Introverts Unite.

I guess the proper place to begin is with the admission she was not even on my radar. Oh, I’d heard of the book. I’d been drawn to it for years, the title alone tugging my heart until it pulled itself all the way to the top of my To Be Read list. But I don’t watch Grey’s, or Scandal, or How to Get Away With Murder, and so Shonda Rhimes, who created and runs those blockbuster shows, was a not a familiar name to me.

All that has changed. I just finished Year of Yes and can proudly say Shonda Rhimes rocked my world in the most powerful, gorgeous, healthy way possible.

The book is her telling of the life explosion she experienced when her sister offered, in a casual comment: You never say yes to anything. It pierced her, this thought, and it became the driving force behind a commitment to spending one year saying yes to anything that came along that scared her.  

(This is a woman who hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances, just saying.)

This book is good, y’all. So good. And not in the way I expected. Shonda gets real, going deep enough into her hesitancies to actually identify what it is that scares her. Then she works hard at addressing that particular thing, which changes her perspective, which opens up her life.

My favorite part of the story is the commencement speech she delivered at her alma mater, Dartmouth College, in 2014. The audiobook (read by Shonda, which is so powerful) features that speech. I want every young person everywhere to hear it. I wish I’d heard it at 21. 

Heck, the truth is I want every young woman I know to read this book.

So thank you, Shonda, for lessons and inspiration and a grand nudge to walk more boldly toward.  For the reminder that as women, and as human beings on this earth–it is our honor and our glory to step out of the shadows and fully, confidently, into the light.


this morning’s light




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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: February

February, here goes.

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Harper Collins says of this book: A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I listened to the audiobook so the “charming pluck” really came to life. (To tell the truth, I’m not sure it would have held my attention in book form, but maybe.) Worth a listen, for sure.

The Mothers, by Britt Bennett
Called “dazzling” and “ferociously moving” and “luminous,” I could hardly wait to read Britt Bennett’s The Mothers.  The young author has become a bit of a literary darling with this–her debut novel–winning tons of awards and finding a spot on nearly every 2016 Best Book list. Plus I adore the cover. So I was thrilled when it came from the library just in time for our recent trip. I settled into my window seat on the plane, cracked the book open and nearly had a heart attack when I read the location for the story was our destination: Oceanside, California. Serendipity! But alas, turns out this is not the book for me. I finished it–but struggled. Please, please somebody read this book so we can discuss!

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
I’ve had the same title at the top of my Favorite Book of All Times list for nearly 20 years, but this reading season has served up two grand competitors. First I covet Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, a thick, rich, delicious novel I sank into and savored over several weeks last Fall. And now there is Lincoln in the Bardo. The first novel from George Saunders, it is–without a doubt–a masterpiece. Stunning and brilliant, Saunders offers a compelling (and original) story about the first days after the death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, beloved son of President and Mary Todd Lincoln. (You will want to read this one in hard back.)

Oh friends. This book.

(My previous Favorite Book of All Time? Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.)

Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
I mentioned this memoir in a previous post on The Daily Grace, noting at the time I had some mixed emotions about it. This is a tough read; the first three quarters detail Melton’s lifelong battles with addiction and the subsequent (and shocking) implosion of her marriage. She writes with an unsettling honesty and goes into great detail–so much so I nearly gave up on her/it. (Clearly this is the desired effect.) But just then the story takes a turn and the insights she offers about “unlearning” and living in truth are surprising and powerful. I think about this book every day.


Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voscamp

Above the Waterfall, by Ron Rash

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

News of the World, by Paulette Giles

A Snow Garden, by Rachel Joyce

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, by Glenn Taylor

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have! 


Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help cover the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

Oh–one other thing. On the days I find a great deal on one of my favorite, favorite books, I often share it on Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

When It’s All Too Much

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior.  It’s a book about which I have a lot of conflicting emotions, and I will hold those for another time. But just last night, as I was rendering Andouille Sausage for some Fat Tuesday Gumbo, my headphones delivered a thought that has clung to me like a dryer sheet.

Glennon was describing the despair she felt in the first moments and hours and days of the devastating dissolution of her marriage. She felt paralyzed, frozen–unable to do anything, or move in any direction as she considered the unfathomable damage divorce would do: the scars her children would carry, the very implosion of her own identity and existence. 

Then this whisper came back to her.

Just do the right next thing, one thing at a time.

It’s exactly what we need to remember, don’t you think, when the world becomes too much, when life overwhelms.

Just do the right next thing.

Oh, yes. I’m going to hold on to that one.



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What I’ve Been Reading Lately


AROUND THE HOLIDAYS, Tim and I made a commitment to each other to spend more time reading (AKA less time watching television). Then we instituted a Reading Happy Hour, and three or four times a week, we (AKA he) builds a fire, pours a glass of wine and–while dinner bubbles away on the stove or broils in the oven–we sit, sip and read.

