Category Archives: Stories about my book: In the Garden with Billy

Here you’ll find photos from the launch of my book, In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. Billy is the reason for this blog, my quest to show others how easy gardening can be, and encourage everyone to reach out to others.

On the Road again….


Someone said the “S” word…snow; then they said the “I” word…ice. Snow and ice are forecast along the route I will travel today. Leaving Atlanta is precarious on the best day. Traveling becomes ridiculously complicated when the roads are wet and the clouds threaten to spit frozen balls on your windshield.

I would be lying if I said I’m not nervous. Readers of this blog know that above everything else, I am honest when baring my emotions.

To be selected as a Pulpwood Queen pick is a dream. Few meet her standards. While some believe my life as an author is glamorous, in reality I am just like any other person who must travel away from their family. Being an author is hard work…very hard work. I have never been this far away from my family and we are all hurting even before I pull away from the house. The weather does little to ease any apprehension.

Perhaps that is why the Good Lord placed Ann Hite in my path. It’s not popular these days to suffer separation anxiety while away from your family. In fact, most people relish the opportunity for a night out. But for me a night out is best enjoyed with loved ones. I spend enough time alone, inside, just the computer and my characters who oft refuse to share their stories.

That being said, Ann and I are torn. Yes we will miss our family, but our readers are also family. We love meeting them. Love telling them secrets about our characters, hearing readers input, receiving emails and hugs from those who love our characters as much as we do. This emotional contact with our readers is what moves us forward. Without meeting them, Ann and I would give up…stop writing…stay home curled in front of a fire with a cup of hot chocolate. We might even eat bonbons (the fantasy food some folk think authors consume).

So today, with the clouds bending low, we have packed our suitcases, our costume jewelry and our hats. We are Texas bound, excitedly so. I’ve done a bit of research about Jefferson Texas. According to Wiki, Jefferson is a metropolis when compared to my hometown of Bryson City, North Carolina. I can’t speak for Ann, but I’m a small town girl, eager to visit the tiny town of Jefferson Texas. In my heart I know that the citizens will wrap their arms around me and welcome me home.They will say, like my grandpa often did, step up here and give me a hug; that is why I will leave my Georgia family and head west…because my Texas family is waiting for me with open arms.

Renea Winchester is an award winning author of In the Garden with Billy. She is represented by Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency. In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Fords & Friend Bologna Sandwiches will be released soon. Until then, please visit the Facebook page and “Like it” to keep up to date on the happenings at Billy’s.

Photo credit: Rhonda Perry via Facebook


In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes Book Trailer

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Billy Albertson’s farm. Or as he likes to say it his, “little strip of country.” Learn more at


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Edenwilde Book Club

It isn’t often that Billy Albertson accompanies me to book club meetings. Primarily because he’s a busy man. Even before I wrote In the Garden with Billy he was a busy man. Now, he has so many visitors, even  I sometimes need to make an appointment to see him. As they say in the south, the Edenwilde ladies “must be living right.” Last week they received a treat. Billy Albertson joined their group. We came. We noshed. We stayed a very, long time. At one point I looked at the clock and said, “Law have mercy…it’s 10 o’clock!”

Thank you to Edenwilde for making Billy feel right at home, and to the other bookclubs that have read In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Live, Love & Tomatoes. truly, you have touched my heart (Billy’s too).

Here are some comments from the group:

Amazing book club meeting last night in Edenwilde. Local author, Renea Winchester, along with Mr. “Billy”, came to share their book, In The Garden with Billy, a beautifully written account of how this unlikely pair met and became best friends. So endearing and delightful. We could all learn alot from Mr. “Billy”…he told some charming, funny stories about family and gardening. I believe you can order their book from amazon.

Such a delightful time at your house last night with Billy and Renae! I just loved listening to him talk and tell his stories…a treasure! “

“Thanks guys for hosting book club last evening it was a blast. What an fascinating man Mr. Billy is!”
“Thanks Jo Anne it certainly was a night to remember.”

Billy and his fans

Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Currently, she leads emerging author workshops in conjunction with her latest release: Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. She is also working on In the Kitchen with Billy, which will be filled with tall tales and yummy recipes. In the Garden with Billy is available at your favorite bookstore, online and electronically. Visit her at


Happy Anniversary Part Three

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The birth, and subsequent launch of a book is a magical time. Over a year of writing, waiting, and weeks of planning, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes resulted in what is arguably the best book launch ever!

To everyone who has read the book, told others, and incorporated it into their book club reading “Thank you.” For those who haven’t read the book, your local bookstore can order it for you in a snap! Until then, please enjoy photos from that very special day. For those who have asked, I am working on a sequel titled In the Kitchen with Billy. But first, Make Your Mark Publishing will release Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author.
fter a year of book tours, I realized emerging authors need someone to guide them through the marketing process. Visit my blog at  Subscribers to the blog are registered to received a free copy of the book. I am also booking workshops now which will be held in independent bookstores across the south. If you’ve written a book and need guidance, contact me here to schedule a workshop or email my publisher at

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. When she isn’t writing, she volunteers at her local library.


