A to Z Dedicated to Margaret Mitchell


APRIL 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for author Margaret Mitchell, the rebellious flapper, popular coed, but extremely shy writer.

She penned Gone With The Wind after medical problems left her housebound. She was a voracious reader, sometimes reading up to three books a day. 

Her husband John Marsh was her editor, and his belief in her ability pushed her forward.

I think most any writer can empathize with this talented woman. Margaret grew up at a time when her education was less important than family obligations, she left college and returned home, just to run her father’s household. 

Margaret was widely read and wrote Gone With The Wind because she hated the way the south was portrayed in most of the books of her time. Accuracy and historical fact was paramount in the creation of GWTW down to the individual dialects. 

Margaret had an imagination that was unequaled, and she created one of the Greatest American Novels, and then almost collapsed under the weight of the admiration and criticism.

I hope you enjoy this journey from A to Z all about the writing, publishing, and the off the charts marketing, of Margaret Mitchell and her novel Gone With The Wind


Fact #1 : Author Margaret Mitchell was known to her friends as Peggy, or Peg.
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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for biography – and the old cliché ‘be careful what you wish for.’ 

Margaret Mitchell wanted her work destroyed upon her death, but she died young, only forty eight. (1900 -1949)

Her husband, John Marsh, followed her wishes and burned most of her documents in a burn barrel outside their home shortly after her death. He destroyed, short stories, the beginning of another novel, plays, and most all of her personal papers. Although, he held back proof of his wife’s authorship of the novel, Gone With The Wind, and those documents are now at the University of Georgia Hargrett Library. 


In a codicil to his will, John wrote:

“My wife, Margaret Mitchell Marsh, wanted her private papers destroyed. She did not wish them to fall into the hands of strangers. She believed that an author should stand or fall before the public, on the basis of the author’s published work. She believed that little was ever gained from studying an author’s manuscript and private papers, and that more often than not, this led to false and misleading conclusions. . . .” *

But letters began to surface, letters she'd written to friends, and family, even a short story written at sixteen (Lost Laysen). However, even those could not be published without the original author’s permission, or that of her surviving family, and that didn’t come until after the death of her brother, Stephens Mitchell. Stephens followed his sisters wishes until his death, but his sons gave permission, and the short story, Lost Laysen, and A Dynamo Going To Waste: Letters To Allen Edee, using Margaret’s name were published.

Margaret wanted to be judged solely on her work, but sadly, the very thing she tried to avoid, happened. One biographer judged her as frigid, because of letters she wrote as a teenager, and the characters she created in Gone With The Wind. This same biographer claimed she was a lover of pornography, because she read Lady Chatterley's Lover, or books by Fanny Hill, Jurgen, and others. 

Scandalous, no, just sad. But consider what your reading or viewing habits say about you? How would a letter you wrote at a time of deep stress be analyzed fifty or sixty years after your death?

My suggestion, write an autobiography. If you don’t want strangers deciding who you are based on an interview with ‘friends,’ ‘distant family,’ and letters that you wrote when you were a teenager, get ahead of the game. Even if you don't publish it, at least leave it as testament to the real you. 

Something to consider . . . just saying.


Fact #2: Margaret Mitchell's brother, Stephens, authorized Finis Farr to write her biography in 1965.
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Criticism and many of the Insecure Writers Support Group posts are about criticism and its effects. As writers, we’re told to grow alligator skin to make it through the process of submission and rejection, and Margaret Mitchell, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Gone With The Wind was no different.

Margaret almost did not submit Gone With The Wind because of her fear of disparagement. Thank god, there was that one moment where she took a chance and handed her manuscript to Harold Latham, a vice-president of Macmillan Publishing Company. 

However, she only gave the novel to Latham because a friend challenged her ability to write a book. In other words, it was because of criticism, that she bundled it up and took it to the hotel where Latham was staying. She had the individual chapters in envelopes and had so many Latham had to buy a suitcase to carry it in on the train. He began reading it on that train, and immediately sent word that he wanted it. 

But once Gone With The Wind was published, her life changed dramatically, and distressing is the word Margaret used to describe the attention she received. In her own words: 

                   “ . . . I have been caught between two equally distasteful positions, that of the girlishly shy creature who keeps protesting her lack of desire for the limelight but who only wants to be urged. And that of a graceless, ungracious, blunt-spoken ingrate who refuses to let people do her honor . . . very distressing to me. I was brought up to consider it better to commit murder than be rude and it is hard to depart from Mother’s teachings.” **

Fans bombarded her, and she answered their questions and their criticisms through letters, but she drew the line when they knocked on her door, and many did. Margaret Mitchell made few public appearances, and only as a favor to close friends. 

Margaret loved her solitude, wanted her privacy. It was hard to achieve. She resented the negative press, the rumors, and fought them the only way she knew how, via her letters, she wrote thousands, and some claim it was because of this time consuming correspondence that she never wrote that second book.

What will your letters, emails, texts, blog posts – not to mention your creative writing, say about you? 

As for me – oh my, oh dear, oh sh--!


Fact #3: Margaret Mitchell received a $500 advance and 10 percent of the royalties; Gone With The Wind was 1037 pages long, was sold for $3/book, and then sold over 1 million copies in six months.
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Thursday, April 4, 2013


D is for DAMN as in "My dear, I don't give damn."  
This is how Margaret ended the book, but her publisher asked her to 'strengthen the last page.' Margaret did her best to comply, but insisted: 

"I'll change it any way you want, except to make a happy ending." 
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Or if you prefer the movie version, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Fact # 4: Gone With The Wind was one name on a list of 22 names for the book. Margaret had no title when she gave the novel to Macmillan, it was  simply called 'A Novel about the South.' Although, she did provide a list of names that included:

Another Day

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Tote That Weary Load

Milestones

Ba! Ba! Blacksheep

Jettison

None So Blind

Not In Our Stars

Bugles Sang True



#17 was  

*Gone With The Wind



Margaret had put a star beside it and wrote "I'll agree to any one of these you like, but I like this one the best." She actually got the title from Ernest Dowson's poem "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae." ***

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Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Edee: Allen Barnett Edee, Jr. a young man Margaret Mitchell met when she was at Smith College in 1918-19. They were friends and she wrote to him consistently for two and a half years, but sadly we don’t get to read his letters to her.

