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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose Blog Tour - Tina Nichols Coury Celebrates America!

I am honored to be today's stop on the Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose Blog Tour 2012 ! I first met Tina Nichols Coury nearly two decades ago in a writing class taught by Alexis O'Neill. One day Tina shared her idea for a story about Mount Rushmore. Tina's excitement was spilling over as she told us about Lincoln Borglum, the son of sculptor Gutzon Borglum. I remember feeling a tingle in my heart - I knew my friend was embarking on something special. I have seen Tina's sheer dedication to the story of Lincoln Borglum as she researched, revised, and carefully crafted every word of her story. As critique partners, Tina and I have supported each othe through many journeys, in writing and in life.  I am thrilled to share in the joy as we celebrate the launch of Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose - Growing Up on Mount Rushmore with the interview of my dear friend, Tina Nichols Coury.

Comment Raffle - You could be a winner!

Please join me in celebrating Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose - Growing Up on Mount Rushmore! Share your comment and participate in the Blog Tour "Comment Raffle Prize." One lucky reader who leaves a comment before May 15th will be selected at random to win a KINDLE!

Why is the story of Lincoln Borglum important to share? What spark in his story ignited you?

I am crazy about history and kids who helped change it. What amazed me about Lincoln and the building of Mount Rushmore is how little I knew about the story. At a time when most fathers left the parenting to the wife, Gutzon showered his son Lincoln with time and attention. Lincoln went everywhere with his dad since he was a baby, from meeting Kings in European courts to the Presidents in the White House. Lincoln was there at the beginning when Gutzon was hired to carve a mountain in South Dakota. Lincoln was at his dad side and learned to carve a mountain. What an amazing story. You were in that children’s literature class in 1994 the day I brought in the story. If you remember Barbara, I asked the class what angle I should take on the manuscript and everyone agreed the best idea was to focus on Lincoln Borglum.

Your writer’s journey spanned nearly two decades. How did you find the courage and motivation to keep your story alive?

Believe me I never dreamed it would take so long. At first I thought it would spit it out in 6 months, have a book out in a year and go on to something else. I knew nothing about craft, collaboration and children’s literature. But I was lucky, my first children’s writing teacher, Alexis O’Neil was a SCBWI Regional Advisor so early on I was introduce to the wonderful family of the SCBWI. Over the years I attended countless SCBWI workshops, retreats, smoozes, critiquenics, conferences and had many critique groups. I learned about voice, plot, characters language, promotion, marketing and totally immersed myself in the fabulous world of children’s literature. But why I stayed are the people. The nicest, sweetest, generous souls are in the SCBWI. I had found life long friends. Where else could I get dressed up in a costume and get a prize for doing so?

What are the greatest challenges you faced in the writing process?

Not walking away. Around year five or six I was so discouraged by all the rejection letters that I was ready to quit. I sat on the floor of your parent’s living room during a critique group wanting to give it all up. If you remember, you and Alexis talked me in to staying the course, encourage me to work on other manuscripts and made me believe that some day I would be published.

How many revisions did you write for Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose?

I should ask you how many revisions you have read. Hundreds, thousands, ten years worth of revisions before it was acquired at a SCBWI Writer’s Day in 2005 by editor Mark McVeigh of Dutton. After a few more years I did revisions with Mark, and when he left Dutton, revisions with my new editor, Steve Meltzer. Before Dutton had the manuscript it was a diary, it was in first person, it was in third person, and it was called “In the Shadow of the Mountain.” It was called, “The Diary of Lincoln Borglum.” The great title, “Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose,” came from illustrator/author Siri Weber Feeney who I was in a critique group with. Over the years I also illustrated five dummies, but never felt the art was right. When Mark just bought the manuscript and not the art I was relieved and it freed me up to be a writer.

How did you feel when you first saw Sally Werner Comport’s illustrations?

OMG I was blown away. I was a big fan of Sally. She had illustrated many historical picture books. Mark had made the perfect choice. I immediately sent Sally a small Mount Rushmore made from the actual South Dakota granite as a good luck charm for the project. Years later when I saw the final art, I cried. The illustrations were beautiful and captured the spirit of the book.

Can you share some fun facts about Lincoln Borglum and the creation of Mt Rushmore that are not included in the book?

There are so many. The hard part of writing the book was deciding what stories stay and what stories go.

Here’s one about Lincoln. You didn’t need driver’s license in those days. Lincoln learned to drive a car when he was a kid. The family had a driver but Gutzon often let Lincoln do it. At twelve years old Lincoln drove the family to the top of Pike’s Peak and got a certificate for doing so.

