Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Katherine Snow Smith Interview - Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker

Photo Content from Katherine Snow Smith

Katherine Snow Smith has lived throughout the south as a newspaper reporter, editor, public relations executive, daughter, sister, mother, wife, divorcee and friend.

She grew up in Raleigh, N.C. with her older sister Melinda. Her father was a newspaper reporter, editor and columnist. After writing a column for 70 years he recently retired at age 95. Her mother taught English and public speaking at North Carolina State University. Her father is one of 15 and her mother is one of three, so she grew up with a large family reaching from North Carolina’s piedmont to the mountains.

Katherine attended Needham Broughton High School in Raleigh and then went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating with a degree in journalism in 1990, she covered three small towns in South Carolina for the Greenville News. She also lived in Charlotte and covered textiles, manufacturing and economic development for the Charlotte Business Journal.

Along the way she met a reporter from New York City, they got married and moved to Florida where they both worked for the Tampa Bay Times.

She covered business and he became the paper’s political editor. After her first daughter was born, Katherine started a parenting column titled “Rookie Mom.” (When that daughter was a pre-schooler she thought her mom was Pokemon.)

Katherine stopped the column after a decade when her three kids were old enough to be embarrassed when their trials and tribulations were shared with strangers. This was about ten years before thousands of “influencers” were sharing hourly videos of their kids.

Katherine returned to covering business for the Tampa Bay Times for several years and then became editor of Bay, the newspaper’s arts, culture, travel and style magazine. During this stint she and her husband of 24 years got divorced, though they continued to work about ten feet apart in the newsroom and remained friends.

A public relations agency came calling at the right time and Katherine made the jump to the “dark side” as it’s known in journalism circles. She worked as an account executive and senior content strategist for a year then went out on her own to start SnowWrites, a small public relations and writing business.

Katherine lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., and has three children. Olivia works for a non-profit organization in Washington D.C., Charlotte attends the University of Vermont and Wade is a senior in high school in St. Petersburg.


What inspired you to pen your first book? 
A pair of four-inch heels with a black organza ruffle inspired me to finally write my book, Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps and Lessons. Actually, falling off of those borrowed four-inch heels onto then President Barack Obama inspired me.Mishaps like this happened throughout my life and when I recounted them to friends, co-workers and family, they often said I was a good storyteller.The day after falling during a photo opp at a White House media Christmas party, I called the friend who loaned me the shoes to tell her that Barack Obama had said the heels were “great” and worth the fall.“Katherine, you have got to write a book,” she said. 

Tell us your latest news. 
I’m having my first “live” book signing at the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, N.C. on September 16. Twenty five guests are buying individual bags in advance that contain my book, personal appetizers and a mini bottle of wine, then sitting six feet apart around a pool. Fingers crossed it doesn’t rain! 

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? 
David Sedaris has influenced me with the way he weaves observations of everyday life and average people into his personal essays to add humor and poignancy. 

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
My 96-year-old father, who was a newspaper columnist for 70 years, did a remote video introduction of me for a Zoom book talk in my hometown, Raleigh, N.C. He had already told me how much he liked my book, but he had to say that right? Hearing my dad, an amazing writer himself, describe my book to other readers-- friends and strangers-- was so rewarding and emotional. 

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel? 
That they must buy 25 more copies to give to all their friends and family! 

(Also..they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves when they mess up. Life is messy, but beautiful.) 

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
My frickin’ day job that pays the bills. 

Can you tell us when you started RULES FOR THE SOUTHERN RULEBREAKER. 
After I fell on Barack Obama and decided to finally start writing, I took a semester-long memoir writing class at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg starting in January 2016. I had been a newspaper reporter for 25 years and written a first-person parenting column for a decade but never tried memoir. 

What chapter was the most memorable to write and why? 
My sister died 20 years before I started writing my book. Back then, I had watched my mom iron the dress she was buried in. My mom did it so slowly and perfectly and I realized she was doing the last physical task she’d ever be able to do for her daughter. It was so sad but so beautiful as well. This was very hard for me to tell without being maudlin and paying the right respect to my sister and my mom. 

