In September of this year, I attended the Table Rock Writers Workshop at Wildacres Retreat off the Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC.My favorite part of this type of writing experience is meeting other writers and hearing their stories. I am delighted to have met Anna Jean (A.J.) Mayhew at this workshop.
During the first few minutes of conversation A.J. confessed that she was on cloud nine. She had just received a call and learned her book, The Dry Grass of August, published in 2011, was in it’s ninth printing. No wonder her head was in the clouds. Mayhew’s first book was doing well and she had a contract for a second.
I was impressed with this news. A.J. is a woman who has seen her seventieth birthday. We all know the publishing business is after the under 49 demographic. I could hardly believe the traditional publishing world would give a mature woman who was not already a successful writer, a two book contract.
This novel is set in her hometown of Charlotte, NC back in the fifties. It was inspired by her memories of growing up in the segregated south of the United States. She hasn't lived in Charlotte since 1985, but discovered that all she wanted to write about was Charlotte.
I relate to her thinking.
I now live in the beautiful mountains of NC, but I write from my memories of growing up and life in southwest Georgia. Even the best memories are not always complete, and we need to do research to get the feel of those days, to remind ourselves of how things were then. Whether writing fiction as A.J. Mayhew does, or writing memoir, we want our facts correct. See below how she researched her books.
This is a quote by A.J. from an interview on the Hambidge blog.
Both for Dry Grass—set in 1954—and Tomorrow’s Bread—set in the mid 1960s—I’ve collected popular magazines of the time (Look, Life, Time, etc); browsing through them gives me a feel for life back then. I use many libraries, including the Carolina Room of the Charlotte Public Library, Perkins Library at Duke, Wilson at Carolina, etc. I’m leery of using the ’net, and I double-check everything I find there. However, the Internet has been incredibly valuable in leading me to sources.
We as writers should do as this author does and not depend on the Internet entirely, but use it to find sources we trust.
Find A.J. Mayhew’s book, The Dry Grass of August, in your bookstores and online. I have seen nothing but good reviews.