Allen and Margaret met during a very sad time for Margaret, her betrothed, Lt. Clifford Henry was killed in the France during WWI, and then six months later her mother died of influenza.  Allen became a close friend, one she confided in, but sadly these letters are picked through for their most questionable wording by biographers to prove their contention that she was a vamp. When in reality her letters show an innocent young girl of 19 / 21 discovering herself, men, and responsibility.

These letters were found long after Margaret and Allen were dead. They were published in 1985 with the permission of  Eugene and Joseph Mitchell the sons of Stephens Mitchell, Margaret’s brother.

I highly recommend the book, A Dynamo Going To Waste: Letters To Allen Edee 1919-1921, if you want to know a little more about an amazing writer from her own words. She is funny, adventurous, and I got the feeling that she was very much in ‘like’ with Allen

She labeled herself “A Dynamo Going To Waste” in a letter she wrote to Allen in 1920, after she left school to return home and take care of her father’s household.  She was searching for her place in the world. How biographers or psychologists can infer anything about the ‘woman’ from these letters, baffles me.

They did discover this statement written by Allen in a diary, about Margaret: 

“Wonderfully introspective, imaginative mind. One of the sweetest, frankest, most lovable girls I’ve ever met, after 3 years.”***

Her final letter to him, stated: 

“Tell your family that they might have enhanced your college career with a Ford coupe – even as they do your brother’s! Anyway, we did pretty well at Hamp, considering everything!” She also signed it “Love, Peg.” ***

Fact #5: In 1937, Gone With The Wind won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Novel.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013
 
F is for flapper, a role that Margaret Mitchell took on with enthusiasm. 

The decade of the 20’s was known as the Jazz Age, and the term flapper was used to describe women who embraced the changes, such as the right to vote, hold down jobs, smoke, drink, and dance to the ‘new’ Jazz tunes. WWI was over and the attitude was to live life to the fullest. 

Margaret was trying to find her place in a vastly changed world. The southern reserve and the party atmosphere of the Jazz age was like a mine field and many of the things she did earned her the disapproval of family members, especially her grandmother.

From personal experience, disappointing someone as special as a grandmother is heartbreaking. Margaret moved back home to take on the household management and at the same time her maternal grandmother moved into the home with them. Annie Elizabeth Fitzgerald Stephens believed in the old ways while the young Margaret wanted to explore the ‘new world.’

It is so sad that she lost her mother early, her mother was truly a woman before her time, and she and Margaret were very close. She told Margaret, “. . . for God’s sake, go to school and learn something that will stay with you. The strength of a woman’s hands isn’t worth anything but what they’ve got in their heads will carry them as far as they need to go.” ***

Margaret regretted not finishing college, but after the success of Gone With The Wind, she did receive an honorary degree from Smith College.

Fact #6: It took Margaret Mitchell ten years to write Gone With The Wind 1926 – 1936. Margaret began writing as soon as she could hold a pen. She loved writing plays and preformed them for family and friends.
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Monday, April 8, 2013


G is for Gone With The Wind the movie!



Movie Facts #7:
                     For $50,000, David O. Selznick bought the film rights to Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With The Wind. But after the film became a hit, he sent her an additional $50,000.

                     Margaret approved of the actors chosen for the various roles, especially after viewing the film.

                     1,400 actresses were interviewed for the part of Scarlett, but only four actors were ever seriously considered for the role of Rhett Butler (Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn & Ronald Colman)

                     In the film, Margaret thought ‘Tara’ was too opulent, and that the introduction ‘crawl’ was too lush in its wording about the south. 

                     While Mr. Selznick wanted Margaret as the films adviser, she refused, and he accepted her recommendation of Susan Myrick for the job.

                     To keep the questions from the film’s producers to a minimum Margaret told reporters that she thought Groucho Marx would make a good Rhett Butler.

                     And in keeping with male vs. female equality, Vivien Leigh, worked for 125 days and received approx. $25,000. Clark Gable worked for 71 days and received over $120,000.
                     The movie won 8 academy awards:

                           Best Picture
                           Best Actress – Vivien Leigh
                           Best Supporting Actress – Hattie McDaniel the first African-American to be nominated, and to win.
                           Best Director – Victor Fleming
                           Best Screenplay – Sidney Howard
                           Best Art Direction
                           Best Cinematography
                           Best Film Editing

                           The most interesting fact is that the other films considered that year were:

                                         Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
                                         Wuthering Heights
                                         Goodbye, Mr. Chips
                                         Stage Coach
                                         The Wizard of Oz

                     According to Newsreels, there were a handful of Confederate Civil War veterans, who attended the premiere in Atlanta.
                     At nearly 4 hours, this is the longest running movie to win the Best Picture Academy Award.
                     Accounting for inflation Gone With The Wind would be the top grossing movie of all time with Star Wars second.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Historical Accuracy!

Margaret Mitchell grew up on stories of the civil war and claimed she was ten years old before she discovered that the Confederacy had lost. When she wrote Gone With The Wind, she tirelessly researched each historical event and every nonfiction statement for accuracy. 

Margaret Mitchel wrote in a letter in 1936 , “I spent the Sunday afternoons of my childhood sitting on the bony knees of Confederate Veterans and the fat slick laps of old ladies who survived the (civil) war and reconstruction . . . they were a pretty outspoken, forthright, tough bunch of old timers and the things they said stuck in my mind . . .”
Along with the historical accuracy of the war and reconstruction Margaret spent hours checking references on items such as clothes, hats, hairstyles, flowers, crops, hymns, and medical treatments.

After Macmillan bought her book, Margaret Mitchell  painstakingly checked all the historical references one by one. She proudly proclaimed to have documented at least four sources for each historical event and took pride in the fact that Henry Steel Commager, a well-known historian wrote that her book “had not ruffled his historical feather” in his glowing review of her book for the New York Herald Tribune Books. 

