Not even the rumble of thunder and possibility of tornadoes could dampen author Fannie Flagg’s enthusiasm for Mansfield Reads! Evening with the Author on Friday evening.
“You’ve probably had people you’ve been more excited to see, but no one has been more excited to see you,” Flagg told the approximately 400 people at the Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts. “I’ve been dressed and made up for a week!
“I am so flattered and overwhelmed that you would come out on this night,” she said. “You have a fabulous town. When I go home, I will take you in my heart.”
More than 700 people responded to the 12th annual Friends of the Mansfield Library event, but thunderstorms rolled through just as the event began. The crowd was still more than double that of any previous Mansfield Reads! event.
“We were thrilled with the way people came out,” said Friends member Paula Highfill. “We think the whole city of Mansfield is in love with her now.”
Mayor David Cook presented the New York Times best-selling author with the key to the city.
“We are fortunate to have this type of person come to Mansfield and just be yourself,” Cook told her. “Mansfield, I think we just saw something.”
Flagg talked about how she gets the ideas for her books and read from The All-Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion, the book the Friends chose for Mansfield Reads! One City, One Book program, where they ask the community to read the same book.
The All-Girls Filling Station Last Reunion has ties to Texas, where the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) trained during World War II, so Flagg was excited that the Friends chose it.
“I love Texas,” she said. “I’ve got many connections with Texas” including starring in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas on Broadway and impersonating Lady Bird Johnson on a comedy album.
She also shared how she got the idea for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, the 1987 best-seller that was made into a feature film in 1991.
“Suddenly both my parents passed away,” she said. “I was an only child and it was quite devastating. I kept driving around my hometown. My great-aunt Bess Fortenberry ran a cafe in Irondale, Alabama. Not one person that went hungry in that town as long as Aunt Bess knew about it.”
Flagg was nominated for an Academy Award for her screenplay adaptation of Fried Green Tomatoes.
She put in a long day Friday, starting with an appearance on Good Morning Texas at 9 a.m. and winding up signing autographs at 10 p.m. In between, she spoke to students at Timberview and Mansfield high schools and learned a lot about Mansfield.
“One of the students asked me ‘if you couldn’t be a writer, what would you want to be?’” she said. “I gave it a lot of thought. I would like to be a Pickle Queen!”
Highfill says she doesn’t know how the Friends of the Mansfield Library will top Flagg’s appearance.
“We say that every year, and somehow it works out,” she said, admitting that the group is already working on the 2016 program.
The Friends are committed to keeping Mansfield Reads! a free event.
“That is what differentiates us from other programs in our area,” Highfill said. “Because we are associated with the library, we keep our program free.”
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451