SCBWI SpringMingle 2013 Blog Tour: Agent Jill Corcoran

SCBWI SpringMingle 2013 Blog Tour: Agent Jill Corcoran

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Jill Corcoran, a literary agent with the Herman Agency and a speaker at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Region’s SpringMingle conference in Atlanta Feb. 22-24, 2013.

Jill Corcoran primarily represents children’s books. She has sold over 60 books and recently signed her first movie deal. Her clients include Robin Mellom, Janet Gurtler, Martha Brokenbrough, Kelly Milner Halls, Ralph Fletcher and Jen Arena. Jill also is the editor of DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD (KANE MILLER, 2012), a poetry anthology which includes Ellen Hopkins, Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, and Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Recently, I talked to Jill about her work and her upcoming sessions at SpringMingle. Below are highlights of our conversation.

Q. Jill, you were an author before you were
an agent and (correct me if I’m wrong) you presently wear both hats. How
do you balance these two careers?

A. I
mostly agent. I have slowed down on my writing quite a bit. It is hard
to do it all as I also have 3 children. What I do love is creating
poetry anthologies like DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD (Kane Miller,
Fall 2012). I hope to come up with another great theme and create that
anthology some time in the future.

Q. I read online that you are a member of SCBWI. How has SCBWI helped you as a writer and an agent? 

A. I
love SCBWI. I have met all of my writer friends though SCBWI and many
of my clients through SCBWI conferences. I have learned so much, and
continue to learn from every conference I go to.

Q. Tell me a little about what to expect in your Spring Mingle general session, “Great Expections.” 

A. Beck
McDowell and I will be talking about what expectations are on both
sides of the author/agent relationship. What expectations are
reasonable? What are unreasonable? How do you work out those
differences? Plus all the ways an agent and author work together to grow
an author’s career.

Q. Your split session is “What
Makes a Manuscript Sale-able.” Is there one thing above everything else
that makes a manuscript salable? If so, what is that one thing? Can you tell us a little more about this session? 

A. I have a blog post called WHAT MAKES A BOOK SELL and I will quote some of it here:

“What makes a book sell to a publisher, and sell-through to readers?

is NOT how fabulous your website or blog is. It is NOT how many
facebook or twitter friends you have, how many publishing links you
forward or put on said website, blog, facebook and twitter. It is not
how much editors and agents like you, though being a pain in the arse
will NOT help you in any way, shape or form.

What sells a book is THE WRITING coupled with an ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT!”

Q. I see you take email queries only. What triggers a “yes, send me the rest of the manuscript,” response from you?

A. When I can’t put those first 10 pages down and I have to find out what happens next. That = a YES!

Q. On the agency website, you say you’re interested in high
concept Young Adult Middle Grade Thrillers, Mystery, Romance, Romantic
Comedies, and Adventure manuscripts. Do you have a favorite from this
list? Is there a particular kind of manuscript that you’d really like to

A. I am
looking for original voices and concepts. There is no favorite. Simply, I
am looking for a book I cannot put down. A character I want to carry in
my head. Writing that blows me away.

Q. What are you absolutely not
looking for at this time? Is there a particular type of manuscript (or
first 10 pages) that you see over and over and wish you never had to see

A. I am not looking for poetry, plays,
screenplays, dystopia, vampires, devils and angels (I represent Martha
Brockenbrough’s DEVINE INTERVENTION, Arthur Levine/Scholastic 2012 and
the SWEET EVIL TRILOGY, HarperCollins, 2012, 21013, 2014), and
historical fiction for which the author has not done a great deal of research
for setting/dialog/plot/etc.

Q. You are the editor of DARE TO
DREAM. . . CHANGE THE WORLD (Kane Miller, 2012), a poetry anthology
which includes Ellen Hopkins, Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, & Lee
Bennett Hopkins. Tell me about this book.

A. My
inspiration for DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD came during a car
ride, listening to NPR cover the uprising of the Egyptian people against
their oppressive government. I have been to Egypt twice and remember
the extreme riches, and poverty, as well as needing to be escorted by
gunman with assault rifles to keep safe. I was overcome by the courage
of the Egyptian people and amazed by the role of social networking to
bring their dreams and actions instantly to the rest of the world.
To me, the tweets were like poetry, capturing the essence of
the people’s hopes, fears, strength and determination.