It was important to her that her book reflect the accurate facts of the civil war for ‘southern’ readers and while she wanted ‘northern reviewers to like it – it was the “good will of Southerners that she prayed for.” And to make sure of that, she spent untold hours a day in the library, at the courthouse, or interviewing old veterans. ***

An example of the questions that arose includes one regarding the existence of toothbrushes in 1868, Margaret was quick to answer that she had three sources and that one was the Oxford English Dictionary. ***

Margaret and her husband John spent countless hours verifying each and every fact so that ‘they would not be embarrassed by errors they could avoid, for they knew some people would read the book only to eagerly search for such errors.” 

Marianne Walker writes in her book Margaret Mitchell & John Marsh The Love Story behind Gone With The Wind that “Margaret knew the history of Georgia, the history of the Confederacy, the history of the southern blockade, and the history of the Reconstruction as well as any historian.” ***

Fact #8:  Gone With the Wind is now published in 40 languages, & sells 250,000 copies each year.
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I is for Illness, 

and as one biographer put it: “Peggy (Margaret Mitchell) had many personae’s  . . .  the vampy seductress, a modest, quiet southern lady, fervent feminist . . . and one that she consistently played . . . that of a sick person who suffered from mysterious illnesses that baffled her physicians.” *** 

In my opinion, that statement is unfair, as are many this biographer makes about Margaret Mitchell. No one has had access to her medical reports, but through letters and interviews, the following are the health issues that plagued Margaret Mitchell during her life:

       Abdominal surgery for adhesions – after a steering wheel caused internal injuries.
       Broken Ankle – and chronic problems because of it when she fell from a horse at age eleven and twenty. She began writing Gone With The Wind in 1926 after re-injuring her ankle and being told she would never walk again.
       Appendicitis – more surgery
       Arthritis - due to her bad ankle
       Back and Hip problems due to an auto accident – her car was rear-ended by a drunk driver.
       Blindness - temporary
       Boils on her skull
       Broken ribs – a fall from a horse
       Tonsillitis – more surgery

This biographer goes on to say "that because her medical records are not available, we have no way of knowing whether she was genuinely sick that often or merely indulging herself, using illness as a way of getting attention and avoiding responsibilities . . . "

Margaret also complained a few times of feeling down, or depressed in a few of her letters, and this biographer uses those references to question her mental health.  

Really— I mean to call any of these illnesses or symptoms ‘mysterious’ baffles me. A broken bone, is a broken bone – surgery for appendicitis, tonsillitis, or adhesions, is surgery. In addition, a car accident that causes back, hip and internal problems – is not a made up affliction, at least not in my book.

While I am not a doctor, have no medical background, nor do I play a doctor on television or anywhere else, (although I have played the naughty nurse – just kidding - or am I?) I do wonder, is it possible this woman was ill? I mean, that many broken bones, surgeries, boils, and temporary blindness speaks to me, ‘the non-medical person’ as a possible autoimmune disorder. 

Folks in my opinion, even without our knowing a diagnosis, this highly intelligent, wonderfully creative woman – suffered enough in her life – she does not deserve to be insulted by such asinine questions or assumptions. She was a tomboy full of adventure and daring, and is described by her brother as accident prone. She was 4' 11" and 90 lbs. and honestly, it was early the early 1900 s  -- can you even imagine the state of medical care she would have had to endure.

Yet, for some reason, this biographer has chosen to label this talented writer as lazy and willing to use any excuse she could, not to participate in the celebrity she did not choose, or want.


Tell me, what do your ‘excuses’ – ‘illnesses’ say about you – mine, clearly state ‘insanity,’ which I embrace whole-heartedly!

Fact #9: Margaret Mitchell’s best friend Courtenay Ross vehemently denied the possibility of Margaret’s being a hypochondriac, claiming that her friend was always “embarrassed to be sick.”**
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for John Robert Marsh, the man who loved Margaret Mitchell, unconditionally!

John Robert Marsh came from Maysville, Kentucky, and a sturdy stock of hard-working men and women. In 1916 John graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major in English – is it any wonder that he became the editor of Gone With The Wind.

John Marsh served in WWI and when he returned to the states, he worked as a reporter for the Daily Georgian in Atlanta, where he met Margaret Mitchell, and was immediately smitten.

They became friends and spent many quiet hours just talking. Both were avid readers. Margaret liked John, trusted him, and felt she could share anything with him, but early on, ‘they made a solemn promise not to fall in love with each other.’

During that time, Margaret was dating a man called Red Upshaw, who unlike John dated Margaret with purpose. He made his desires clear while John cloaked his feelings in friendship.

Margaret married Red, most likely because he actively pursued her. John Marsh kept himself in the background and while he wrote letters to his mother proclaiming his fascination for Margaret, he never told Margaret. But, Red Upshaw did, and he and Margaret married, on September 2, 1922. John was the best man.

However, the marriage failed, and on November 14, 1923, Margaret filed for divorce. Red had a love of adventure and a love for easy money. He became a ‘rum-runner,’ and sad to say, he was an abusive husband. Margaret kept a loaded pistol on her bedside table until the day Red Upshaw died.

John, understanding that love unspoken, is unknown, stepped up and truly courted Margaret, finally letting her know how he felt. They married on July 4, 1925. 

Although John Marsh suffered from a multitude of illnesses, once spending three months in the hospital for hiccups, he is described as being long-suffering, and stoic unlike his ‘lazy and neurotic’ wife. (Sorry, just had to point out the sexism)

John Marsh loved Margaret Mitchell, and wrote to his mother on January 20, 1925. “I have fallen, and I am glad of it. I have been in love with Peggy for a long time, as I said, but it wasn’t nothing like this here.”

Fact #10: Margaret Mitchell dedicated her novel Gone With The Wind “To J. R. M.”
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Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Kin

Margaret Mitchell is described as coming from the womb of the Deep South, and was a fourth generation Atlantan. Her ‘kin and her love of her homeland were the inspiration for Gone With The Wind.

Her ancestors were prosperous landowners with an abiding love for their Southern homeland. Her great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Mitchell, a lieutenant in the Georgia Brigade in the Revolutionary War was granted land in Georgia after the war. His son William Mitchell fought in the War of 1812, and her great-grandfather Isaac Green Mitchell, a circuit-riding Methodist minister settled in Marthasville, which was later named Atlanta. 

