Mignon Ballard is one of my favorite people as well as one of my favorite authors. From her early stand-alones to the slightly quirky Augusta Goodnight series and the thoroughly charming Miss Dimple series, Mignon nails it every time. Now she’s turned her hand to young adult fiction. This is clearly a woman who can provide useful advice about writing!
1.What prompted you to write about the removal of Cherokee along with other tribes from their native lands?
I grew up in Calhoun, GA, a little over three miles from the site of New Echota, the last capital of the Cherokee Nation. After the removal in the late 1830’s, little remained except the Worcester House, which had fallen into disrepair. In the 1950’s, archeologists began excavations to reveal actual locations of old buildings and roads, and I have been fascinated by it ever since. When I moved back to my hometown several years ago I began to volunteer there and am honored to serve on the board.
2.What is NOT in the book that readers might find interesting? (Deleted scene, background information, etc)
My father, Bernard Franklin, was born in 1888 in a log cabin located elsewhere in the county that later became a tenant property. Although no Cherokees ever lived in it, the cabin was built during the same period as the early years of New Echota, and it was my father’s wish for it to be removed from his property and relocated there. It now serves as the middleclass Cherokee farmstead. The old building was taken apart log by log, losing one room in the process, and I am told that it was during this time they discovered a page of someone’s homework behind the mantel. It was said to have had algebra on one side and Latin on the other. Since both my grandmother and my great grandmother were teachers, it’s possible it might have belonged to one of their students. At any rate, it makes a good story.
3. Best advice you received about writing / publishing? And the worst?
The worst advice I ever received – and I’ve received plenty – was from people who discouraged me when I first began to write. (Oh, editors never read unsolicited manuscripts…only experienced writers become published, etc.) If I had listened to them, I never would have sent out the first query.
Some of my best advice I received in journalism school at UGA to be frugal with my words.
I believe the most valuable contributing factor in my writing experience was the opportunity to belong to a writer’s workshop. We called ours the Charlotte Wednesday Writers Workshop and our small group was formed from a group of serious writers in the Charlotte (NC) Writers Club. We met and critiqued one another once a month for over thirty years and still remain good friends. I consider that experience my equivalent to a graduate degree in creative writing.
“I was sure to be scalped – chopped into little pieces with a tomahawk. Well, it would serve them right if I died.
Although I’d rather not.”
In the autumn of 1832 eleven-year-old Nell Webb travels by covered wagon from her home in the small village of Athens, Georgia, to the Cherokee capital of New Echota in the northern end of the state. Because of family circumstances, it has become necessary for her to live for a time with her uncle, a printer, and his Cherokee wife, and attend school with the children there.
Instead of the expected teepees and mud huts, Nell is greeted by a wide main street leading through a town square bordered by neat frame buildings. At first homesick and resentful, Nell’s friendship with her Cherokee classmate, Callie, and the kindness of her aunt, uncle, and others, lead her not only to a deeper understanding, but respect and affection for a people she once considered primitive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
NO WORD FOR GOODBYE is my 22nd published book and the second for middle grade readers. Seven mysteries in the Augusta Goodnight series were followed by five set during WWII featuring first grade teacher, Miss Dimple Kilpatrick. My last, Miss Dimple and the Slightly Bewildered Angel, features both series title characters. Nine stand-alone books include The Christmas Cottage, The War in Sallie’s Station, Minerva Cries Murder, Final Curtain, The Widow’s Woods, Deadly Promise, Cry at Dusk, Raven Rock, and my only other book for young readers, Aunt Matilda’s Ghost.
I live in my hometown of Calhoun GA, where I volunteer at New Echota, the restored capital of the Cherokee Nation, a few miles from my home.