Mind Your Manners:

Celia Rivenbark, author of “Belle Weather” and other Southern-humor hits, will speak at this month’s Third Tuesday Evening Adult Program for the NC Maritime Museum. Courtesy photo

What: Third Tuesday Evening Adult Program
When: Tues., Nov. 20th, 7 p.m.
Where: Southport Community Bldg.
223 E. Bay Street
Cost: FREE, but please register with
the Maritime Museum at 457-0003
Info:www.ncmaritimemuseums.com

If you’ve ever pondered hard-to-answer, real-life questions like “How can I get out of chaperoning the fifth-grade dance?”, Celia Rivenbark is for you.

She’s a witty wonder of the South, a product of nearby Duplin County and a down-home country lifestyle. As a young girl, Rivenbark’s wildest fantasies featured the skylines of big cities like Richmond, Atlanta and Charlotte. She finally broke out of Duplin after an eight-year newspaper stint at the Wallace Enterprise. Her big break: landing a job in Wilmington as a copy editor for the Morning Star.

That job led to Rivenbark’s real calling as a weekly humor columnist. Though when she and her husband, Scott, had their daughter, Sophie, the writer took a break from office-life to become a stay-at-home mom. The shenanigans of raising a child led to a new source of inspiration for clever commentary of American society, and Rivenbark sat down at her computer once more to provide a syndicated column for newspapers around the country.

In 2000, a collection of these columns was published as “Bless Your Heart, Tramp.” The book earned a nomination for a James Thurber Prize and was a best-seller of the Southeast Book Sellers Association. Her second anthology, “We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier,” was released in 2004 and won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance award for non-fiction book of the year. It was a finalist for the James Thurber Prize for American Humor.

“Stop Dressing Your 6-Year-Old Like a Skank,” work number three, received an award for Best Title by Entertainment Weekly, which led to Rivenbark’s invitation to appear on “Good Morning America” (quite the occasion for a small-town girl!). Rivenbark’s next three books continue to garner national nods from fancy associations, and her local area still shows the love. Rivenbark is a frequent winner of the Wilmington-based encore magazine Best Of Awards, and she often visits Southport to partake in the Maritime Museum’s Third Tuesday Evening Adult Program. November is no different as Rivenbark will be the main event for the museum’s function this Tuesday, November 20th.

Southport Magazine sat down with Rivenbark to gain some insight on her collections and her love for fried shrimp.

Southport Magazine (SM): What can folks expect at the museum event?
Celia Rivenbark (CR): I’ll usually speak for about 30 minutes, and my remarks will include (hopefully) humorous observations about life in the South as well as pop-culture commentary. Sometimes I’ll do a reading from whatever project is in the works. I then finish with a Q-and-A at the end if there’s time. I think that I’ll probably use the Southport visit to read a chapter from my next book, “Rude Bitches Make Me Tired,” which comes out next year. I haven’t read any of it publicly before so this will be exciting for me.

SM: You were the spotlight of last November’s Third Tuesday program. How was that atmosphere and why are you doing this again?
CR: I’ve actually visited Southport’s “Third Tuesday” series many times. They’re an amazingly supportive audience and I’m grateful for their support and their feedback. Because there are so many “transplants” in the area, it makes for a lively evening. I explain the heart and mind of the South—and they go, “Ohhhhhh, that’s why they do that.” I never have a more generous audience than the ones in Southport.

SM: What do you enjoy most about Southport?
CR: It’s a beautiful town, first off. Second off, because it’s such an intriguing blend of new/old/Yankee/Southerner, there’s an energy to the place that you don’t find just anywhere. Also, I love the fried shrimp.

SM: Which of your books do you think is the best representation of your work and why?
CR: All of them are humorous essays on a wide variety of topics. It depends on where the reader is in life. For instance, “We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier,” (the second of seven) resonates with new moms and young parents more. “Belle Weather” resonates with homeowners who are undergoing a major reno.

SM: What do you find so intriguing—in a positive or negative light—about American culture?
CR: I’m intrigued that we are increasingly finding escape and relief in reality TV. I think we watch “Honey Boo Boo” because we realize that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

SM: How’s book number seven coming along?
CR: I finished it in April and the publisher will release it September 1st, 2013. My last book came out in August 2011 and they like to keep ‘em about two years apart. It’s the first book I’ve ever done that is about one subject only, and the subject is manners. Or the lack thereof. As you can tell from the title (“Rude Bitches Make Me Tired”), this isn’t Letitia Baldridge stuff. This is real-world manners questions such as: “Should I have sex with my boyfriend when we’re staying at my aunt’s house?” and “How can I politely get rid of the annoying playground mom who brags all the time?” Stuff like that. Should be fun.

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