Her mother’s people – came from Ireland in the 1800s.
Her Grandpa Russell Crawford Mitchell had a stockpile of Civil War stories because he had fought in eleven battles including Seven Pines and Bull Run. Injured, he had the scars that went along with his stories, and Margaret never forgot them, or him.

When asked where she got the idea for Gone With The Wind, she said she got it “in the cradle.” She had heard so much about the war and knew her ancestors as a ‘remarkably tough bunch of people, hard, resistant, and strong.’ This is how she described it:

“Each of the old men had fought in the Confederate Army and continued to fight the war in their memories whenever two or more of them got together. Each of the old ladies had nursed the wounded and the dying in hospitals and struggled to manage the farms while their menfolk were away.” ***

These stores and the importance of the land to these gentlefolk made a very strong impression on Margaret. During her research for Gone With The Wind she would travel to the sites they had described to her for background. She explained to a friend who traveled with her: “I know as well as you do that it’s pretty hard to write with any degree of conviction about things you don’t really feel.”

She also shared the genesis of her fiction with this statement: “I remember so well, saying when I was twenty that God being willing, the curse of the Mitchell's and Fitzgerald’s would never fall on me,” She defined the ‘family curse’ and its connection to her novel this way:

“The curse I refer to is loving land enough to give everything you’ve got to get it. Never would I own a foot of it, city or country land. If I had spare money, it would stay in the bank or the stock market but never in red clay. Then about two years ago when I set out to write the great American novel I was confronted by the fact that whether I liked it or not, it was a story of land, love of land and a woman who was determined not to part with it.” ****

(I apologize for the length of this post, but the more I learn of this talented woman, the more I want to share.)

Fact #11: Margaret Mitchell was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1994, and into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2000.
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Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Law - Copyright Law

Did you know: What you publish today will not enter the public domain in the US until your death plus 70 years? Do you know what Copyright Law is? You should!

When Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With The Wind, there was no law in place. Margaret’s publisher did nothing to protect her book from piracy, and she and her husband spent years fighting the unlawful publication of her book in many, many different countries and languages.

On at least three occasions, John and Margaret appeared before the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations, urging them to ratify the Berne Convention Treaty of 1886, a treaty that would have given protection to American literature printed abroad. (Just a quick note here – while the rights to American novels were unprotected abroad, the rights of foreign authors had no protection here in the US.)

When Margaret Mitchell published her work she was solely responsible for its copyright protection, and it’s why she went public with her struggle. However, it wasn’t until 1955, after Margaret’s and John's death, and because her brother Stephens, kept up the fight, that copyright law was finally enacted.***

Make yourself aware, know what © 2013 means, how the law applies to you, and what to do if copyright infringement happens. 

Here is a website for your information, but all you have to do is Google ‘copyright law’ and you’ll find hundreds more. Protect yourself, make it part of your writing / publication journey.

Find information here:  Copyright Law

Click the link below for an interesting article on the issue. A warning ‘beware' - know your rights. My book was pirated, oblivious; I went on a fact-finding mission and now have my own file of emails, research into copyright law, and the gray hairs to prove it. It can happen to anyone, and does – all the time, protect yourself, protect your work, protect your legacy!


Fact #12: Margaret Mitchell's personal collection of nearly 70 foreign language translations of her novel was given to the Atlanta Public Library after her death.
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Monday, April 15, 2013


M is for the Male Point of View
      
        but Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With The Wind using third person omniscient and from the point of view of its iconic character, Scarlett O’Hara, However, if you’ve ever wondered what Gone With The Wind would have been like from the male perspective, I have a treat for you:


FACT # 13: In November of 2007 Rhett Butler’s People, by Donald McCaig was released. This is a fully authorized sequel that parallels Gone With The Wind and was written from Rhett Butler’s perspective.
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013


N is for Names: 

Did you know that Scarlet O'Hara started out as Pansy Hamilton? 

She did and Margaret finished Gone With The Wind with Pansy as the lead character, she didn't change the name until six months before the publication date.

Margaret Mitchell wrote regarding her selection: 

“As to why I chose the name Scarlett—first, because I came across the name of Katie Scarlett so often in Irish literature . . . second I could find no record of any family named Scarlett in Clayton County . . . The name Scarlett was chosen six months after my book was sold.” ***

When she changed Pansy to Scarlett, she also changes her heroine’s home from “Fontenoy Hall” to “Tara” for its Irishness.

Names were one of the things Margaret Mitchell worried about as she created her characters for Gone With The Wind. The last thing she wanted was for anyone to claim she wrote about them. She spent innumerable hours checking county records, from the year 1840 to 1873 by going through deeds, wills, titles, Confederate muster rolls, etc. and yet, even with all the care she took a few problems did arise.

Such as Belle Brezing an actual owner of Lexington brothels, who enjoyed claiming she was the character Belle Watling, Gone With The Wind’s queen of the red-light district in Atlanta. Something both Margaret and John denied repeatedly.

Another involved Harry Slattery, Under Secretary to the Secretary of the Interior, upset about Margaret’s use of the name Slattery for “a pillaging, house-burning carpetbagger’ in Gone With The Wind.
He threatened to sue her for the insult, but she called to apologize and explained that she picked the name from a New York phone directory. He accepted her apology.


Fact #14:  One afternoon tired and resting Margaret Mitchell was disturbed by a loud voice demanding that she get out of bed so this individual, (the one shouting) could have a photograph taken shaking the hands with the great author. It took Bessie, her maid, half an hour to get rid of her and her photographer.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is of The Old South


David O Selznick was so enamored with Margaret Mitchell's book Gone With The Wind that he wanted to use her words as dialogue in the movie. 


This gave a headache to the screenwriter, Sidney Howard, who walked off the job in 1938, but was rehired in 1939. However, Howard never saw the film; he died after a farming accident in August 1939.

More than a dozen 'Other' gifted writers worked on the screenplay for Gone With The Wind including F. Scott Fitzgerald, but only Sidney Howard's name appears as the writer of the screenplay. 

Margaret was thrilled to learn that Fitzgerald was working on the screenplay, and claimed, "If anyone had told me ten or more years ago that he would be working on a book of mine I would have been stricken speechless with pellagra or hardening of the arteries or something."

