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  • Courtney Marshall

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Long time, no content…I know. Shame on me! In my defense, what began as a space for me to casually collect and share my short stories and cocktail recipes, evolved to so much more. I'm currently working on a book. It's something I've been working on for a few years but hadn't taken the time to prioritize. In July 2021, I decided enough was enough. I chose to retire from my career in Government Contract Management, to pursue a full-time writing career. I packed up my cozy one-bedroom apartment and moved in with my family so I could dedicate all my time and energy to this project. I know that's a pretty wild move, but I really wanted to see this thing through. I had no clue what I was getting into, but I knew my story would be well received and I could likely build some cool concepts and ventures from it. The key thing here is that my family believed in my vision. And if they did, I knew others would too. My writing experience and education came from my BA in Journalism at Georgia State University. But boy do I wish I would have studied Creative Writing instead. Writing a book is not easy, but I've learned to embrace the process. With the help of Master Classes, Webinars, Books, the internet, and multiple rough drafts, I've had to teach myself how to do this thing. As we approach the end of the year, I'm happy to say that I'm on a great path and I finally found my groove.

"What is your book about?" Most people ask this question next and you're probably dying to know too. But to be honest it gives me anxiety. The angle has changed so much and I had to pull so much of the content from my personal life experience, I'm not eager to immediately share and be that vulnerable yet. So my response is always " It's a fictional book about Atlanta's bartending industry." I usually cut it there and move the conversation in another direction. But this is a safe space and honestly, I need to work on my pitch. So here goes!

The title of my book is called Bartenderness. It's a fictional story based on real-life experiences inspired from Atlanta's bartending industry. The theme of this story is rooted in the title. As an expert who's been in the industry for over ten years, I quickly learned it's more than a physical transaction between the bartender and guests, but we are tending to all of our guests' life ceremonies, the good and the bad. It's unspoken, but we are required to have a natural, untaught compassion for all people. Because it is a fast-paced industry full of temptation on every corner, we often are distracted when it comes to tending to ourselves. The book unpacks the heaviness of that responsibility and the silver lining of that exposure through the lens of an early 20 something Preacher's Kid. The protagonist unexpectedly takes a liking to the profession and begins finding her identity within the culture, which is completely contradictory to her path and leadership role at the church. The protagonist struggles to live up to the expectations of two very different worlds. The characters behind the bar and the characters who frequent the bar naturally become extended family. The protagonist finds purpose in tending to them. It feeds her ego and superman complex. But while trying to be everyone else's savior, she finds that she loosing her grounding. A series of unfortunate events transpire and she finds herself at a crossroads having to make decisions she never would have believed would be her fate. Conjuring up an exit plan becomes a difficult necessity. The lifestyle comes with a lot of liberties, so when it's time to move on, it's hard to make a clean break. She feels as if she's wearing golden handcuffs, but something had to drastically change before she reached a point of no return.

I'll be honest, my experiences within this industry tested my faith, my relationship with myself, and my integrity, but I've become a more compassionate person than the woman I was when I started. I think interacting with that many people over that many years can either harden or soften you, and it's often determined by how much space you get to take for yourself. I choose to take that space. Part of the reason I titled this project Bartenderness was because I am very much still emotionally tender from the decade-long experience. It's ripe, it's sore, it's relatable, it embodies a collection of pressing issues that I feel like I am grounded enough to finally address on behalf of all bartenders. Part of my hesitation with this angle was because I didn't want to shed a negative light on a profession that provided me so much agency, opportunities, amazing relationships, and experiences. Not every bartender consciously struggled the way I did or even the way this character specifically does in this book, so I didn't want to harp or dwell, but the message of this book transcends beyond the service industry. The message I am trying to relay is one of tenderness. My goal is for this book to put you in touch with your inner tenderness, your ability to tend to yourself and others. We all truly deserve it.







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