Southern Literary Luncheon
Once a month, my published author friend Kaitlyn Sage Patterson and I go to lunch somewhere authentic to Memphis, talk about a memoir, and share stories on the road to book publication.
This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips and Chicken Wings at Phuong Long
Phuong Long on Cleveland sits in a strip center near Crosstown and takes up a spacious chunk of it. My first time here, Kaitlyn claims they make the best hot wings in town. I would have never looked for them in a Vietnamese restaurant and defer to her to order. Make it two. Chicken wings, spring rolls, and Vermicelli combination special with homemade fish sauce, which I have also never tried before.
The spring rolls come first, standard shrimp in rice paper. Entrees are large bowls of everything. Vermicelli topped with seasoned pork, shrimp, egg rolls, sprouts, shaved carrots, shredded lettuce, crushed peanuts, and mint. I follow her lead, dump in the fish sauce, and mix it all together. Not fishy, but flavored, each bite holds its own unique surprise in texture.
Kaitlyn was right about the chicken wings: the perfect blend of heat and sweet, fried crispy but not dry, covered in a sticky sauce good enough for finger licking. It’s all about balance.
Busy Phillips is a celebrity actress who starred as a teen on Dawson’s Creek, which I have never watched, and later found fame as an Instagram influencer and talk show host. She chronicles her journey through adolescence, career, marriage, and motherhood.
No ghost writer transformed her prose, and we both appreciate the authenticity of narrative voice. It’s like hanging out with an old friend. The whole book reads like a long blog post, except in deep moments of vulnerability where scenes come to life. On sensitive subjects like teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexual assault, Phillips is bravely honest and funny to the point of self-deprecation.
The plot falls more on the spectrum of autobiography instead of memoir, think straight line instead of slice of life. I had trouble finding a climax, but she turns out happy to end up a talk show host. Two weeks after I read the book, her show Busy Tonight got cancelled. After all she has endured, we don’t count her out just yet.
After digging deep to mine the hard scenes in my own book, I see my voice, so spunky in the beginning, has fallen flat. Instead of revising right away, I decide to switch gears and focus on my freelance work.
“Don’t put it in a drawer. Keep it out. Just shift your balance.”– Sage advice from Kaitlyn Sage Patterson
My friend knows all about balance. With a full-time job and a new manuscript in the pipeline, she has just launched the second book in her YA duology. The Exalted is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Kaitlyn says it’s important to let the manuscript marinate, but keep it visible, always lurking in the background. Whispering and ready for fresh eyes.