(by Don Meador)
In the 1970s and 1980s, Allen County native Hope Gibbs enjoyed a typical childhood growing up in Scottsville. Family life on a farm in the Holland community early on and in Scottsville during her teenage years included the typical bickering with her older brother Todd and sister Angela. Politics was always an entertaining topic around the table. Gibbs spent time with her aging grandparents (Ernest and Ovaleta Gibbs)---cooking, housekeeping, and learning life lessons. Whether it was listening to her grandfather’s stories or learning recipes from her grandmother, Gibbs enjoyed those special moments. Her mother (LaRacea Gibbs) was always there, to transport and support her in a wide range of activities.
School days involved developing relationships with a small inner circle of classmates---friendships that continue to this day. By her high school years, Gibbs found herself cheering at AC-SH, spending free time with her peers, and looking ahead to college.
The journey includes serious moments as well as lighter happenings. At one point, a car crashed into the house she lived in, just missing her “by inches.” There were memories made chilling at her brother’s home, hanging out at deer camp at the family farm in Holland, and Halloween nights of rolling yards---all adventures that might someday be material for a book.
Gibbs graduated from AC-SH in 1989 and began her college journey in nearby Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University. Four years later, Gibbs departed WKU will tons of memories, and communication and marketing degrees, and her future seemed planned out.
“I really thought I would work in television production,” Gibbs noted. “I had an internship with Talk of the Town on WTVF in Nashville and I thought I would be a producer and writer.”
However, her plans soon changed taking her down a different road---a path that lasted for 25 years. After leaving television, Gibbs spent a brief period in a corporate setting before transitioning into a full-time role of a different sort.
“I found a wonderful opportunity with Dollar General,” Gibbs explained. “I was able to work in management and it was great. I married, settled in Nashville, and worked for another two years. Then I had my first son and decided to stay at home. For almost 25 years I was a stay-at-home mom.”
Before long, Gibbs’ three sons resulted in a hectic, fast-paced life on the go. Time was spent running from ball game to ball game, taking care of household needs, and embracing her life as a stay-at-home mother. After her first marriage ended, Gibbs was left seeking love and happiness once again.
Her dreams would come true and she would remarry. Not only did the marriage signal the start of her new life but also the beginning of motherhood, chapter two. Her husband’s kids became her own much so that she would later legally adopt the pair. However, two more kids---a boy and a girl---brought new adventures.
“Did I ever think I would have five children,” Gibbs asked rhetorically. “It was wonderful and I would never trade the years I was able to give to my family. Being a mother has provided incredible material for my writing.”
This continued until the realization hit that her kids would eventually transition to lives of their own. Her eldest left home for college with the others quickly approaching their time to move away. Gibbs started to think down the road, quickly realizing she did not want to just be an empty nester.
“My job, the one I had devoted two decades of my life to, was getting ready to end,” Gibbs said. “My gold watch of retirement and an empty nest was suddenly barreling my way. What now? To help me figure out this mini-midlife crisis, I began re-evaluating my life. What was going to be my next chapter? On the advice of a dear friend, I started my feelings on a laptop as an outlet. That lasted about a week before I noticed I wasn’t writing about me or my feelings and goals—I was creating a whole new character. It was thrilling, and fulfilling, and it gave me the confidence that I was more than just a middle-aged wife and mother. I could actually be, dare I say it, a writer.”
The next phase would be transposing her ideas to paper---or as the case is now electronic storage.
“Every free moment, I wrote when I had the chance,” Gibbs recalled. “In the beginning, it was usually after dinner when my children were busy with homework and my kitchen was clean. But that only got me so far so I started toting around my laptop to basketball, football, lacrosse, and soccer games when there was a break in the action in case something struck me. With a house full of active children who played multiple sports, I took every opportunity I could get.”
Gibbs decided to first write in the genre of women’s fiction.
“Woman’s fiction is not romance,” Gibbs explained. “It’s about a female protagonist who has to face something and is changed at the end. That’s the basics. I love to read women’s fiction.”
