June 14, 2015

Melanie Atkins and Mississippi



My home state is Mississippi. Right now, I'm on my back porch listening to countless songbirds, a few croaking tree frogs, and a gaggle of honking geese flying over to another pond in search of food. My home is in a growing suburb of Jackson, our capital city, in an area that's not quite rural nor heavily suburban, a place where I feel safe and happy. A place that has changed immensely and yet not enough over the past hundred years or so.

Mississippi has a rich history and an even richer literary heritage, including the likes of William Faulker, Eudora Welty, and Barry Hannah, to name just a few of of the famous authors who once called my state home. This past Christmas, a friend and I ventured into the capital city to participate in a free Candlelight Tour of half a dozen historic homes and such near downtown. The tour began at the governor's mansion and included the Manship House, the Department of Archives and History, and the Eudora Welty House Education and Visitors Center, to name a few.  What a wonderful glimpse into the past. Each place was decorated for the holidays, and a few even boasted refreshments.
I enjoyed our stop at the Eudora Welty House Education and Visitors Center the most. Ms. Welty (1901-2001) grew up in Jackson in the house next door to the visitors center and attended the same schools as my father, albeit a few years earlier. He often told me stories about seeing her around town. Her home has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. You can see pictures of it and read more about it here: http://eudorawelty.org/the-house/.

Eudora Welty graduated from what is now Mississippi University for Women in 1927 and completed her graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University in New York. She graduated from Columbia at the height of the Depression, when jobs were scarce, and had trouble finding work in New York City, so she returned home to Mississippi. She soon landed a job with the WPA, criss-crossing the state and meeting many interesting characters, some of whom later became the focus of her novels and short stories.

She published her first short story in 1936, and many more followed. Her short story collection A Curtain of Green, released in 1941, brought her a plethora of accolades and helped to grow her readership. She published her first full length novel, Delta Wedding, in 1946. One of her later novels, The Optimist's Daughter, published in 1972, earned her the Pulitzer Prize. Not one for praises, Ms. Welty tucked the Pulitzer away with all of her other honors, and none saw the light of day again until after her death, when workers found them in the top of her closet.

So many stories, and photographs, too. Ms. Welty was also an accomplished photograper, and many of her photos of life in Mississippi in the mid-20th century were included in the book Eudora Welty as Photographer, released in 2009. You may view some of her photographs here: http://eudorawelty.org/life-works/photography-art/. She was truly an artist.

I'm proud to hail from the same state as Ms. Welty. My work is much more commercial than hers and takes place in a different era, but I still look up to her. She helped to put Mississippi on the literary map and proved that women could be successful in a field crowded with men at a time when many were not. My stories, like hers, take place in the Deep South. Many of them are based in Mississippi, including Sealing His Fate, the second book in my Bayou Bounty Hunter series.

Blurb:
Miranda Gibson will do anything to find her children after her abusive ex-husband kidnaps them whisks them off to parts unknown. The cops won't help, because Harper comes off as a nice guy. A family man. He impressed the youth court judge with his fast talk, and the man gave him joint custody. So Miranda is forced to beg a private investigator to go after her kids.

Riley Magee started Bayou Bounty Hunters, Inc. because he likes helping people, but he isn't a law breaker. So when a distraught mother asks him to find her kidnapped kids but tells him her ex-husband has joint custody, he refuses to help. Then he learns Harper has abused her in the past and changes his mind… only to balk again when Miranda insists on going with him.

Time is running out. Miranda fears Harper may take the kids out of the country, so when Riley refuses to help, she decides to go after them alone. A phone call from Miranda's terrified son causes Riley to change his mind, as long as she promises to stay out of his way and let him do his job. To bring the children home safely, the two of them must forge a workable peace… a difficult, if not impossible, task.


Please leave a comment here for your chance at at $10.00 Amazon Gift Card!  

You can read more about Sealing His Fate here: http://amzn.to/1aJSy5E and check out my website here: http://www.melanieatkins.com and my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/melanie.atkins
(all info provided by author.)

6 comments:

Rachel E. Moniz said...

Hi Melanie!
Great blog about my 'second home' state. I split my time between RI and MS (near Hattiesburg) and I do love it. Thank you for sharing and showing a side of MS that people don't often know.
Rachel E. Moniz

Melanie Atkins said...

Thanks, Rachel! I want people to know about Mississippi's rich literary heritage.

Linda Swift said...

I enjoyed your blog today, Melanie. I had the opportunity to hear Eudora Welty speak at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga in the late 70's. In my mind's eye I can still see her plain pink polyester dress (which everyone wore then) and white low-heeled shoes. She was slender and appeared rather tall. I was impressed with what a "down home" person she was in spite of her fame. I have always loved her books and she and other Southern women writers were my inspiration to become a writer. I will check out the links you have posted for more information about Ms. Welty. Thank you for focusing on Mississippi's "literary greats."

Sylvia Rochester said...

Hi, neighbor and friend. Enjoyed your article, and I always look forward to news of your latest release.

Fiona McGier said...

I've never been to Mississippi and had no idea it had produced so many great writers. Thanks for a peek into somewhere I'll have to visit some day.

Debbie Kump said...

Melanie,

I loved the sounds of nature in your opening paragraph and enjoyed reading this interesting story of another writer from Mississippi. Good luck with your writing!