In Gone to Green, Lois goes from being a corporate journalist at a large paper in the Midwest to the owner of The Green News-Item, a small twice-weekly newspaper in rural North Louisiana. The paper was an unexpected inheritance from a close colleague, and Lois must keep it for at least a year, bringing a host of challenges, lessons, and blessings into her life.
When Lois pulls into Green on New Year’s Day, she expects a charming little town full of smiling people. She quickly realizes her mistake. After settling into a loaned house out on Route 2, she finds herself battling town prejudices and inner doubts and making friends with the most surprising people: troubled teenager Katy, good-looking catfish farmer Chris, wise and feisty Aunt Helen, and a female African-American physician named Kevin.
Whether fighting a greedy, deceitful politician or rescuing a dog she fears, Lois notices the headlines in her life have definitely improved. She learns how to provide small-town news in a big-hearted way and realizes that life is full of newsworthy moments. When she encounters racial prejudice and financial corruption, Lois also discovers more about the goodness of real people and the importance of being part of a community.
While secretly preparing the paper for a sale, Lois begins to realize that God might indeed have a plan for her life and that perhaps the allure of city life and career ambition are not what she wants after all.
About the Author
Judy Christie writes fiction with a Louisiana flavor, including the five-part Green series about a big-city journalist who winds up running a small-town newspaper in Green, Louisiana. With a writing career that began when she was the editor of her elementary school newspaper, Judy has kept a journal since she was nine years oldand still has all of them. She loves to help busy people slow down and enjoy each day more and is the author of the popular nonfiction "Hurry Less Worry Less" series, filled with practical and encouraging tips. She's a fan of porch swings, fried pies and flea markets around her home in Stonewall, Louisiana. She loves to visit with readers and writers and blogs from her green couch at www.judychristie.com.
Read an Excerpt
Gone to Green - The Green Series #1
By Judy Christie
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2009 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePost Media Company announced yesterday that its multimedia division will offer newspaper readers information around the clock, relying on the latest technology and innovation. For more information, see our Web site. — The Dayton Post
I glanced down at the floorboard and noticed it was Thursday.
Somewhere in the last dozen years or so, I had gotten into the habit of figuring out what day of the week it was by checking the number of coffee mugs rolling around. At least I don't keep tuna sandwiches and an ancient typewriter in the backseat, the way a guy in sports does.
Hurrying into the building, I flashed my security badge at the guard, who reluctantly lifted his head from his Word Jumble puzzle to glance and nod. Let it never be said he didn't get his money's worth out of the daily paper— especially since free papers are one of the perks of working at The Dayton Post. He saw me every day, several times a day, but still made me show my badge.
When I hit the front door of the newsroom, I dashed to my desk. I spend a lot of time dashing, especially in the morning when I slide into my cubicle just in time to make eye contact with my staff before the news-planning meeting.
As city editor, I'm in the middle of things, right where I like to be— most of the time. If it weren't for night meetings and procrastinating reporters, this job wouldn't be half bad.
I learned long ago to shape my personal life around my work. That means only occasionally grumbling about the nights and weekends. I'm still a little annoyed about Christmas— I always get stuck working because I'm the one without kids. The schedule's already posted for five months from now, and there I sit: Lois Barker, holiday editor.
"How's it shaping up, Scoop?"
Ed stood in the same spot he stands each morning when I hit the door, waiting to ask what we have for tomorrow's paper. He's the managing editor and has been for a decade. His old-fashioned nickname helps make up for all the annoying jokes I get about my name being Lois and working on the city desk: "How's Clark Kent?" "Feeling mild-mannered today?" "Seen any speeding bullets?"
Ed probably should be the editor by now, but corporate sent in Zach about eighteen months ago— a young, suit kind of bean-counter editor who spends most of his time in accounting meetings.
Zach's a nice enough guy, but he and Ed don't exactly mesh. Ed thinks Zach is all stick and no carrot.
"Looking good, Ed. Anything special you want us to chase?"
"Just make sure you scrape something up with a little juice to it. And, hey, are you up for some lunch today ... maybe that sandwich shop down by the library?"
My inner radar spiked into the Red Zone. First of all, it was pork chop day at Buddy's, our favorite spot, just around the corner. Next, Ed and I and a handful of other editors ate lunch together on a regular basis but never made it this formal. Usually we casually gathered at the back door of the newsroom and walked downtown after the noon news on TV.
