Reader Recipe Challenge

Reader Recipe Challenge

Happy Book Anniversary to me. A little over a month has passed since Mercer University Press released, Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Melissa, a reader in Massachusetts, contacted me and suggested that I launch a recipe contest. Since I am always looking for new ways to promote my work and encourage others to read, I accepted her challenge.

As an aside, isn’t it great that I have readers of the Northern persuasion? I am so happy. She didn’t understand the “Dope in a Bottle,” and vowed to try that recipe just so she could experience a taste of the South.

Here is how the challenge works. Make a recipe from the book. Take a photo of both my book and the food (or beverage). Challenge friends to buy the book and try a recipe. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, tag your friends, and me, and share the images. I want to create a movement of readers sharing their favorite parts of the book, and encouraging their friends and family to support Independent Booksellers, and of course, buy my book. readingchallenge

Your photo is your entry into the contest. Make sure you tag me.

Obviously, I am going to challenge several readers to try the “Dope in a Bottle” on page 17. Especially readers like my Yankee friend Melissa.  My home-town readers will know all about a Dope in a Bottle. The Recipe Challenge is a fun way for readers to try new food, and come together as a community of foodies and readers. But the best part is that on November 22, I will give away a gift basket with goodies from the farm. Some of what you will receive is pictured here.

Table Runner NOT part of the contest. Winner receives Topsy Turvey, Dilly Beans, Botanical Interests Seeds, Hat, and a book bag made from Billy's overalls.

Table Runner NOT part of the contest. Winner receives Topsy Turvey, Dilly Beans, Botanical Interests Seeds, Hat, and a book bag made from Billy’s overalls.

If you are on Facebook, please share a video that I made about the contest. You may view it here.

Here is an example from Carol who decided to make her own recipe of cornmeal mush using Winchester Cornmeal (which you will learn about when you read the book). What a great idea. As you see, I just want you to read, make something delicious, and share it with your friends and neighbors.

Carol's entry

Carol’s entry








I want to take a moment to stress the importance of reading. Now, more than even, authors are struggling. Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches is a labor of love, and investment of two years. So I challenge readers to do more than enjoy the book, please tell others it. For you see, this book isn’t about bologna. It is about the community that once was, and can be again if we make the investment. It is a celebration of hard-working folk across the US who survived on peanut butter and baloney sandwiches, and on payday treated themselves to a Dope in a Bottle.


Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Mercer University Press  released Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches in September. Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.









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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Billy Albertson: Stories & Adventures



My newest friend, Olivia debelle Byrd

My newest friend, Olivia debelle Byrd

Sometimes life throws you a curveball and sometimes the ball hits you smack-dab in the heart.

Such was the case a few weeks ago during the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance annual conference. SIBA is one of those groups that get behind an author and her story. They cheer, celebrate, encourage. Wanda and a host of talented staff and board members love books, love authors, and readers; even more exciting, they love connecting all three. So it was with much excitement that I loaded up some pickled okra freshly prepared by yours truly and pointed the car toward Norfolk VA for a weekend of meeting booksellers, bloggers, and fellow authors.

However, life, and her unpredictability had other plans.

For the record it takes a lot to draw me away from an event. I’m a people person. I don’t cancel events, ever. I do what I say when I say and I had spent the better part of a week pouring a whole lot of love into tiny jars. Going to SIBA was my opportunity to make my people proud. Put me in a room full of people and I’ll wear myself out trying to meet and greet everyone I can. I blame the Winchester genes. We like people . . . want to get to know folk, pull them into our large family.

However when one gets heart-sinking news, one must change plans.

Texting the staff of Mercer University Press, I tearfully expressed my regret while hoping and praying that they would understand. They had paid for my place at the SIBA table, a spot that would be empty as copies of my book Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches waited for me, the author who would never arrive.

I cried.

I cried a lot.

Cried because of the bad news, because I let my publisher down, because I wanted, needed this opportunity to meet booksellers from across the South. I cried because I had put a lot of pressure on myself to make Farming ten times more successful than my first book, In the Garden.

Honesty. That’s what y’all get in my posts. Nothing but honesty.

But life, and God, had other plans.