Happy Anniversary In The Garden With Billy: Part Two

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I’m a blessed gal. In this photo segment I’d like to share images of some of the authors I’ve met during the past year. Some of you will recognize these authors: they’re your favorites. They work hard to write books you’ll love. They are also friends, mothers, daughters, dads…real people just like you. They were accessible when I had questions, kind, and willing to help little ole me. I am forever in their debt and honored to call them friend. These are the authors who have mentored me during my journey. In a few weeks I’ll release a new title specifically written for those newly-published authors who (like me) didn’t know where to turn or what to do after their book was published. Until then, pick up a copy of any of these incredible authors books. You’ll be glad you did.

Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. Make Your Mark Publishing will release her second book titled: Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author in November, 2011.


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Happy Anniversary In The Garden With Billy: Part One

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Almost a year has passed since the release of In The Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. During that time I have logged a lot of miles and spoke to numerous garden clubs, book clubs and community clubs. I’ve also been embraced by booksellers. Love those independent booksellers.

A quick word about local bookstores: they are NOT dying. I laugh every time someone says that the written word is dead. Indie bookstores are doing well because they know that readers matter! Indies will survive. I believe it will be the small businessmen and women of America, those who understand the importance of personal relationships who will continue to prosper.Honestly, we all knew the big box would one day collapse. Let the revival of personal customer service that was crushed beneath the weight of BB stores begin.

Thanks again to everyone for reading. Thanks for emailing me, for coming to events, for supporting the written word. Much love and BIG hugs ! Now let’s look at some photos. Note: I won’t try to name everyone. With over 100 thousand photos on my computer, I somehow managed to lump a majority of them into a file named “writing events.”So much for my husband’s attempt at organizing. God bless his heart. I hope you enjoy Part One of Happy Anniversary In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes.

Renea Winchester can be reached through her website here. Her book can be found at your favorite independent book store. If they don’t have it in stock they will be happy to order it.


What’s Keeping Me From Gardening…

There are some who follow this blog who may not know that my “real” job is that of a published Author. Not only do I help Billy in his garden, I wrote a book about our adventures.

In The Garden With Billy

The book has been well received and I am so very grateful to you, the readers, who have attended events, emailed, called and visited the farm wanting to know how to grow your own food. 

Today’s blog is a pictorial account of some of the places I’ve traveled while promoting the book.

In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes was launched in the fall of October, after a long awaited, painful period called the “in between time.” A wringing-hands-and- praying time when supersticious authors like myself worry that something will happen at the last minute to “kill” all of their hard work. 

Thankfully the book arrived safely and Billy graciously allowed me access to the farm and we hosted what

The John Deer "tractor"

can only be described as the best book launch in history. Seriously, try to find another book launch that featured “hay rides” pulled by a lawnmower-tractor with one particular wheel that kept leaping off randomly. Go ahead, I dare you.

From there it’s been a non-stop traipse of talks and tales of  gardening adventures sprinkled with the “real message” behind the book…that of the value of friendships.  To use my grandpa’s saying, “I am proud to know you.”

Every one of you. You have no idea how much it means for me that you’ve taken your precious time to get to know me.  I am not the most techno-savvy author in the world, but I would love to share with you some snapshots taken at libraries, book club meeting, and book stores who graciously invited me into their heart. My schedule is filling up for 2011, so please visit my website at to see where I am, or to invite me to your event; and do come see me.


While speaking to readers I met Jennie Helderman who informed me that In The Garden With Billy had been nominated for a SIBA award. This is  quite an honor. Additionally, I have been nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year !

Visit my website to learn more about me, and of course, remember to keep those hands dirty !


Fall: Time to Plant, And Launch a Book

As the days grow shorter the tendency to be lazy tempts weary gardeners. Now is not the time to rest. No dallying, especially not at Billy’s. 

The book launch approaches (October 23rd) and Billy’s garden…well, it’s a disaster. 

Corn stalks stand dry and pathetic, okra is thin and pale, surprisingly, the tomatoes have begun growing again. I’ve cleared my schedule, intent on “cleaning the garden.” A reporter from the newspaper is coming to interview Billy, and nothing says picture perfect better than a tidy vegetable garden. You’ve seen them in magazines: raised beds with rich black soil. Here in Georgia we have red clay. At Billy’s raised beds aren’t possible, he gardens with a tractor. 

I reasoned that Billy and I would remove the corn stalks thereby cleaning the garden and giving the photographer the opportunity to capture a few “action shots.” Afterward, we would plant the “winter greens.” Yes, I nodded to myself while placing our lunch in the car, everything would workout fine. 

At Billy’s, I introduced myself to Todd, (the photographer) then told him I had the perfect photo op for him. 

“We’ve got corn stalks to cut down,” I explained while Todd laughed at the goats that were crying the little, “I’m hungry,” lie they try on every new person they meet. I told Todd to ignore the liars, and follow me. Imagine my surprise when I walked around the fig tree and was greeted with a stripped-bear garden. 

Perhaps Billy and I have been working together too long. Obviously, we were thinking the garden needed “straightening up,” but stripped bare? Mercy no !! All that remained was a few anorexic-looking tomatoes. The newspaper photo would be a disaster. 

