Words for the soul: Local writers featured in popular anthology

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 7, 2015

Submitted photo solid encouragement: Mary Beth Magee’s mother, Mary Catherine, was a staunch supporter of Magee’s literary career.   Photo submitted

Submitted photo
solid encouragement: Mary Beth Magee’s mother, Mary Catherine, was a staunch supporter of Magee’s literary career.
Photo submitted

One of a writer’s ultimate goals is to see their words come to life through the eyes of readers across the nation.
Two writers in Pearl River County recently earned that great honor when their short stories were selected for upcoming editions of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.
According to a release, in 22 years, there have been more than 100 million books in the series sold to date in the United States and Canada. The series has released more than 250 titles and has been translated into more than 40 languages.
The books feature the real life tales of people’s happiness, inspiration and wellness, the release states.
Now, the names of local authors Jan Penton Miller and Mary Beth Magee will soon be seen by the millions of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” readers.

“Hope and Miracles”

Miller was born and raised in Jackson, but has lived in Pearl River County since she was in the fourth grade.
She is a graduate of Picayune Memorial High School and the University of Southern Mississippi where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and remedial reading.
She taught at both Pearl River Central and Picayune High schools. Miller was the special population coordinator and acted as liaison between the parents, teachers and counselors of students who struggled either academically or behaviorally.
“I started writing poetry as a young sixth-grader,” Miller said. “I thought it was great to read a poem because the poets seemed to understand what I was feeling. It was as if we were connecting through writing.”
Miller said once she reached her goals of teaching and raising children, she needed a new project. Her son brought a book about finding a dream and that’s when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing.
Her first published work was in the Picayune Item, which became a regular occurrence.
After the Item, she was published in the Bogalusa Centennial and wrote the “Frontiers of Faith,” which was about the local worship centers. She wrote a Wednesday column and a Sunday faith and family feature for the Bogalusa Daily News.
She also wrote “The Gift” for Resurrection Life’s “Life Signs” magazine. The story, which was about her son and how God works in everyday lives, won second place in the magazine division at the 2014 Southern Christian Writer’s Conference.
About a year ago, Miller said she prayed that she would write something that would touch people all over the world.
“I decided a national publication would be my goal,” Miller said. “I heard about call outs and wrote a true story about my children. I’m really excited that my story was chosen. This will be my first national publication.”
Miller’s story is entitled “Coming Home.” It is a story about telling people about God, that he cares and that his timing is perfect, Miller said. It will be featured in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope and Miracles.”
As a result, Miller has book signings scheduled at local venues. The first signing will be on Feb. 19, from 5 to 8 p.m. at MeLinda’s Fine Gifts located at 1 Sycamore Road, Suite B in Picayune. Proceeds from book sales at this event will be donated to the Pearl River County SPCA, Miller said.
On Feb. 23 from noon until, Miller also has a book signing at the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library located at 900 Goodyear Blvd. Proceeds from the book sales at that event will be donated to the library to purchase children’s books.
“I want to give people a better picture of who God is,” Miller said.

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“Thanks to my Mom”

Magee was born in New Orleans, La. and was first published in the Times Picayune when she was 10-years-old.
“I wrote book reviews for the Young People’s Page, which also included the Aunt Jane’s Letter Club,” Magee said.
She was the copy editor of the Nicholls High School newspaper and also writes for church bulletins. She has written art and book reviews for examiner.com, the former Yahoo Voices, DemadStudios.com and “Southern Seniors” quarterly magazine.
She has lived in Illinois and moved to southern California to take care of her mother, Mary Catherine, whose health was failing.
“We got the amazing chance to bring her back home to Carriere to spend her final days,” Magee said. “My mother loved to read and always encouraged me to write. She wanted to see my name on the front of a book.”
Prior to her mother’s death in April 2013, Magee’s first story was published in the “Not Your Mother’s Books on Being a Stupid Kid” anthology. Magee said her mother was thrilled to see her daughter’s name in the table of contents.
Shortly after Mary Catherine’s death, Magee began work on her first novel, “Death in the Daylilies,” which she describes as a cozy Christian mystery with a southern accent.
Magee said she always wanted to see her work published in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.
Magee’s story is entitled, “A Book for Mama,” and will be featured in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom,” book, which is scheduled for released on March 17.
In her story, Magee describes the encouragement and love she received from her mother with regard to reading and pursuing a writing career.
“It was a wonderful feeling when I got that first shipment of ‘Death in the Daylilies’ and knowing that it was all for her,” Magee said. “That first book is dedicated to her memory.”
Magee is currently working on a sequel to her first novel, which is entitled “Ambush at the Arboretum.”
Magee’s works can be found in many anthologies including “Not Your Mother’s Book on Being a Stupid Kid,” “Not Your Mother’s Book on Being a Parent,” “Inspire Victory,” “Inspire Promise” and the Picayune Writers Group 2014 anthology.
She has authored three books, “Death in the Daylilies,” “Songs of Childhood, Echoes of Years” and Devotions from the Road of Life, Volume I: Hitting the Road.”
Her first local book signing will take place at the Crosby Library on April 13, from noon to 2 p.m.
“I want my readers to understand that if you have somebody that believes in you, you can accomplish anything,” Magee said. “My mom believed in my skills as a writer and that gave me courage. It gives you the energy and power that you might not think you have.”