By the end of the day I was weary. I had fretted until my head hurt, until stomach acid burned the back of my throat. Then I received a text from Mercer saying, “Don’t worry, Olivia debelle Byrd  is at SIBA talking to booksellers about Farming. Who is Oliva debelle Byrd you ask? A stranger. She had never met me, hadn’t read a single word of my book, nor I of hers.

In other words, Oliva didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat.

But there she was, doing something that I daresay no one else would have done, she was talking about my book, and, her book. Want to know more about her? Read this link. She’s a pretty classy Southern lady. att

Pause for a moment and think about this gift, this remarkable gift that Olivia bestowed upon me. For there is no greater gift than your time. So today, I am giving away a copy of Save My Place, Olivia’s latest book. I figured that the best way to say “Thank You” is to via my blog, and, throw in a copy of her book to you, my readers.

I am grateful, very grateful to Miss Olivia.

Here’s how this spur-of-the-moment contest works. Leave a COMMENT here, on my blog. I ask you to leave a comment here versus on Facebook because more people will see it here. Tell me what you think about Miss Olivia’s kindness, or let’s dig deeper shall we? Have you ever reached out to a random stranger? Share you story, so that others will be blessed.

And Miss Olivia, if you’re reading this post, I am in your debt.

I will award the book to a random reader on October 22nd. The winner must provide their mailing address (which will not be shared).

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna SandwichesMountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.



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Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches is also about. . .

Seeing the need.



Sharing your bounty.



Talking about the Good Old Days


 Being a good neighbor, even though you live miles, and miles apart




 Be a part of your community. Be someone’s friend today. Your life will be richer.

Thank you Jim Bell, owner of Milton Fields, A Natural Burial Ground, for being one of the best friends anyone could ever have.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Mercer University Press  released Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches in September. Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.    Buy from Amazon here or Barnes and Noble



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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The rest of the book launch story

Things have settled, just a bit, after the launch of my latest title: Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. The bookseller has packed up the unsold stock, I have pulled up the handmade signs and rested (just a bit). Life is returning to normal….slowly.blogposttracyhoexter

Those who follow me on Facebook have seen photos, or have caught a glimpse of the special day here. However, like many big events a lot of things go wrong before anything goes right. So today I thought I would tell you some things that didn’t work out like I planned so you know, the rest of the story.

The weather: Having an outside event is always a gamble. I blocked off an entire week to tidy up the farm (three acres), and wouldn’t ya know, we had a wet August.

The weeds: Because of the continuous rain, weeds jutted up higher than my head. Even when Crop Mob Atlanta  invested a good portion of the day, there simply was too much to do and too few workers. As the days slipped by there wasn’t enough of me to go around. Remember, Farmer Billy is 82 years old, and I feel at least 102. We all did what we could, but had there been more time, I wanted to do more. A HUGE shout out to Tina who came to the farm and push-mowed Billy’s lawn in the blazing heat.

The food: I wanted a simple cake with the book title written across it; then I wanted several stalks of corn decorated by hand. A request that shouldn’t be too difficult. Seriously, slap the frosting in a bag, and draw a green line then tiny yellow dots to resemble corn. But no, technology is here and the lady who took the initial order said, “bring me a picture of corn and we’ll just copy it and stick it on the cake.” That just wouldn’t do. I wanted simple. White cake, green frosting, yellow ears of corn. Seriously, the cake just about made me loose my mind. Eventually, I found someone-at Target bakery no less- who said, “oh, no problem. I can do that.” Sigh….

The vendors: This event was more than a book launch, it was a community event. I asked other people to come sell their wares knowing that it would show people what a community looks like. All of the vendors were perfect, but I couldn’t help but worry if they sold anything. Was the trip worth the effort? (Must have been because someone asked me to do an event every year).

The neighbor: Because parking is extremely limited, Neighbor Joe graciously offered his front lawn. Two days before the event his mother became ill and he flew across the country to be with her. Parking cars on someone else’s property without the property owner present made me very, very nervous.

The worry: That no one would come. I must be honest, numbers were down from my first launch. I don’t know if that is because of the heat (it dried up and became hot and humid on launch day), or because there is truth to the rumor that people just aren’t reading anymore.

Is that true? Have you stopped reading? Hope not.