To set something up in advance was close to an engraved invitation. To choose the mediocre sandwich shop meant he wanted to talk in private.
I frowned. "Sure, I'm good for lunch, but what's up?"
Ed glanced around. In a newsroom someone always lurked with a question, a joke, or to eavesdrop. "I've got some news, but it'll have to wait."
During the news meeting, I watched Ed closely and wondered what he had on his mind. He had been antsy lately— not happy with changes in the paper.
"I don't have anything against corporations owning newspapers," he told me recently, "but I don't like it when they start running newspapers." He was particularly unsettled about the new focus on the Internet and technology. "I didn't get into this business to do podcasts."
Ed threw in a couple of good story ideas during the planning discussion to make sure Zach knew he was paying attention. My best friend Marti, the features editor, tried to keep her top reporter from getting pulled off onto a daily story, and Diane, the business editor, talked in riddles, as though that would somehow impress Zach.
Diane desperately wants to move up and knows Zach can help her get a plum assignment. Thankfully, she hasn't realized it's actually me Zach plans to move up and out. He's supposedly grooming me to be a top editor, not only because he likes me, but because he gets some sort of company points for his promotable employees.
"He gets management stars," Marti said when I told her about my career conversation with Zach a while back. "Or he gets to order a prize out of a catalog with lots of corporate merchandise in it. Maybe you can talk him out of a baseball cap to show off that ponytail of yours."
Admittedly, I'm intrigued by Zach's plans for me. At age thirty-six and still single, it's probably time for me to consider a change.
After we finished the news meeting, Ed herded me out of the conference room. "Let's beat the lunch crowd." It wasn't even 11:30 yet.
"Give me a minute," I said. "Let me get a couple of reporters going on their assignments."
"Hurry up," he said and looked at his watch.
It's a professional habit, but I try to figure things out before people tell me. Ed's secret was killing me. As soon as we hit the door, I tossed my ideas at him. "It's the ad director, isn't it? He really did get fired from his last paper." "Tony's applying for that sports desk position in Atlanta, right?" "Zach's mad at me about that drowning story we missed, isn't he?" Ed wouldn't even look at me. "I can't take this any more! What's up?"
"I've got something to tell you, something big."
"You're scaring me. Tell me."
"I'm going to tell you all of it, but first you have to promise you won't tell anyone, and I mean anyone— not Marti, not your next-door neighbor, not your aunt in Cleveland. This has to stay between us."
Torn between irritation that he seemed to think I'd put this on the Associated Press wire and worry about the bomb he was about to drop, I stopped on the sidewalk. For once, I did not say anything.
He looked at me and smiled big. "I did it."
"Scoop, I did it! I bought my own newspaper."
"Ed!" I squealed and gave him a quick hug. "Where? When? How? What will I do without you?" I peppered him with the standard journalistic questions and felt that sad, jealous thrill you get when something exciting happens to a good friend.
"Let's get moving, so I can tell you everything without a bunch of ears around."
We started walking, and I tried to smile. "Where? Details, details!"
"The Green News-Item. Green, Louisiana— great little town, about seven thousand people. Lots of potential— a big, beautiful lake, a courthouse square downtown, major highway on the drawing board."
"Louisiana? You're kidding me. You said you'd go to Oregon or Florida or somewhere like that. Have you ever even been to Louisiana? I mean other than that editors' convention we went to in New Orleans that time?"
"Have now, and I like the feel of the place, Scoop. I realized I didn't want one of those cute places we talked about. This place definitely isn't cute. Besides, if it were, I probably wouldn't be able to afford the paper."
He sort of laughed and groaned at the same time. "This is a family sale. They want to keep Grandpa's paper out of the hands of the government and Wall Street. It's a twice-weekly: a twice-weekly— bigger than a puny weekly— but an honest-to-goodness newspaper, circulation 4,930, distributed throughout the county ... I mean, parish. You know, they have parishes in Louisiana. Green, Louisiana. Bouef Parish. Spelled B-o-u-e-f and pronounced Beff, like Jeff. Weird."
He laughed again.
I had never seen Ed so excited. "They like the looks of me, and I like the looks of them. Most of the family's out of state, too, so I won't have them breathing down my neck. It'll be my paper to do whatever I want with."
