Sometimes, I like to have a glass of wine while I peruse the next Sunday school lesson I’m going to teach,” said Marietta author Sally Kilpatrick. She might have also given a mischievous wink. That sort of duality is part of what inspired her novel, “The Happy Hour Choir.”
“The main character, Beulah Land, came to me first,” Kilpatrick said. “I imagined her as the daughter of a preacher, a girl who’d been saddled with an impossible name. Then I thought about taking an old hymn I knew well, ‘Dwelling in Beulah Land,’ and flipping it on its ear by having her make it her signature song. . . in a bar.”
Kilpatrick, who grew up in rural Henderson, Tennessee, graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and later, Kennesaw State University with her teaching certification and a master’s degree in professional writing. She has worn many hats along the way to a career as a published author – Sonic car hop, short order cook, retail, janitorial, telemarketer, Borders bookseller, logistics and transportation coordinator and high school Spanish teacher.
“I’ve also done some tutoring, written translations and I wrote some reviews for the Advanced Placement site,” she said.
But Kilpatrick will be the first to tell her readers that her biggest job has been being the mother of two. In fact, her blog and Twitter handle, Super Writer Mom, best reflect
her signature sense of humor about the role.
“I came up with Super Writer Mom back in 2010, maybe even earlier. I’d been juggling being a wife and mother with teaching, being a student and writing,” she said. “Super Writer Mom was both what I wanted to be and what I felt I often fell quite short of, even with all my attempts to be super.”
Kilpatrick recalls her earliest forays into writing and her own mother’s part in supporting her journey.
“I seem to remember asking my mom for a recipe box so I could make my own card catalog of stories when I was in elementary school,” she said. “In junior high, some friends of mine and I were bored and started writing our own outlandish soap opera. By the time I got to high school, I was writing ‘stories.’”
Striving to be super continues to be a part of Kilpatrick’s experiences. She took on volunteer positions with the Georgia Romance Writers, helping with conferences and eventually serving as vice president, and this year, president of the organization.
But Kilpatrick says she’s never far from her roots.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from where I grew up,” she said. “Writing about West Tennessee is a way to go home.”
In good Southern form, her fiction includes the Dixie Trifecta – home, God and good food.
“The recipes in the novel served as a sort of metaphor for life. Sometimes the instructions aren’t all that clear,” she laughed. “We can learn from the people who came before us, but we have to feel our way through life based on our own personal taste and instincts.”
As for what this Super Writer Mom wants her kids to take away from her adventures in publishing, Kilpatrick is very clear.
“I’d like my kids to follow their dreams but to be pragmatic about it,” she said. “I want both of them to see a woman who goes after what she wants. I write because I want to tell stories.
“My husband and I are trying to teach the kids to put more value on experiences than things and that they should find a career doing what they love – and preferably one that makes the world a better place.”
A story like “The Happy Hour Choir” might just live up to Kilpatrick’s high standards, with her most important message for her kids and readers, alike.
“’The Happy Hour Choir’ was my way of saying we’re all good and bad, but if we try hard enough, the good will always win out in the end,” she said. ■