The title
of this collection sprung into being during that car ride as well as
the dream of a collection of poems by the best children’s poets living
today to share the spirit of dreaming + action = change and that each
one of us can make the world just a little better.

Dare to Dream
… Change the World pairs biographical and inspirational poems focusing
on people who invented something, stood for something, said something,
who defied the naysayers and not only changed their own lives, but the
lives of people all over the world.

The poets included were
chosen because they too have informed, inspired and engaged young
people throughout their careers with both their actions and their words.

My hope is that the Dare to Dream…Change the World can spark a paradigm shift from resigned to inspired.

Please see my website for
a free 30 page Common Core State Standards Curriculum Guide, bios of
the contributing poets, and information about the Annual Dare to
Dream Poetry Contest for Kids with prizes of donation of $1,500 worth of
Kane Miller and Usborne books to the winner’s school library or a
library of their choice plus an ebook to be published by Kane Miller of
the top 30 poems.

Q. There are many changes going
on in publishing. What are your feelings and predictions on the future
of writing, publishing, children’s book publishing, in 2013 and beyond?
Do you see e-books taking over? Do you see the rolls of agent, editor,
author changing? How do you feel about authors who self-publish?

A. Kids
need to read good books, plain and simple. An unedited, poorly
illustrated home-spun book is not going to cut it. BUT, for me
DISCOVERABILITY is the key to publishers survival. Publishers already
know how to publish great books. They do it better than most
self-published books. But, they need to hone their marketing and
publicity skills and develop new ways of reaching readers.

do not believe e-books will take over as much as they are another means
to share intellectual property with readers. The story, the words, the
characters, setting, plot, etc=the book. How we read it does not
determine the quality of that book.

Q.  On the same note, tell me about new books on the horizon for your current clients. 

A. I
can’t discuss all of them because some of them are hush,
hush….strange, right? But some ideas we keep under wraps to make a big
splash when they hit bookshelves and e-readers. Here are some books
coming in 2013:

Gurtler’s HOW I LOST YOU about two girls who have been best fiends
forever coming to terms with a change in their relationship and learning
when it’s best to hold on and when it’s best to let go, Sourcebooks
Fire, Spring 2013. This is Janet’s 5 YA book of 7 that she is writing
for Sourcebooks.

Mellom’s THE CLASSROOM, book 2, Hyperion-Disney. This is book 2 of a 4
book deal, and Robin also has her YA DITCHED plus a new YA coming out
from Hyperion soon.

Higgins’s SWEET PERIL and SWEET RECKONING, books 2 and 3 of the SWEET
EVIL trilogy, in which a half-angel/half-demon is our last hope to rid
the earth of demons and must choose between her love for Kaidan (son of
the demon of Lust) and her angelic destiny, HarperCollins 2013 &

Wendy Higgins’s
FLIRTING WITH MAYBE, in which a tenth-grade baseball star falls hard
for a senior girl but finds himself benched in the friend zone until one
drunken night changes everything, Harper Teen Impulse (this is a YA

Denise Lewis
twisted with the Southern African-American experience unearthing the raw
reality of prejudice, courage, perseverance and love, Carolrhoda Lab.

Urey’s debut SUPER SCHNOZ AND THE GATES OF SMELL, when a corporation
pollutes his school, a boy with a massive nose transforms into Super
Schnoz, a nostril-flaring, booger-blasting, crime-fighting superhero and
works with his friends to defeat evil, and save their summer vacation,
Albert Whitman.

Milner Halls’ COURAGEOUS CANINE, featuring a pitbull who lost her leg
when she saved her owner from an oncoming train; a pod of dolphins who
saved a surfer from a great white shark, and a gorilla who saved a
three-year old boy after he fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo,
National Geographic Children’s

Kenn Nesbitt’s KISS, KISS, GOOD NIGHT in which baby animals snuggle in tight with their mothers to say good night, Scholastic.

Reid’s LITTLE GREY, in which a baby elephant dreams of growing big
while spending a playful day in the forest with his mother, Random House
Children’s Books

And of course Beck
McDowell has more books coming!  IMMORTELLE, in which mysterious
mementoes in a New Orleans cemetery lure a girl into a terrifying
journey that leaves her wrapped in the arms of one boy and longing for
another, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin will be coming to you in 2014.

There are so many more but the above is a sampling of what I rep.

