By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

FISHTRAP HOLLOW, Miss. – When you invite six women writers to your one-bedroom, one-bath house in the boonies, it’s time to get creative yourself. Friends helped.
We hung painted pots from trees, sacked up suppers, invited musicians and otherwise formed a greeting committee. Then we ordered perfect weather.
The writers came, they saw and they conquered this neck of the woods.
At an age when most women become invisible, these particular females decided to create an exotic persona worthy of their talents. For a decade they had been meeting, eating, writing and toasting one another’s literary efforts. They were ready to take it on the road.
If it sounds like a club you’d like to join, forget it. The Mystic Order of East Alabama Fiction Writers isn’t accepting new members.
I don’t blame’em. Already they have a lawyer, an artist, a teacher or two, a farmer and former journalist, an estate auction planner and six fantastic wardrobes. Unless you are an Indian chief who writes well, they don’t need you.
Gail Langley is the queen Mystic. She tries to herd these cats but usually gets tangled in her own lasso. They are an unruly lot.
So unruly, in fact, that when Gail and fellow Mystic Marian hit on the idea of writing a kind-of cookbook, the others wanted no part. “The Ploy of Cooking” began in secret.
Understand this. Gail’s husband Bob does all the cooking in that home, and Marian had her stove removed from her kitchen seven years ago because it annoyed her.
That didn’t stop those two Mystics from writing about cooking. And when the secret was revealed, the other four quickly came aboard. Who wouldn’t have wanted to sail on this leaky ship?
The stories are about food, all right, and there are many recipes. But unless you count as an inspired idea putting bags of Sugar Babies in your shoes and walking home in the heat to render them into a “warm plank of caramel goodness,” get yourself a conventional cookbook.
This is the only “cookbook” I ever finished reading. I might even try the recipe for Redeemed Fudge. I laughed so hard at times that I probably lost weight, a good quality in a cookbook.
Back to the visit. Watching these women was fascinating. For one thing, they all got along. What are the odds?
And they wore the coolest shoes, including red ones to die for. Except for Mary, who preferred to go barefoot. Margee and Joanne would take off for a run in the early morning, and Judith would appear in the most elegant ensembles imaginable. They are not going quietly, anywhere.
The Mystics never met strangers. My own method of sneaking into a book-signing at the last minute so I don’t have to talk to people I don’t know is not theirs. They don their Mystic aprons and magically become two parts Mary Tyler Moore and one part Welcome Wagon.
They sold a ton of cookbooks, which have illustrations you long to color. I bought several for Christmas gifts. There are a lot of good cooks out there but so few who can make you laugh and ladle.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit

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