Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

Puttin' on them Red Boots
A look inside a sassy new book
by Anne Marie Turner

At first glance, Red Boots & Attitude (Eakin Press) might seem simply a handful of stories sharing a Texas bent. But make no mistake -- like a true Texas salsa, the book's initial, familiar taste soon reveals an intense, complex fire just below the surface; one that's guaranteed to straighten your posture, get your attention and linger.

Established writers and editors, Diane Fanning and Susie Kelly Flatau, the dual force and inspiration behind Red Boots and Attitude, each had a vision of one day extending their writing careers to help promote other women writers, and hopefully to make a difference in the world. Through a relatively newfound friendship, the idea for the book seemed a natural and fated spin-off of their shared visions. However, the response to the project -- from initial idea, to publication, to promotion -- has become quite a pleasant perq for the two as they follow a dream.

"We wanted a true cross section of writers who represented different voices, styles and genre," said Flatau. "We made a list of forty-two writers based on the history of their work, previous publications, involvement as a woman writer, and strong recommendations, and invited them to submit work." Flatau and Fanning expected about half would participate. Thirty-four yeses came back.

Along with such enthusiasm for the project came a lush buffet of contributions, from writers relatively new to the publication world and from those who are not. Beloved Austinites Suzy Spencer, Valerie Bridgeman Davis, Laurie Lynn Drummond and Ruth Pennebaker are included, as well as a handful of big guns like Liz Carpenter, Jan Epton Seale, Diane Gonzales Bertrand, Historians Ruthe Winegarten and Nancy Baker Jones, and Farnoosh Moshiri.

But it isn't only genre and style that set each contributor apart from the other. Their ethnicity, ages and unique backgrounds contribute to the varied pace of the book and provide a nice balance. For example, Moshiri's selection "The Pool" is a haunting story taken from her native Iran where she spent four years in refugee camps after the rise of Islamic Fundamentalists. Lydia Lum's story, "Across the Generations" takes place largely in Hong Kong; and retired physician Usha Shah's story, "Gros NeneNene" (Fat Nanny) comes to us from her native islands, the Seychelles.

And of course, Texas humor is woven into the laces of Red Boots and Attitude, like Carmen Tafolla's "How I Got Into Trouble and the Mistakes I Made."

Mistake #1:

First, I fell in love with my priest. That was enough right there, but then I made

Mistake #2:

I told my parents that I fell in love with my priest. (My parents got very mad.)

Substance-with-sass aside, the true spirit of Red Boots and Attitude is about empowering women, celebrating the voice and paving the way. Contributor, Liz Carpenter, known for her service to four US Presidents and her outspoken wit, reflects this spirit in her selection, "The History of the Women's Movement as I Know It" (originally found in Start With a Laugh, Eakin Press 2001):

     I would like to talk about you and how proud we are of today's young women - our daughters, those bright young women who walked through the newly opened doors of colleges and obtained law degrees, medical licenses, positions on boards, and appointments by presidents. Remember, those doors didn't just swing open for you. Someone pulled them open.
     A lot of aging feminists still have broken fingernails so that you could earn six-figure salaries, wear Donna Karan suits, and drive Lexus cars. Now, I hear a lot about people with jobs that are not "meaningful." The corporate world does not always feed your eager souls. You have to feed your own souls outside of your professions. May I recommend that networking and community action not only feed your souls, but they are also the most worthy ways of helping to improve the lots of other women, children, and your country. Hang in there. Take the risks. Remember, if you expect to find a stepping stone when you need one, you have to be one, as well.

Since the publication of Red Boots and Attitude, Fanning and Flatau have placed several stepping stones themselves -- turning their attention to helping others and making a difference. 20% of book sales go to The Breast Cancer Research Center of Austin  -- a non-profit organization created in 1995 by breast cancer survivors, to enable women to be active, knowledgeable participants in their healthcare. It is the largest breast cancer service organization in the US, serving as a central source of information, education, and support for breast cancer patients, their families and friends, and concerned members of the community.

Aptly subtitled "The Spirit of Texas Women Writers," Fanning and Flatau's collection of essays, poems, and short stories is a filling representation of the power and presence of Texas women. Red Boots and Attitude pulses with the grit, gumption and grace of our native terrain and echoes in the voices of the thirty-four Texas women writers included.

Through the generous support of Eakin Press and the editors of Red Boots and Attitude, and in celebration of mamas, women and Texas Writers Month, AustinMama.com is honored to feature excerpts from Red Boots and Attitude over the course of our next three issues.  We hope you'll stick around!
Read the first excerpt, "'Round the Mulberry Bush" here.

Excerpts courtesy of Eakin Press and used by permission.
Anne Marie Turner is a local writer, mama and entrepreneur.  Her organizing business, Breathing Space, has helped countless Austinites find order, peace and missing items both at home and the office.  Turner is a frequent contributor to AustinMama.com.