By ANGIE CARNATHAN
The Book Mart & Cafe hosts a book signing today for Starkville’s own Nancy Dorman-Hickson. she helped Joanne King Herring co-author Herring’s biography “Diplomacy and Diamonds: My Wars from the Ballroom to the Battlefield.” The book signing begins at 1 p.m. and goes until 5 p.m. The book tells the life story of Herring, the Texas socialite portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War.”
A former editor at “Southern Living” and “Progressive Farmer” magazines, Dorman-Hickson graduated from Starkville Academy in 1978 and from MSU’s Department of Communication in 1982. She worked with Herring for two years to complete Diplomacy and Diamonds. Dorman-Hickson said although Herring enjoyed the movie, she didn’t feel her story had fully been told and she wanted the chance to work with an author who understood her well enough to help her tell the rest of the story.
“I had worked for ‘Southern Living’ and newspapers but I had no previous book experience,” Dorman-Hickson said. “Joanne’s agent emailed me and asked me if I’d be interested in trying out for this opportunity, and I said sure.”
Dorman-Hickson said she later found out Herring and her agent had actually been in talks with several well-known authors from all over the U.S., including some best sellers, but Herring had yet to find anyone she wanted to work with.
“The thing was, these other authors just didn’t understand Joanne,” Dorman-Hickson said. “They didn’t understand the South, they just tried to turn her into a caricature. I understood her, even though our backgrounds were vastly different, but I got her pride in the South, I got her strong ties to her Southern roots and most importantly, we were both Christians.”
Dorman-Hickson said that Herring later told her that they found her by Googling the words “Christian” and “Southern writer.”
“I was very surprised that’s how they found me, but hey, if those are my two claims to fame, I’ll take it,” Dorman-Hickson said.
Her trip home, Dorman-Hickson said, reminded her of the uniqueness of the South of why she believes she was able to succeed at the undertaking of a project of this magnitude –– her Southern roots and a little divine intervention.
“I think Southerners are much more open, we’re much more empathic with people, and that’s why I believe I was able to find her voice,” Dorman-Hickson said. “I believe that God has given me the gift of being able to talk to people and really listen –– to have a conversation with someone and articulate what it is others want people to know about themselves. And I’m very thankful for that gift.”
The book took two years to complete, Dorman-Hickson said, mainly due to Herring’s busy schedule.
“As we speak, she is over in Afghanistan, bringing various aid groups together and building a village,” Dorman-Hickson said. “They’re taking this one little village and they’re cleaning it’s water and building a school — doing all the necessary things the people need to be self-sufficient. Her premise is that if we can help them rebuild their country, our troops will no longer be needed there.”
“Publisher’s Weekly” described the book as “an account of (Herring’s) three marriages, experiences with wealth and poverty, steadfast faith, and role in America’s covert aid to Afghanistan during the Cold War … Herring, a natural storyteller, offers reminisces of a life well-lived, as well as many press clippings … A deeply fascinating woman, Herring manages to live her faith without being overbearing in her dogma. Readers interested in the rich, famous and politically influential will love every minute.”
Starkville native and close friend Stephanie Tomlinson said she couldn’t be more thrilled for Dorman-Hicksons success.
“I am immensely proud of her,” Tomlinson said. “The book is very intriguing, and Nancy did an amazing job of capturing Joanne’s spirit.”
Dorman-Hickson lives in Birmingham, Ala., with her husband Mark Hickson, a former MSU communication professor who now teaches at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They are currently collaborating on a book about communication. They have twin 16-year-olds, daughter Brennan and son Josh.
Three other authors with Starkville ties will also be in attendance on Sunday signing copies of their books.
Bert Montgomery is signing copies of his book “Psychic Pancakes and Communion Pizza.” Montgomery teaches sociology and religion courses at Mississippi State University and East Mississippi Community College and serves as pastor of the University Baptist Church in Starkville. Montgomery is also the author of “Elvis, Willie, Jesus & Me,” which his website calls a collection of short observations and reflections on life, society, faith, and church, with a rock-and-roll attitude.
Joe Lee, another Starkville native, is signing copies of the third installment of the very popular Oakdale series, “The Long Road Home.” The first was “Judgment Day” and was followed by “The Magnolia Triangle.”
Lee received his degree in communication with an emphasis in radio and television from MSU in 1987. He currently lives in Jackson with his wife, Leslie, and son, John.
Lee is not only a writer, but he is also the owner and editor-in-chief of Dogwood Press, a small publishing company headquartered in Brandon.
MSU graduate Stuart Vance once served as the Starkville Rotary Club President and has now written a book titled “Aviation in the Golden Triangle.”
The book traces the often-unknown history of the area’s many contributions to aviation, beginning with WWI right up to the latest unmanned aircraft.
He is signing his book today, and said the book is ideal for anyone who loves airplanes, American history and the Golden Triangle.
Vance said his own interest in aviation in the Golden Triangle began in the early 1960’s when he was an early proponent and supporter of the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. He was a founding commissioner of the airport and represented the City of Starkville on the board for 42 years.