Q. Have you ever been to Georgia? 

A. Nope and I am so looking forward to it.

Q. Anything else on the horizon that you can tell us about?

A. I
am starting a new educational venture to give writers the opportunity
to learn more about traditional publishing, publishers and agents. I am
just now creating these workshops so the topics and dates are still up
in the air. Workshops will be live, 9pm EST.

workshop will consist of 3 presenters plus a moderator. I will either
be on screen as facilitator…and in some workshops I will participate
as a presenter too.

Thanks, Jill. We’re looking forward to your SpringMingle visit and sessions. Here is more information on Jill’s sessions.

General Session: Great Expectations: what are the expectations on both sides of the author/agent relationship? What expectations are reasonable? What are unreasonable, and how do you work out those differences? This session will feature Jill with her author Beck McDowell.

Split Session: What Makes a Manuscript Sale-able? Providing examples of books from many genres, Jill will talk about what has sold as well as some which, while well written, were not contracted.

“It is NOT how fabulous your website or blog is. It is NOT how many facebook or twitter friends you have, how many publishing links you forward or put on said website, blog, facebook and twitter. It is not how much editors and agents like you, though being a pain in the arse will NOT help you in any way, shape or form.

What sells a book is THE WRITING coupled with an ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT!””

— Jill Corcoran

For more information about SpringMingle ’13, visit the Southern Breeze Region website.

To register for SpringMingle ’13, which will take place Feb. 22-24, 2013, in Atlanta, GA, go to the registration site.

Want to know more about Jill Corcoran? Visit her blog or go to the Herman Agency, Inc. website here.

who else will be at Springmingle ’13? Check out this list, follow the
blog tour to meet them, then register to see them in person at

Jan. 21: Will Terry, illustrator, at Elizabeth O. Dulemba’s blog

For more information, visit the work-in-progress website for A PATH TO PUBLISHING:

Jan. 22: Beck McDowell, author, at Bonnie Herold’s “Tenacious Teller of Tales”

Jan. 23: Nikki Grimes, author, at Gail Handler’s “Write From the Soul”

Jan. 24: Jill Corcoran, agent, at Donny Seagraves’ blog

Jan. 25: Chad Beckerman, creative director, at Laura Golden’s blog

Jan. 28: Katherine Jacobs, editor, at Cathy C. Hall’s blog

Jan. 29: Mark Braught, illustrator, at Vicky Alvear Shecter’s “History with a Twist”

Jan. 30: Carmen Agra Deedy, author, at Ramey Channell’s “The Moonlight Ridge Series”

SpringMingle '13 will be held Feb. 22-24, 2013, in Atlanta, GA. SpringMingle ’13 will be held Feb. 22-24, 2013, in Atlanta, GA.

Dinner With Author Barbara O’Connor

Dinner With Author Barbara O’Connor

Last night I had dinner with one of my favorite authors, Barbara O’Connor.  She’s in Athens, Georgia this weekend to speak at this year’s Children’s Literature Conference at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education on the University of Georgia campus and graciously agreed to dine with a group of writers before the conference. Barbara O’Connor is charming, funny, and friendly, though she admitted to being an introvert, like many writers.

Much can be learned from listening to an author talk about her books. Greetings From Nowhere, is Barbara’s favorite among the many books she has written.

“I liked writing the multiple points of view,” Barbara said, inbetween bites of her healthy-looking spinach salad. Using the software, Scrivener, Barbara continuously goes back to polish early chapters as she writes. She likes to write the first sentence and the last sentence of each chapter first, then fill in from there. “By the time I get to the end, the whole manuscript is polished,” Barbara says. “I sometimes have to rework the ending after showing it to my editor. But I don’t usually end up doing much rewriting.

Though Barbara has lived in Massachusetts for many years (update: she now lives in Ashville, NC), her roots are in South Carolina, where she was born and grew up. “I write about what it was like when I was young in South Carolina because that’s what I know,” Barbara says.

If you’d like to learn more about this popular, award-winning children’s book author and her books, visit her website.

Winterville: History of a Railroad Town

Winterville: History of a Railroad Town

For those of you who missed our recent Winterville: History of a Railroad Town community snapshot program at the historic Winterville train depot, here’s a link to the video of the program on Youtube: Winterville: History of a Railroad Town. And here’s a link that we made to promote this Winterville History program. This program was part of the three year grant to document the Baby Boom generation in the Athens, GA area.
I had a lot of fun digging into Winterville history while preparing this program with my longtime Winterville friend, Mary Quinn. This is an ongoing program for Mary and I, so look for more Winterville history in the future.

