hospitality. “Darla is an amazing baker. She made a chocolate mousse cake with a whipped cream topping, it was one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life.” Essex also said Hugh surprised her with an egg-and-bacon sandwich to take on the train since she had such an early ride. “They’re just warm, lovely and hospitable people, the bed was comfortable too,” she laughed.
Among conversation, the three discussed Bettie Page. Essex previously wrote a book on the Queen of Pinups and as true literature lovers, Darla and Hugh, were all ears. Both Hugh and Darla love to read. In fact, they’ve named their son, Atticus Gregory Harper after the famed classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.
While being a book lover certainly helps, Darla says any business can attract authors and creative types. “Wherever you live you can easily promote yourself as a place for authors, photographer or whatever’s in your area.” Though she warns, it’s important to do your homework. “You have to know something about the person. If you’re inviting a creative soul you have to do a little research. It’s easy, all of that is out there on their website. Everybody’s got a website,” she said.
The inn has hosted a slew of authors over the years, including: Denise Hildreth, author of Fly in My Butter; Melanie Wells, author of My Soul to Keep and Robert LeLeux, author of Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, among countless others.
Hugh and Darla agree that Kathy and her hair salon have been a dynamic force in town. Ironically, Kathy, who put herself through college as a hairdresser thought her hair styling days were over. It wasn’t until she lost her job that friends suggested she pick up a curling-iron. “I really didn’t handle it very well. I was devastated because I loved my job as a book rep but when life gives you a lemon, make margaritas!”
Feeling her literary loss, Kathy decided to start a book club, initially opening her styling chairs to six book-loving strangers. In retrospect, Kathy says losing her job was the best thing that ever happened. “If I hadn’t of lost my job I never would’ve started this book club and I never would’ve met all these amazing people.” She still can’t believe her good luck, “You can’t imagine, it’s like every day I pinch myself black and blue.” In the process, Kathy herself became the published author of The Pulpwood Queen's Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life.
Kathy’s book club has grown to more than 350 chapters in the U.S. and abroad. Her annual girlfriends’ getaways where authors cook and serve dinner to readers are sold out months in advance.
For more information on the Alley-McKay House visit www.BnBFinder.com/AlleyMcKay
. To find more inns for book lovers visit BnBFinder.com specials page or contact Maria Coder at 212.480.0414 x 16 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . PHOTOS AVAILABLE upon request.
For more information on Beauty and the Book and the Pulpwood Queen and Timber Guy Book Club visit www.BeautyandtheBook.com
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