A Literary Night Out at Brazos Bookstore

by Victoria McClendon-Leggett

We arrived at Brazos Bookstore in Houston early and had time to leisurely scan through a few books….

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

…before authors Barbara Shapiro and Tim Johnston showed up.

They arrived in a happy mood, introducing themselves and talking a bit about their latest books. For Johnston, this was The Current, a novel centered around a car accident which is conceptually similar to his previous  work, Descent. Shapiro’s latest work is The Collector’s Apprentice, a novel set in 1922 that deals with art theft, mystery, and “a bit of romance.” After speaking briefly about their newest works, they talked a little about themselves and their careers. Johnston shared with us that he has an MFA, but was working as a carpenter prior to writing his first breakout book…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

and Shapiro who has a PhD in Sociology told us that she quit a high-pressure job to pursue writing novels after a conversation with her mother.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

The two got along very well, and seemed to enjoy each other’s company and the crowd.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

Shapiro is a planner, outlining her novels extensively and even creating a color-coded notecard system.  Johnston described himself as a “pantser,” which is an author who flies by the seat of his pants.  He begins the novel with an event and characters, and then works through things to see how they turn out.

They were also different presenters.  Shapiro was very demonstrative…

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…expansively emphasizing her points with hand gestures and facial expressions.

Meanwhile, Johnston was a minimalist…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

…more introspective and displaying an economy of movement.

But the two meshed well.  When Shapiro described her publication history, noting that her first several books didn’t sell, she was thankful for her husband, and emphasized that beginning writers need a partner who “has a salary and benefits.”  Johnston quietly said, “Ah, I need a partner with a salary and benefits.”

Alas, both a highly successful now, making quite a nice living from the royalties on their books, although Tim Johnston still teaches Creative Writing at the University of Memphis.

After the discussion we had a chance to get a few books signed by the two authors who were also kind enough to pose for a group photo with us!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

indeed, with the event being so much fun, the book store manager asked the entire audience to pose for a photo with the authors.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Brazos Bookstore, Barbara Shapiro, Tim Johnston, THe Collectors Apprentice, The Current

With Shapiro’s book being (partly) set in France, we headed a few streets over to dinner at nearby Sweet Paris Crêperie, which offers excellent service, good crepes, and amazing milk shakes.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

We filed in and ordered our crêpes at the register, and they were brought to us at our table as they were ready. There was a variety of sweet and savory crêpes available at the restaurant, but as it was well into dinnertime everyone among us decided to go with savory.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

Makayla tried ham and gruyere, and I had the Alaskan crêpes, which were stuffed with smoked salmon, pickled red onions, capers, and scrambled eggs, and were topped with dill sour cream and scallions. For dessert, we ordered milkshakes to go.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Sweet Paris Crepes

The best flavor by far was Makayla’s Nutella graham cracker shake or the Reese’s shake, enjoyed by Professor Yawn and Stephanie.

With sweet treats in hand, we headed back to Huntsville a little bit smarter and a lot more full.

 

Homes in the heART of Huntsville

Kellogg-Pritchett House

For the last week of heART of Huntsville, we gathered at one of the oldest homes in Huntsville: The Kellogg-Pritchett Home.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

Ms. Mary Laura Gibbs, the owner and renovator of the home, greeted us to provide a historical overview of the Huntsville landmark.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

The Kellogg-Pritchett House was built around 1890 by a Sam Houston mathematics professor, Joseph Lucien Pritchett and his wife Lenora. In its entire history–almost 130 years–it has only been lived in by two families: the Pritchetts and the Kelloggs. The Pritchetts lived in the home from 1890-1945, and the Kellogg family owned it from 1945 until William Kellogg’s death in 2004. In 2006, Ms. Gibbs bought the home to renovate and preserve its Victorian folk-art design.

The house is not in its original form. The walls of the main entrance were once covered in layers of wallpaper, but now they have been updated with a rich teal color – a staple of a Victorian home.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

The house also inhabits a water painting by Kate Pritchett which illustrated what the Pritchett farm looked like when it was first constructed. Additionally, Ms. Gibbs discovered the original rolling doors that partitioned the main entrance from the front parlor – a room which was used to host many parties.

In the next room, we found windows that extended from the floor all the way up the wall. Before air conditioning was invented, these windows were used to cool the house during the sweltering Texas summers, and it allowed the kids to roam and play outside.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

The fireplace also resides in the living room and is is lined in what looks like bathroom tiles, however each tile had a painting in blue paint that referenced a Biblical story.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

In the next room, we discovered a Lee Jamison makeover. When you walk into the room, the mural gives the illusion that you are standing under a gazebo.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

Green vinery scaled the walls, along with hidden Texas native creatures such as spiders and birds. There are also special Lee Jamison creatures such as the Lone Star Butterfly and the red, white, and blue garden snake. Mr. Jamison also showed us his painting of Café Texan at night.  The Gazebo room was a special hit for the evening…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

…and was enhanced by the artist’s presence during the tour.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

From there, we filed into the kitchen which was painted in a vibrant red and yellow. This color scheme was very popular in European countries during the Victorian era. Next, we were shown an addition to the house that served as a school house for the children. Previously, this addition to the house was utilized as a Presbyterian church and later a barn.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

This concluded our wonderful tour of the Kellogg-Pritchett Home. After thanking Ms. Gibbs for the tour, everyone made their way to the Wynne Home to settle our rising appetites.

Wynne Home: Dinner

When we arrived at the Wynne Home, we were teased by the pleasant smell of dinner. While patiently waiting our meals to be served, we enjoyed the Día de Los Muertos decorations and the tours given by Professor Yawn.

Afterwards, everyone gathered in the gallery and took an unexpected quiz to measure how much they learned over the course of the four weeks.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

Shortly after finishing our quizzes, Lee Jamison offered to give a brief overview of his F.M. 405 Exhibit. He explained that he wanted to capture the beauty of east Texas because we often fail to recognize and give reverence to the beauty that surrounds us.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Kellogg-Pritchett Home, Wynne Home, Lee Jamison

To conclude our night, and sadly heART of Huntsville, we enjoyed a lovely dinner prepared by Ms. Chasteen – A Friend of the Wynne – and left the Wynne Home with a deep appreciation for art, history, and Huntsville.