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Friday, November 30, 2012

Welcome, Shannon Hitchcock

(Shannon doing what we all do in Florida, enjoying the sunshine!)
It's a wonder our paths didn't cross before Florida. She grew up in North Carolina, a state I feel a real fondness for. Then she lived up the road from me in New Jersey. 

But we connected over writing and SCBWI and books when we first met in Tampa Bay. 
Shannon Hitchcock's first novel. THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, just came out from Namelos. 
I loved every word of it. 
Richard Peck says she's recreated the "daily drama of a vanished world." So true! 

She agreed to answer a few questions about the book and her journey. And guess what? She's giving away a signed copy of the book to a commenter here or on Facebook.

Thanks for coming, Shannon. Here we go! 

Augusta: In my past career as both a school librarian and a reference librarian in a public library, I was frequently asked to recommend books for Book Groups. I see this novel as a great choice for a Mother Daughter Book Club, or even a women's group.

Can you think of a couple of discussion questions those groups might focus on?

In the first line of the book, “Sometimes when the kerosene lamp casts shadows, I think I see Ma’s ghost,” we learn that Jessie’s mother is dead. How do Jessie’s memories of her ma influence her actions throughout the book? Do you see any similarities with the relationship you have with your own mother?

Great answer. Great quote, too.
How about " book food" they might serve! (Maybe not corn pone.) Do you have any family favorites to share?

Shannon: We Southerners love a good pound cake! Make mine chocolate.

Augusta: Yum! 
I know you have a curriculum guide and lots of teaching ideas. How do you see your book used in a classroom setting?

Shannon: I posed this question to Keely Hutton, an eighth grade ELA teacher, and she has a great answer: “With THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, you have the perfect opportunity to tie in non-fiction pieces about the time period, TB, women’s rights and roles in family/society, healthcare during epidemics, and historically what was happening during those years in the US and the world.”

Augusta: So many opportunities for classes who read your book. I know you'll be speaking to school groups. Describe your ideal class visit.

Shannon: Ideally the teacher and I would have worked together beforehand so that each student would have a family story to share. I would talk about how my son’s eighth grade history project inspired my book, about the 1920’s, rural North Carolina, tuberculosis etc., and give the students a chance to share their family stories with me.

Augusta: I think that story about your son's class project is pretty remarkable.

I loved how strongly you portrayed the characters. You write with such emotion and it shows in how they react to situations. For writers, do you have any tips about getting to that emotional depth?

Shannon: Don’t overwrite. Trust your readers “to get it.” I have the tendency to overdo it and my brilliant editor, Stephen Roxburgh, reminds me that less is more.

Augusta: There are a lot of us who could use a needlepoint of that thought!
If you were Book Talking this book, as school librarians often do, what would be the 1-minute take on Jessie Pearl?

Shannon: THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL is about the terror of tuberculosis, the thrill of young love, and a desire to see the world beyond your own hometown.

Augusta: What were your favorite books to read in middle and high school? Do you think those books influenced you to be a writer?

Shannon: Oh my yes! I loved the Little House on the Prairie books and HEIDI GROWS UP. The villainess, Liza Phillips, in my book is based on the two characters I loved to hate when I was younger: Nellie Olson from the Little House books and Liza Colby from the now defunct soap opera All My Children. When I was growing up, I watched soap operas with my granny. Honey, I told you I am Southern!

Augusta: So did I! She called them "my stories." We were particularly fond of As The World Turns.

When you were writing the novel, did you have a reader in mind?

Shannon: Not really. I wrote a book that I would enjoy reading. I’d like to be the Jan Karon or Lisa Wingate of YA literature.

Augusta: Who is your ideal reader? Teen girls, their moms, middle-graders, literary types? A younger version of yourself? All of the above?

Shannon: I don’t have an ideal reader. Anybody who enjoys my book is a newfound friend.

So true! Thanks for those great answers, Shannon. 
You can check out Shannon's website for more information:
Now it's your turn, blog readers. Just leave me a comment and you, too, could read this remarkable book.

Let's keep this going until December 7. That way, you'll have time to read it and still wrap it up for holiday giving. Though you will probably want to keep this forever and buy more for gifts! 
It's that good.



Susan said...

Great interview, Augusta. I loved the southern connection and now I'm even more eager to read the book. Congratulations, Shannon! Best of luck with Jessie Pearl. It sounds like a winner to me.

P.S. Will there be chocolate pound cake at the launch party? :>

Grannys Attic said...

Great job Augusta and Shannon, I could here that southern voice as I was reading each line. Best of luck Shannon and that pound cake sounds wonderful.I bet it is made with real homemade butter right from the cow!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Shannon, this sounds like a lovely book that has captured the southern voice. Thanks for the interview, Augusta!

sophiesmom said...

Your blog helps me keep up with the special books I need to read. I am going to recommend Jessie Pearl to my daughter's book club. Are you listening, Debbie Salsbury Dietrick?

sophiesmom said...

Thank you for helping me keep up with the writing world and all these worthwhile books to read, Augusta. I am going to recommend Jessie Pearl to my daughter's writing club.

Wild About Words said...

Hooray, Shannon. Your book sounds terrific. Can't wait to read it. Plan to have you autograph it at the January SCBWI Conference in Miami. Augusta, thanks for sharing this great interview!

PragmaticMom said...

I will check out for my daughter's book clubs. Looks great!

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks, everybody! Keep the comments coming. And click over to Shannon's own blog today for her family recipe for chocolate pound cake!

Carol Baldwin said...

Nice interview; I'm looking forward to reading my copy of the ARC.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Also love this book. And sure I want to win a copy! So sign me up!

Augusta Scattergood said...

You are all entered! Keep the comments coming.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

What a great interview, you two! Loved it. Course, I love all things Southern. ;-) And chocolate pound cake? I'm so in and headed over for the recipe! Thanks bunches!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

P.S. Any relation to Alfred Hitchcock? I gotta ask!

Sheila said...

Hello Augusta and Shannon,

Thanks to both of you for a wonderful interview. I've already read Shannon's book and recommend it to everyone. It's a realistic and touching story that reminds me of the family tales my mother used to tell.

Pk Hrezo said...

LOL Shannon, I watched soaps with my granny too! And Little House is my all time fave show!! :D

Augusta Scattergood said...

Susan- You're the winner! Let me know where to send the book!

jonny said...

down-to-earth life struggles combine with inspiring generosity of spirit in this uplifting debut.