In the end, F. Scott Fitzgerald's introduction to the movie is all that survived of his script work. ****



There was a land of Cavaliers and

cotton fields called the Old South. . . .



Here in the patrician world

the Age of Chivalry took its last bow . . . .



Here was the last ever to be seen

of Knights and their Ladies Fair,

of Master and of Slave . . . .



Look for it only in books, for it

is no more tan a dream remembered,

a Civilization gone with the wind. . . .



F. Scott Fitzgerald ***

Fact #15: Gone With The Wind finished filming on November 11, 1939, with 160,000 feet of film printed out of a 449,512 feet shot.
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Parents

Margaret Mitchell’s parents, Mary Isabelle (Maybelle) Stephens, the oldest of 11, and Eugene Muse Mitchell the oldest of 11, married in 1892 and were very influential in Margaret’s life.

Eugene Mitchell, a “prideful person’ as described by his son, Stephens, graduated with an A. B. and B. S. degree, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He earned the highest grade point average at the university—99.6, and in 1886 received his law degree with honors from the University of Georgia. He established his own law firm with his brother in 1893.

In 1893, Russell Stephens Mitchell the first-born son died in infancy, their second child, also christened Stephens was born in 1895, and Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900.

Margaret and Stephen’s mother appears to have been the rock in the family. Stephens described their mother’s influence this way:

“She insisted that we fight for our rights, even though we were bested. Time and again she said that courage was the only virtue worth worrying about, for it comprehended all the others.” ****

Margaret describes her mother this way:

“My mother was small and gentle but red-headed, and nothing infuriated her as much as the complacent attitude of other ladies . . .  . She never turned any hungry or needy person from her door and I’ve seen her peel off her gloves on cold days to put on the blue hands of poor children . . . lots of times, we walked home from town because she’d given her last cent and car fare to someone who needed it.” ****

A strong and vocal supporter of women’s rights, by 1899—had joined the Georgia’s Women’s Suffrage Association; Maybelle Mitchell worked tirelessly for the cause. In 1919, her activism spawned the League of Women Voters.

Margaret’s love of reading and writing showed early, and were activities that her mother encouraged, along with horseback riding, dancing, and manners. Maybelle insisted that Margaret do whatever the boys were doing, and Margaret was clearly a tomboy. But it’s also clear that Maybelle tried to raise Margaret with a well-rounded character, and abilities. She was determined to see her daughter succeed. ***

Part of Margaret’s quandary were in the differing attitudes of the time, her strong mother insisting on an education, a career, and independence, while the schools were teaching a girls goal should be as a wife, mother, and head of family. 

Feminism was at its earliest stages, and after her mother’s death, she was summoned home, to care for her father’s household. 

(At this stage, I can only imagine how her mother’s influence – and the needs of her father, along with the customs of that time caused her angst when trying to figure out how and where she fit.)  

Maybelle Mitchell passed away suddenly from influenza in January 1919.

Maybelle encouraged Margaret’s writing and kept her manuscripts in “large white-enameled bread boxes.”

Eugene Mitchell passed away after a long illness on June 1944.

He thought his daughter was a genius and was extremely proud of Margaret’s success with Gone With The Wind.


Fact # 16: Maybelle Mitchell wrote a letter to Margaret prior to her death which said: "Give of yourself with both hands and overflowing heart, but give only the excess after you have lived your own life. " ***
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Friday, April 19, 2013


Q is for Quandary – a state of doubt or a Catch-22. 


Something Margaret Mitchell dealt with her entire life, should she go for the career, or the family, or was creativity, her route to happiness.

I think the following story sheds light on the quandary Margaret Mitchell found herself in especially when the book she created brought unwanted and unwelcome attention.

One of the most interesting things I read about Margaret Mitchell was in regards to her shyness. Her brother Stephens described her as “self-conscious, stand-offish, and silent . . . a diffident, shy child.” He claimed she would hide behind her Mother’s skirt and refuse to speak to strangers.”

This habit raised the ire of her mother. Demonstrations of timidity infuriated Maybelle Mitchell, and Stephens describes her response to Margaret’s shyness:

“Mother would take her upstairs and apply the slipper, telling her she must talk to people who were polite enough to notice and speak to her. She must respond. Not to do this was rude. And with Mother, rudeness ranked with sins which cried to heaven for vengeance.”

Stephens also said: “I don’t know how the modern child psychologists would view this method of correction. I only know it worked with my sister. By the time she was old enough to start to school, she no longer suffered the agony of shyness. She was never pert or pushing, but she could always hold her own”

Margaret’s mother did her best to whip the shyness out of her daughter. Such a shame, not to allow a child to grow out of it, or help her to do so, but to force the issue, but her mother wanted her daughter to stand on her own two feet. Being shy and standoffish would never bring her the future her mother wanted for her.

Margaret found a way to deal with the issues of speaking with those who spoke politely to her, but after her book was published, she turned down innumerable speaking invitations, interviews, and other public appearances. She preferred her solitude and privacy but even for this, she was derided. 

Margaret Mitchell spoke through her book, Gone With The Wind.


Fact #17: Margaret Mitchell granted permission for interviews and articles to only three writers, Granberry, Baldwin, and Ball, but that did not keep others from writing about her as if they had had personal interviews with her.
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Saturday, April 20, 2013
R is for Reporter: 

On December 22, 1922 Margaret Mitchell began her first job, as a journalist for the Journal a popular Sunday Magazine, of 32 pages, fully illustrated that covered fashions, socialites, and women’s issues. Her salary was twenty-five dollars a week, the going rate of pay for female writers. 
In Margaret Mitchell's time, culture scorned women’s economic independence, and newspaper work was considered a ‘low-life’ job. Despite the cultural attitudes, overt sexism, and the belief that men were better writers, Margaret excelled at her job. She worked harder, longer, and smarter than her counterparts did, but when she left the job in 1926 due to an injury, neither the attitudes nor the work conditions had improved.
Her first assignment had to do with whether or not skirts were going to be shorter. A socialite had just returned from Europe with her new Parisian wardrobe, but during the course of Margaret’s interview, the young lady casually mentioned that she had been in Rome the day that Mussolini marched into Vatican City and took over the government. Margaret’s first story about the length of a woman’s skirt became “Atlanta Girl Sees Italian Revolution” ***
Margaret worked for the Journal for four years, and wrote one signed article, and one unsigned per week. Each article was approximately twelve to fifteen hundred words each. She also wrote book reviews, and contributed to the 'gossip' column regularly.
Margaret’s articles were an exploration of the changing times for women. She devoted entire essays exclusively to the problems of marriage versus career noting the ease with which men sailed through life.

