Margaret Mitchell and Me!
By Carolyn L Kingsley
A poor ignorant Florida girl, whose only dream was to grow up and become a great writer like Margaret Mitchell.
I have been in love with writing as long as I can remember. My first flashback was when I was three years old.(I really can recall this.)I was standing in the living room of my Grandma's house. It was late in the afternoon. Daddy burst through the door. "Did you hear, Margaret Mitchell got killed? Heard she was hit by a drunken taxi driver!" That was like the day Kennedy was shot. All living at that time, can recall exactly where they were when the news circled the earth. I think I knew right then; this is a very special person, whatever she was, that was what I wanted to be. 1954 was the first time I saw the movie. I was eight years old. Mom and I went together. I nestled down in that dark theater with my popcorn and coke, while I was swept into another world. It was the most spectacular thing! The scenes that made an indelible memory were, the barbecue at 12 oaks, Scarlett chasing Ashley, Ashley chasing Melanie. That dashing rogue Rhett bounds into the scene chasing Scarlett. She finally chases him for his money. And the burning of Atlanta, what a fire! Later I burned the woods down several times around our house, so I could watch the fire engines come and feel that thrill all over again. When mom and I left the theater that night, my destiny was sealed; a writer was born. No one would ever stop me. Lord knows, many tried. "Why are you wasting your time writing that stuff? Nothing will ever come of it," my encouraging mother said. Writers are like actors, singers and trapeze artist. We need an audience. Since I didn't have one at home, I turned to my teacher Mrs. Swann. She read my printed, sketchy stories and thought they had potential. She allowed me to read my little dramas to the class. I was mightily encouraged when I heard laughter, even if it was "at" me, cause I had their attention. Before we parted, with me going to the next grade, Mrs Swann assured me, that one day I'd win the Pulitzer Prize. She was kind. The years passed and I continued to progress in my career, reading every book I could find on writing. The public library became my second home. Margaret Mitchell became my second choice for reading material. I looked her up in every encylopedia, reading the words over and over again, while staring at that pert Irish face. She was definitely my teacher. After watching GWTW at least 25 times, I lost count. David Selznick (the producer,) was pretty high on my teacher list. I became a film buff. I've read every biography published about Margaret Mitchell, so I know loads of stuff. A few things bear mentioning though, she had her teachers too. Thomas Dixon(The Clansman) was her idol. She grew up on his novels about the old south and reconstruction. The Dixon influence is quite apparent in the Mitchell book. In 1915 the film Birth Of A Nation was released, (the Dixon novel renamed.) It was the first silent Civil War epic. Margaret Mitchell was enthralled, watching the film over and over again. (Does this sound like somebody you know?) She dreamed that one day she would write a great story like that. In 1936 with the publication of GWTW, Margaret received a congratulatory fan letter from Thomas Dixon. She was thrilled. At long last, she had received validation from her greatest teacher. The years passed with many tribulations along the way; poverty, marriage, kids, a divorce, another marriage, another kid, another divorce, more poverty and moving so many times I lost count. In between I'm trying to write my own epic. I hauled my manuscript around in cardboard boxes, from one rental to another. The orange groves of Hammock Manor replaced the cotton fields of Tara. A young girl with a lot of spirit fights ignorance and poverty,(I wonder who.) With her dream in tow, she falls in love, gets dumped and she dumps a few times too. She carries the torch long and hard for one gent, but after a lifetime the torch finally goes out. Now she torches for no man, but one, her writing. He has become her lover and constant companion. At last, that long awaited novel is a reality. It's my lifetime achievement award. I spoke of the work still in progress to my wonderful Aunt Rena, who recently passed at age 95. I fondly recall her reply. "Writing. That was your life, wasn't it?" I've often thought about her comment. Yes Aunt Rena, writing was and is my life, and it all began when I first heard of Margaret Mitchell's demise back in my Grandma's living room.
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