Ronda Rich book signing and discussion
Where: Frames You-Nique, 104 Main St., Gainesville
When: Noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, author discussion offering a behind the scenes look a "There’s A Better Day A-Comin’;" 1-3 p.m., book signing (books available for purchase)
More info: 770-532-7074
When you’re walking in your purpose, things just have a way of falling into place effortlessly.
Without even trying, you meet the right people and find out all the things you’re supposed to know before you even realize you needed to know them.
Just ask syndicated columnist and best-selling author Ronda Rich, who has recently published her sixth book, "There’s A Better Day A-Coming’: How to Find the Upside During the Down Times."
"I have truly come to believe that the childhood games we play, our fantasies, are the true passions born in our hearts to be our true callings in life," said Rich, whose column appears weekly in The Times and at gainesvilletimes.com.
"For me, it was always stories and books.
"I would literally pack the family set of brown leather Samsonite luggage — one of which I still have in my foyer — and would go to New York on book business. That was my game of pretend."
From a childhood spent in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to a stint on the NASCAR circuit as a publicist, Rich’s life has provided her with no shortage of material.
"I think the key to great experiences in life is being open to anyone who crosses your path, whether it’s at the airport, at work or at the gym," Rich said.
"I’ve had somewhat of a Forrest Gump life in that I’ve had such incredible opportunities to meet people — like (George, Ernie, Dan and Bill Elliott) or Reba McEntire — before they were famous.
"People that I saw as they struggled trying to find their path and who pushed through those difficult times. They have all been such a blessing in my life because I carried their stories, their challenges, with me."
While some may call her lucky or fortunate, Rich would more than likely lean toward blessed.
"I have a gift, and it is a true gift — a talent the same as playing the piano or whatever your talent may be — for being able to discern wisdom in stories that I see," Rich said.
"I’m a ponderer. I ponder stories, situations and people and I try to learn from them as much as I learn from my own life."
It also doesn’t hurt that Rich has a steel trap of a memory and Southern charm to spare.
"I do have a good memory, which made me a great sports reporter, but it’s the bane of existence to those around me because I remember so well," Rich said with a hearty chuckle.
For her latest book, Rich has chosen to share 37 of those memories in a work that is "part memoir, part celebrity biography and fully inspiring."
"I make my living by writing, but I don’t want to write a book just for the sake of a paycheck. I want to write a book because it brings something to society," Rich said.
"That’s why ‘There’s A Better Day A-Comin’ is so important to me. I’d met all of these incredible people who’d faced the wall of adversity and pushed through to find a better day. I wanted to give these stories to the world at a time when we’re hurting so much."
While the book contains stories of folks like Jeff Foxworthy, John Jarrard and Alan Jackson, Rich also shares inspirational anecdotes she gleaned from people like her Aunt Ozelle.
"I wanted to show people that I knew, both famous and not, that pushed through incredible odds," Rich said.
"People like Andrew Goudelock, who I came to know when I was a sports reporter at The Times. Andrew lost his leg to cancer. He was 16 years old.
"A year later, he hopped out on one leg onto the (football) field at East Hall High School to play again. He ended up making the Georgia All-State team. What I saw from (Goudelock) and his mother during those times was incredible to me and has stayed in my heart for all these years."
Perseverance didn’t just inspire the stories within the book; the notion also inspired the words across the outside cover.
"I come from generations of poor, hard-working people. People who literally worked their fingers to the bloody bone to get ahead," Rich said.
"They always believed that a better day was coming and that’s where the title of the book comes from. It was a mantra handed down from generation to generation as they were trying to save their farms through the (Great) Depression, from lack of rain or from high taxes.
"They’d always say, ‘There’s a better day a comin.’"
Whereas some people would rather keep their family’s hardships and quirks to themselves, Rich has built a career around sharing her truths through her columns and books. Her work will be featured in an upcoming edition of USA Weekend magazine, which appears in Sunday’s Times.
"I come from a hearty stock of people with a strong work ethic, integrity and good storytelling roots," Rich said.
"It was their chief source of entertainment and to pass along history.
I know that I am a better person from the bloodstock from which I spring."
Although she usually shows herself "warts and all," Rich did keep one detail of her life under wraps for a bit. Dedicated readers of her "Dixie Divas" column didn’t know that she’d been courted by TV writer John Tinker until her dog, Dixie Dew, announced their vow exchange in a special edition of her column.
"I’m very public, but as we were dating and getting to the point of getting married, I held back for the first time in my life," Rich said.
"I held something private and close to my heart because it was so special to me. It was like my little treasure.
"Now we share it happily."
They also happily share ideas.
"What I get paid to do, I used to get whooped for. I was always telling stories — great, big elaborate stories of imagination," Rich said.
"I’ve always loved a good story and still do. It’s a lot of fun being married to someone in a creative field who recognizes the value of a good story. I come up with great ideas from him and come across great stories when I travel to Los Angeles with him.
"I run everything by him (before I use it). I try to be considerate.
So far, he hasn’t stopped one thing I wanted to tell."
Their relationship isn’t a one-way street of inspiration.
"One day, he had the star of his last TV show on conference call on speakerphone and she started talking about a line in the script. It was a line from my book where I say, ‘The best a man ever treats you is before he marries you.’
"As soon as he got off the phone, I said, ‘That’s my line.’ He said, ‘I know and it’s so good.’"
Relationships, and life in general, aren’t a competition, Rich says. A point she tries to make in her book, which is dedicated to her "Tink."
If nothing else, Rich hopes that folks walk away from her latest work with a renewed sense of optimism.
"People get discouraged and think better days are behind them or that nothing good will ever come again, but some of our greatest blessings are born out of some of the most trying adversities that we face," Rich said.
"Life is a cycle. It’s a cycle of good times and bad times. We go out of one and right back into the other.
"So, if you’re in bad days, you can believe and know that better days will come again.
"They always do."