Fact #18: “From first to last she was a good reporter in the traditional sense that she never made excuses and never fell down on a story. She was more than a good reporter in that her work was definitely creative and had that extra something which gives life and color to the simplest story.” Medora Perkerson was a mentor of Margaret Mitchell’s at the Journal and the wife of her boss, Angus Perkerson. ****
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Monday, April 22, 2013
S is for Scarlett O'Hara: 

Margaret Mitchell’s heroine in Gone With The Wind has been called many things by psychiatrists, the clergy, and the public. Many saw Scarlett as the ultimate villain while others praised her for her courage and drive. Margaret was amused by the praise her main character garnered as much as she was confused by the criticism and the uninvited clinical analysis.
Scarlett was referred to as “a first class bitch,” but the one description that got Ms. Mitchell’s attention was written by a psychiatrist at Vanderbilt University. He characterized Scarlett “as a model example of the hysterical personality.” ***
All this attention to her fictional character Scarlett O’Hara, bothered Margaret, and yet she felt strongly about defending the character of Scarlett when words became too negative. 
She wrote, “Personally, I cannot help feeling that Scarlett had good traits. Surely, courage is commendable, and she had it. The sense of responsibility for the weak and helpless is a rare trait, and she had this . . . She was able to appreciate what was beautiful in her mother, even if she could not emulate her. . . She had perseverance in the face of defeat. Of course, those qualities are balanced by her bad qualities. ***
She received one letter from a young man in trouble with his girlfriend because he had compared her to Scarlett.
Margaret wrote back to this young man. 
“Scarlett . . . was a determined and exciting girl . . . but, to me, she was a far from admirable character, so I can understand your girlfriend’s reactions.”
In her effort to help him with his plight, Margaret went on to point out Scarlett’s finer points:
 “Selfish as she was, she had invincible courage . . . she took care of her own . . . she had charm . . . and she had the determination to see things through to the finish . . . . But if worse comes to worse, why not say that your girlfriend reminded you of Scarlett because she looked like Vivien Leigh? Goodness knows, Vivian Leigh is one of the most devastatingly attractive women I ever had the pleasure of meeting. Good luck!” ****


Fact #19: Confused by all the different attitudes regarding her book Gone With The Wind, and her characters, Margaret Mitchell tried to explain . . . “it’s just a story.” 

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
T is for TARA,

the iconic symbol of Gone With The Wind. It represented what readers of the book believed was southern life; Tara represented the house, the land that Scarlett loved and fought so hard to keep. 
However, when Margaret Mitchell described Tara in her book “. . . it was a simple square house, built of whitewashed brick and set far back from the road, with an avenue of cedars leading up to it. It was built on a hill a quarter –mile from the river.” 
Margaret made certain that no such actual house existed, and she purposely located it on a road that no longer existed. Like the names she wanted traced to no individual, she did not want anyone to find the location for a house that never existed. But all her plans were for naught.
Hollywood performed their magic, and despite her requests not to make Tara a false representation of the homes that existed during the Civil War, Tara and Twelve Oaks became just that, an exaggeration.
When Margaret Mitchell learned that Hollywood gave Tara columns and made Twelve Oaks far too elegant she wrote:
“When I think of the healthy, hardy, country and somewhat crude civilization I depicted and then of the elegance that is to be presented, I cannot help yelping with laughter. God forbid that Scarlett’s’ Reconstruction house should be a poem of good taste. That would throw out of balance the whole characterization of the woman.”***
In addition, much to her disappointment, fake Tara’s popped up all over Georgia, some with paid tours. Once, while talking to a service station attendant he argued with her regarding the existence of Tara. He refused to believe she was the author of the book and pointed her in the direction of the ‘real thing.’



Fact # 20: Edwin Granberry wrote: “To find that there was not and never had been a Tara is like the sadness for the vanished scenes of a dream.” ***


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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Umbrage – 

a feeling of pique (wounded vanity) or resentment often at some fancied slight or insult.
The one insult that Margaret Mitchell took to heart and defended vigorously was the accusation that she was not the sole author of Gone With The Wind.
It was a rumor that she tried to squelch but when she shared copies of her original draft and it showed her husband’s comments in the margins, the questions started and have never stopped.
Margaret had for years given her husband credit for being her editor; after all, he had a degree in English. But even he never read the full manuscript until after Macmillan Company had bought it. 
John Marsh vehemently denied having written any part of her book, but that did not stop one biographer from writing:
 “ . . . she did not have the technical skills, the self-discipline, or the confidence to transform her ideas into a completed manuscript of the quality of Gone With The Wind . . . .


Fact # 21: Margaret wrote in defense of a rumor about John, her husband. “I have become outwardly hardened to whatever people say and write about me, the perverse twisting of my casual words, the outright lies, the stupid rumors, the gossip, malicious and otherwise. After all, I was asking for it when I published a book and it is only right that I take it. And short of any reflection on my personal integrity, I intend to take it with as good a grace as possible, hoping to God that this miserable period will end quickly. But I cannot take with any grace any lies about John or my family.” ***
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Thursday, April 25, 2013
V is for Vivien Leigh, 

the actress who played Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind.
Vivien Leigh read Gone With The Wind in December of 1936 and immediately set out to win the role. She saw herself in the character of Scarlett and she not only looked like Scarlett she had the Irish-French ancestral background.
David O Selznick saw her for the first on the set of Gone With The Wind, the night he shot the burning of Confederate munitions in the Atlanta train yards.
Regarding that meeting, Selznick said: “. . . the dying flames were lighting up her face . . . I took one look and knew that she was right—at least as far as her appearance went . . . and right as far as my conception of how Scarlett O’Hara looked . . . I’ll never recover from that first look.”
Margaret Mitchell thought the choice of Miss Leigh was an excellent one, but many southerners did not like the idea of Vivien Leigh for the choice of Scarlett. In particular, the Dickinson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, they ‘deplored the idea’ because they had chosen an English actress to play the Southern heroine of GWTW. The story went national.
Margaret wrote to a friend: “It sometimes seems to me that Gone With The Wind is not my book any longer; it is something about which the citizens are sensitive and sore at real and fancied slights and discrimination's and are ready to fight at the drop of a hairpin.”