Besides being a talented sculptor, Gutzon Borglum was the ultimate promoter. In the summer of 1927, President Calvin Coolidge was in the Black Hills, and Borglum was planning a formal dedication of the mountain. Borglum hired a plane to fly over the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park where Coolidge was staying. As he flew by Borglum dropped a wreath to invite the President to the dedication ceremony. Fortunately Coolidge agreed to attend and dedicate the mountain.

The next story said a lot about the father and son bond.

When Lincoln was in high school his dad had him drive down to his Texas studio to pick up the model of Mount Rushmore to use for measurements. Lincoln fell asleep and car drove into a ditch and the model was destroyed. When Lincoln called his dad to tell him about the accident Gutzon said, “It is easier to fix a model than to fix a boy.” Don’t you just love that story?

What would Lincoln Borglum think about Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose?

Unlike his dad Gutzon, Lincoln was a humble man. Lincoln always spread the credit around and he would have liked that the book highlighted the crew as well as him in the carving of Mount Rushmore. From the begining I worked closely with Lincoln’s daughter, Robin Borglum Carter. She told me family stories, sent me photos and encouraged me in many ways. She is delighted that the story of her dad has finally been published.

No doubt copies of Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose will be flying off bookshelves and making their way into the hands and hearts of readers. What are your thoughts about being an “overnight success?”

Seventeen and half years are hardly overnight and I cross my fingers hoping for some success with the book. I hadn’t even thought of reviews but I was really pleased with Daniel Krauss of Booklist. He said “…Perfect for history units, this is a great piece of work about a great piece of work.” Man that was sweet.

It has been a wonderful journey full of friends, knowledge and tons of great books. I am really enjoying this published author thingy. I am glad I waited for a traditional house that gave me my wonderful editor, Steve Meltzer and my editor turned agent, Mark McVeigh. But mostly I look forward to school visits and hanging out with the kids. Who knows, maybe one of them is the next Lincoln Borglum who will help change history.

See the full list of stops on the Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose Blog Tour!

My friend, Tina Nichols Coury, and me!


Blogger Perogyo said...

What a great interview- I love that she never gave up! I learned a lot about what goes into making a picture book. Thanks so much to both of you!

May 8, 2012 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger Geo Librarian said...

What a fascinating story. I look forward to reading this book and sharing it with my students. I'm always looking for books that help me show children that history is anything but boring. Thanks for the great interview.

May 8, 2012 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger Mary Ann Fraser said...

Tina has done so much for the writer community over the years. She is one of our best cheerleaders. It is such a thrill to see this book finally in the hands of kids. Can't wait to get a copy of my own! It is gorgeous.

May 8, 2012 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Jeanette W. Stickel said...

What an inspiring story – I mean of course, your road to publication! Lincoln’s story I have yet to read but you can be sure I will. I look forward to introducing the book to my students.

May 8, 2012 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Gail Gauthier said...

Tina, In spite of being on a listserv with you for quite some time, I had no idea what this book was going to be about. The basic situation sounds terrific. The cover looks great. Good luck with this.

And Barbara--Love your blog's book border/theme.


May 8, 2012 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Barbara & Tina - what a great interview (and not just becaue you mentioned me, Tina!) This really expresses the heart of your journey as a writer and your love of and ethusiasm for the subject of your book. I've been lucky to have seen the F&Gs, and know how perfect the illustrations are and what a love letter to Lincoln & Guston Borglum this is!

May 8, 2012 at 9:10 AM  
Anonymous Barbara Jean Hicks said...

Tina, I love the stories you tell here that didn't make it into the book! You're right, the hardest part about writing is deciding what to leave out. Thanks, Barbara, for this great interview!

May 8, 2012 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Dorothy Patent said...

Very exciting, Tina, and great you kept at it despite the difficulties of modern publishing! I love books like this, that take on history from a new and personalized angle.
Dorothy Patent

May 8, 2012 at 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Mary Thornburg said...


Your dedication and YEARS of work on this are inspiring. I was impressed at your answer about your many revisions, especially from first to third person.

I wonder how you feel about revising -- do you enjoy it or is it mostly a chore? I personally love the revision process (and that's a GOOD thing :-)), but recently I've had two different people tell me they hate to revise.


May 8, 2012 at 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Tina Nichols Coury said...

It was so worth the wait. I feel lucky that I'm published with a big house. The time gave me an opportunity to learn cyber promotion, book trailer and I love all the kidlit friends that I've met over the years and the SCBWI is the best part of all.

