Book Blog Tour & Giveaway: Celia Rivenbark

CeliaPhoto2Celia Rivenbark dishes essays about the old south, the new south, and everything in between in her fifth book You Can’t Drink All Day If you Don’t Start in the Mornin’. In addition to a collection of essays so funny you’ll shoot co’cola out of your nose, Celia gives readers a treasure trove of Southern recipes and the hilarious stories behind them.

For eight years Celia wrote for her hometown paper, the Wallace, NC Enterprise. She covered everything from weddings to funky fruit to dead bodies(sometimes all in the same day). But the big city beckoned so Celia packed her bags and headed to Wilmington, NC and the Morning Star. More weddings but eventually she achieved every Southern girl’s dream. She was paid to be a smart ass(a.k.a. write a humor column).

Along the way she found herself a husband(the sports writer, of course– they are the cutest guys at the paper!), a beautiful baby daughter, and a gig as a stay-at-home mom. After her 3,000th diaper change, Celia starting writing a humor column for the Sun News in Myrtle Beach, SC. After all, what’s funnier than 3000 dirty diapers? Laugh along with Celia on her WOW Blog Tour– dates are listed at

YouCantDrink_coverCelia will be popping in today (between Bloody Marys) to answer your questions and comments about her books or writing in general.  One lucky winner will be randomly selected to win a copy of You Can’t Drink All Day if You Don’t Start in the Mornin’. (Posts must be made before 12 midnight CST and winner must live in U.S.)

Interview by Mary Jo Campbell:

MJC: Your humor and “voice” are so distinct. Can you share why it is so important to have a distinct voice and how you have worked to develop your own?

Celia: Everybody has a distinct voice. The difference is that I’ve been lucky enough to be able to practice mine every single day for a living for a long time. I discovered after writing “Bless Your Heart, Tramp” that a surprising number of readers really enjoyed the Southernspeak. They didn’t always understand it but they didn’t seem to mind. More than a few have written over the years to ask what a particular phrase means. The copyeditors who review my manuscripts always have questions because they didn’t grow up talkin’ “Souther-ren.” So they stumble through life like a blind mule in a punkin’ patch without so much as an “I swanee” or “pea turkey squat” to comfort them. One of my favorite writing exercises is to write a few pages of dialogue with different voices. Then I read it out loud and, if it sounds, authentic, into the book it goes.

MJC: I love your raw and sarcastic comments and tone, but not everyone shares the same sense of humor.  Have you had much “mommie backlash” from things you’ve written?  If so, how did you handle it?

Celia: I haven’t had much mommie backlash at all. Most of my friends feel the exact same way I do about the Crazy Mommies. Then again, I might not recognize a good stink-eye aimed in my direction. By and large, I think most mommies understand I write humor and, yes, sometimes I exaggerate for effect. If I’ve gored your ox with something I’ve written, it’s important to remember that this is supposed be for laughs.

MJC: This is your fifth book of humorous essays, but the first to include recipes.  What made you decide to add recipes and how did you decide which ones to add?

Celia: Sooner or later, everybody starts putting recipes into their books.  (Well except for Paul Krugman or smart people like that but then you just know he just eats Kraft blue box mac and cheese over a hotplate every night don’t you?) Jill Conner Browne’s “Knock You Naked Margaritas” were stuck in my mind along with Mary Kay Andrews’ chicken salad recipe, which is good but a bit labor-intensive. I figured if they could do it, so could I. My mother-in-law, to whom the book is dedicated, is a phenomenal country cook so it seemed even more appropriate. I wrote the book first, then added the recipes, which I selected based on how well I could tie them to a particular essay and, more important, how good (or how mom-friendly) they were.

MJC: Like many of my readers, you began (or continued) to write through the throes of new mommy-hood. Can you offer any tips to those who are struggling to make time to write as a new mom?

Celia: I always used naptime for writing my column. Sophie napped for exactly 2.5 hours a day, and that’s about as long as I can sit still and write anyway.

MJC: Your essays are so very current. How do you use the “power of observation” to gather these ideas into essays with universal appeal?

Celia: I’m a huge pop culture and news junkie. If something strikes me as something I could riff on and customize (as in The Southern Mama’s take on Paris Hilton going to jail), then I let it marinate for a day or two and then start writing.

MJC: You’ve written about celebrities, mommies, the South. Will you write a collection of humorous essays on the life of a writer?

Celia: No, because others have done that and done it very well. For instance, right now I’m reading “And Here’s the Kicker.” It’s a new book of interviews with humor writers that I’m just slightly bitter about not being included in. What’s interesting is how many of the writers were misfits and sad sacks growing up. Hmmmmm.

