“Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books.”
To Kill A Mockingbird: One book, one story, one beloved masterpiece. Who can explain the strange, mysterious alchemy that turned a former airline ticket agent into a writer and a writer into a legend in her own time?
Watching a PBS show about Harper Lee was a little like watching that adorable scamp Scout being born. After growing up in Alabama, graduating from college, and abandoning law school, Harper came to New York City in in 1949 to pursue her writing. It was tough going. She supported herself with odd jobs, including a stint as an airline ticket agent, while she sold a few stories here and there. But people believed in her talent.
One young couple, Michael and Joy Brown, took a special interest in her. Michael was a lyricist for Broadway. In 1956, when Harper was visiting the Browns and their two children, she found an envelope pinned on their Christmas tree. Inside was a note that said, “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”
What a generous, life-changing gift! With financial support for a year, Harper began writing the book that was to become To Kill a Mockingbird. By 1957, at the end of 12 months, she had a draft ready. Ultimately, an editor worked with her for two years to deepen, enrich, and reshape her story.
The rest is history. When Harper’s novel came out in 1960, it was an instant success; in 1961, it won the Pulitzer. Today, it’s admired and beloved by readers and writers the world over. What a heartwarming, uplifting tale! With encouraging friends, practice, and persistence, what we can’t do? Write on!