May 8, 2012 at 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Mary Thornburg said...

Barbara & Tina~

It's inspiring to read about Tina's YEARS of hard work paying off at last. I wonder how you both feel about the process of revising. Is it a chore or do you enjoy it?


May 8, 2012 at 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Patricia Cruzan said...

You've described quite a journey, Tina. Congratulations on your success.

May 8, 2012 at 10:06 AM  
Anonymous TL Sumner said...

I love this interview. Tina, so glad you never gave up on your dream. I love it when history comes alive in a book. :)

May 8, 2012 at 10:14 AM  
Anonymous Robyn Hood Black said...

Thanks to both of you for this great behind-the-scenes peek! HUGE congrats, Tina - I look forward to seeing the book. Thanks for sharing your tale of persistence and community. :0)

May 8, 2012 at 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Tina Nichols Coury said...


I love revision. My writer's group always has such good ideas to make my stories better.

May 8, 2012 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Our Mission said...

So inspiring - never give up writing! And what a wonderful idea to write about Mt. Rushmore - a place we've all seen, but know so little about. Wow. Great interview and am looking forward to reading the book!

Charna Gross

May 8, 2012 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Joan said...

Tina, you are an inspiration--great interview! I love how you used your time leading up to the publication of your book to develop yet another talent--fabulous book trailers.

May 8, 2012 at 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Judy Presnall said...

Great interview! I think the school kids will love the cowboy trailer.
Judy Presnall

May 8, 2012 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous June Sobel said...

Great interview! A real tale of fortitude! So glad to have witnessed the journey!

May 8, 2012 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

I love the stories behind the story kind of books--but I think the story behind YOUR story is just as inspiring! Thanks for sharing the reminder to never give up, Tina.

May 8, 2012 at 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Heidi Estrin said...

It sounds like a truly fascinating story! Thanks especially for sharing the tidbits that had to be left out. I really like the whole father-son angle.

I've always wondered WHY ON EARTH someone would carve a bunch of presidents onto a mountain, so I guess I'll have to read this book to find out!

May 8, 2012 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

This was an amazing read! I am so pleased that I stopped by. What strength of courage to keep going forth in the face of rejection letters. As a new writer this is an encouraging thing to read. So I thank you both for this piece. Good job, ladies! So excited about the story!

May 8, 2012 at 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Barbara Bietz said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments! I'm so glad you were able to join in the celebration of Tina's Blog Tour. We are all lucky to be part of this lovely community - online and in real life.

Happy Reading and Happy Writing to all!


May 8, 2012 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Genetta said...

Great interview! Thanks to Tina for telling this amazing story of a father and son who worked together to create a beautiful work! Thanks also for offering the behind-the-scenes stories for us. And thanks to Barbara for sharing Tina's experiences with all of us!

May 9, 2012 at 5:11 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I enjoyed learning about Tina's journey writing this book. Great insight into how much work goes into a book. I've added this interview to the roundup of Kidlitosphere Interview Wednesday interviews on my blog.

May 9, 2012 at 5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What wonderful stories! I enjoyed learning not only about your book, Tina, but about your personal writing journey. I love to read kidlit and will definitely read this book. Thank you for the inspiration and enthusiasm, and thanks to Barbara for hosting!

May 9, 2012 at 5:55 AM  
Anonymous Merrily Kutner said...

After all the people Tina has interviewed for her blog it's great to see it's finally her turn. Interesting stories. It's your time go!

See you at the launch.


May 9, 2012 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Terri Michels said...

Great Job, I learned a lot. Thank you.

May 10, 2012 at 5:32 AM  
Blogger Angela Russell said...

Everything you said is so true about not giving up, the wonderful people we meet and work with - it certainly does take a village and luckily we can all party together to celebrate!

May 10, 2012 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Greg Pincus said...

I just want to add my congratulations, Tina. And share in the excitement. And say thanks to you both for a fab interview! I'm so excited the book is OUT, and it's been fun being on the journey with you....

May 11, 2012 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

I look forward to reading this book.

May 12, 2012 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Gail said...

Thank you Barbara and Tina for a wonderful and insightful interview. For those of us still struggling to get our manuscript accepted, it's encouraging to hear that others have taken years to reach that point as well. I'll keep hanging in!

May 14, 2012 at 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Hanging of Mount Rushmore seems like fun now. it must have been even better when it was being formed.

May 14, 2012 at 9:23 PM  

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