Photos: Julie Smith for Mayor

Please vote for Julie Smith 
for Mayor of Tifton, Georgia. 
Tuesday, November 3, at the Old Gym.

Brenda Sutton Rose
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Tifton Needs a Change in Leadership

Tifton needs a new mayor.

We must look toward a future that embraces common sense change. We need a mayor who knows we must not forget lessons of the past as we look toward the future, a mayor who knows we are either moving forward or falling behind, a mayor who knows Tifton from the inside out, a mayor who represents Tifton with confidence, professionalism, and extensive knowledge of economic development.

We need Julie Smith.

This is the last week of early voting. I urge you to ask your friends to get out and vote this week. There is no reason why Tifton should have low voter turnout.

As of Friday, October 23, 2015, merely 379 people had voted in the mayoral election.

Remember: Early voting ends Friday, October 30 at 5:00 PM at the old gym. AND, since this is a city election, registered voters will vote at the old gym on Election Day, November 3.

I hope you will consider Julie Smith to lead Tifton through changing times.

But no matter which candidate you choose, please choose to vote.

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Julie Smith: An Intuitive, Instinctual, Absolute Love for Tifton

I have a rule of keeping my political opinions as private as possible.

Or at least I used to.

But as Tifton prepares for the mayoral election, I hear the shattering of my rule.

Julie Smith has been an advocate for Tifton for as long as I can remember. I returned to Tifton ten years ago and interviewed under her for the position of Events Coordinator for the City of Tifton. I held the position for several months, until I resigned in order to devote more time to writing. During my time as events coordinator, I came to understand the depth of Julie’s love for Tifton.

If you know anything about Hometown Holidays, an event that showers the Christmas spirit on children from all social and economic backgrounds, you know that Julie and her friend, Becky Mann, gave birth to the annual event. Julie delighted in spreading magic throughout downtown. Year after year, she made personal sacrifices; she negotiated; she brought in volunteers; she searched out donors; and she cultivated the event. And Hometown Holidays continues to thrill children to this day.

Julie’s fierceness, her professionalism, and her love for Tifton are evident in all she does. In her role as city council member representing District 4, she interceded for Tifton. She promoted Tifton. She listened to her constituents and represented them with honesty and integrity. In council meetings, she brought a unique knowledge to the table, a knowledge that came from her years as Executive Director of Tifton’s Main Street Program. And she reached into the community with a desire to hear the concerns of others. Julie’s passion for a growing, thriving Tifton pushes her to create job growth. She doesn’t have tunnel vision; her vision encompasses all possibilities; her vision includes all of Tifton.

Okay. Perhaps you know I admire strong women. I admire fierce women with a heart. Julie is that woman when it comes to local issues. Her professionalism makes me proud. She has an intuitive, instinctual, absolute love affair with Tifton, Georgia. I don’t know if Julie and I agree on national politics, but when it comes to local government, I head straight for the candidate, not the political party. And this time, I'm heading straight for Julie Smith.

I invite you to support Julie and vote early. Don’t wait until Election Day when perhaps another commitment will creep up and deter you from visiting the polls. 

Is it time for change in the mayor’s office? I believe it is.

I hope you will vote as soon as possible. Invite your friends to vote early.

Early voting begins Monday, October 12, 2015.

After I vote, I'll post a selfie on Facebook. 

Let's vote early!

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The Friendship of Two Redheads

Polly and I met in 2005 when I married my husband and moved to Georgia. I was a new wife, recently moved back to Georgia, my homeland, when we crossed paths through our love of the arts. She and I became sisters nearly immediately. When I found her, I felt as though I’d found a missing chapter to my unwritten memoir. She and I go way back.

Over time, Polly watched my husband and me gradually transform our house from a traditional place to an eclectic, cozy home. Polly witnessed the evolution of our manicured back yard as we softened it  into a romantic overgrown garden with winding brick walkways, garden statuary, and secret nooks. And I watched the slow but unique renovations she and her husband made to their home. Using Polly’s ideas they turned their ranch house into a unique cottage of colors, textures, and warmth. I watched the growth of her farm, her garden, and a growth in the number of pets and farm animals. We have a history together. Somewhere in this house I have a collection of thank you notes from her daughter that began when Elizah was barely able to write. She is now a senior in high school.

Sunflowers at Polly's house.
On the morning of July 5, 2010, I received a call that my youngest brother had died suddenly during the night. As my phone continued to ring with calls from family and friends, I took a walk in the neighborhood in an attempt to escape the pain. When physical exhaustion wore me down, I walked home through a fog of grief, and my husband met me at the door. Instinctively recognizing my need to hide from the wailing phone, my husband hugged me and let me go. He would handle the incoming calls so I could go to Polly for a few minutes.
In this photo: my sister-in-law, Debbie. People are arriving for my book launching party. 
Later in the day, as I tried to convince myself that my brother’s death was not real, Polly came and cleaned my home, knowing it would soon be dark with mourners, dark with loss, dark with the plans for a funeral. That’s the kind of sister Polly is to me.

