Wednesday 23 July 2014

How Gone With the Wind Almost Didn't Get Published

Margarte Mitchell courtesy

It had been ten years since Margaret Mitchell first started writing her Civil War era novel.  The 1000-plus page manuscript was collecting dust under her sofa, replacing a broken leg.  Then fate intervened.

Margaret Mitchell was raised by a lawyer historian father and a mother in Atlanta, Georgia.  Her father would tell her endless stories about the Civil War and encourage her to further her education.  Margaret graduated from college and pursued a career in journalism at the Atlanta Journal.

In 1926, after sustaining injuries in an automobile accident, Margaret decided to take a prolonged vacation to recuperate.  Her husband got tired of bringing home stacks of books from the Atlanta Library for her to read and suggested that she write her own book.  She took him up on it.

Margaret spent several years writing the novel about Southern belle Pansy O'Hara and her Civil War soldier Rhett Butler. Drawing on her father's stories and sifting through countless old newspapers and magazines, Margaret drafted a historically accurate story about Atlanta during the Civil War years.

Margaret kept the manuscript a secret, never intending on having it published.  However, one day she revealed to a friend that she was working on a novel, to which the woman replied:  "You, write a book?!" The remark was the impetus for Margaret to market her manuscript.

In 1936, a publisher from MacMillan was travelling the South looking for new material.  When he arrived in Atlanta, Margaret gave him her precious manuscript.  He read it on the train to New Orleans and was so impressed he immediately sent it to New York City.  Within two months, Margaret had a book contract.


Margaret toyed with different titles for her novel including:  Tomorrow is Another Day, Bugles Sang True, Not in Our Stars, and Tote the Weary Lode.  She settled on a line from a favourite poem by Ernest Dowson:

"I have forgotten too much, Cynara/Gone with the wind/
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng/
Dancing to put thy pale/lost lilies out of mind.

MacMillan suggested that she change the heroine's name from Pansy to Scarlett and she agreed.

Gone W|ith the Wind went on to sell one million copies in the first six months.  The following year, Ms. Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  The Civil War era novel went on to be translated into 40 different languages.  It has never been out of print.


Margaret Mitchell reading her famous novel courtesy

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