Update on this blog post

Mary Quinn And Emma Foley have recently published a book entitled Winterville: A Classic Railroad Town. Follow the link below to purchase their book.



American Pickers Guide to Picking: A New Book About Finding Rusty Gold

American Pickers Guide to Picking: A New Book About Finding Rusty Gold

Junk is beautiful. And so is the new book, American Pickers Guide to Picking, written by Libby Callaway with Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and Danielle Colby, the stars of one of my favorite TV shows, American Pickers, which comes on Monday nights on the History Channel. Libby, a freelance writer with publication credits that include the New York Post, where she worked as a writer and editor, and Glamour, where she penned a fashion advice column, is also a native of Cleveland, TN, which is home to my mom, Faye Bailey, and my sister Leanne Benson and family. A little over 30 years ago, my late dad, Don Bailey, a native of Athens, Georgia, reported to the Cleveland, TN post office to take over as postmaster. The retiring postmaster my dad replaced was Libby’s granddad, Robert Easterly.

Mike received many questions from young pickers at his Cleveland museum talk and says there is a “Kid Picker” show in the works. The current American Pickers show was the most successful reality show introduced on TV in 2010. I’m sure, judging from all the excited junior pickers at the museum, a young picker show would be a big hit.

Mike also talked about his partner in rusty gold on the show, Frank Fritz and their assistant, Danielle Colby. Frank joined Mike as a full time picker after being downsized from a long time job. Mike met Danielle at a yard sale several years ago when he bought something she had her eye on. Their disagreement quickly turned to friendship and when Mike succeeded in selling the American Pickers show to the History channel and needed an assistant to run the shop and help scout out picks, he thought of Danielle. Producers at first weren’t enthusiastic about the tattooed burlesque dancer. But after seeing her and watching her interact with Mike and Frank, they quickly agreed that she was a perfect addition to the show.

“If you can think of a purpose for something, it’s not junk,” Mike said, near the end of his talk. “It becomes a part of you.”

Mike’s show has already become a part of our family on Monday nights. His book is now in a treasured place on our bookshelf and we’re savoring every page of reading about hunting and picking “rusty gold.” Coming soon: a full review of American Pickers Guide to Picking, if I can stop picking long enough to write it!

For more information on the American Pickers show, go here. To read more about Libby Callaway and her new book, visit her website.

Big Pumpkin and Followers Spotted in Winterville, Georgia!

Breaking news in Winterville, GA: The GREAT PUMPKIN  is spotted near Town Square. The city of Marigolds has been invaded by a giant orange melon as big as a storage building and numerous smaller collaborators!
Linus believed in the Great Pumpkin in Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. Anyone passing by the huge display of pumpkins on the grounds of Winterville United Methodist Church near the depot on

Pumpkins in Winterville

Pumpkins in Winterville

N. Main Street can actually see the Great Pumpkin now through October 31. For church members, the annual “Pumpkins R Us” project is a fundraiser. Schools may schedule class field trips. All visitors can have their photos taken and will receive a free handout. On October 22, the church will sponsor a Fall Festival among the pumpkins. The festival will include baked goods for sale and other activities.

These pumpkins, which are perfect for carving or making into delicious pies and breads, are for sale. Miniature pumpkins go for just $.50 and many other sizes are available at various prices.

The Great Pumpkin and his/her minions rule right now in the little town of Winterville, Georgia. But only for the next few days. If you’re interested in staking your claim to the perfect pumpkin for the Halloween season, get to the WUMC pumpkin patch soon. This is a limited time invasion. Sometime between now and Halloween, the Great Pumpkin and all the other pumpkins will disappear!

Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch

For more information, visit the Winterville Pumpkin Patch page on their website.

To read more about the Great Pumpkin, go here!

My Breakthrough Column in The Writer Magazine!

My Breakthrough Column in The Writer Magazine!

It’s here!!! Recently, I pulled out a big envelope from my Winterville post office box. Inside, were my two author’s copies of the October 2011 issue of The Writer magazine. The magazine smelled of fresh ink as I flipped through and found my Breakthrough column, “Conference Feedback and an Authentic Voice led the Way to Publication,” on page 14. This compact 700 word column with three sections, “Breakthrough,” “What I learned,” and “Advice,” marked my article-writing debut in this magazine.