Why do you feel you had to tell this story? 
That is one of just two heartbreaking chapters in the book, but I wanted to pay a tribute to my sister and my mom and all moms. 

  • “Friends, other writers, and bartenders (mostly bartenders) have told me I have an innate ability to see both the humor and the poignancy in many of life’s experiences.” 
  • “If I wanted to push myself, I wouldn’t have begged for an epidural when I was 37 weeks pregnant and my doctor said the baby might come within a week or two.” 
  • “I couldn’t carry a drink, much less a conversation because I needed complete focus and free hands for balance to stand upright.” 
  • “It’s common these days to see Ford Fiestas with magnetic signs reading ‘Life Fairy’ or ‘Lice B Gone’ parked in long driveways shaded by tall Oaks in all the best neighborhoods.” 
  • “She wanted to keep ironing, caring, teaching, defending, celebrating, helping, consoling, praising, but this was the last thing she would ever do for her daughter.” 
  • “Honking horns from speeding pickups were customary as I took morning walks strangled with kudzu.” 
  • “Yet again, my son Wade had been lost in the shuffle of raising three kids under eight, working part-time, trying to make sure everyone had diapers and clean underwear, and low-sugar jelly without aspartame and a not-too-scary costume for the Halloween parade, and that we were home from the dentist in time to meet the exterminator who promised to kill the rat living behind the kitchen wall before Delbert the basset hound bit it and caught rabies.” 
  • “Waffles, Anne Marie? Waffles? Is that what you people in Yadkin County call your uppers or your downers or whatever the drug du jour is these days?” 
  • “I want to go out with somebody who prefers wits over fake tits.” 
  • “I choose to expose my scars, because that’s how you end up with bed jackets, one-liners, and support from friends through all the lows and highs.”
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know? 
William Shakespeare left his wife, Anne Hathaway, his “second-best bed” in his will. 

Best date you’ve ever had? 
We donated blood to get a free COVID antibody test, then went to Ikea and searched through the overwhelming maze for the perfect glass bookshelves then had dinner at a nearby 150-year-old Spanish restaurant then stopped in a funky store and bought stocking stuffers and ice cream. It rained on the way to the car. And yes, sorry to admit, we kissed in the rain. SO corny. 

If you wrote a journal entry today, what would it say? 
No time to write much today. Having a ball answering Jean the Book Nerd interview questions. 

What event in your life would make a good movie? 
Starting another chapter at age 51 when I got divorced after 24 years of marriage, left the newspaper where I’d worked for 20 years, beat colon cancer and found out my book was getting published. 

What are 4 things you never leave home without? 
Mask, phone (for camera), reading glasses (for reading anything besides a billboard), credit card. 

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home? 
The framed blueprints for building the set for the Beverly Hillbillies’ mansion for the old TV show. 

Southern women are inundated with rules starting early—from always wearing sensible shoes to never talking about death to the dying, and certainly not relying on song lyrics for marriage therapy.

Nevertheless, Katherine Snow Smith keeps doing things like falling off her high heels onto President Barack Obama, gaining dubious status as the middle school “lice mom,” and finding confirmation in the lyrics of Miranda Lambert after her twenty-four-year marriage ends. Somehow, despite never meaning to defy Southern expectations for parenting, marriage, work, and friendship, Smith has found herself doing just that for over four decades. Luckily for everyone, the outcome of these “broken rules” is this collection of refreshing stories, filled with vulnerability, humor, and insight, sharing how she received lifelong advice from a sixth-grade correspondence with an Oscar-winning actress, convinced a terminally ill friend to write good-bye letters, and won the mother of all “don’t give up” lectures by finishing a road race last (as the pizza boxes were thrown away).

Rules for the Southern Rule Breaker will resonate with every woman, southern or not, who has a tendency to wander down the hazy side roads and realizes the rewards that come from listening to the pull in one’s heart over the voice in one’s head.
You can purchase Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KATHERINE SNOW SMITH for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker by Katherine Snow Smith.