Monday, December 10, 2012

Ellen Gray Massey: Never Give Up

Usually The Writers' Lens focuses on fiction, but after meeting Ellen, I wanted to share her story with you -- Teresa

Ellen Gray Massey has published numerous articles, short stories, essays, and books. In 1995 she was inducted into the Writers Hall of Fame of America and her writing has received numerous other awards. From 1973 to 1983 she directed high school students who published Bittersweet, the Ozark Quarterly
Her recent books are Our Robin Is Read, Footprints in the Ozarks: A Memoir, The Bittersweet Ozarks at a Glance, and novels, The Burnt District, Her Brothers, Blue and Gray, Her Enemies Blue and Gray, Morning in Nicodemus, Skeleton in the Cistern, and Pioneer Partners.

Tell us how Bittersweet--the Ozark quarterly magazine you produced and edited for 10 years--came about. My brother, Ralph Gray on the staff of the National Geographic, suggested I do for the Ozarks what Foxfire in northern Georgia was doing for the Appalachians--recording the local heritage. My school superintendent and principal were willing, my students eager, so we travelled over the Ozarks to interview people for the 40 magazines we published  from 1973 to 1983.

What do you feel is the key to your success? Never giving up.

When and why did you begin writing? I’ve written all my life and majored in English in college, but I seriously began writing myself after I retired from teaching in 1986. I have 29 books to date.

How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews? I’ve had hundreds of rejections. I just try sending my manuscripts somewhere else. Or if I think it important enough, I publish it myself. such as I did with A Candle Within Her Soul, a biography of Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey, after being rejected 50 times during 11 years. And I’ve sold more copies of it and received more attention than any of my other books.

Do you use critique partners or beta readers? Why or why not? Yes. I exchange ideas and manuscripts with a few fellow writers because I need unprejudiced opinions and help.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Never give up. You can write as long as you have a mind.

What inspired your latest book? After my siblings and I had written our round robin letters for over 25 years, I arranged them into topics and sent  a copy to each as a Christmas present. The reaction I received encouraged me to seek a publisher.

What do you think readers will like about your book? It is full of honest respect for one another with comments both serious and humorous of a middle class, mid-American family during the mid-twentieth century. 


What makes your book unique?  I don’t know of another book like it. It has eight authors reacting to national and personal events they are sharing with one another.

What are your top three reasons for writing? It is a way to teach what I think is important, it helps preserve permanently what I think is important, and it’s fun. 

What's the highest compliment someone could make about your writing? I couldn’t put your book down. 


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This is T.W. Fendley. Thanks for reading and commenting on The Writers' Lens.You can find out more about me at

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like my kind of book and I can't wait to purchase a copy. Nice interview and love the advice: Never give up!