Each fall my dad plants winter rye as a cover crop. This rapidly germinating seed produces chin-tall grass that aerates and, when tilled back into the earth, returns essential nutrients to the soil. While Billy likes to try new things, when I mentioned that we needed to plant “rye grass” in the garden, he gave me the “no” head shake. Eventually I presented him with a bag of seed and convinced him.

Unbeknownst to me, Billy had “set to” chopping the corn, hacking the okra, and tilling the soil; hours earlier, all while completely forgetting I had a photographer scheduled. 

“Where’s the corn?” I asked, after standing for a moment in a what-do-I-do- now? hands-on-hips stance. 

“My neighbor got his tractor out and we plowed it under,” Billy said in a tone that conveyed isn’t it obvious? 

Help my time ! I’d planned on using those for corn shocks. I walked into the garden while Todd followed behind me. Bent and broken pieces of corn pierced the dirt. 

“I figured I’d break my little Cub tractor out of the barn and get that grass planted today,” Billy said. 

I turned to Todd who nodded. He set up his tripod, checked the sun and positioned Billy in the perfect spot then instructed me to keep myself, and my shadow, out of the way. Todd snapped a few shots, invited me into the photo, snapped a few more, then instructed Billy to crank the tractor so he could take some “action shots.” 

While Todd walked the rows that once contained okra, Billy cranked the Cub and put her in reverse. I bent over to retrieve stalks that were sticking out of the ground. Fortunately, I looked up a second before Billy backed over the tripod. I saved the tripod, motioned Billy forward, and Todd captured a beautiful picture.

Photo by Todd, which appeared in The Roswell Neighbor October 13, 2010

After Todd left, Billy and I “worked out” the onion bed. Fall is also the perfect time to plant onion and garlic. I reserve a section in my garden specifically for these delicious bulbs. Onions die back during hot weather, but the moment the humidity falls and night-time temperatures dip, onions start growing again.

 We scattered a few more lettuce seeds, hoed the turnips, and prayed everything will be perfect for the book launch.

For those who may live near the Roswell area, please join Billy and I, Saturday, October 23rd from 2-4 pm for the official launch of In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. More details through my website at, up to the minute, through the In The Garden With Billy page on Facebook.


On The Radio, Billy Records for StoryCorps

On The Radio, By Renea Winchester

I count it all joy to know Billy Albertson. While this 77-year-old farmer still owns the first truck he ever bought, he agreed to “go modern” and allow me a radio interview for StoryCorps-Atlanta.

At first, interviewing Billy seemed easy. We answered the sound-check question, “what did you have for breakfast?”

My answer: Chocolate covered edamame and hot tea.

Billy:     Bacon, eggs, banana, coffee, juice, a chunk of cheese and a cathead biscuit.

In hindsight, I should have begun the interview by having Billy repeat the sound-check response. I suspect there are countless “folk” who have no idea what a cathead biscuit is; (it’s a biscuit formed by pinching a large amount of dough, instead of using a biscuit cutter. The dough is either dropped from a spoon, or rolled in your hand and placed in a cast-iron skillet. When baked the biscuit has knotty peaks and expands to the size of a cat’s head, hence the name). No cats are harmed during the process. As the interview began I imagined we’d sit around the mic, our words overlapping, like we do when I pile up on his living room couch.

When Lily Love signaled that she was ready to begin recording, I kept an eye on the timer and asked the first question written on my index card. Billy was a natural. He even corrected a crucial mistake I made when I assumed he was the baby of the family.

That was the moment I remembered why we were there. This was Billy’s chance to speak. My words weren’t important. In my effort to share Billy with the world, I overlooked the obvious…the man himself.

Billy sat at table within arms reach, a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. He was having a ball. Lily had explained he could best project his voice by looking directly at me, an act that I found unnerving. At one point I looked at him and realized how lucky I am.

Of course, I began to cry. I quickly shuffled my cards and wiped my eyes, thankful that Billy was filling the airtime. You see, he really didn’t need me to ask questions; he only needed me to listen.

When our time was up, we were provided an unedited copy of the interview. Billy and I immediately discussed what we “should have said.” I had wanted to talk to him about his wife’s Alzheimer’s, but he’d gotten teary eyed when talking about how they met so I skipped to another question. He wanted to talk more about his education, how he got his education “out behind the barn.”

We needed more time. I don’t think StoryCorps allows re-dos.

In the weeks that follow, our interview will be edited. If the editors believe our story is interesting, they will air it on Atlanta’s WABE 90.1 FM; if the story appeals to a wider audience, it could be broadcast on National Public Radio. I hope so. People need to know about Billy Albertson.

During the ride home, we laughed about our radio time. Billy and I decided if we could pick up a couple sponsors we might approach Radio Sandy Springs and bring Billy to the people of the ATL on a more full-time basis; you know, to cover all the things we should have said, like how to make cathead biscuits and how he got his all-important education behind the barn.

Renea Winchester is the winner of the Appalachian Heritage Award. Her first book In The Garden With Billy: Lessons on Life, Love, and Tomatoes will be published in 2010. She welcomes your comments at


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