The sales: Being an author means you invest a year of your life writing and another year waiting for publication. During this time you receive zero compensation. Then you must pray, beg, hope, and pray some more that what you have written is worthy, and that readers might be kind enough to linger at the cover, leaf through the book, purchase the book, and then (most importantly) tell others.

That is what I am asking today, that you tell a friend. If you purchased a copy of Farming, please tell a friend. Most local booksellers have signed copies in stock. Most of them will ship these copies to you. Here is a list.  But I must think national, not regional.

Regional thinking won’t help me make a living as an author.

The book has launched. I have passed it to readers and today I challenge them to spread the word. Tell others. Talk about the book. Write blogs, newspaper articles, send emails to book club groups. Help me get Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches out of the South, because this book isn’t about “baloney.”

I can not do this alone.

I just can’t. Isn’t that ironic? That Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches is a celebration of community, and that it will take a community of readers for the book to become successful. blogpostposey

So for those who haven’t read an excerpt, here is a little taste . . .

The Tradition of Bologna Sandwiches

There is no shame in enjoying a fried bologna sandwich. Some foods  trigger memories. Whether we’re smelling a peach or trying sushi for the first time, food binds our taste with our experiences. Food memories, good or bad, linger in our adult lives. I bet you can still remember the first time you tasted a gooey campfire s’more dripping with melted chocolate and marshmallow fluff: the feel of a rough graham cracker as it touched your fingers; the anticipation as you pressed the crackers together, blending chocolate with puffy white goo. Your tongue traced the edge of the cracker. You wanted to savor each bite, but then your best friend said, “Bet you can’t cram the whole thing in your mouth.”

So you did.

Billy Albertson loves bologna sandwiches. It does not matter how Oscar Mayer spells B-O-L-O-G-N-A, for Billy it’s “baloney.” In his day,
fried “baloney” sandwiches were a delicacy. They still are today. Stereotypes label Southerners with an advanced level of outdoor
expertise. Southerners can kill a buck, spit tobacco juice through gapped teeth, wrestle alligators, and survive in the woods while wearing only a coonskin cap and carrying a pocketknife. Truth is, few Mason-Dixon Line residents enter the wilds of nature intent on snaring an animal with which to feed their family these days. But we sure do enjoy a good fried bologna sandwich.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna SandwichesMountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.


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Posted by on September 16, 2014 in Billy Albertson: Stories & Adventures


The Survivor’s Side of Suicide by Julie Cantrell

Today, I am sharing with you a post from my darling friend, Julie Cantrell. Many of you know that my daughter’s friend killed herself earlier this year. So when I read Julie’s words they touched me so deeply that I had to share them with you. If you want to comment directly on Julie’s post here is the link. Share this my friends. We are tasked with saving lives. We are tasked with doing everything within our power to love, love, love.

The Survivor’s Side of Suicide

Posted on September 8, 2014


Suicide is one ugly word. It’s the kind of word that swings heavy from lips. The kind that is whispered, and stilted, never sung. As an author, I build my life around words. Every word has worth. Even those words we are not supposed to say.

But suicide is the one word I do not like. I wish there was no need for such a word in our world. Especially since 1997, when my teen brother ended his own life two months before his high school graduation.

It is one thing to be on the other side of suicide, where you may offer prayer or casseroles or even a hug. It is another thing entirely to be on the side of the survivor, after a loved one puts a gun to the head or a rope to the neck or a blade to the vein.

That dark depth of despair is no easy channel to navigate because unlike every other form of death, this one was intentional. This one could have been prevented. This one carries immeasurable sting.

The what-ifs and but whys and I wonders never cease. They haunt all hours, whether moonlit or shine.

And the stares don’t stop either, the constant conversation that hangs silently between friends — at the grocery store, or in the church pews, or at the birthday party. No one says it, but they are thinking… That poor mother, how does she stand it? Or – That poor child, knowing his father took his own life.

What people on that side of suicide don’t understand is that we, the survivors left in the wake, are barely keeping our heads above water. We don’t want pity, or sympathy, or stares. We don’t want whispers, or questions, or help. We want one thing only. We want our loved ones back.

And there’s one simple way you can give this to us.

Talk about the people we loved and lost. Don’t dance around us as if their ghost is in the way. Acknowledge the lives they lived. Recognize the light they once shined. Laugh about the fun you once had together.