I’m a huge fan of The Writer, a monthly trade magazine for writers published by Kalmbach Publishing Company in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It was first established in April 1887 by William H. Hills and Robert Luce, two Boston Globe reporters, as “a monthly magazine to interest and help all literary workers.” Until November 2000, The Writer was published in Boston. Packed with articles that inspire and instruct both aspiring and published writers, it’s the oldest magazine for writers currently being published. I’ve been reading it since the 1980s and feel very honored to see my own Breakthrough article in the pages of this magazine.

If you’ve ever wondered how I got my debut children’s middle grade novel, GONE FROM THESE WOODS, published, the story is here in the pages of The Writer. Pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble or any of the other locations that carry specialized magazines, or subscribe online on The Writer website.

Finding Fiction in Your Own Backyard

Finding Fiction in Your Own Backyard

I’m getting excited about the upcoming Harriette Austin Writers Conference, July 22 – 23, 2011, at the Georgia Center on the University of Georgia campus. My session there, “Finding Fiction in Your Own Backyard,” will be on Saturday, July 23, 10 – 11 am. I’ve presented this same workshop many times. Most recently, I taught “Finding Fiction” at the OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Georgia). Last summer, I flew to Frederick, Maryland, and presented “Finding Fiction,” at the MD/DE/WV region of SCBWI summer conference. OLLI is an organization for retired folks and SCBWI is an organization for writers of children’s literature. So, of course, this workshop is suitable for writers of books and stories for children and young adults, and also for writers of fiction for adults. One difference between previous presentations of Finding Fiction and the one I’ll do at the HAWC, is the length. I usually have l l/2 hours, but the version coming up in a few days will only be an hour long. Most writers will agree that condensing, tightening, and editing are good words, whether they’re connected with workshops or manuscripts.

Listen up. I’m going to tell you a secret. The three handouts for my “Finding Fiction in Your Own Backyard,” are already posted on my website. They’re in PDF format and you’re welcome to take a look and to print out a copy. But remember, the handouts are only a part of my workshop. I hope you’ll consider attending the workshop for the rest. If you’re interested in doing this, go register for the Harriette Austin Writers Conference here.

In addition to my workshop, there are other presenters and sessions that might be of interest to writers of children’s literature. Author Evelyn Coleman will be there, sharing her expertise and experience in the children’s book writing field and in the mystery genre. Mary Kole, an agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency, an agency that is consistently ranked #1 in juvenile sales in Publishers Marketplace, also will talk about children’s books. For writers in other genres, there is an excellent group of presenters, including authors like Terry Kay and Judy Iakvou, editors, and other agents. For more information on presenters, go here.

Okay. Enough said for now. Back to working on my upcoming HAWC workshop. If you have questions, email me or post a comment here. Otherwise, I hope to see you at the Harriette Austin Writers Conference July 23.


Fail As Fast As You Can

Fail As Fast As You Can

Ask any successful creative person you know about failure and chances are they will tell you about rooms papered with rejection slips, countless paintings they painted over, or songs that went nowhere. For most of us, a long road of failure is the path we must take to reach the published novel, the award-winning watercolor, the signature song.

In the Athens, Georgia area, where I (used to) live, Fail As Fast As You Can, or FAFAYC, is the name of a new program for children that teaches concepts such as creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship through fun classes in art, music, dance and foreign languages. Recently, I had a chance to interview the founder, Alexandru Muresan.

Donny: First, why did you pick the name, “Fail As Fast As You Can” for your program? I know creative projects involve many tries and failures, such as the numerous rewrites most authors must do before producing a publishable manuscript, and the many submissions we make to find the one editor or agent who says yes. But I am curious about your selection of FAFAYC as the name of your organization.

Alex: You basically guessed the reason for the name. Everyone fails at some point in their lives, but those who understand that failing is a good thing (as long as you learn from it, and never give up) become successful early on.

Donny: What led you to organize FAFAYC?

Alex: I wanted to create a company that would offer lessons to people; lessons that you’ve always wanted to take and things you’ve always wanted to learn, but never had a chance. In developing the idea, I realized children need exposure to such skills, classes and activities more than anyone else, since they have their whole lives ahead of them. I want every child to know what art is, how important it is to be creative and enjoy your work.

Donny: Tell me more about yourself and others who are involved in the organization.