We confide and listen and offer pieces of ourselves to each other. We speak the same language.

When I was writing Dogwood Blues, Polly advised me in the chapter about Delilah’s labor and delivery. I had cared for Polly’s goats on numerous occasions when they were swollen with unborn kids, but I had never been present for a birth. As I wrote about Delilah’s difficult delivery, Polly served as my encyclopedia, my goat midwife, my source of facts.

We’ve been through some memorable times together. Side by side we’ve brainstormed for the arts; we’ve planned themes and menus for entertaining; we’ve made Christmas wreaths; we’ve thrown thrilling Christmas parties. As October leaves trembled, we’ve dreamed many autumn cookouts and bonfires into wonderful magical events; we’ve turned our creativity into successful ventures.

Polly and I share a love for the eclectic style, a mixture of old and rustic and traditional. We like vintage. We like whimsical. We prefer a wild array of backyard flowers overflowing from a vintage jug to a formal floral arrangement, designed with balance, dominance, contrast, proportion, and scale in mind. We like chipped antique crystal, turned wooden bowls, pottery. When the mood hits us, we serve wine in mason jars. Excitement consumes us at the sight of faded antique lace, of burlap, of hand-stitched quilts.

I have searched thrift shops and antique stores throughout the states for silver serving pieces. Few of the pieces I purchased match, but they reflect my style. And I have a small stash of pewter that Polly gave me over the years. When Polly and I entertain together, we pull out old dough bowls, pewter, silver, our second-hand crystal (often purchased at antique stores), pottery from southern potters. We don’t serve food from Sam’s. Polly whips up dishes that are beautiful and delicious. Stunning creations of food.
A feast for my book launching party.

We think alike. We should have been twins.

Polly didn’t think I was crazy when I drove to Maryland to pick up a mid-century modern dining table and chairs that I had seen on eBay. She didn’t think I was crazy when I purchased an antique phone booth to use for book storage in my office. And I didn’t think she was crazy when she and her husband covered the ceiling in their den with beadboard. I didn’t think she had lost all sanity when she painted her china cabinet yellow. I loved the changes.

With grace, she put up with my long absences during the writing of Dogwood Blues. She took no offense at my moodiness, my tiredness, my absentmindedness, the obsessive amount of time I devoted to writing. And when the writing was done, Polly pulled together an intimate book launching party for Dogwood Blues in her home and invited only a select few of our book-loving friends and family to attend. Her home was warm, cozy, and magical that night. It glowed with excitement, soft lights, and friendship. The aroma of baking and all manner of cooking spilled throughout the rooms. She had captured Spring inside her house, and the March night glowed like stars around us.

I suppose there is no real point to this blog. I am simply posting what is on my mind this morning.

Life is beautiful. Sisters are beautiful.

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An Evening with Local Authors: Books Allowed!

Robert Reid Goodson, Director of Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts, has unveiled a lineup of local authors for An Evening with Local Authors

In 2000, after claiming the title of Reading Capital of the World, Tifton hit the national headlines for something as nurturing and inspiring as reading. I was living in Illinois at the time. Imagine my surprise when I turned the channel to CNN and heard Tifton—my hometown—being reported on for reading. Not football. Reading.

I have since discovered we are a reading community, and our local library is the center of it all. In Tifton, we pride ourselves in reading everything from chick flick to fantasy to science fiction to southern fiction to the classics and a great deal more. And poetry: let us never forget poetry.

Goodson aimed for a broad section of authors for this literary event to be held in downtown Tifton. He’s lined up authors of children’s books, Christian fiction, mystery, young adult, poetry, southern fiction, and other genres. Nine authors will be reading, discussing their works, and signing and selling books. I'll be one of them.

Let’s rattle our imaginations Friday night!

Where:  City Hall at the Myon, Tifton, Georgia
When:  Friday evening, March 20, 2015
Time:   7 PM
Admission fee:  $5

Kat H. Clayton
Tracey Cox
Beth Hallman
Janie Hopwood
E.M. Knowles
Rebecca Hagan Lee
Raven H. Price
Brenda Sutton Rose
Pamela Williams

What else do I need to know? Light refreshments will be served.

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Moaning with the blues: DOGWOOD BLUES

The Alapaha River flows through DOGWOOD BLUES.

Told through the voices of its eccentric characters, DOGWOOD BLUES depicts life in Dogwood, Georgia, a small town near the soothing waters of the Alapaha River, struggling with change.

When Kevin Kilmer, award-winning New York author with deep roots in Dogwood, purchases a Craftsman in the historic district and moves back to his hometown to write his memoir, he shocks the community with his lifestyle and comes face to face with his past.

As spring blooms with the miracle of new life, Boone Marshall, a farmer and blues pianist, stirs gossip by bringing home a new bride, a nightclub singer from New Orleans, six months after his ex-wife’s suicide.