Fact #22: Vivien Leigh won two Academy Awards and both for playing southern belles. The first was for her role as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind and the second for her role as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

November 5, 1913 – July 8, 1967

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Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for War


Margaret Mitchell wrote with firsthand knowledge about the Civil War, via the stories of family members. She was 16 when the U. S. entered WWI and at 17 experienced the loss of her betrothed; during WWII, she worked tirelessly to make a difference. 
Highly influence by the stories of heroics, loss, and survival during, and after the Civil War, Margaret Mitchell wrote the book of a lifetime, Gone With The Wind.
However, you have to wonder if the spring of 1917 had an even bigger influence. That spring the US declared war on Germany and the second burning of Atlanta occurred. The fire destroyed Margaret Mitchell’s childhood home and neighborhood. Both the Mitchell’s and the Stephen’s lost as many as 12 homes. Martial law became a necessity. But the Mitchell family stepped up to do their part for both the fire victims and the war.
Maybelle Mitchell helped feed and comfort the victims, Young Margaret became the coordinator of rescued furniture and lost children. With the fire burning down 300 acres of prime urban properties at a cost of $5.5 million, it left 10,000 homeless. 
Margaret Mitchell so masterfully captured the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War, and maybe it was the experience of explosions, fires, soldiers, plus the plight of fleeing refugees, that made her depiction so heartfelt.
WWI also began that spring of 1917 and a great influx of soldiers filled Fort McPherson near Atlanta. The Mitchell family did their part in making the lives of these young soldiers as happy as possible before going off to Europe. Parties were regular occurrences and Maybelle Mitchell opened her home to the soldiers offering warmth, hot coffee, cakes, ham and turkey, and they regularly ran a taxi service to Camp Gordon where her brother, Stephens, was stationed before joining the AEF.
But the horror of what these young men faced was not lost on Margaret Mitchell. She penned these words in the fall of 1917, her senior year:  
“God, it couldn’t be true! Yet there the crumpled telegram lay on the floor under the poor bed with its too thin coverings. The shabby room was bitter cold—the carpet less floor was cold as she knelt down to retrieve the telegram and smooth it out in the dull hope that she had misread. But the words were unchanging—‘The War Department regrets to report the death in action of Private William Souther.’”  ****
When WWII began, Margaret Mitchell was caring for her seriously ill father, but when time allowed she also served as a member of the Red Cross, as a war bond salesman, and as a hostess, seamstress, and letter writer for American and Allied service men. In addition, sometimes she would invite a soldier or sailor home for a meal.
One young soldier brought a guitar to dinner and sang for the Marshes. Later they heard he had orders to go overseas but was not permitted take his guitar. Margaret called in favors and later received a postcard that the soldier and his guitar were on a campaign through Italy.
In another instant, she learned a certain P.X. did not stock snuff and chewing tobacco, and knowing the men of the rural south, she shipped a generous supply directly to the servicemen.
However, her biggest contribution may have been her letter writing. The number of letters got the attention of GI artist Bill Mauldin, who drew a cartoon of an exhausted dirty combat soldier licking a pencil and writing to “Dear Miss Mitchell.”
Her dedication is admirable, and every letter she wrote a view of her compassion. She was even able to overcome her own dislike of public speaking to appear for the Red Cross for bond sales. 


Fact 23: Margaret Mitchell fell in love with Lieutenant Clifford Henry, a New York aristocrat, he barely 22, she only 17. He died in the war, and she treasured his photograph all her life, and sent his parents flowers on the anniversary of his death until her death. 


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Saturday, April 27, 2013
X is for Xenia –

the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, the generosity, and courtesy shown to those who are far from home. It is often translated as “guest-friendship.” The rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host.
Xenia consists of two basic rules:
•     The respect from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide them with food and drink and a bath, if required. It is not polite to ask questions until the guest has stated his/her needs.
•     The respect from guest to host. The guest must be courteous to their host and not be a burden.
Xenia was considered particularly important in the ancient times when people thought gods mingled amongst them. If one had poorly played host to a stranger, there was the risk of incurring the wrath of a god disguised as the stranger. 
And now you're wondering how I'm going to make Xenia part of my Margaret Mitchell and Gone With The Wind postings,? Easy, Margaret Mitchell was a most generous and congenial host. She would provide a meal, delightful conversation, and all at a moment’s notice.
One such episode of her hospitality involved the not yet famous, Lillian Smith, editor of Pseudopodia Magazine. In 1936, Ms. Smith and her companion spent an afternoon at Margaret Mitchell’s apartment. She basked in the hospitality, attentiveness, and good talk, and although she intended the visit as an interview, when Ms. Smith returned home, she could not write the article, and sent this note to Margaret Mitchel:
 “And here I sit, writing up that interview with a thousand unanswered questions in my mind which you would have answered I know had I possessed the sense to insert them in the proper places in that delightful three-cornered conversation. You were very generous with you time and I think it’s a damned shame to bother you again but I’ll have to do it or else the interview in my column won’t be half as much fun as the real one was. But wouldn’t you prefer really to write us 300 words (or more) about the writing of the book . . . rather than trust it to come out right at second-hand?”
Margaret declined, but Ms. Smith tried once more to get Margaret to write the article herself, and again Margaret declined. 
The Smith interview never did appear, but Lillian Smith did review Gone With The Wind, and from what Darden Asbury Pyron says, she gave it the nastiest notice the novel received in Dixie.
I’ve tried to find the review, but could not locate it anywhere online. If you do, please share.
Margaret wrote to Harold Latham of this meeting:
“I am appalled at the inability of the average person to get an interview. Having gotten them myself in taxicabs, through bars of jails and in the cabs of locomotives, it would have seemed like heaven to me to catch a victim in the home, and have hours with her. People who interview me come and practically spend the day, talk my ear off, go home and write me nice letters telling me how much they enjoyed themselves and finish by saying ‘And Mrs. Marsh, will you please write me 300 words about yourself and your book and its aims. I really didn’t get an interview with you while calling on you’ . . . And then I moan, ‘God almighty.’”***
Maybe the most interesting aspect is that in 1944 Lillian Smith garnered her own celebrity when her book Strange Fruit, described as a “darkly Freudian novel of race and sex,” thrust her on the national spotlight.


