Thursday, June 22, 2023

Viola Shipman is the cherry on the a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

It's always a pleasure to have Viola Shipman at CLC. For those who don't already know, Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, who was originally our Go-to-Gay. That started over 10 years ago! So when I found out that he was coming to my neck of the woods, I marked my calendar and drove out about an hour away to finally have the chance to meet him in person. And what a glorious meeting it was! Wade is so wonderful in person and he's also a terrific speaker, who had me laughing so much. His husband Gary was also at the signing. I had connected with Gary while working with Wade and he is as lovely as can be. I'm so thankful to know them both and I hope this won't be the only time to see them in person. 

Viola's latest novel is Famous in a Small Town, which is a delightful story about friendship between generations. There's also a lot of talk about cherries. Melissa really enjoyed it and you can check out her reviewThanks to Graydon House, we have TWO copies to give away!

With Wade and Gary during their Maryland tour stop

Wade Rouse is the USA TODAY, Publishers Weekly, and internationally bestselling author of 15 books, including five memoirs and ten novels. Wade chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction.

Wade’s novels include The Charm Bracelet, a 2017 Michigan Notable Book of the Year; The Hope ChestThe Recipe Box, The Summer Cottage, The Heirloom Garden, The Clover Girls, The Secret of Snow, The Edge of Summer, and A Wish for Winter.

Library Journal writes that Wade has “hit upon the perfect formula to tell heartwarming, intergenerational family stories by weaving together the lives, loves and history of family through cherished heirlooms.” 

Wade's books have been selected multiple times as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show, featured in the New York Times and on Chelsea Lately and chosen three times as Indie Next Picks by the nation’s independent booksellers. His writing has appeared in a diverse range of publications and media, including Coastal Living, Time, All Things Considered, People, Good Housekeeping, Salon, Forbes, The Washington Post, Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly.

Also a noted humorist of four memoirs, Wade was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards in Humor (he lost to Tina Fey) and was named by Writer’s Digest as “The #2 Writer, Dead or Alive, We’d Like to Have Drinks With” (Wade was sandwiched between Ernest Hemingway and Hunter Thompson).

Wade earned his B.A. from Drury University and his master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. He divides his time between Saugatuck, Michigan, and Palm Springs, California, and is also an acclaimed writing teacher who has mentored numerous students to become published authors. (Bio adapted from Viola's website.)

Visit Viola online:
Website * Wade's website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram


For most of her eighty years, Mary Jackson has endured the steady invasion of tourists, influencers and real estate developers who have discovered the lakeside charm of Good Hart, Michigan, waiting patiently for the arrival of a stranger she’s believed since childhood would one day carry on her legacy—the Very Cherry General Store. Like generations of Jackson women before her, Cherry Mary, as she’s known locally, runs the community hub—part post office, bakery and sandwich shop—and had almost given up hope that the mysterious prediction she’d been told as a girl would come true and the store would have to pass to…a man.

Becky Thatcher came to Good Hart with her ride-or-die BFF to forget that she’s just turned forty with nothing to show for it. Ending up at the general store with Mary is admittedly not the beach vacation she expected, but the more the feisty octogenarian talks about destiny, the stronger Becky’s memories of her own childhood holidays become, and the strange visions over the lake she was never sure were real. As she works under Mary’s wing for the summer and finds she fits into this quirky community of locals, she starts to believe that destiny could be real, and that it might have something very special in mind for Becky… (Courtesy of Amazon.)


Much like the title of my new novel, Famous in a Small Town, I grew up in a tiny town in rural America and was famous (or perhaps infamous is a better word) for wanting to be a writer. 

I never dreamed I would ever meet a celebrity, and yet much of my life has centered around them. 

One of my first magazine interviews was when I was in graduate school at Northwestern University. I interviewed Oscar winner Patricia Neal about her recovery from a stroke. 

I worked at an elite prep school as communications director where I interviewed and worked alongside alumni who were extremely famous, from actors (like Vincent Price and Sterling K. Brown) to tycoons of business as well as senators and former presidents. 

