Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

Middle-Grade Month Giveaway: The Ballad Of Jessie Pearl

Ballad of Jesse PearlI am pleased to start this middle-grade giveaway month with The Ballad of Jessie Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock, a Namelos author.

Shannon and I have met around ten years ago at an SCBWI retreat on the Jersey Shore, both of us newbies in the world of children’s literature (well, I know I was!) Rooming together in a small country club, Shannon and I shared our manuscripts, our anxieties, our dreams. Now, Shannon and I are pub. house mates!

I am proud to celebrate Shannon’s debut, which really does read like a ballad. Richard Peck, who had read Shannon’s manuscript back in its beginning stages, and then again, last year, puts it beautifully: “With the poetry of plain speaking, Shannon Hitchcock recreates the daily drama of a vanished world.”

There is plenty of drama in the Ballad of Jessie Pearl: death and birth, love and rivalry, dreams of a better future. Jessie manages to be both spunky and a dreamer, true to her time (finely and authentically rendered early 1920s) and in many ways a flighty, stubborn teenager. Most of all, Jessie is a smart, inspiring heroine facing some difficult choices.

Her son’s eighth-grade school assignment and her own family’s history inspired Shannon to write about Jessie. Shannon Hitchcock

Even though the main character is a young woman coming of age, the story is equally suited for younger, middle-grade audiences interested in history (and of course, their teachers).

If you’ve heard the buzz and have been curious, now is your chance to win your own paperback copy! To enter the giveaway, leave a question for Shannon right here in the comments. Whatever you’re curious about: the writing process, the book’s birth, the challenges Shannon faced, or the history she wrote about, ask away — Shannon graciously promised to try and answer.

The giveaway ends at 5 a.m. next Monday, April 15, and I plan to announce the winner by noon that day. Let’s make it good, fellow readers and writers! Let the questions roll in!

Shannon, I’ll go first: what were the biggest surprises about the publication process and beyond? What’s it been like for you, to see it all come together at last? Thanks again so much for doing this!


April 8, 2013 - Posted by | Book Impressions | , , ,


  1. I have heard the buzz, Katia, and I’d love to win a copy of Shannon’s book.

    Shannon, Congratulations on the success of your novel! Can you share a little about the process you went through to turn a family based story into a work of fiction?

    Comment by Clara Gillow Clark | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  2. Hi Clara, I was invited to write a guest post on Chuck Sambuchino’s, Guide to Literary Agents blog. The piece I wrote is called “Writing Historical Fiction Based on a Family Story.” Basically I learned that research comes first. That memoirs can be your best friend, that you have to let go of what really happened and tell a good story, to be prepared to explain what’s real and what’s made up. You can read my article in its entirety here: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/writing-historical-fiction-based-on-a-family-story

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  3. Hi Katia, I don’t know that I’ve had a big surprise. As you pointed out in your blog post, I have been attending writing conferences and trying to break into publishing for about ten years. I knew what to expect. Instead I’ll say that the biggest challenge and time suck is marketing. It’s incredibly difficult to make your book stand out in a crowded marketplace. That’s why I am so appreciative of people like yourself who have featured my book on their blogs. As for what it’s like to finally see my book come together — AMAZING. There’s no way to describe it except to say that the only times in my life I’ve ever been more emotional were on the day of my wedding and when I gave birth to my children.

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | April 8, 2013 | Reply

    • And yet, Shannon, you did manage to make the book stand out. Just look at all the amazing reviews!

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  4. Hi Shannon, Every new book is a cause for celebration. My question: how did you choose Namelos for publication? Did you consider others?

    Comment by Wendy Greenley | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  5. Hi Wendy, I met Stephen Roxburgh, who became my editor, at a Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop. What drew me to Stephen is that he loved my manuscript and had the same vision for it that I did. Prior to meeting Stephen, I had an agent who had subbed my book to a few publishers. Most of the comments we received went something like this, “my main concern is that this is straight historical fiction which is a really tough sale in the marketplace these days.” Never underestimate a face-to-face meeting.

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  6. Okay, I have a copy (which I love) so don’t enter me in the contest. But Shannon, now that you’re into marketing, what is your favorite way of spreading the word about your book? Can you put a finger on which of your methods have been most productive?

    BTW – I SO agree about the face-to-face meeting!

    Love the idea of interview via comments, Katia. Really clever!

    Comment by Joyce Moyer Hostetter | April 8, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks, Joyce, but I can’t take credit for the invention. I’ve seen in done before and loved the concept. I picked it up from a friend and kidlit blogger extraordinaire Tara Lazar.

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  7. Hi Joyce, Probably the most effective marketing I’ve done is writing a Media Release and sending it to my hometown paper, “The Yadkin Ripple.” The Ripple, as it’s affectionately called, ran a front page article about my book and also posted the article online. From that exposure, I was contacted by a local magazine that serves five counties in and around where I grew up and asked to do a book signing at the East Bend Library which will be coming up on May 13th. You can read The Ripple article here: http://www.yadkinripple.com/view/full_story/21757132/article-Yadkin-native’s-debut-novel-set-in-East-Bend?instance=popular

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  8. Hi Katia, and thanks for the opportunity to win the book. Shannon, congratulations on The Ballad of Jessie Pearl! Once your manuscript was accepted, how much revision did Stephen ask you to do? I’ve heard of authors who receive 20 pages of revision notes (single-spaced!). How long did it take to plow through revisions? Or were you one of those lucky few who had relatively few revisions?

    Comment by Joanne Fritz | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  9. Hi Joanne, I revised twice for Stephen before he offered a contract. The first time he asked me to construct a timeline for my book because the book spans two years (1922-24). He wanted me to be sure that it wasn’t snowing in July, (that’s an exaggeration, but you get my drift). On the second round of revisions, Stephen wanted me to tone down the romance. I swear that I must have been a romance writer in another life because my kissing scenes were a little too hot for an upper MG audience. After Stephen offered a contract, the revisions were minor. Actually, none of what he asked for was major. I think perhaps he was just testing the water to make sure I could cheerfully revise before signing me up.

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | April 8, 2013 | Reply

  10. I love that you have known each other for ten years and are now signed with the same publisher. Congrats to you both! Shannon, I always want to know about a writer’s process. Do you plot it all out chapter by chapter or do you let the story flow? Do you know exactly what the ending is going to be before you write?

    Comment by nan marino | April 9, 2013 | Reply

  11. Hi Nan, I start with a rough outline, but I’m not wedded to it. Oftentimes the plot changes as I get deeper into a story. For The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, I knew some of the plot because it’s based on a family story, but as I started to write, the rivalry between Jessie and Liza intensified and I wrote scenes that were not in the original outline. No, I didn’t know the ending when I started to write. I was about 50 pages into the first draft, when I subbed the first chapter for critique at the Miami SCBWI conference. I was lucky enough to be paired with Richard Peck. One of the first questions he asked me was how the story would end. I explained that I didn’t know because my heroine would be faced with two good choices. Mr. Peck said something like this, “your heroine has grown and changed over the course of her journey. There’s only one way this book can end.” He was exactly right.

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | April 9, 2013 | Reply

  12. Don’t enter me. I have a copy. I loved Shannon’s book and blogged about it yesterday.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | April 10, 2013 | Reply

    • Yes, I saw that, Medeia! I am so glad!

      Comment by Katia Raina | April 10, 2013 | Reply

  13. Thanks, Medeia! I didn’t know you had blogged about my book. I’ll have to take a hop over to your blog and have a look.

    Comment by Shannon Hitchcock | April 10, 2013 | Reply

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