Alex: I was born in Romania and moved to the US when I was 15. I competed internationally in ballroom dance growing up and continued dancing with an aerial contemporary company throughout college. I recently graduated from UGA with a BBA in Economics and a minor in Dance. I’ve been teaching dance at the University Recreational Sports Center for a couple of years. I started this company on January 1, 2011. I do everything myself, however I also have a very supportive set of instructors, all of them students at UGA. They are very talented and keep the FAFAYC program going. My girlfriend, Taisa, is getting her masters in Professional School Counseling at UGA and she helps me understand children better and is also the photographer for the company.

Donny: Who participates in your classes?

Alex: Right now, we have 11 kids enrolled in the program, and we just started May 2011. We hope to grow to 50 this fall, and expand to Atlanta next year. We’ve gotten a lot of comments and positive responses from particpants and members of the community.

Donny: Tell me about the July 29, 2011 FAFAYC picnic at Sandy Creek Park.

Alex: The picnic is open to the public. It starts at 4 and will end around 8 PM. We are hoping to get a nice group of kids, parents, artists and people interested in helping out, or just having a good time. We’ll have food, drinks, music, raffles, and a good time getting to know everyone. There will be some demos, some skill-building and most of the FAFAYC members and staff will be there.

Donny: Anything else you want readers to know about FAFAYC?

Alex: We’re launching a new product soon called FAFAYC Center. What this means is that we will offer the whole program including instructors, curriculum and materials to daycare centers, schools, and offices as an after-school/add-on program to enhance their ability to share the arts with their children. We’re really excited about this. We plan to expand our reach and once we get to 50 kids, we’ll strive to open new locations in other cities, as well as helping local communities that have no access to the arts. I urge all your readers to come meet us at the Sandy Creek Picnic and to join our FB group, and check out our website:

For more information about the FAFAYC, contact Alex via email: or phone: (478) 919-7323.

From Gone With The Wind to Gone From These Woods

From Gone With The Wind to Gone From These Woods

“Wanna go to a movie?” My grandmother Myrt asked one hot summer day of my childhood. Our Athens movie theaters, The Palace (a parking garage is there now), and the Georgia Theater (newly rebuilt after a devastating fire) were the only air conditioned places I knew back in the late 1950s, when Myrt issued her invitation. So of course I said yes, and climbed into my grandmother’s hot 1950s Ford for the ride up Lexington Road, into town, having no idea as the wind through the open car windows whipped my dark hair into a new, wild hairdo, that I was about to meet Gone With the Wind.
I’d never been to a four-hour movie before. Squirming in my seat next to Myrt, I felt special to be part of such a grown up activity. This wasn’t a kiddie movie, like I saw at the Palace Theater on Saturday mornings. These larger than life men and women were grownups and just being there that day, watching them dramatize Margaret Mitchell’s grown up book, made me feel grown up. So I tried to follow the story. But somewhere along the way, I fell asleep. When I awoke, it was intermission and then there was more movie. A lot more. I fell asleep again, waking up in time to see Bonnie Blue bite the dust. Back home, in my grandmother’s living room, she proudly showed me the GWTW book and boasted that she’d read every page and planned to read it all again. It’s the only book I ever remember her telling me she’d read.

Later on, I read the book, too, and admired every word, even the ones that seemed, well, extra in my teen aged mind. Sometime during my teen aged years, my aunt Judith and I (she’s only three years older than me, so we were more like sisters) visited Stone Mountain Park with my other grandparents (Judith’s parents). We met Butterfly McQueen there. The real “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies, Miz Scarlett, Butterfly McQueen. As I listened to her sweet, distinctive voice talk about the historic home she was leading us through, I had a flashback to the cool Georgia Theater and the larger-than-life Prissy character on the screen and I wished I hadn’t fallen asleep.

Flash forward, from the 1950s to 2007. My new editor, Michelle Poploff, of Random House, is talking to me about titles for my debut children’s middle grade novel. Why do we need a new title? I wondered. I liked my title, D-Man, my protagonist’s superhero nickname, given to him by Uncle Clay. I went into great detail, explaining why I had chosen D-Man as the title and what it meant to Daniel and the story, and to me.

