It takes a lot, and I mean, A LOT for this Oklahoma girl to get excited about Texas. And try as I might, when I meet people online or in real life who love or live in the Lone Star State, I put on my best Bible Belt Manners and do the whole WWJD thing, and hope to High Heaven they don’t root for the Longhorns. Then, once in a while, I get surprised by something that Texas has to offer. Tui Snider, and her perfectly named new release, Unexpected Texas, charmed me so much that I was half ready to load the kids up and head south to see all the quirky things Tui has featured in this charming, fun and way too short travel guide.
I met Tui on Twitter and participated with her and her #StoryDam buddies one Thursday and next thing I know I have a copy of her book on my Kindle and I’m muttering “The Yellow Rose of Texas” under my breath. I LOVED this book!
So, I thought y’all should love it too. Tui kindly answered a few questions for me about her, Unexpected Texas, and other quirky things down South.
Please meet, TUI SNIDER!
1. How were you inspired to write about the sites in Unexpected Texas?
I’ve been writing travel articles about the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex since moving here in 2009. The outlets I wrote for weren’t interested in offbeat and unusual items, however, so I kept “the fun stuff” in a separate folder.
Last year, I dug into that file of quirky goodness for my April A to Z blog posts. The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to write 26 posts in April, using the alphabet as a writing prompt each day. For instance, my post for the letter A was “Alien Grave in Aurora, Texas.”
I wasn’t sure if other people would find articles about offbeat and overlooked Texas travel interesting, but the response I got from those posts was so encouraging that I decided to write a book.
I’m one of those odd ducks who actually *likes* deadlines, so I chose Texas Independence Day (March 2, 2014) as my release date. I made a huge to-do list working back from that date, and that is how Unexpected Texas came about. Sales, both online and off, have been brisk. I’m thrilled to report that Unexpected Texas quickly became an Amazon Best Seller for Dallas – Fort Worth Travel!
2. It sounds like the DFW area is a fascinating place if you’re willing to dig — what was your criteria for some sites making the cut to your book?
I believe that any place is fascinating if you’re willing to dig, and that digging into the world around you is exactly what makes a place fascinating. In fact, my travel motto (which applies equally to my photography) is: Even Home is a Travel Destination. I truly believe that.
As for Unexpected Texas, the places I chose to include had to be offbeat and/or overlooked by other travel guides. I included the Dallas Farmers Market, for instance, because it’s not often mentioned in local travel guides, and Kalachandji’s because no one expects Dallas to be home to an award-winning vegetarian restaurant. I know I didn’t!
I included other items, such as Grand Saline’s Salt Palace and the statue of Jesus in Cowboy Boots because those things are just plain quirky!
I absolutely love it when I show Unexpected Texas to someone who grew up in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and they exclaim, “I never heard of these places!” Each time that happens, I know I’m on the right track.
Get this book and stick it in your glove compartment!
3. Which small town (and eccentric story to go with it) is your favorite?
That is a tough one! I really enjoy Mineral Wells with its healing waters, Glen Rose for all its petrified wood buildings, and Paris for its quirky Eiffel Tower replica.
Even so, I might have to go with Eastland, Texas for this one, because the Tale of Old Rip, the long-lived horny toad that “went viral” back in the 20′s, toured the country, met the President, and inspired a Warner Brothers cartoon always makes me smile!
4. I know you’re not a Texas native, and yet you’re mighty proud of the Lone Star State. Did you fall in love with Texas before you wrote about it or did you fall in love during the writing process. (It’s obvious to me you love your adopted state. This Okie can certainly see your point of view.)
My love for Texas is definitely a side effect of all the research and writing I’ve done about the Lone Star State.
To me, Texas is like a cantankerous uncle who loves to tell stories, half of which you suspect are not quite true. At first, you dread his gruff manner and overblown pride, but over time you look forward to his visits, and you begin to see that he’s really a warm-hearted fellow, with lots of experience to share. So what if he embellishes a little here and there?
5. Are the stars at night REALLY big and bright?
YES! Texas stargazing is absolutely stellar (pun intended.) Last summer, my husband and I attended a Star Gazing Party in West Texas during the Perseids Meteor shower. It was magical. We even saw fireflies!
6. Let’s talk football. Longhorns, Aggies or Red Raiders? (The correct answer is anyone who plays Texas!)
I’m not much of a football fan, but I love any excuse for a party with friends. That said, I grew up in Washington State, so I get excited when the Seattle Seahawks do well – such as this year!
Sigh. I can’t help this. I’m Sooner Born and Sooner Bred and when I die, I’ll be Sooner Dead.
7. Have you ever thought about fictionalizing some of the weirder stories you uncovered?
Oh, yes! The alleged space alien crash in Aurora has led to a couple short stories that I’ve not published… yet! The Santa Claus Lynching seems perfect for a movie, and I’m also fascinated by the town of Jefferson, Texas back in the days when it was a major river port known as “The Little Easy.”
8. What’s next for you?
I have several offbeat and overlooked travel books in the same vein as Unexpected Texas jockeying for position, including Unexpected Manhattan, Unexpected Naples, and Unexpected Florida.
I’d also like to research other areas of Texas for things like, Unexpected Texas, “The Gulf Coast Edition,” or whatever.
I’m planning a book about travel for people who are interested in ghosts, something like a Haunted Texas Travel Guide (only with a catchier name.) This book would list allegedly haunted restaurants, hotels, B&B’s, and sites so that people could plan a whole trip with this in mind.
I’ve also got some really bizarre stories about Texas that I’m compiling for a booked called Unbelievable Texas. That one is a collection of stories that make you say, “No way!” when you hear them.
Beyond that, I’ve got a memoir in the works (from when I lived off-the-grid for 5 years on a tiny island with a population of 7),
. . . . and Katharine says, “WHAT????”
an anthology of amusing stories from coffee shop workers called Barista: Tales from the Other Side… Of the Counter!, and several fiction ideas brewing.
9. What are your big writing dreams?
To make enough with all my creative endeavors (writing, photography, and music) so that my husband can quit his day job and be a mad scientist full-time.
10. OH! And here’s where you get to plug StoryDam. What is it and how can other writers enjoy it?
Story Dam is a friendly online writing community. Morgan Dragonwillow took the helm in 2011 and rounded up a crew of writers to keep it going.
The Story Dam website , StoryDam Twitter account and our weekly #StoryDam writing chat on Twitter allow us to have fun and pool our collective knowledge. We help writers at all stages of the process. Several of us have self-published, so we share a lot of marketing tips, because that is an important and challenging part of the writing process, too.
Every Thursday night from 8-9pm EST, I host #StoryDam chat for writers on Twitter. It’s a lot of fun, and I invite everyone who reads this to follow me and StoryDam on Twitter and join in. You will especially want to join us on Thursday, March 27, 2014 because our special guest that evening is none other than the 10 Minute Writer herself, Katharine Grubb!
YAY! Thank you Tui! Everyone pick up a copy of Unexpected Texas! And GO SOONERS!