There’s nothing you can tell us — no detail too small, no memory too harsh — that will hurt us. We crave it all. We are hungry for any piece of time travel you offer. Bring us back, to that space, when the one we loved was in the here and now.

Suicide is something most of us struggle to understand. It is difficult to rationalize the selfish part of such an act. How could someone not care about the pain they would throw on their loved ones? How could someone not be strong enough to stay alive?

But here’s the truth: suicide was not the cause of my brother’s death. Depression was the cause of his death. And depression is a beast unlike any other. It is an illness we still struggle to cure, despite all the therapeutic and pharmaceutical intervention available today.Sometimes, even with all the help in the world, a person cannot see through the pain. They cannot imagine a better day ahead. They see only more hurt. And when I say hurt, I mean suffering. Blood-zapping, brain-numbing, soul-bursting agony. 

Imagine this: you wake every day as a prisoner. You are trapped in a cell with no freedom in your future. You are tortured — physically, emotionally, psychologically. The anguish never stops. Just when you think you cannot survive another blow, it comes again. More pain.

You try to ignore the ache. You cannot. You try to numb the hurt. You cannot. You try to rise above the pain. You cannot. The brutality persists. And you see no end to it.

If you knew you had to endure only one more round of abuse, or one more month, or even a year, or longer — If there was an end in view, you could be strong enough to handle it. You could take whatever is thrown at you because you want, more than anything else, to live. 

You are a sensitive soul and you have so much left in you to give. You want only to love and be loved. But the cell has you trapped. You have tried everything. There is no end to the insufferable situation. 

A person with depression becomes suicidal when they finally give up all hope. When they accept that nothing they do, no matter how long they survive, no matter how many medications or prayers or therapists they turn to, the pain will never end.

Can you imagine the pain you would have to be in to take your own life? Can you imagine the fear of a suicidal person (regardless of faith), daring to face the unknown because even the possibility of eternal hellfire or permanent purgatory or absolute absence seems less scary than another day in this world?

When Robin Williams passed away, the world was abuzz weighing the controversial issues of mental illness, depression, and suicide.

While some people were unable to extend kindness or understanding, proving we have a long way to go in our culture’s recognition of chemical imbalances, the international conversation gave me hope. It proved that people are finally willing to say the word SUICIDE out loud, without the hushed whispers and back corner gossip. Putting this word on equal footing with all the other words in our vernacular is important. It lessens the sting.

I consider this progress, and I am optimistic the forward momentum will continue.

It is time.
I write this blog today for several reasons:

§  One, I am proud to have been the sister to an amazingly bright spirit who left this world too soon and whose memory I want to keep alive.

§  Two, I want to increase understanding and support for the millions of people struggling with chemical imbalances.

§  Three, I want to offer support and empathy to all who have lost a loved one to suicide and encourage you to speak out loud to honor their spirit and to educate those on the other side.

§  Four, and most importantly, I have a very important message for anyone struggling with depression.

One week after my brother died, we received notice that he had landed the career opportunity he wanted with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. That job may have been enough to offer him the key to that cell, the something to cling to, the reason for reason. Maybe, if he could have stuck it out one more week, he would still be alive today. Seven days, and he may have had hope again.

Today, when I see someone struggling for hope, looking for a signal, a reason, proof that their life matters and that the pain will indeed end, I think of my brother and that phone call that came one week too late.

If you are struggling with depression, please remember… you are in this world for a reason. You have a very important journey you must complete. You were born to accomplish something, something only you know. You will suffer, you will hurt, you will feel hopeless and alone at times. But you are not in that space forever. Keep walking, keep moving forward, and you will find your way through in time.

When you hit bottom, please remember this: You are loved. You are never alone. You were born with everything you need to survive this journey. You matter.

And once you are on the other side, as you will soon be, then, you will look back with wiser eyes, the eyes of a survivor. You will know your soul survived the stretching season. And you will move through the world with greater empathy and understanding, a gift like none other. For you, sensitive one, are the blessed. And we need you here. In this life.

Be brave. Wage war. Hold fast to the light inside of you. 

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

This post will be shared across multiple platforms for National Suicide Prevention Week. Learn more about suicide prevention by visiting:


Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Into the Free and When Mountains Move. She works to promote suicide awareness and prevention in memory of her brother, Jeff Perkins. Learn more:


Posted by on September 10, 2014 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all


What is My New Book About?

