Celia Rivenbark was born and raised in Duplin County, NC, which had the distinction of being the nation’s number 1 producer of hogs and turkeys during a brief, magical moment in the early 1980s.
Celia grew up in a small house in the country with a red barn out back that was populated by a couple of dozen lanky and unvaccinated cats. Her grandparents’ house, just across the ditch, had the first indoor plumbing in Teachey, NC and family lore swears that people came from miles around just to watch the toilet flush.
Late nights, she’d listen to the feed trucks rattle by on the highway and she’d go to sleep wondering what exotic cities those noisy trucks would be in by morning (Richmond? Atlanta? Charlotte?) Their headlights crawling across the walls of her little pink bedroom at the edge of a soybean field were like constellations pointing the way to a bigger life, a better place, a place where there wasn’t so much turkey shit everywhere.
After a couple of years of college, Celia went to work for her hometown paper, the Wallace, NC Enterprise. The locals loved to say, as they renewed their “perscriptions,” that “you can eat a pot of rice and read the Enterprise and go to bed with nothing on your stomach and nothing on your mind.”
Mebbe. But Celia loved the Enterprise. Where else could you cover a dead body being hauled out of the river (alcohol was once again a contributing factor) in the morning and then write up weddings in the afternoon?
After eight years, however, taking front-page photos of the publisher shaking hands with other fez-wearing Shriners and tomatoes shaped like male “ginny-talia” was losing its appeal.
Celia went to work for the Wilmington, NC Morning Star after a savvy features editor was charmed by a lead paragraph in an Enterprise story about the rare birth of a mule: “Her mother was a nag and her father was a jackass.”
After an unfortunate stint as a copy editor–her ass expanded to a good six ax handles across–Celia started writing a weekly humor column that fulfilled her lifelong dream of being paid to be a smart ass. Along the way, she won a bunch of press awards, including a national health journalism award–hilarious when you consider she’s never met a steamed vegetable she could keep down.
Having met and married a cute guy in sports, Celia found herself happily knocked up at age 40 and, after 21 years, she quit newspapering to stay home with her new baby girl.
After a year or so, she started using Sophie’s two-hour naps to write a humor column from the mommie front lines for the Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The column continues to run weekly and is syndicated by the McClatchy-Tribune News Services.
In 2000, Coastal Carolina Press published a collection of Celia’s columns. A Southeast Book Sellers Association best-seller, Bless Your Heart, Tramp was nominated for the James Thurber Prize in 2001. David Sedaris won. He wins everything.
Her second book, We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier, published by St. Martin’s Press in 2004, was the winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Nonfiction Book of the Year and was a finalist for the James Thurber Prize for American Humor. Jon Stewart won. He and David Sedaris probably went out drinking afterwards. I’m sorry, did that sound bitter?
Her third book, Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank was named best title of 2006 by Entertainment Weekly magazine. Not best book, mind you, best title. Which it was. The title landed her a gig on Good Morning America where she kept stopping taping so she could flap her hands and go, “Ohmigod, Ohmigod” over and over again. Well. It was a big deal, that whole national TV thing. Southerners don’t get that kind of fame unless they’re describing yet another tornado rippin’ through the Valley of Despair Mobile Home Park or some such.
Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny With A Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits, published in 2006, included a home-improvement section in which Celia confided that she grew so accustomed to having workmen in her home during a kitchen renovation that she forgot they were there and pooted out loud once. Mortification ensued. The book, a Thurber Prize semi-finalist for humor, was one of three finalists for the SIBA Nonfiction Book of the Year. Instead they gave the award to Rick Bragg. Who already won a Pulitzer. Greedy, talented bastard.
“Celia’s fifth book, “You Can’t Drink All Day if You Don’t Start in the Morning” was a finalist for the 2010 SIBA non-fiction book of the year. Bonus feature: “Drink” contains some killer family recipes to help sober you up after too much Firefly sippin’.”
Book 6, “You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl,” published in 2011 finally fulfilled Celia’s dream of getting a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. It wasn’t there long but that’s not the point and I can’t believe you even brought that up.
Book 7: “Rude Bitches Make Me Tired,” a profanity-laced rant that actually contains a veritable ass-load of good, solid advice in it. Not the useless stuff about raised pinkies while drinking tea but the important stuff like how to deal with the braggy bitch on the playground. As to those critics who have accused Celia of having “the sense of humor of a sixth-grade boy,” she has this measured response: “They can just suck it.”
Celia lives in Wilmington, N.C., with her very patient husband, Scott Whisnant. Their daughter, the Princess, is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill but hasn’t managed to get her parents any tickets to the Duke game. Dammit all.