Fact #24: During WWII Gone With The Wind was circulated underground and used  for 'morale-building purposes' and Margaret Mitchell was sent a copy of one of the tattered editions. She treasured it. "It made me proud and happy," she wrote to the original owner, "to know that something I wrote could give pleasure and comfort to French people during the occupation." ***
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FYI: Gone With The Wind still sells approximately 250,000 books a year, and during my research, I found '1 star' reviews of this bestselling Pulitzer Prize winning book. So if you get a bad review, remember this – you can check them out HERE!  
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Young writers


Margaret Mitchell encouraged and supported young writers, such as, Clifford Dowdey, and Herschel Brickell. She corresponded with them for many years. Supporting them through their own bad reviews.
Another of her concerns were the prisoners of Atlanta’s federal penitentiary. She organized and sponsored writing contests for The Atlantan, the prison magazine. One such young writer was, Red Rudensky, described as one of the most unreconciled and rebellious felons in prison. Red was also a very talented writer, and he and Margaret kept up a correspondence after he was released. On word from Red she wrote a letter of support for Charles Ward, an individual who provided special programs for former inmates in Minneapolis.
“So seldom do we speak when we see something good. So forgive a stranger for speaking up and saying with Red Rudensky that if there were more people like Charles Ward there’d be fewer repeaters in the Federal Penitentiaries of the country.”
Harold Latham was on a scouting mission in 1935, when he traveled to Atlanta, Georgia and contacted Margaret Mitchell. Lois Cole, a Smith graduate and an acquaintance of Margaret’s, told Latham to look up Margaret because she knew she’d written a book and “that if Margaret wrote the way she talks her book would be a honey.”
Latham didn't have to look Margaret up, she sat beside him at the Georgia Writers' Conference, but he was unsuccessful in getting Margaret to admit that she had a book but he did ask her to introduce him to other young authors and would-be authors, which she did. 
However, it was after this meeting that one young woman said, “Well, I daresay, Really, I wouldn’t take you for the type who would write a successful book. You know you don’t take life seriously enough to be a novelist . . . . But, Peggy, I think you are wasting your time trying. You really aren’t the type.”
With that remark, Margaret said, “I got so mad that I began to laugh . . . confirming their opinion of my lack of seriousness . . . .”
It was here that Margaret decided to give her manuscript to Latham. She said, “My idea was that at least I could brag that I had been refused by the very best publisher.”
And the rest is history!


Fact #25: Margert Mitchell was walking across the street on her way to the Peachtree Arts Theatre to see A Canterbury Tale, when a car traveling at a high rate of speed veered straight toward her. She was knocked to the pavement and dragged fifteen feet. She died 5 days later. The driver was drunk.

November 8, 1900 / August 16, 1949
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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zeal


Yes, I had a sense of enthusiasm or zeal when I started investigating my subject, Margaret Mitchell, although I would not call myself a zealot. I’m not fanatical, but I did tackle this challenge with a zeal that reminded me of the many papers I wrote in graduate school, although, this one was a lot more fun. 

The only thing I really knew about Margaret Mitchell when I began this project was that she had written an iconic book - Gone With The Wind – but only one book. I wanted to know more about this woman and her writing journey. Why only one book?

She was shy, and yet loved to write and act in her own plays. She loved telling stories as much as she loved hearing them. She always wanted to be a writer, but because of her mother’s influence found decisions about what to do with her life, difficult. 

She did not want to be tied to the land like her ancestors, but wrote Gone With The Wind around that very subject. After her book was published she was overwhelmed by the notoriety, yet she answered every letter written to her, and on a scale that’s unprecedented. 

She had major health issues and so did her husband. She volunteered and did her part for the war effort, and she took care of her father during his extended illness. All these things took time and some say it’s why she never published a second novel. Although, with the burning of almost all of her personal papers, we’ll never truly know if another book was among those papers.
 
She enjoyed mysteries, and the paranormal, and I’d like to imagine she would have pursued those subjects had she lived. 

If you want to read more about this amazing woman, I suggest the authorized biography written by Finis Farr, Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta, the author of Gone With The Wind, Her Story published by the William Morrow & Company, New York, NY, 1965. His unbiased writing, gives the facts of her life, and shares many of the letters and personal papers her husband did not burn, plus there's an interview with the man closest to her—Stephens Mitchell.

Read Gone With The Wind, Lost Laysen, and A Dynamo Going To Waste. Read Margaret Mitchell’s own words because  like her I “believe that an author should stand or fall before the public on the basis of the author’s published work.” 


Fact #26: Margaret Mitchell once wrote, “I want to love one man and be loved by him above all other women.” She dedicated Gone With The Wind “To J.R.M.”


  My Resources / References

                  Southern Daughter: The Life of Margaret Mitchell, by Darden Asbury Pyron: Published by Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1991.
                 Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta The Author of Gone With The Wind, Her Story, by Finis Farr, Published by William Morrow & Company, New York, NY, 1965.
                 Margaret Mitchell & John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone With The Wind, by Marianne Walker Published by Peachtree Publishers, LTD, Atlanta, GA, 1993.
                Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Published by Scribner, New York, NY, 1936.
                A Dynamo Going To Waste, Letters to Allen Edee from Margaret Mitchell 1919-1921 – Edited by Jane Bonner Peacock: Published by Peachtree Publishers, LTD, Atlanta, GA 1985.
                 Lost Laysen, by Margaret Mitchell – Edited by Debra Freer: Published by Scribner, New York, NY, 1996.

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