One of the greatest things about being a part of the annual Southeastern Writers Association workshop is networking and making friends. I've made a lot of friends through SWA, even a few good friends. The distinction between friends and good friends, I'm told, is this: A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move . . . a body.
I am privileged to call Darrell Huckaby one of those body-moving friends I've met along this road. I first met Darrell my first year on the SWA Board of Directors, eight years ago, when I was recruiting a humor instructor. Huck, I'm sure many of you know, is quite the humorist. He's written some really funny books, all of which I've read, plus shown his more serious side in a humorous-nonetheless tale entitled Yea Though I Walk about his battle with prostate cancer. He originally planned to title that book, You Took Out My What? He also does a weekly funny bit on the radio called "What the Huck?"
We've had Darrell back to teach a second time during my time on the board. On a personal level, though, I've become far more entangled with Huck as a friend. Last February, he generously donated his time to entertain at a talent show put on by our United Methodist Men, which raised the most money of any fund-raiser in the history of Collins Memorial United Methodist Church. On May 17, he will return to our church for this year's UMM presentation, which will be our own version of the game show "The American Bible Challenge." Darrell will bring a team competing for a $250 donation to a charity of the winning team's choice. He chose to bring a team rather than emcee (yes, I would have handed over the mic) because he has a charity near and dear to his heart. He will also do a short entertainment/devotional moment during study time in a match in which his team won't be involved.
Darrell and I message back and forth frequently, mostly via Facebook. I helped him get his books e-book-ready for the Amazon Kindle site, and in July, I'm going on one of his tours. Since diagnosed with prostate cancer (which he is fighting very successfully so far), he's been arranging bucket-list tours and inviting those of us he knows to join the tours (on our own nickels, of course, but the prices are very reasonable). This summer I'll mark a few things off my own bucket list when we take his "Honor the Braves" Hall of Fame Tour in July. The trip starts with a Friday flight to New York followed by an afternoon tour of Yankee Stadium and tickets to a game there that night. Saturday we go by bus to Cooperstown, where we'll be free for the day to tour the baseball Hall of Fame as well as watch the parade for the new inductees. On Sunday we have tickets to the induction ceremony, which will include Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine -- all mainstays during my two decades as a Braves' season-ticket holder. We cap the trip by going by bus to Boston for a game at Fenway Park on Monday night before flying back to Atlanta on Tuesday.
Yankee Stadium, Cooperstown's Hall of Fame, and Fenway Park are all on my bucket list as a big-time baseball fan. Getting to watch the HOF inductions of Cox, Maddux and Glavine is just a little icing on the cake.
Now I'm not telling you all this just to let you know I've come into a good, body-moving friendship with one fine Southern gentleman. Because if you come to St. Simons Island this summer for our workshop and stay for our Awards Ceremony, you'll get to meet Darrell and hear him entertain. He'll also be signing books, which will be for sale in the conference bookstore throughout (I'm bringing them), although I'm sure Huck will have a few left to sign if you didn't get your copies before the bookstore closed at mid-day on the final day of the workshop.
He and I are doing this as mutual favors for each other. Even though he volunteered to come -- he always looks for an excuse to visit St. Simons Island -- I will be the one to get the greater reward. This will be my last year as SWA President, and I am leaving the board after this workshop. So this will literally be going out with the biggest of bangs.
I've made a lot of great friends through SWA, too many to name here lest I forget someone, but I guarantee you I will have no problems finding folks to move bodies if I need them. I surely hope if you are reading this and I have yet to meet you that I will have that pleasure in June.
~~ Lee Clevenger
Lee is the current President of SWA, an author and co-founder of ThomasMax Publishing in Atlanta, GA.