Where the Grass Grows Blue.(Red Adept Publishing and Blackstone Publishing) is “one woman’s journey to either accept her turbulent past by embracing the power of forgiveness or risk losing a second chance at love in a small Kentucky town. It’s a quintessential southern experience full of complex family dynamics, lifelong friendships, and food.” For marketing purposes, Gibbs is also writing under her maiden name. According to Gibbs’ website (https://www.authorhopegibbs.com/) the book’s storyline is about a woman seeking to find herself as a very difficult point in her life.
“Penny Crenshaw’s swift divorce and her husband’s new marriage to a much younger woman have been hot topics around Atlanta’s social circles. After a year of enduring the cruel gossip, Penny leaps from the frying pan into the fire by heading back to Kentucky to settle her grandmother’s estate. Reluctantly, Penny travels to her hometown of Camden, knowing she will be stirring up all the ghosts from her turbulent childhood. But not all her problems stem from a dysfunctional family. One of Penny’s greatest sources of pain lives just down the street: Bradley Hitchens, her childhood best friend, the keeper of her darkest secrets, and the boy who shattered her heart. As Penny struggles with sorting through her grandmother’s house and her own memories, a colorful group of friends drifts back into her life, reminding her of the unique warmth, fellowship, and romance that only the Bluegrass state can provide. Now that fate has forced Penny back, she must either let go of the scars of her past or risk losing a second chance at love. Can she learn to live an unbridled life?”
However, the process from the birth of the book idea to sales didn’t happen overnight. Much was involved as Gibbs quickly learned.
“The writing process took about two years because I had never written anything longer than a research paper in college,” Gibbs said. “Then, I spent nine months to a year editing it. I hired a professional editor to look at it and critique it. Then came the hard part. Writing was the easier part compared to getting it published. I was trying to find a home for my book. It’s been a lonely journey. Then I started joining writing groups and I have met all these wonderful authors. I have found that writers are the most genius with their time and energy. They love to help others. It’s been incredible.”
Reflecting back on her journey to a writer later in life, Gibbs quickly notes that her mother inspired her writing. LaRacea Tabor Gibbs endured a life in which she raised three children including Todd who struggled during his childhood in his battle with Cystic Fibrosis. LaRacea Gibbs would teach English and Reading at Allen County-Scottsville High School and the James E. Bazzell Middle School. Sadly, injuries sustained in a traffic accident shortened her teaching career but not before being an inspiration to many, including her youngest daughter. Even though Gibbs never had her mom in class, her love for writing left an impression---both from decades ago and in the latter stages of her life when the elder Gibbs penned Todd’s story, “Not a Wasted Breath.”
“I watched my mom doing her Masters work when she was a teacher,” Gibbs recalled. “Her Masters was in writing. She had to go to class and workshops. She was a beautiful writer and so passionate about it. I was not passionate about writing. I did not trust my voice and I didn't think I had the ability. I think she would be proud of the fact that I followed in her footsteps but I think she would be shocked. I think she thought Angela or Todd would have been the writer. I don't think I appreciated what she did at the time, the writing part, about how much she put into that, I wish she could have had the time to write more. She was very creative.”
Gibbs also recalls a childhood memory in which she wanted to write “one thing” as a child.
“I’m often asked a question, ‘Was it a dream of yours to become a writer’ and I reply, “Yes, since I was a little girl” but it wasn’t books I aspired to,” Gibbs explained. “I wanted to write for soap operas. After all, I’m named after a character from The Guiding Light. Every Friday afternoon in the summer, I would come up with little storylines in my head for my favorite characters. I was obsessed, dreaming of receiving a Daytime Emmy. It was not exactly age-appropriate entertainment, but it certainly stoked my creativity.”
Gibbs also notes that her love for reading changed as she matured from a college student to a young woman in the work world---a change that helps her to this day.
“I didn’t love to read when I was young because they forced you to read and do this and this, and this,” Gibbs admitted, before noting that her desire to read would change. “It wasn’t until after I graduated from Western when I got a book that changed my life. It was as if I could now read for pleasure. Today, I can read a book in a day if I have the time. I think that a lot of my writing came from reading.”
After the long process to get Where the Grass Grows Blue to print, the book was officially published on May 16, 2023. Already the book is receiving excellent reviews and numerous award nominations.