Every week, the women of the Honeysuckle Bridge Club gather at homes in the historic district to play cards, share gossip, and argue about local issues. Playing bridge has never been more fun. And Nell Sauls, a bridge club member for thirty-five years and a gossipmonger who keeps her nose in everybody’s business, creates gossip and drops it like bird poop all over town.

Dogwood residents draw battle lines over the upcoming liquor referendum, a vote that threatens to turn dry Creek County wet. Tommy Stone, a construction worker from Willacoochee, makes extra money by building unique Vote Yes and Vote No signs for residents to display their views on the issue in their yards.

The Alapaha River holds the novel together with liquid grace and the sound of ancient life. Spanish moss hangs like witch’s hair from the arms of native trees, and spring blooms with the magnificent beauty known only in the South. A new goat is born near the river. Music grows from the soil and from the bleeding heart of Boone Marshall. He plays the piano with a farmer's hands.

Brimming with opinionated and irreverent characters, and told with the mournful sound and rhythm of the blues, DOGWOOD BLUES is a story of betrayal, prejudice, forgiveness, and redemption. It is a love song to southern Georgia, a prayer played out with the blues.
DOGWOOD BLUES sings of the beauty of the southern landscape.


This sassy first novel from Brenda Rose captures some of the conflicted and captivating characters of a rapidly changing South. The book poises on a fulcrum between cultures, between those digging in and those racing onward. It would be serious business if it weren't so light-hearted and funny. And like most Southern writers, Rose is obsessed with the mysteries of place -- the landscape comes fully alive beneath her pen. ~~Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, winner of the American Book Award, 2015 inductee into Georgia Writers Hall of Fame

Spring comes to Dogwood with a multitude of heavenly blooms. Much of the story takes place in Dogwood, Georgia and at a cabin on the Alapaha River.
DOGWOOD BLUES by Brenda Sutton Rose is a work of classic small-town fiction, evoking memories of "Cold Sassy Tree," by Olive Ann Burns. At the heart of Rose's fetching story is Lottie's Beauty Shop, where rumors come and go with its good-hearted customers. And then there's Nell, whose 60th birthday unleashes a bitter mood that runs dog-wild throughout the town. ~~Pulitzer Prize nominated Author Janice Daugharty, Writer in Residence at ABAC, in Tifton, Georgia, author of Earl in the Yellow Shirt

DOGWOOD BLUES weaves a tapestry of mysteries that are revealed one by one in a small Georgia town where everyone has at least one secret. Filled with humor and pain, bitterness and redemption, this atmospheric novel offers glimpses of wisdom in unlikely places and invites the reader to choose compassion above all else. ~~Elizabeth Jennings, author of THE BUTTON COLLECTOR

DOGWOOD BLUES is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Later, it will be available on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, numerous local stores, and some B&N stores. It will be available on Nook, Sony, Apple, Kobo, and Diesel. Dogwood Blues is sold at Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village at the Country Store. It is also sold at The Cabin Shop and Moon's Pharmacy in Tifton. In Nashville, it can be purchased at Nana's House Quilt Shop.

You may contact me about DOGWOOD BLUES at brendaroseatbellsouthdotnet. When emailing me, please type the address above in the proper email format. It is listed in a manner to avoid Spam.

Find DOGWOOD BLUES on Facebook and “like” the page to get future updates. Share the link with your friends.

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(I wrote this poem about my mother, after her death.)

With red clay between my toes,
and the sun setting over my head,
the ghost of my mother blows in,
riding on a honeysuckle breeze, oh lord,
riding on a honeysuckle breeze.
Her teeth, the keys of a piano.

I play her grinning ivory notes
with cadenced fumbling fingers,
splattered with paint, textured with scars.
A song rises up from the belly of my past
and rocks me in the bosom of buried memories.

My mama’s dress bears the stains of her life:
blueberries, blood, bleach, and breast milk;
She cradles in her arms a lifetime of love and sorrow;
Its brilliance nearly blinds me.

My fingers tire, 
as though I've played this song for years.
The tune swells red, 

dying around the edges of a setting sun.
A magnolia breeze blows in strong, 

a heavenly taxi sent to carry my mother home. 
She will not say goodbye.
For there is no truth in spoken farewells.

I am pregnant with a poem,
my life lost in its stanzas.

My mama steps out of her dress
and drops it, an inheritance falling to my feet.
She stands alone: bathed, blooming,
burdened with nothing of this world.
Her body is naked and beautiful,
her wings gray and scorched,
her brown eyes piercing the brown of mine.

I watch her departure, her flapping wings:
She doesn’t look back, not even once,
not even to whisper my name: Brenda.

I lick the teeth of my piano mouth.

With a painter’s hands,
with a writer’s hands
with rusty wrinkled hands,
with hands soaked in the joys,
the sorrows, the spills
of my mother’s life,
I pick up eighty-one years of stains
And pull her dress over my head.

Her stains look good on me.

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