Chapter one of my life story begins in Athens, Georgia where I was born. In the picture, I’m sitting in the back yard of our house on Indiana Avenue with my younger brother Mike. We loved that shady back yard. It was our playhouse and our sanctuary.
Looking at this scene, I can still smell the pine trees and feel my bare feet running across the pine straw to the brick lattice fence that you can see in the background. Mom told me not to spy on the neighbors through the holes in the fence. Of course I looked through the small, square fence openings every day.
One day, I saw our neighbor, Alan Matthews, skinning a rabbit he’d just shot in the woods. I never forgot the scene or how it made me feel that long ago day in my Georgia childhood.
I didn’t want to shoot a rabbit that cold November morning . . . Most men and boys I knew –and even some girls –lived to hunt wild game in the North Georgia woods that surrounded Newtonville. But not me. One day when I was five, I came up on Dad and his younger brother, Clay, skinning some rabbits they’d just killed in Sartain Woods. I tried not to breathe in the dead smell as Dad’s big, rough hands ripped a rabbit’s fur off like it was a candy bar wrapper. Right then, I decided hunting wasn’t for me.–Gone From These Woods, Chapter One, page one.
Mrs. Doster, my fourth and fifth grade teacher at Oconee Street School, encouraged me to write. I began penning poems. While my classmates played softball in the tiny field behind the lunchroom, I would sit on the stoop and write poems about the moon and animals and whatever else had caught my fancy. Eventually, poems turned into stories and later on books.
At Athens High School, I took a journalism class and was named to the newspaper staff during my senior year. As Art Editor, I had to produce an editorial page cartoon for each Thumb Tack Tribune issue. I also got to write articles every now and then. The photo is from the yearbook. I’m typing an article (in the days before computers). Those are my friend and fellow staff member Margaret Damato’s legs.
After graduating from Athens High School, I attended the University of Georgia where I majored in Journalism. I also wrote a lot of short stories during that time, worked at my first job as a grocery store cashier, and married my husband Phillip.
I had many jobs after I left school. One was office payroll clerk in a sprawling, historic mill building by the Oconee River in downtown Athens. This old building also was a practice spot for many of the early Athens, Georgia bands. Across the road was the old church where the band REM began. I have childhood memories of playing in that church yard while my mother visited a friend in the house next door. I dreamed up some scary stories using that place as a setting.
Other jobs included bookkeeper, psychology department secretary at the University of Georgia, Claims Development Clerk at the Social Security District Office, church secretary and newsletter editor, temporary City Clerk, City Councilmember, Mayor Pro-tem, and Acting Mayor. For many years, I worked as a freelance writer. During that time, I wrote newspaper columns, first for the Athens Observer, then for the Athens Daily News. Later I began to write and publish articles, short stories and poems in Athens Magazine, Grit, Mature Living, The Chicago Tribune, The Roswell (NM) Literary Journal, North Georgia Literary Review, The Writer and many other regional and national publications.
In 1998 I opened my business, Junebug Books, selling used, out-of-print, and rare books online. I started with eBay, then added the Advanced Book Exchange, Alibris and Biblio. When Amazon opened their website to third party booksellers, I was one of the first to sign up. Later I changed the name of my business to Junebug Books and Collectibles. When my husband retired and joined the business, we also added the Phil’s Retro website and began using that name as collectibles and cool retro items became our biggest sellers.
We still operate the books and collectibles’ business today. To visit our website, go here.
2009 was my lucky year! After writing articles, stories, and book manuscripts for many years, I sat down to write book number ten. I had many rejections over the years and had even been told that I would never sell a Southern novel to a big New York publisher.
This time, I decided to write the book I wanted to write in my own authentic Southern voice (actually, in my own authentic Georgian voice). At an SCBWI writers’ conference, I listened to Michelle Poploff, Executive Editor and VP of Random House, make encouraging comments about my book’s beginning in the First Pages session. “This reminds me of a Gary Paulsen novel, she said.” After the conference, I polished the first chapter and sent it to Michelle. A few weeks later I got the call all writers dream of. To learn more about how I got published, read my article in The Writer magazine.
Gone From These Woods is a children’s middle grade and young adult novel for children and readers 9 and older. In 2009, Delacorte Press published GFTW as a hardback and in 20011 Random House Children’s Books released it as a Yearling paperback. Gone From These Woods also is available as an e-book for Kindle and other e-book formats. The hardback, paperback, and library editions of GFTW are out of print but may be found in used and remaindered copies on sites like Amazon.com. The e-book version is also still available.
I have presented at writers’ conferences, including the Harriette Austin Writers Conference, the Northwest Georgia Valley Writers Conference, and the SCBWI MD/DE/WV summer conference in Maryland. I have spoken and/or conducted workshops at book festivals and trade shows and other venues, including The Souther Festival of Books, The AJC Decatur Book Festival, The Oscher Lifelong Learning Institute, The Georgia Reading Association and SIBA, plus many schools. I love to meet readers and other writers and am available to teach writing workshops.
You will find more about me in Something About the Author, Volume 224, Facts and Figures About Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young People and in Contemporary Authors, volume(s) 311, published by Gale.
To read my bio, go here.
There’s information about Gone From These Woods here.