"Readers will enjoy this fast-paced southern story about second-chances, lifelong friendships, and the healing power of forgiveness,” notes Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
"Where The Grass Grows Blue hit me in all the right places,” writes Barbara Conrey, USA Today Bestselling Author of Nowhere Near Goodbye.” Gibbs skillfully weaves the dark side of life with the beauty of a love that has only grown stronger over time. Keep an eye on this author - she is one to watch!"
"Hope Gibbs' debut, Where the Grass Grows Blue, is worthy of taking its place among true Southern fiction novels where the banter is witty and the women are true steel magnolias. It's a delightful, engaging story about following your heart,” pens Grace Sammon, Award-Winning Author of The Eves, and host of The Storytellers.
"Readers will rally behind Penny as she discovers that tugging at the roots of a difficult past is the only way to see a better future bloom. Falling down and standing back up, reinventing yourself, and getting a much-deserved second chance at love. Where the Grass Grows Blue is in equal parts a gut-wrenching and hopeful story set against an artfully painted Southern backdrop,” writes Lisa Roe, Author of Welcome to the Neighborhood
"Where The Grass Grows Blue is one woman's story of perseverance despite her painful past,” notes Jill Hannah Anderson, Author of A Life Unraveled, The To-Hell-And-Back Club, and Crazy Little Town Called Love. “A story of small-town living and second chances, romance and resilience, friendship and forgiveness. One you'll think of long after you turn the last page."
"Where the Grass Grows Blue is the most authentic and endearing book I've read in ages. There were times I wanted to read quickly to see how everything unfolded, but this story is to be savored. Don't rush this Southern gem,” adds Cindy Dorminy, Author of The Foster Wife, In a Jam, In a Pickle, In a Nutshell, David is an Ugly Word
"Where The Grass Grows Blue is an evocative story with a southern flair about going back to the place that brought so much pain for a second chance at love and redefining oneself. This is one you'll fall in love with,” notes Donna Norman-Carbone, Author of All That Is Sacred.
Gibbs’ book is a finalist for Best New Fiction - 2023 International Book Awards, has been selected as a Finalist in the Best New Fiction category for the 2023 American Fiction Awards, and has made the long list for the 2023 Chatelaine Book Awards for Romantic Fiction. The book also has received the 2023 Firebird Book Awards First Place distinction in multiple categories, including Best New Fiction, Best Romance, and Best Beach Read. Additionally, Critics have praised the novel for its heartwarming narrative, strong female leads, and themes of love and redemption.
When asked about her advice to aspiring writers, her answer was simple.
“In the words of Nike, ‘Just do it!’ You’ll never know unless you try,” adding, “Of course, there are going to be bumps, sometimes mountains, along the way, but if you believe in yourself, your voice, and
find the right support system, you can make it happen too.”
Currency, Gibbs lives in Nashville with her husband (Patrick Cummiskey) and her persnickety Shih Tzu, Harley. Her children have either graduated college or now attend college in Georgia and Tennessee. In her free time---and mixed between book signings and engagements---she loves playing tennis, singing karaoke, and curling up on her favorite chair with a book. Gibbs also likes to look through old church cookbooks from Scottsville. She is also working on her next book Ashes to Ashes.
“I’m almost finished with my second book, Ashes to Ashes,” Gibbs noted. “It’s an upmarket fiction book, set in the South, of course, that focuses on a tight-knit group of women whose world is rocked after the unexpected death of their dear friend, Ellen, under mysterious circumstances. But before they
can even process their grief, they stumble across a web of secrets and lies, unraveling Ellen’s perfect life—the one she tried so hard to project to the outside world. Now they must rely on each other to find out who the real Ellen Foster was while grappling with the idea that they never really knew her at all.”
Gibbs is a member of the Women's Fiction Writers Association, and Women's National Book Association, a tour guide for Bookish Road Trip, and the co-host of Authors Talking Bookish Podcast.
Visit Gibbs’ website (https://www.authorhopegibbs.com/) for more information, to order the book, or get free tickets to her October 29 book signing at the Bob Kirby Branch of the Warren County Public Library at 75 Iron Skillet Court in Bowling Green.