I’ve never lived anywhere that could remotely be considered Southern.
But I’ve always loved reading Southern fiction. So when I first heard about Glory Be (Scholastic, 2012), a middle-grade novel set in Hanging Moss, Mississippi, I knew it was something I should check out.
And I am so glad I did.
The book is about the summer of 1964. Gloriana June Hemphill — known as Glory – will turn 12. Suddenly, she’s faced with an array of changes and questions she never had to consider before. Her relationship with her sister is changing. So is her relationship with her best friend.
And people in town are choosing sides in a debate about what should become of the town’s segregated pool.
All in all, it’s not the summer Glory imagined — or wanted — in any way.
This is author Augusta Scattergood’s debut novel, and I am thrilled that she is joining Read, Write, Repeat today to tell us more about it.
You’ve said you started writing this book after Ruby Bridges visited the school where you worked as a librarian. Had you thought about writing books for kids before? Or was that moment an epiphany for you?
I’m sure a lot of librarians dream of seeing their own books on a library shelf someday. Maybe an occupational hazard? I’d always written— letters, newsletters, reports, book reviews. But an actual book, with a book jacket, an ISBN number, a dedication and author’s note, all those chapters? I’m not sure I’d considered how much hard work that actually involved. Maybe that’s a good thing!
When I heard Ruby Bridges say she thought things might have been quite different for her had the adults stepped out of the way gave me a beginning. That’s the moment I realized GLORY BE was a story I could tell.
How did being a librarian help you, or hinder you, as you wrote this book?
I certainly felt the stakes were pretty high! I knew the best literature, and that could have been intimidating. But I always advise anybody who wants to write to read a lot. I think the benefits of being a librarian who read great books outweighed the hindrances.
Walk us through GLORY BE’s path to publication. I read that this started out as a short story and evolved from there.
I started thinking about a card game my younger sister and I played when we were kids. During the summers, we were trapped in our rooms in the hottest part of each day, supposedly napping. We dreamed up a card game played with our collected “junk.” Those Junk Poker boxes were the visual image I remembered when I thought about the sisters’ relationship.
At that time, I was also planning my daughter’s wedding. My short story was going to be about two little girls and their wedding planner/church organist babysitter. Fortunately, I took a different path!
I wrote the first draft during a class at The New School in New York. It was a writers’ workshop, a weekly class with an amazing teacher Margaret (Bunny) Gabel. When she read aloud a chapter of the then-inaptly-titled Junk Poker, and I heard the responses, I was encouraged to continue.
About seven years later, after sending it hither and yon, getting the requisite number of rejections, putting it in a drawer, working on something new, I met an agent at a Maryland SCBWI event. A year later, she took on Glory Be and sold it to Andrea Pinkney at Scholastic.
What’s that they say? Ten years to overnight success. That would be me. Ha.
This is your debut novel. Now that the book is out, how is being a published author different than you anticipated?
I don’t think in a million years I could have imagined what fun/work/excitement this could be. Although I’d heard a lot of writers describe publishing their first books (from my many years of hosting Author Visits and attending writing events), it’s still hard to explain what it feels like just to hold a book that you wrote and know it’s touching so many young readers.
I think the best part may be the responses I’ve gotten from kids, parents and teachers who’ve discovered Glory. I even met someone who’s reading it aloud to her grandmother and her friends in their assisted living facility. She tells me they love the story. You can’t imagine—or predict— how that will feel.
What advice would you have for writers working to sell their first book? What do you know now that you wish you had known earlier?
My biggest mistake was sending the manuscript out before it was ready. I didn’t know what “ready” meant. It was free of typos and any kind of obvious mistakes. It was formatted perfectly. Everybody loved the characters, the voice, the setting. It just didn’t yet have a plot to match, or enough conflict and emotion. That was something I needed to learn, the hard way. Patience is a virtue. There is something to that 10-year thing!
Thanks for visiting!
You can learn more about Glory Be and Augusta by visiting her website or reading her blog.