Monday, July 21, 2008

Shipping Books

Jill McCorkle turned fifty on July 7. Her first books were published in 1984 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill when I worked in its shipping department. Because the "department" consisted of me and one other guy working behind a partition between the "business office space" and the "editorial office space," I got to see her woosh through fairly often. When both The Cheerleader and July 7 came out, we'd ship copies to company shareholders and book jobbers from boxes stored next door in The Chapel Hill News warehouse.

Besides the fact that Jill McCorkle was adorably cute in person, her books were good and got better as she kept writing. But how did she get her first breakthrough? Via Louis D. Rubin, Jr., the main driving force behind Algonquin. He'd taught her at UNC-Chapel Hill, as had Lee Smith and Max Steele. (After UNC, McCorkle had gone on to complete a master's degree at Hollins College/University in Roanoke, Virginia, where she'd also worked with Rosanne Coggeshall, George Garrett and Richard Dillard). Algonquin's primary big gun editor and co-driving force was Shannon Ravenel and McCorkle's agent was Liz Darhansoff. It was tantalizing stuff to be working around these busy bees!

Jill McCorkle's first novels are cool enough, but she became especially skillful as a short story writer later. For those who like the form, I strongly recommend Crash Diet: Stories (1992), Final Vinyl Days and Other Stories (1998) and Creatures of Habit: Stories (2001).

More about Algonquin days at some point, I'm guessing. To all those ex-Algonquin workers from the mid-80s -- including Jim, Alison, Liz, Rose, Casey, Diane, Robert, "Scholey" Pitcher (RIP), Mimi Fountain and the rest, cheers! And, of course, happy fiftieth to Jill McCorkle!

Today's Rune: Harvest.


Charles Gramlich said...

I've never read anything by her. I'll have to check it out.

the walking man said...

Algonquin sent the first rejection letter I ever got.

"Not only no, but hell no!!!!"

ha ha ha ha ha ha