By Bonnie Bartel Latino
Many out of town artists and photographers are coming to town for ARtmore: A Gallery Event in Downtown Atmore (AL) on May 18 from 4 to 8 p.m.
I’m really excited to be included and I’ll have signed copies of “Your Gift to Me” available for sale. I’ll be sharing space in a booth, which will be located near Country Charms, with my friend and Atmore native, Marlene Nall Johnt. We’re both grateful to James Ezell Amerson for conceiving ARtmore and allowing us and other Atmore creative types to participate. We’re also grateful to Wind Creek for their sponsorship of ARtmore. We all hope it will become an annual event.
Marlene lives with her husband in Gulf Shores, AL, where she paints, writes, and creates stunning jewelry. On Saturday Marlene will be showing her one-of-a-kind custom-made Maggie Marlene shell jewelry that comes from its natural habitat–the Alabama Gulf Coast. The concept for her necklaces, barrettes, and pins is to show the weathered beauty of Mobile Bay oyster, clam, and hermit crab shells.
Marlene explains, “Just as we’ve weathered hurricanes and hard times, so have our shells …The time consuming pieces end up as delicate little sculptures meant to be worn. They are unique and thoroughly coastal Alabama in attitude and materials.”
I was among the first Atmoreans to buy one of Marlene’s pieces. I fell in love with Marlene’s jewelry last year when I wrote an article for “atmore” magazine prior to Williams Station Day. Marlene sent pictures to include with my story. Her promotional photos convinced me I ‘needed’ a Maggie Marlene original! Not only is my necklace pretty. I love the idea that each eco-friendly piece is different and recycled from Mobile Bay.
Marlene adds unexpected bits to her shells. That might be a piece of driftwood, sea glass, or some other unexpected surprise from the sea.
Marlene explains, “Some of my shell necklaces have tiny bits of 500-year old Indian pottery shards tucked into them. This pottery, made by the Mississippian Indian culture, is refuse from their cooking areas. Bits of it float on the tide line and is found in coastal bays from Texas to Florida.”
I think there is probably another Maggie Marlene necklace or two in my near future! Marlene’s jewelry is also reasonably priced—especially considering each necklace comes with its own gold or silver tone wire collar or, sometimes, a leather cord. The lengths vary because Marlene says the necklace has to flatter the design. Every piece comes in a blue velvet bag with Maggie Marlene’s signature in gold lettering.”
Please see Marlene’s artworks, other than jewelry, at http://www.marlenenalljohnt.artspan.com.
Marlene, who is also the author of “A Retired Art Teacher Tells All,” is also a fan of “Your Gift to Me,” the military love story and mystery I have co-authored with my friend, Bob Vale, a New Jersey writer and graphic designer. Our story is about a young woman from Williams Station, Alabama, and her near-life experience after her husband dies in a fiery helicopter crash during the Gulf War. The fact that our female protagonist is from Williams Station, Atmore’s original name, becomes pivotal to our story.
Bob and I are astounded and thrilled that, based on over 185 reader reviews for quality, “Your Gift to Me” has a 4.9-star average out of five. This has helped our novel achieve: Amazon’s #1 Top Rated War Fiction–since last July; #1Top Rated Military Romance; #1 Top Rated Contemporary Romance; and #1 Romance (all genres) on Amazon – 500,000+ eBooks.
Over 185 readers have reviewed “Your Gift to Me” on Amazon, giving it a 4.9-star average out of 5-stars. One of those reviewers was Marlene Nall Johnt, who wrote “. . . I adore this book. I have no background with military life, but for the first time, I now understand what that life is all about, and I am richer for knowing this. All of it feels real, true, authentic, and without a hit of phoniness. I enjoyed hearing the wars in this couples’ heads as they bravely find creative ways to allow themselves to deeply fall in love within the complicated world of military etiquette and unspoken expectations. Yes, there is lots of military action in “Your Gift to Me” as well as intrigue. But, a special ‘gift’ is that of giving the heartbroken of this world a healthy model to reflect upon.”
I used my former professional and personal backgrounds as a columnist for Stars and Stripes newspaper in Europe, and my 30-year experience as a military wife to help create the story with my co-author. Bob and I are also excited that “Your Gift to Me” has won two national book awards–a Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America and a Silver Medal for Inspirational/Healing, announced during Veterans Week celebrations in Stars and Flags Book Awards, Branson, Mo.
Marlene says she’s looking forward to Saturday and hopes many old friends stop by our booth. We both look forward to visiting with other participating Atmore artists and meeting out of town vendors and visitors.
If you happen to be near SW Alabama or NW Florida on May 18, stop by. Look for Marlene and me near Rachel and Joe Brown’s darling shop, Country Charms located at 111 W. Ridgeley Street.