(It is as divine as it sounds.)

It has also been the perfect kickstart to get my reading on again.



THEN, INSPIRED BY ANNE BOGEL’S FANTASTIC PODCAST What Should I Read Next?, I decided to keep a reading log. As I made the January list I was surprised at its volume. I’m not someone who can read multiple fiction novels at once–I swear my brain is not developed enough for that–but I can juggle different genres on different platforms. In fact, I’ve realized this works really, really well for me because I love to read myself to sleep at night and sadly, at least in terms of reading volume, it never takes more than a few pages.

Voila–a short essay is perfect.

(I feel the same about knitting. I love the challenge of a difficult pattern and need one to keep me excited about picking up the needles. But sometimes you just want a simple Knit and Purl so your mind can be somewhere else (AKA watching too much television). 


ANYWAY. The magical simultaneous reading triumvirate–fiction, memoir or essays, audiobook–is allowing me to make some good headway in an endless and thrilling To Be Read list.

January, here goes.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave 
I learned of this book from the What Should I Read Next? podcast and have to say it is my favorite of the World War II novels. Smart, sometimes witty, and beautifully written.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance
Vance reads the audiobook, and I believe this format masked what others have noted is less-than-steller writing. And because it is a memoir, hearing family stories in the author’s voice added to the experience. As to my opinion about the theme of the book–I am a child of Appalachia and should therefore have complicated emotions about Vance’s perspective. I don’t. I found the stories of his family engaging, and I think his conclusions are fair, given his experience. What I do feel conflicted over is the wild popularity of Hillbilly Elegy. I think it was a good read (listen) but not one that I find to be incredibly important. 

Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan
A heartbreaking story about prejudice on Mississippi’s Delta. Jordan’s debut novel, it received a huge boost via recognition by Barbara Kingsolver. Tight, well-written–and I enjoyed her use of multiple first person narrators.

Stitches, by Anne Lamott
The audiobook of this collection of essays on “meaning, hope and repair” is read by Lamott (already one of my favorites) and it is a treasure. I clung to every word and listened to much of it twice. Plus–if you are an Amazon Prime member–you can listen for free under their “Channels” section in the Audible app.

Someone Will Be With You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life, by Lisa Kogan
I first read  Lisa in O Magazine and loved her writing so much I tracked down this work. She’s funny, honest and easy to read. That equals a win to me.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, by Myquillyn Smith
I enjoy Myquillyn’s “don’t let the thought of it overwhelm you” interior design style on Instagram so much I decided to download the book. The design tips are great, of course, but I also love her easy-going life philosophy–and I found much to inspire me to Just Chill.


A Snow Garden, by Rachel Joyce

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, by Glenn Taylor

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voscamp

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

News of the World, by Paulette Giles

Love Warrier, by Glennon Doyle Melton

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

It’s a fluid list, of course, influenced heavily by what comes in from my library HOLDS list as well as the coveted Kindle Daily Deals on Amazon. (I’m a fan.) I’ll let you know how it goes.

And if you have thoughts or other recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any other suggestions you have! 



Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help cover the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

Oh–one other thing. On the days I find a great deal on one of my favorite, favorite books, I often share it on Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

Reasons to Rejoice

IN 2012 I LISTENED to the audiobook of the best new book of the decade*, Rules of Civility. It took about three pages to make this proclamation, and by the end of the story I confidently pronounced Rules to be the perfect novel and a new American Classic.

Guys. It is SO. GOOD.

It was also the debut novel of Amor Towles, a New York investment banker who wrote the thing from the perspective of a female character. Wow.

SINCE THEN I’ve googled, oh, a hundred times(?) to see what Towles is working on, where his work appears, what book has been released as a follow-up. Google has been pretty quiet on the matter.

Until now.


Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.49.04 AM


Released yesterday, A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW is Towle’s second novel and one highly anticipated by critics and readers alike. It’s the story of Count Alexander Rostov who, in 1922, is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. As Towle’s website states his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

This one I will read with a hardback copy in my hands.

AND THERE IS THIS. I learned of Towles’ new release not via Google but in listening to a podcast with which I am also a bit captivated. What Should I Read Next is the brainchild of Anne Bogel, a mom of four who blogs at Modern Mrs. Darcy and talks books via the podcast. Her format is simple and interesting: She asks a guest to name (and describe) three books she/he loves and one she/he hates, and from that she plays matchmaker, suggesting three books that meet the guest’s reading profile.

She’s a book whisperer, if you will, and it’s interesting to hear her choices. It’s also entertaining and informative to listen to the guests and their picks. Hear more at this link: What Should I Read Next.

A new Towles’ novel and a podcast that pairs readers with books they’ll love: two great reasons to rejoice even if the calendar says summer is over!

