The evolution of a writer by Meredith Coleman McGee, 10.30.2022
When I was in my 20s, I was an avid fiction reader, who aspired to become a published author. One day in 1991, I submitted a short story in a contest to Ebony Magazine about a girl taking a trip to her grandmother’s house. I did not win the contest. I was not crushed that I did not win. In fact, I started drafting a novel in the middle of the Crack Cocaine epidemic.
At that time, I owned and ran a convenience store called Sunrise Foods # II. I never completed the novel. But I stayed the course as far as writing was concerned. In 1992, I sent a story to the Jackson Advocate newspaper. The publisher Charles Tisdale ran my story. I was so excited. I clipped the article and showed it to everyone. People in the community were proud. My mother was especially pleased. She encouraged her four children to write. The four of us started writing poetry when we were teenagers.
I continued reading for pleasure which exposes me to stories and storytelling styles. Sometimes I read historical fiction which prompted me to research actual events. Alice Walker introduced me to Patrice Lumumba and Zora Neal Hurston. The writings of Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, J California Cooper, and others taught me new aspects of the Black experience. As I got older, I started reading more nonfiction, particularly memoirs and biographies. I enjoyed reading the book and comparing notes with the Hollywood movie version. For example, I read I, Tina: My Life Story before I saw What’s Love Got To Do With It.
In October of 1993, after five years, I closed my convenience store. In November, I became an account executive for the Mississippi Link, a new Black newspaper. I was not good at sales. I resigned. Then, I asked for a job at the Jackson Advocate, the oldest existing Black owned newspaper in Mississippi, and started at once in December of 1993. That was a turn of events for me as a writer. I was trained to write newspaper stories. There was team work to proof the paper. On my next two jobs, I became the assistant editor of editor of the company’s newsletter. I continued from time to time to contribute articles for the Jackson Advocate. Our working relationship has spanned over 25 years so far.
In January of 2003, I started Typing Solutions Résumés & Etc, a typing, resume, and writing service. In 2004, I obtained a master’s degree in Rural Community Development & Public Policy. I wrote a Capstone Project consisting of three chapters in partial fulfillment of my degree. Writing a manuscript with three chapters in APA style format was a big learning curve. Regardless of my imperfections, I was growing. Eventually, clients asked me to proofread academic manuscripts. Of the 32 books published at Meredith Etc, eight of the manuscripts were typed through my typing service.
One day, Willa Womack, the owner of Classic Printing in Historic Farish Street gave me a referral for a typing job. I went to her office, and she introduced me to Darlene Collier. Mrs. Collier had a stack of yellow writing pads from the floor to her knees. She had been journaling for years. I read the tablets and realized I was looking at a writing job rather than a typing job. We sat in my living room and discussed her story. It only took 10 or 15 minutes to discover her story was in her head.
I was really fascinated with her story. I had never drafted a book. But as the saying goes, there is a first Sunday in every month. I accepted the task. I figured it all. My sister Evalyn always says, “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer, “One bit at a time.” I interviewed Mrs. Collier. She responded through a tape recorder. I transcribed her responses from the tapes into a computer-generated file. I travelled to her hometown of Heidelberg, Jasper County, Mississippi and interviewed her relatives and searched the dates connected to her family history at the church burial grounds. We went to the courthouse and obtained copies of land deeds and I obtained census records.
I was interviewing people for the biography I wrote on my uncle James Meredith during the same time. Believe it not, it took about four years to complete the research process for Mrs. Collier’s memoir. The result was a manuscript which we named Married to Sin by Darlene D. Collier with Meredith C. McGee. I had watched a lifetime movie called Married to the Mob. I told Mrs. Collier I had a great name for our book. She loved it.
In 2011, I obtained a list of literary agents and contacted them one by one. We sent a book proposal, a query letter, and the manuscript Married to Sin out. However, we did not find anyone willing to take our manuscript. We gave up on agents and sent the book proposal and query letters to mid to large size publishing houses. Mrs. Collier was not discouraged when we obtained our first rejection letter. It said something like, “You have a great story it is not a good fit for our publishing house.”
After receiving five rejection letters, Mrs. Collier had had enough. She decided we were wasting our time sending letters out. Sometimes we had to wait 30 to 60 days to get a “no,” even though we had supplied a SASE in our package. It was a tedious process. Mrs. Collier suggested we start a publishing company. I couldn’t believe she wanted to start a company. We did. We named it Mose Dantzler Press for her great grandfather Mose Dantzler. He was the largest Black landowner in Jasper County. He bought 243 acres in 1905 from the City of New Orleans. The brother of my friend Mily translated Married to Sin into Spanish which
is named Casada El Pecado. My sister-in-law Nancy edited the translations.
Mrs. Collier and I had different visions. So, our publishing road ended. As the acquisition editor of Mose Dantzler Press, I acquired two manuscripts Starkishia: Estrella and Odyssey. However, Mrs. Collier changed her mind about adding new titles to Mose Dantzler Press. I filed the paperwork to close Mose Dantzler Press. Then, I formed Meredith Etc, February 9, 2013, and took those two manuscripts with me. Fast forward nine years, Meredith Etc has produced 32 books with 20 authors. One book by the 21st author is slated to be released next month.
Married to Sin was my first published work. A lot happened since then. I am now the author of five full length books and six children’s books. It took 24 years from the time I aspired to become an author at age 24 to the year I became a published author at age 48. My uncle, James Meredith, always says, “Life is a process.” It is. Search Meredith Coleman McGee on Barnes & Noble or
Amazon to buy my works. Visit or https://meredithetc.com/ to buy Meredith Etc books.
Meredith Coleman McGee, Author/Acquisition Editor/Publisher