M. Judson, Booksellers & Storytellers and Ashley Warlick

M. Judson, Booksellers & Storytellers, is Greenville, South Carolina's newest independent bookstore, located in the heart of downtown

Author Ashley Warlick partnered with Samantha Wallace, publisher of Edible Upcountry magazine, and Tricia Lightweis, owner of The Booksmith in Seneca, SC to open this gorgeous store just a few months ago. They chose the available Greenville County Family Court building which was built in the early 1900's, to house their dream bookstore.


Downtown Greenville hasn't had a full line, new book, independent bookstore for more than 20 years and everyone is thrilled. 
M. Judson focuses on Southern literature, books for children and young adults, and culinary literature.

Here is the story of their amazing namesake Mary Camilla Judson.
At the turn of the 19th century, the Greenville Female College had a lady principal named Mary Judson.


A true believer in smart women, she taught every class the college had on offer: English composition and literature, physics, astronomy, botany, physiology, logic, French, elocution, and (near to her heart) calisthenics. Again and again, in print and in public, she chafed at the word “female”— for if hers was a female college, where were all the male ones?  She began the Judson Literary Society, a gathering of women engaged in thoughtful debate, where she encouraged her students to find their point and hit it, too. She donated her life savings to begin a library on campus, later named in her honor. 


Her annual calisthenics drill, a part of graduation ceremonies, featured students in flowing robes instead of corsets and stays, moving right up to the edge of dance for a packed house audience, as well as the protests of Baptist ministers. This is to say Mary Judson was a woman who believed in the brains and bodies of women, a woman ahead of her time.
We’ve adopted Mary Camilla as our patron saint, our guiding light at the bookstore, and tried to imagine her into the 21st century. Our M. Judson might still wear high boots and long skirts, but she's also irreverent, opinionated, brilliant, and a little bad-ass. Our name ties us to our history and our place, and our namesake gives us a bit of Victorian backbone in this very modern age.


Here are M. Judson's crack crew of booksellers and storytellers, 
from l to r:
 Kirsten Cook, Samantha Wallace, Ashley Warlick, and Mary Miller.

The Welcome Table  just inside the big glass doors.

And beyond is the grand entrance.

Light fills every corner of this beautiful store.

Apparently there are more to the staff than I was told about.

Yet another reason to own a dog (or a cat)!

I love this wall of books!

Looking in and...
looking out.

  Where unattended children go.

Ashley Warlick, co-owner, is also a beloved Southern writer. Her just released novel about M.F.K Fisher, The Arrangement, from Viking Press, is getting rave reviews. 
 “Stellar . . . A beautifully written treatment of love in its different forms.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

Below she answers my piercingly personal questions and, now world famous, time travel question. 


Where were you living when you were 7 years old?
Are they fond memories?
I was living in the very suburban brick two-story colonial I lived in until I was 13, in Charlotte, NC. My brother was 5, my sister was 3, and my best friend lived across the street. We had the run of the neighborhood, the wooded lot behind my house, the ponds down by the community pool, which, because of Jaws, for which I had only seen advertisements, I was convinced was full of sharks. At night, I could hear a train passing three or four miles away, still the most comforting sound. Yes. I’m good at making fond memories.

Did you have a favorite teacher and are you still in touch with him or her?
My favorite teachers were all from elementary and high school: Ceres Vandiver from first grade, because she was so very loving, and so very mysterious. She had short dark hair and a husky laugh, which rose up often, and she smoked cigarettes from a long black filter in the hallways during lunch. In high school, my English teachers, Mr. Lentz and Dr. Campbell gave shape to my lifelong love of books. Of course, I should be in touch with all of them, but I’m not.

Is there a book that changed the way you look at life?
Every book seems to, doesn’t it? Every book you love.
The Scarlett Letter was a pivotal book for me as a young reader, the layers of it, and the idea that a book could hold so much.


Do you have a favorite children’s book and what about it makes it so?
Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends. Because It makes my kids laugh exactly the same way it made me laugh. It’s completely timeless.

What are the funniest or most embarrassing stories your family tells about you?
My family’s currency is funny and embarrassing stories. There is no way to start to answer this question.

Is there a song that you listen to when you are feeling a bit down?
Emotional management through music is important to me. For lift, Van Morrision’s “Into The Mystic” always works, or Palace Music’s “Work Hard/Play Hard.” Sung full volume, in car, windows down, of course. But sometimes the only way out is through. Lately Avett Brother’s “Murder In The City” gets the job done.

How are you different now than you were 20 years ago?
At 24, I was newly pregnant with my daughter. She was a revolution, to be sure— as was my marriage two years before, and the publication of my first novel. I had no preconceived concept of how my life would mold to the space and time an infant required, and so it just did, rather seamlessly. I would work on my book while the baby napped, rocking her bassinet with my foot. If I needed to travel, home, across the country, by car or plane, she came with me. She was so even tempered, so readable. When she was two, I took her to a lunch meeting with my editor at Houghton Mifflin and the only concession we made to our two hour conversation was to order her dessert before we were ready for it. After that, I feel like I began to fit my skin, became who I am now. I still look in the mirror and find myself surprised I don’t look like I’m 27 anymore.


to any period from before recorded history to yesterday,
be safe from harm, be rich, poor or in-between, if appropriate to your choice,
actually experience what it was like to live in that time, anywhere at all,
meet anyone, if you desire, speak with them, listen to them, be with them.

When would you go?
Where would you go?
Who would you want to meet?
And most importantly, why do you think you chose this time?

This morning (and it’s safe to assume this kind of thing changes for me most mornings) I would go back to West Virginia, early 1940s, to be friends with my maternal grandmother and her best friend, Betty Werdine. These gorgeous women would have been young then, newly married to men they loved hard, and making their way in an interesting time, their world bounded by the mountains and the Kanahwa river, the company their husbands worked for, the street their houses shared, all that good, tight, right-before-your-eyes life we can’t really have anymore. There would be bourbon and pie, and smoky laughter, the best kind of gossip, and big bands on the radio. Why choose this time? Because these are my people before I knew them, and the kind of women I fill my life with now. What a beautiful starting point.

Bourbon, pie, big bands and "smoky laughter." Thanks, Ashley! If you don't mind company, I'd love to join you.


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