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Actress honors roots

By Julie Cooper

San Antonio Express-News

Actress Sela Ward is "Homesick." But that's OK because she writes about her growing-up years in Mississippi with such feeling and love that I want to order up a big batch of grits, eggs and sausage and linger over the book at breakfast.

After suffering the loss of the ABC TV drama, "Once &; Again," starring Ward and Billy Campbell, fans can take some down-home comfort in this warm, family-oriented look at the life of the Mississippi-born star.

"Homesick: A Memoir" by the 46-year-old dark-haired beauty proves (as if there was any doubt) that she has more on the ball than just about any celebrity who has graced Hollywood in recent years. She writes lovingly of growing up in Meridian, Miss. (pop. 40,000) with her family and friends "worshipping Bear Bryant on Saturday night and Jesus Christ on Sunday morning."

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Ward says her father, G.H. Ward, was the first person to urge her to work on her self-confidence. Her "strong and silent" daddy was an engineer while mama, Annie Kate, raised the children, four in all, with the oldest being Sela.

"Homesick" traces her life from small-town girl to University of Alabama cheerleader, storyboard artist to New York model and finally Hollywood actress.

She writes about the South not just as a place on the map, but of a Southern way of life. The polite "yes ma'am" and "yes sir" that you learn as a child. Taking a covered dish to a friend's home when there has been a loss or a special occasion, the warm bond you form with girlfriends that last a lifetime.

Married for 10 years to businessman Howard Sherman, the couple have two children, Austin and Annabel.

In a phone interview from a book tour stop in Dallas, Ward talked about writing "Homesick."

The book is, she explains, "a love letter to the South in a way." It is also a tribute to her family, and sadly ends with the death of her mother.

Today, Ward is giving back to the people of Mississippi. Part of the proceeds from "Homesick" will benefit Hope Village for Children. The facility is home to 33 children in a cottage setting, with a capacity for twice that many.

When she isn't working in Hollywood, Ward and family spend time at their second home in Mississippi.

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So she isn't "Homesick" all the time.

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