Feel free to tell us about any of your upcoming appearances or events:

Celia: Thanks for letting me yak. Please drop by for information on real and virtual book tours and more.


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, contests, Creative Essays, Give Aways, Non Fiction, Voice, writers

15 responses to “Book Blog Tour & Giveaway: Celia Rivenbark

  1. Elise


    Great interview, as always! You have such insightful questions…keep up the fab interviews!


    Love your humor and your books…don’t ever stop writing, please! I am writing personal essay/memoir and am wondering (read: STRUGGLING) with where to draw the line on writing not-so-nicely about someone else…be it a stranger who works at the gift shop at a National Park or be it my husband. (Purely and EXAMPLE : ))How do you handle that AND stay married?

    Elise in Greenville, SC

    • Celia Rivenbark

      I don’t really draw the line. I think people who won’t let you go ahead at the gro. store when they have 85,000 items and you have 2 deserve whatever you can dish out! As to hubby, he always says he doesn’t care as long as I sell enough books so he can retire early. (It helps that he’s a writer, too.) Good luck with your writing projects!

  2. Elise

    Oops, should have typed:

    Purely, AN example. Not, AND example. It is early and I’ve yet to have coffee.


  3. Jodi

    You mentioned that you have many fans who don’t speak “Southern”–I’m curious are they Southerners who just don’t use regional words or are they Northerners? Do you have many fans who don’t have Southern connections?

    PS. I’m from PA and I love your writing–especially the awards for perfect attendance piece!

    • Celia Rivenbark

      Both. The Southernisms I use are old school and very rural. (“Chewing high” meaning I’m full; “in the short rows” meaning I’ve almost completed a task, etc. etc.) I do have a significant readership outside the South. I think as long as I tackle things like marriage, motherhood and pop culture, we have common ground regardless of geography.

  4. Celia,
    I love your books, because you get away with saying in print what many of us are too chicken to say out loud. When are you coming to Winston-Salem? I promise I’ll get my Babies’ Daddy to watch the girls so I can go. : )

    • Celia Rivenbark

      Move quickly cuz I’ll be signing at Borders in Greensboro tomorrow night ( 7 p.m. Weds.) That’s pretty darn close to you.

  5. Celia,

    I have often thought about attempting humor in my writing but fear offending someone or, just simply, not being funny. Was this an issue for you? If so, how did you overcome it?

    I also wondered, what experience did you have with writing prior to writing for your local newspaper? Could you share how you landed that writing job? I am always intrigued how writers got their start.

    Thank you for sharing your time with us!


  6. Celia,

    I’m curious to hear about how you landed your first gig as a columnist. On a similar note, how did you find your “voice”? Was it a leap for you to go from writing straight pieces to writing a humor column? Did you always write humor on the side? I’m interested in hearing about your process.

    Thanks–and I can’t wait to read your new essays!


  7. Celia Rivenbark

    If people repeatedly say, “You sure are funny,” it’s a good indication. If no one ever has, don’t write humor. If you have to work at it, you need to move to another genre. Trust me. I have enormous respect for serious novelists but I could never do that. Just as I don’t think they’d be terrific at humor. Forced humor makes for an awkward read. Play to your strengths. If one of them is abundant humor, go for it! And stop worrying about what other people think. Grow a metaphorical pair! As to the second q., I wrote press releases one summer for the comm. college. It got me into the local paper at least once a week. By the end of the summer, they knew I could write OK and gave me a job. I was 19.

  8. Celia Rivenbark

    I’d done all kinds of newspaper reporting by the time I got the humor column. Serious stuff like crimes and fluff like the bride’s page. I enjoyed writing features about Southern people and places and that morphed into a regional column about the quirky characters of the South. This sort of laid the groundwork for an easy transition to a weekly general humor column that could be dist. to a larger audience and focused more on pop culture and stupid human tricks.

  9. Liz

    Great interview and just the pick me up I needed today. It sounds like a fun read, even if I’ll need to have a southern dictionary when I read it over here in the Pacific Northwest!

  10. Great interview. Celia, you are hilarious!
    I’m impressed that you are able to crank out an article in 2.5 hours. I feel like I just get started on a piece and then naptime is over.

    Can’t wait to read your book.


  11. Celia — I have to admit I didn’t know about your books until I read about you on Writers Inspired. For sure I’ll buy “You can’t drink all day” — and probably copies for Christmas presents too. With a title like yours, just watching my friends laugh when they open the package will be worth it. Will your tour ever come to Silicon Valley? We need a few laughs out here in sunny Cal!

  12. carolee888

    This book sounds like a great humor book and I would like the receipes as we have just moved to the South.

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