*in my opinion



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Lee Smith, Ron Rash and the Gift of the SC Book Festival

Long before I knew the bluebirds had fledged, I declared May 17th a day for the books, a sort of anno Domini event that would forever divide my life into the before and the after. I had just returned from a full day at the South Carolina Book Festival, you see, a day that so filled me with light and possibility I thought I might burst.

I want to tell you every detail I said to my husband the moment I reached him sitting there on the deck down by the pond. Even if it takes a long time, I don’t want to leave out a thing.

He smiled and sat back in the faded red Adirondack, happy to hear me out.

But let me go get the books I saidI want to show you while I tell you.

He smiled. I’ll get us a beer he said.


This is what Tim knows that you may not: I will go anywhere, anytime to hear my favorite author, Lee Smith. She wrote the book that, when I was 14 years old, ignited my intense passion for reading. I had a summer job at the Lonesome Pine Regional Library when I happened to pick up The Last Day the Dog Bushes Bloomed. I had always been a big reader (flashlight under the covers, etc.), but the first page of Dog Bushes poured over me in a way that made me know right then it was different from the others. It was to become my very first favorite book of all times.

How I love Lee Smith for that gift.

It’s not much of a stretch, then, to understand she also wrote the book that ignited my passion for writing. Fair and Tender Ladies is the kind of novel that brought it all home for me: the significance of place; a wild admiration for strong, persevering women; an overwhelming devotion to language that is filled with heart and honesty and grit. Every paragraph, in every Lee Smith story, stirs something in my soul that says Come on girl. We’re meant to do this.

It is terrifying, though, to face the vast expanse of the unwritten novel. It is overwhelming and burdensome, difficult to begin because it is impossible to see your way through. That’s because the process of writing is like moving half-blind through a black tunnel; while I have finally begun writing the thing, I’ve no idea where I am or the distance to the finish. I simply inch forward in the darkness, the characters revealing the story to me one tiny bit at a time. I watch, I listen, I write.

I could hardly believe my good fortune when I learned Lee Smith was to appear at the South Carolina Book Festival alongside the other Appalachian writer who has stolen my heart, Ron Rash. I had just read his remarkable Serena, a novel that grabbed me and pulled me under in such a good way I am still fretting over it, still carrying those characters with me two books later.

(Good God Ron Rash is a powerful storyteller.)


Ron and Lee
Moderator Janna McMahan, Ron Rash and Lee Smith, oh my


They did not disappoint.

Lee, on writing:

Every novel comes with its own demands.

There’s no story if there’s not some trouble.

I do a lot of pre-writing to understand the characters. It’s what happened in the past that formed their lives.


Ron, on writing:

You would think it would get easier, but it doesn’t.

It’s like being a mule. You just keep your head down and go up and down the rows. And you look for those moments of grace when it is easy.

The time flew by, the session finished, I made my way to the book signing line. I have met Lee several times and each time I play the card I am Posey’s daughter as she was an acquaintance of my mother’s. This time, I also desperately wanted to tell her I am working on my first novel. But in my head I heard that little voice that said: She hears that from every failed writer standing in every book signing line across the country. Don’t be just another drone.

I reached her and we chatted briefly, me remarking how much I enjoyed Guests On Earth, how thrilled I was she was there at the South Carolina Book Festival, Lee responding in such a gracious way you’d think we were old friends. Then like a 5-year-old with a kindergarten secret I blurted out I’M WORKING ON MY FIRST NOVEL AND IT TAKES PLACE IN SCOTT COUNTY.

The line hung there between us and I thought I might faint. Then she looked at me with kind and interested eyes, put down her pen and said How wonderful! Tell me all about it.

For the next four or five minutes she listened to me as if I were the first student in the first writing seminar she ever taught. She asked me questions; she answered my questions; she even made a note or two about some specifics in my story.

Then she signed my book and smiled, and as I walked away she said Write away, Cathy! Write away!




For the first time in my life I understood “on cloud nine.” I skipped around the exhibit hall, gravity-less, an insider, a writer among writers. I spent that day, and all the next, wildly taking notes as poets and novelists shared their stories and their lessons about the craft. Then I stood in line after line for inspiration and the author’s signature. I told each and every one: I am writing my first novel and without exception, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, these generous souls cheered me on with encouragement like: Remember the joy of the process and make time to write each day and I hope you’ll be here with me next year, signing your book.

And then I met the great Pat Conroy, who shook my hand and looked me in the eye and said: Shall I give you some writing advice?

Oh, yes.


my heart beats fast just to see it


How grateful I am to this group of writers and to the organizers of the South Carolina Book Festival. It is a grand gift to all of us—but none more so than we who will take their advice and, just as they said, write on.