As he talked, I thought about what this meant in my life. What would I do without Ed? Whose shoulder would I cry on about being thirty-six and single? Ed is my mentor, friend, and confidante for every piece of good gossip I've picked up in the past decade and a half. The newsroom without him would be like the horrible Thanksgiving when I covered that tornado in Preble County and ate my holiday lunch at a gas station— lousy, just plain lousy.
We turned onto Calhoun Boulevard and headed into the Sandwich Express. I felt a twinge of shame at my selfishness. Ed had wanted to buy his own paper for years now, saving, always reading Editor & Publisher to see what was on the market, scouting, working the grapevine. He wanted to put miles between himself and his ex, and he was unhappy with the new corporate policies and his thousand extra duties.
"A twice-weekly," I said. "Busy enough to be a challenge but not the hard work of a daily. In a nice little town. Green, did you say? Sounds like some tree-hugger kind of place." I babbled, collecting my thoughts.
"Very un-tree-huggerish," Ed said. He smiled and shook his head. "But plenty of nice trees."
"Wow. I'm shocked. You actually did it, Ed."
Then I asked the hardest question. "When?"
"I plan to tell Zach this afternoon that I'll stay till after prep football season— give us time to wrap up the projects we've got going. I don't know if he'll want me around that long, though. Lame duck and all. I need to get down there before the end of the year. There's a lot of paperwork and stuff to be done, plus I need to find a place to live."
"Till after prep football season? That's less than two months. Ed, what am I going to do without you?"
"You'll do great, Lois. You'll be out of here within a year anyway. Zach's got you pegged to move onward and upward. I'll be sitting in my dusty office reading about your successes on some corporate PR website. And you can come visit. I may ask you to train my staff— all twelve of them, and that's twelve in the whole building, including the maintenance guy."
My roast beef sandwich sat heavy in my gut, a reminder I need to eat healthier if I'm going to keep the trim figure I'm so proud of. I asked Ed for one of his antacids. He gobbled them by the truckload and complained about losing his appetite in his old age. Between the coffee and the cigarettes, his heartburn was legendary.
"Ed, you know I'm happy for you ... I really am. I'm going to miss you, though."
We headed back to the newsroom and the official news of the day. Suddenly, my cubicle seemed a little too small and a little too cluttered. The stack of special projects I was most proud of looked yellow and smelled musty. The ivy had more brown leaves than green. My office coffee cup had grown a new layer of mold.
Two fresh memos from Zach were in my mailbox. "Please tell your reporters to quit parking in the visitor lot," and "The city desk needs to increase the number of stories geared to younger readers." As I studied the second note, it pained me to realize I was no longer in the coveted younger reader category.
Ed took the next week off to handle details. "Gone fishing," he wrote on a note posted on his office door. "Back soon."
I moped while he was gone. "Must be a stomach bug," I told Marti, who couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I hated to mislead her, but there's always a bug going around the newsroom, so it was a fail-safe excuse.
When Ed returned, he hit the highlights of his week over a cup of coffee in the break room. "I made a quick trip to Green and sealed the deal with the owners. The sale remains confidential until I officially take ownership in ninety days. Then the current owners— McCuller is their name— will make some sort of official announcement."
That would be one of those announcements that newspapers hate when other people make, but love it when they do. I rolled my eyes, oddly annoyed.
"I used some investment money and that little inheritance from my folks," he said, "to get things going. And then I took out a whopping line of credit at the local bank. I have a year to start paying for this baby or bail out. Kind of scary."
"Sounds exciting," I said, trying to encourage him, even though it sounded very scary to me.
"There's tons of paperwork. I met with my lawyer here in Dayton and my CPA and got all the particulars taken care of and filed for my retirement pay. I hope Zach will cut me loose— with pay, of course." He laughed. "I'm ready to let my new life begin."
Those were the last words Ed spoke before he passed out right there in the break room.
Within two months, he had left the newsroom all right. My gruff, sloppy, smart, hand-holding friend had died of leukemia. Not one of us had seen it coming.
The weeks of his illness were excruciating for all of us, filled with sadness for our friend and fear for ourselves at how quickly life could turn. I stopped by his house to see him as often as I could, but was ashamed that my visits were mostly hit-and-run efforts.