I was a reporter and writer for PEOPLE, where I talked to Britney Spears and Melissa Etheridge and worked red carpets interviewing Laura Dern, Julianne Moore and Benedict Cumberbatch. And my “beat” for PEOPLE was the Real Housewives franchise, where I talked to reality stars from Beverly Hills to New Jersey. 

Ironically, this small town boy I never got nervous around big city celebrities. 

That is, until I was invited to the East Hampton Library’s Authors Night, a sort of Met Gala for celebrity authors (and normal, ol’ authors like me). 

There was a fancy step-and-repeat, camera crews from E! and Entertainment Tonight, flashbulbs popping. They weren’t there to photograph me; they were there to talk to Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ina Garten, Christie Brinkley, the famous names went on and on. 

I was seated at a book signing table next to a Kennedy. 

A. Kennedy. 

But I actually wasn’t nervous about any of these people until I saw Mary Higgins Clark, nearing 90 and still glamorous, enter the tent. 

She was a longtime idol of mine. My great aunts loved to read the “Queen of Suspense,” whose tales of women beating the odds made her one of the world's most popular writers. 

I had long admired the publishing tales and literary lore surrounding her tireless work ethic and career reinvention. 

I approached Mary Higgins Clark when there was a break in her line, heart rapidly beating, and introduced myself. 

She had no clue who I was but acted as if she did. 

I told her of my admiration and asked if she had any advice. 

“Never give up!” she told me, before looking around the room. “Fame is fleeting. Talent is forever. Believe in yourself and fight for your work.” Then she looked me right in the eye. “If you want to admire me for anything, admire me for working harder than anyone else and being grateful.”

I immediately thought of my grandmother, Viola Shipman, the pen name I chose for my fiction to honor the working poor Ozarks woman whose sacrifices changed my family’s life and who worked harder than anyone I ever knew while still being grateful for the little things in life. 

We took a picture together, which I have framed in my writing studio. 

Ironically, Famous in A Small Town is inspired by women like Mary Higgins Clark and my grandmothers, fierce, independent women who also were kind, hardworking and never gave up. The main character, “Cherry Mary” Jackson became famous in her small town for doing something a woman had never been allowed to do: She entered Michigan’s Cherry Pit Spitting Championship and not only beat all the men but set a record for Guinness Book of World Records.  She refused to live by society’s rules and became famous for simply believing in the magic of herself. But she considers herself an ordinary gal. 

My Grandma Shipman used to watch the soaps on TV when she retired. On weekends, we’d go to the movie theatre. 

“Stars, they’re just like you and me,” she once told me after we walked out of a movie when I said I wanted to be famous.” They just seem bigger on film. The most important thing is to live a big life doing what you love while remaining simple.”

And that’s what I aspire to do to this day in both my life and my writing. 

But meeting authors I admire still makes me sweat. 

Thanks to Wade for a wonderful guest post and to Graydon House for sharing Viola's latest novel with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends June 27th at midnight EST.

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Jeanna said...

Nik Wallenda is from my hometown of Sarasota, Florida!

Toni Laliberte said...

My favorite cherry dessert is Black Forrest Cake with cherries and cream. Yummy.

Rita Wray said...

No one famous came from my hometown. I don't like cherries.

traveler said...

Cherry pound cake in the summer is refreshing.

Anonymous said...

I just love cherries. I try to eat them everyday during their brief season

Mary C said...

Matt Damon and Chris Evans are two from Boston.

Mary Patricia Bird said...

I'm originally from Toronto so, yes, lots of famous people come from my home town. Howie Mandel for one.

Honestly I prefer cherries as is, or cherry flavoured candy. I don't want whole cherries in my cakes, for example, but I love the flavour.

diannekc said...

I like eating cherries just the way they are.

Lisa D said...

I love cherry scones. You can eat them at any time of the day!

Mary Preston said...

A number of sports people.

Anita Yancey said...

There is no one from my hometown that is famous that I know of.

Summer said...

I have cheesecake with cherries on top for my birthday every year.

bn100 said...


Lelandlee said...

German Chocolate cake

Xia Lee said...

Black Forrest Cake

Nancy P said...

Cheesecake. Parts of Moonraker was shot here.