Bookish: from Ancient Light

What do I recall of her, here in these soft pale days at the lapsing of the year? Images from the far past crowd in my head and half the time I cannot tell whether they are memories or inventions. Not that there is much difference between the two, if indeed there is any difference at all. Some say that without realising it we make it all up as we go along, embroidering and embellishing, and I am inclined to credit it, for Madam Memory is a great and subtle dissembler. When I look back all is flux, without beginning and flowing toward no end, or none that I shall experience, except as a final full stop. The items of flotsam that I choose to salvage from the general wreckage—and what is a life but gradual shipwreck?—may take on an aspect of inevitability when I put them on display in their glass showcases, but they are random; representative, perhaps, perhaps compellingly so, but random nonetheless.

from Ancient Light, by John Banville

Day 25: Book Club (plus!)

It’s a very cool thing to be part of a book club, particularly when it is a book club of fascinating women.

It’s even cooler when one of those women publishes her first novel.

Starfish author Michele Kingery

That’s just what happened with our little group—resurrected last month after an unplanned one year hiatus*—when we gathered to toast the release of Starfish, the delicate debut novel of our swell friend and all around Renaissance woman Michele Kingery. Starfish is the coming of age story of Charli Weeks, a 15-year-old who finds her Lowcountry life turned upside down through a series of events she can neither understand nor control.

Amid the hugs and champagne toasts and predictions of a runaway best seller, we grilled Michele on the finer points of publishing a work of literary fiction. How thrilling for all of us to share in the joy of its release!

Starfish is next up on my summer reading list and I can hardly wait to get started.

The hardback book is in production now, but you can get Starfish (a novel) right this minute on Kindle!

30 Days of Fun II

*We are very busy women.

The Journey to Quiet

I feel I owe you a good post, what with pulling that “subscribe to my blog” move on Sunday. (Thank you for indulging me via FB, Twitter, etc. ) I feel the need to make good, to write meaningfully, to go deep and reveal an insight excavated there.

I’m just having a little trouble doing it.

It’s the voice in my head, you see, the voice that offers a running commentary on the endless To Do list that is my life. Review the lease. Send a card to Jean. Mark the raised bed plantings. Mail the graduation present to Joe. Prep for the logo meeting. Renew Audible. Decide on studio lighting. Migrate the Google Reader feed. Schedule lunch with Staci. Respond to new business lead. (FIND the new business lead now buried in 2,215 emails in my inbox.) Sort inbox to find the other hundred emails to which I owe responses. Find that note about that app that manages your inbox for you.

It’s unsettling, this commentary, this unsatisfied, insatiable voice. It knows me well, feeding on the one thought that, when I am not diligent, overtakes all:

I don’t have time. If I just had more time. Why is there never enough time?

(I have written about this before. We can safely consider it a “recurring” theme.)


A few years ago, in a race to get from one meeting to the next, I wheeled into a parking lot and ran for the door of an already in-progress board meeting. I made my way to an empty chair beside my friend Mike—a highly respected banker with whom I had served on several boards—and went about the business of sitting, parking my purse under the table and retrieving a notebook and pen from my disorganized and impossible to find anything under the best of circumstances briefcase. (Okay, it’s not a briefcase, it’s a backpack, but that’s another story.)

In a halfhearted attempt at an apology excuse, I leaned toward Mike, who was sitting serenely with—by the way—nothing but the agenda in front of him. I whispered:

Good Lord I never have enough time.

He turned to me, smiled ever-so-gently and said:

Cathy. You have all the time there is.


I am 18 pages into The Untethered Soul, a book recommended to me by my soulmate cousin Meg on that life-changing trip to Misty Valley a few weeks ago. The book opens with Chapter 1: The Voice Inside Your Head.

In case you haven’t noticed, you have a mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. It just keeps going and going. Have you ever wondered why it talks in there? How does it decide what to say and when to say it? How much of what it says turns out to be true? How much of what it says is even important? And if right now you are hearing, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t have any voice inside my head!” —that’s the voice we’re talking about.

This is going to be an interesting journey, I think, this trip inside my head to deal with the voice.

How I look forward to the peace and quiet there on the other side.




Bookish: from The Light Between Oceans


As she sank to her knees on the grass and sobbed, the memory of a conversation with Frank floated into her awareness.

But how? How can you just get over these things, darling? she’d asked him. You’ve had so much strife, but you’re always happy. How do you do it?

I choose to, he said. I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget.

But it’s not that easy.

He smiled that Frank smile. Oh but my treasure. It is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, everyday. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.

He laughed, pretending to wipe sweat from his brow.

I would have to make a list—a very, very long list—and make sure that I hated the people on it the right amount. That I did a very proper job of hating, too. Very Teutonic. No.

His voice became sober.

We always have a choice. All of us.


from The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman

(Yes, another debut novel.)