"Hey, how are things down in Green?" I asked one day, but he changed the subject. I didn't have the heart to try again and ignored the copies of the paper by his couch. Somebody down there must have put him on the mail circulation list; he was too weak to travel.
I was among a handful of people, including Zach, who spoke at the funeral. Somehow I felt Zach had earned that privilege, even though Marti and a few others grumbled about a corporate newcomer charging into our private time. When it mattered most, Zach had treated Ed right.
My comments seemed a bit lightweight— corny stories like the time Ed put a banana on my telephone and called me, so I would pick the fruit up, thinking it was the receiver. I kept my comments short.
"No cry fest and no superhero stuff," Ed told me in one of my final visits with him.
At the service, I surprised myself and several other people by saying a short prayer. "Thank you, God, for the impact of Ed's life. Have mercy on all of us in the days ahead that we might be the people we were meant to be. Amen."
My colleagues and I awkwardly walked away from the grave. We were good at writing about emotion, but we didn't quite know how to handle it in this first-person version.
I cried all the way back to the newsroom, having designated myself the editor to make sure the Sunday paper got out. Sadness washed over me. Ed had never gotten the chance to live his new adventure, to try out his newspaper, to get out of Dayton and into Green, Louisiana.
His obit had missed the lead. Instead of going on and on about his distinguished career in journalism and how he was nearing retirement and loved to fish, it should have highlighted the new life he had planned. Ed wasn't wrapping up a career. He was about to embark on a Louisiana journey.
As I hit "send" on a story, I saw Zach strolling toward me. Since he usually only phoned in on Saturdays, his appearance surprised me. Sitting on the corner of my desk, he chitchatted about the next day's edition and picked up a paper clip, moving it back and forth between his fingers.
"I appreciated what you said at the funeral, Lois," he said, laying down the paper clip. "I really wish I'd known Ed better, like you did. You did a great job capturing his personality— made me wish I'd taken more time to know what made him tick."
Zach absently rummaged through my candy jar. "Moving around like I have these past few years," he said, "I just haven't gotten to know people deeply the way you knew Ed."
Embarrassed and feeling like I might cry again, I concentrated on my computer screen and deleted old e-mails to avoid eye contact.
"You know, Ed thought the world of you," Zach said. "Told me often how talented you are and how you'd be running your own paper one day. You know that, right?"
I sort of laughed, self-conscious and a little proud. "Oh, Ed liked me because we had worked together forever. He taught me so much."
"Well, I agree with Ed. I want to offer you his job— the managing editor's job." My eyes widened. I closed my computer screen and slowly rolled my chair back. "I beg your pardon?"
"I'd like you to be the next M.E. I've already run it by corporate and gotten their okay."
Rumors had swirled in the newsroom about who would take Ed's place, but this had been one game I'd not let myself get drawn into, mostly because I knew it would mean Ed was truly gone.
Part of me was excited at the idea of a promotion. The other part was annoyed that Zach's plans had been put into motion before he talked to me and that corporate had already signed off on my life.
"Well?" Zach said. "Is that a yes?"
I realized I hadn't given him an answer. I picked up my pencil and doodled on my ever-present reporter's notebook. The ambition in me fought with the fatigue and uncertainty these past weeks had unleashed. Ambition won.
Excerpted from Gone to Green - The Green Series #1 by Judy Christie Copyright © 2009 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lois Barker is not Father Tim, but if you felt at home in Jan Karon's Mitford, you will love the lively characters in Judy Christie's Gone to Green. When big city journalist Lois Barker inherits a small town newspaper from a friend, she only intends to stay the required year in Green, Louisiana, before unloading the paper and moving on to something better. But is there anything better than being her own boss and making a difference in a local community? Of course, readers know from the beginning that Barker will stay. (After all, there are more titles to look forward to in Christie's Green series!) But it takes a few scandals and news scoops and a whole lot of new friends (including an attractive lawyer and a helpful catfish farmer) to convince her that she has at last come home. Judie Christie writes in a fun first person voice that had me on page one. Each chapter begins with an amusing excerpt from the Green News-Item. Although Lois is also on a spiritual journey, the preaching never overwhelms the story. I enjoyed the Mitford books, but it always bothered me that Father Tim had to be a "professional Christian" for readers to consider his spiritual insights appropriate to the character. I am hoping that in Lois Barker Christie will break out of that mold and show a lay believer whose commitment to God makes a difference. The setting is still a small Bible-belt town. Who is going to write me a Northern urban tale where the gospel is seen through someone in the marketplace? I'm thinking maybe an African American hairdresser in a neighborhood that is a cross-section of urban American life.