“How about Mouse Creek Road?” Michelle suggested. There is a Mouse Creek Road in my book, named after the road with the same name that runs through Cleveland, Tennessee, where my mother lives. But my book wasn’t about Mouse Creek Road. It was about Daniel, or D-Man, as his uncle called him.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Well, then, let’s go with Gone From These Woods. The words are right in the book. And . . . ” As Michelle talked on about why Gone From These Woods was a good title for my novel, I found myself back in that cool Athens Theater again. Sitting next to my grandmother, trying to pay attention to the story on the big screen, admiring Butterfly and Hattie and Rhett and Scarlet and Melanie and all the other bigger-than-life characters and the magnificent, romantic story unfolding before me. Gone With the Wind. Gone From These Woods. Somehow, it seemed sacrilegious to call my book by a title so similar to Margaret Mitchell’s book. Was this even legal, I wondered? I knew you couldn’t copyright a title, but . . .

My book, Gone From These Woods, was published in 2009 by Random House and reissued as a Yearling paperback in 2011. My grandmother died long before I sold my first book, so she never even knew I was a novelist, much less that I’d someday hear one of those “Yankees” from New York tell me why Gone From These Woods was the perfect name for my book. Michelle didn’t tell me, but I suspect that she must have met GWTW in a dark, cool movie theater of her childhood, too, or maybe she met Scarlett, Rhett and company in the pages of the book.

I take in my movie theater movies these days at the Carmike on Lexington Road with daughter Jenny. It’s always cold in there, and warm, too, as I bask in the company of family, just as I did so long ago, sitting in the Georgia Theater with Myrt. And, yes, I still fall asleep, even during great movies like GWTW and anything Harry Potter. Some things never change.

Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell

Fans of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind are celebrating the book’s 75th anniversary in 2011. My book will be two in August (the published version – I first began writing GFTW around 2005 and carried the idea for the book for many more years). Now, when I hear the title, Gone From These Woods, I remember Margaret Mitchell’s book, proudly displayed in my grandmother’s house, and I feel the cool air of the theater and hear the voices and see the character’s faces on the big screen. My book isn’t a movie (yet), and it’s not nearly as big, in any way, as Margaret’s Mitchell’s classic. But both books are southern and written by southern authors. I’m proud to have the privilege to carry on the tradition and proud to have a book title that reminds me of the book my grandmother loved.

Happy 75th anniversary, Gone With the Wind! And thanks, Margaret Mitchell. What a gift you gave the world.


Harriette Austin Writers Conference is Back!

I’m delighted to tell you this fantastic news: the popular Harriette Austin Writers Conference is back! The 2011 HAC will be held July 22 – 23, 2011, at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education on the University of Georgia campus. This year’s conference has a great line up of speakers and critiquers and the deadline for manuscript critiques is June 20. I’ll be presenting my “Finding Fiction in Your Own Backyard” writing workshop. Other presenters include: Terry Kay, Janell Walden Agyeman, Robert Alan Black, Doris Booth, Tony Burton, Evelyn Coleman, Dac Crossley, Paige Cummings, Susan Dansby, Wally Eberhart, John Fristoe, John Gilstrap, Judy Iakovou, Amanda Luedke, Rebecca McClanahan, Susan Mary Malone, Jackie Lee Miles, David Oates, Kevin O’Brien, Susan Olson, Chuck Sambuchino, Mary Kole, and Beverly Varnado.

Authors Evelyn Coleman and Donny Seagraves

Authors Evelyn Coleman and Donny Seagraves at the 2009 HAWC

My association with the Harriette Austin conference goes way back to the beginning. A call went out to present and former students asking us to contribute writing for a fund-raising calendar that helped finance the first HAWC. I contributed a short story, “Dear Delores,” to that calendar and also attended the first conference. “Dear Delores” has been published and republished many times in magazines, including Seek and The Roswell (NM) Literary Review.  I’ve attended many of the HAWCs, served on a nonfiction panel at an early conference and presented two workshops at the 2009 HAC, which took place about the same time as the publication of my debut novel, Gone From These Woods.

I’ve learned much from HAWC presenters and even acquired my literary agent at a Harriette Austin conference. I’ve also enjoyed seeing Harriette herself, a quiet, encouraging presence at the conference with her name. This inspiring teacher is now celebrating over 90 years of living, writing, encouraging, teaching, guiding, helping, and enjoying the publication success of a growing number of students in her writing classes at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education and attendees at 16 Harriette Austin Writers Conferences.  All the pertinent conference information is here. Check it out. Sign up. Submit your manuscript. Who knows. You might be the next HAWC success story. See you there.

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