What is My New Book About?

Authors are often asked, “What is your book about?” The title of my latest book, Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches (hopefully) provides a clue. In this post I let images from the book launch describe exactly what the book is about. Mercer University Press released Farming on September 1st, and the Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia helped me launch Farming into this big world on September 6, 2014. Now it is up to you, my readers, to decide if the book is worthy. For local readers, there are two more opportunities to meet me: September 11, at 11 am at Bookmiser in Roswell; September 13th from 1-4 at the Visitor Center at 617 Atlanta Street, Roswell, Georgia (parking in back of building); and September 16 at 6:30 at Fox Tale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA.

The week following a release is a nervous time. Will readers enjoy my stories? Will they be excited enough to tell others, to call their book clubs, to give it as a gift? Share this blog. Tell their neighbors, friends, preacher, and hairdresser?

Hope so. My success depends on you. Personal recommendations make books successful. So I now enter my time of waiting. Hoping. Praying that you enjoy my offering. Many will read the title, and judge Farming without opening the pages. My heart aches for those people, because this is what they are missing:


Notice eggs on table Photo by Donna Baker


Andrew Wordes, “The Chicken Man” and Mr. Ora Coleman were both dear friends of Billy’s


Photo by Donna Baker, who introduced me to Noemi’s Tamales. Noemi’s Tamales are mentioned in Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches


Heritage Corn: No GMO. Family grown since the 1800s Photo by Ronald Pilcher


Photo by Ronald Pilcher


Billy signing copies of the first book about him: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love, and Tomatoes Photo by Ronald Pilcher


Raymond Atkins made an appearance on his way to launch his own book at Fox Tale Book Shoppe in Woodstock GA. Photo by Ronald Pilcher


Photo by Ronald Pilcher


Forever Friends Photo by Kendall


And then Tara came, and I gained another sister.


You ask what Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches is about. This Dear One, answers that question.


Billy with Abbe who helped plant corn and okra Photo by Ronald Pilcher


Photo by Ronald Pilcher


Sister Betty and I modeling Polly Dolly’s beautiful aprons made from recycled jeans and shirts. Photo by Ronald Pilcher

Ana Raquel, mentioned in the book.

Ana Raquel, mentioned in the book.


Forever Family Photo by Ronald Pilcher

Linger on this photo. Take it all in. If this photo doesn't make you want to buy a copy of my book, I shall cap my pen.

Linger at this photo. Take it all in. If this image doesn’t make you want to buy a copy of my book, I shall cap my pen.


Image by Tracy Hoexter Photography


How to order: All bookstores can order a copy of this book for you. Find your local bookstore here.  For those who don’t have local bookstores in your area. Here, and here, are the online links. Please note that an electronic version will NOT release for a couple more months. Order directly through the publisher using this link. Plug in the word facebook, for a 20% discount and FREE shipping.

THANK YOU to everyone who captured images of the launch: Donna Baker, Ana Raquel, Carmen Slaughter, Ronald Pilcher, Tracy Hoexter Kendall my roving photographer, and many, many more. Hosting an outdoor launch on a working farm is an exhausting feat. Thank you to Crop-Mob Atlanta, Tina (who cut the grass with a push mower in 90+ degree heat), and to the Georgia Chapter of the Rescue Sisters who helped whenever I asked. Thank you to my sponsors, Botanical Interests and Growbest Plant food who offered freebies, and Noemi’s Tamales for agreeing to set up a booth and sell tamales. They were a hit. Thank you to Rita of Polly Dolly’s Creations who made lovely aprons from Billy’s worn-out clothing and used feed sacks, and Cotton Albertson whose Folk-Art carvings remind me of my favorite uncle. Much love to my beloved husband, and my daughter Jamie who worked the Dilly Bean and Cornmeal table. I am blessed, truly blessed.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Mercer University Press  released Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches in September. Email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.



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Do you see what I see? Why I do not add pesticides . . . ever!

Another #Wordless Wednesday glimpse at my garden.

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Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches (available through all booksellers);  and Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. 

Order Copies of Farming directly through Mercer. Call for 20% discount and free shipping.

Email her through her website at 

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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


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