To start, I got this as a free ebook. I had gathered that it might be Christian oriented, so I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it much, given that I am NOT religious whatsoever. However, it was better than I expected and reasonably enjoyable. The actual story idea wasn't bad, and had promise, though I don't really feel it was fully realized here. I'd have like more gritty ins and outs of the small newspaper biz, rather than a float-along, all is well and getting better all the time, fizzy little charming view. Still and all, there were plenty of likeable characters, even if I didn't feel they were developed particularly well. There's certainly charm to the general rosy and positive outlook and I do think there is a place for that. I could have done without the Christian aspects, but they weren't hard hitting and did not overwhelm the general plot line. Speaking of plot... not a lot of drama to this one, more of a "will she, won't she sell" and hardly a page turner. More of a "cozy" style, if you know what I mean. Predictable ending. I'd consider reading the next in the series if it were free, but would not go and buy it. It is also a fairly short book of 144 pages.
A very good story with humor, friendship, and coming to love the place you're at.
I loved the entire Green Series. Did not expect how the story worked out. However, I checked out remaining books in series from the library due to cost.
Read 2/3's of it and then it got way to preach-y for me.
In Gone to Green find out how Lois a corporate journalist at a large paper who is moving up in the company unexpectedly ends up working for a small town paper after an inheritance from a close colleague. Lois must keep the company for at least a year and suddenly she finds herself battling town prejudices and inner doubts. Lois also discovers the goodness of people in this new town and the importance of being part of a community which leads her to make friends with some surprising folk. She soon finds out God might indeed have a plan for her and it does not include returning to her previous life. I have had the pleasure of conversing by email with the lovely author of this book Judy Christie and I have received a signed copy of Gone to Green to read and review. During my review of this book I found myself looking forward to the next chapter again and again. In this story I found Lois to be a gentle soul who struggles with her faith in God throughout the book. Lois is very strong willed and although at first in her new life she tries to push people away she soon finds out she enjoys their company more and more. The setting for this book a small Louisiana town of Green and the quirky characters were easily transformed in my imagination. I totally fell in love with and anticipated the new love relationship Lois had acquired toward the end of this book. I am more than looking forward to the next book in this series and already got a head start with the bonus chapter at the end of the book from Judy's next book titled Goodness Gracious Green. Quote from Judy: "I try to focus on doing God's will for my life and enjoying each day more. Part of that is hurrying less and worrying less". About the Author; From the Website of Judy Christie: Judy Christie is an author and consultant who lives in Northwest Louisiana. She writes inspirational fiction and nonfiction. Her popular Green series chronicles the goings-on in the small Louisiana town of Green and is part of Abindgon Press's new inspirational fiction line. The third book in the Green series, The Glory of Green, will be released Spring 2011. It follows Gone to Green, her first novel, published in 2009, and Goodness Gracious Green, which came out in 2010. Judy is also the author of the popular Hurry Less, Worry Less nonfiction series, published by Abingdon Press: Hurry Less, Worry Less for Families; Hurry Less, Worry Less at Work; Hurry Less, Worry Less: 10 Strategies for Living the Life You Long For; Hurry Less, Worry Less at Christmastime. A journalist for many years Judy is a frequent speaker at retreats and workshops. Judy is an amazing person and an inspiration to me. Stop over and visit Judy at her website and send her a note she loves to hear from people.
Here's a Christian fiction novel with the protagonist running from God, much like Jonah. Instead of ending up in the belly of a "great fish," she ends up in the friendly, small town of Green, Louisiana, as the new owner of the local newspaper. She discovers, along with the reader, some good folks and some shady people. Her plan is to hang on for one year, get the paper on its feet, sell it, and return to her big city newspaper job. It's interesting to watch her struggles to accomplish this goal.Written in first person narrative, this book grabs the reader's interest and keeps it until the end.Chapter fifteen contains a remarkably clear tutorial on how to find God's will. That alone is worth the price of the novel. Discussion questions are included.
Very enjoyable. God has a plan for each of our lives!
Interesting little read. Enjoyable. Now on second in series.
Wonderful read. Helpful for those having trouble understanding the path for their life.