Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Classics Challenge: Margaret Mitchell

"Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect." ~Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell, writer and journalist, was an American southerner through and through. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Mitchell spent her childhood writing adventure stories and using cardboard as makeshift covers. Her talents extended to drama where, in high school, she directed and acted in plays she wrote.

Mitchell married in 1922 to Berrien Kinard Upshaw, breaking our Classics Challenge's trend of umarried female writers. Unfortunately, Berrien left for the midwest four months later and was never heard from again. But that didn't stop Mitchell from falling in love a second time! In 1925, Mitchell married Robert March (who did not go out west, in case you were wondering).

During the period from 1922 to 1925, Mitchell was an active journalist, penning over 130 articles. Until...

A broken ankle cut Mitchell's journalist career short. At the time, Mitchell must have been heartbroken, but if weren't for that broken ankle, we wouldn't have the book (and movie adaptation) so many readers love today.

That's right! While recovering from her broken ankle, Mitchell wrote "Gone With the Wind." The novel was an overnight success, the film based on her novel debuting three years later.

Sadly, "Gone With the Wind" was Mitchell's single literary work. During WWII, Mitchell served in the Red Cross and was unable to write. In 1949, she was struck by a car while crossing the street. 

She died five days later at the age of forty-eight.

Writerly Things to Learn from Margaret Mitchell:

1. Writing is in the blood. Just like Margaret, writers talk about how they've been writing stories since childhood. (I too can claim this. I just pray my earliest works are never published. I'm looking at you, Sailor Moon fanfiction) Which means, no matter how frustrating writing can be, we're called to it. Basically, we can't escape the words. Sorry.

2. Your next book could be your biggest hit. "Gone With the Wind" started from very humble beginnings. In fact, Margaret Mitchell penned it on an old sewing table. Yet it went on to become a Pulitzer Award success.

3. Write your own way. Know-it-alls (myself included) tout theories on the best way to write. Feel free to ignore them! Mitchell wrote the last chapter of "GWTW" first and then the others randomly!

4. Always, always edit your work. Once "GWTW" was finished, Mitchell didn't start sending out copies. She did lots and lots of tweaking. Scenes were cut or rephrased and characters' names were tweaked. Bet you didn't know our beloved Scarlett started out as Pansy! Imagine how different the book would've been with a snobby, full-of-herself southern belle with the name Pansy!

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