Can you believe that Margaret Mitchell Month is coming to an end?  Thank you so much to all who participated…and to all who inspired me to declare Summer 2011 the Summer of Gone With the Wind!  That’s right, you guys have inspired me to host a read-along of an all-time favorite.  Stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, welcome the fabulous Eleanor Brown, bestselling author of The Weird Sisters, force of nature, and amazing friend.  When I saw this post on her blog a while back, it made me cry and shiver…and I knew I had to ask her for permission to share it with you.  Luckily, she agreed…and is throwing in a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore of one lucky commenter’s choice to sweeten the deal!  Remember, one lucky commenter this week will also win a copy of Molly Haskell’s Frankly My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited. I’ll keep the contest open until Sunday evening, so remember to tell a friend. It’s an embarrassment of Windy riches!

Goosebumps…and Gone With the Wind

For a long time, I considered myself a Gone With the Wind fan, only slightly more interested than normal.

Yes, I re-read the book every year, but that’s as much of a writerly task as it is a readerly one. Yes, I have been to Oaklands Cemetery and the Margaret Mitchell House, but only because I was in Atlanta anyway. I believe still have enough fingers to count the number of times I have seen the movie (not that the number of my fingers is in question, but the number of times I have seen the movie is), and I own no Vivien Leigh collectible plates.

I don’t think I can make that slightly-more-interested-than normal claim anymore.

Not because I bought a collectible plate, but because I had the good luck recently to be at the Arkansas Literary Festival with Ellen F. Brown, author of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Journey From Atlanta to Hollywood. After Ellen’s presentation at the Historic Arkansas Museum, two of the Museum’s director whisked me, Ellen, and Kyran Pittman up to a storage room where they opened three boxes that had arrived in preparation for their upcoming “Reel to Real: Gone With the Wind and the Civil War in Arkansas” exhibit.

There are no adjectives to describe how awesome this is.

The first contained the hat Vivien Leigh wore as Scarlett O’Hara in the Twelve Oaks barbecue scene (and later on when working the farm at Tara).

The second contained Bonnie Blue Butler’s beautiful blue velvet riding habit.

And the last contained Vivien Leigh’s Oscar for Gone With the Wind.

I have been to a lot of museums in my time, but I don’t think I have ever had the reaction to an exhibit the way I did to those items. I had goosebumps. I cried. I squealed (okay, maybe shrieked) with delight each time they opened a new box.

I don’t know if I realized until that moment, as Ellen, Kyran, and I, stood in collective wonder in that museum storeroom, how very much Gone With the Wind means to me. The book and the movie have been my companion for a good twenty years now, and each time I re-read or re-watch them, I see something new, I learn something else, I am inspired to write something wonderful.

And because the book has been with me for so very long, I can add to that list of the pleasures of re-reading it my own memories – of watching the movie when I had my wisdom teeth out in high school, of reading it curled in a chair in my college library’s “Classics” room, of the lines that ran through my head as I stood in Oaklands Cemetery, looking at the endless rows of Confederate dead.

Happy birthday, Gone With the Wind.  It’s been my pleasure to have you by my side for twenty of your seventy-five years. I hope to travel with you for many more.