Aspiring local writer to be published
Dream comes true for Jenkins native
Jenkins native Prix Gautney will soon fulfill a lifelong dream by becoming a published author.
Her book, entitled "Season of Crows," an Evershade series, will be the first in a series of five in the middle fantasy category for young adults, scheduled to be released July 15. In addition, her western novel, entitled "The Cochetopa Kid," will be released in December 2017.
"'Season of Crows' is the first installment of a series of five books," Gautney said. "It follows the story of Ash, a young field mouse trying to find his place in the world. All of the creatures are woodland creatures. It's the worst drought in history and the heat that comes with it, and in midst of that, they realize they are going to be attacked by the crows."
One installment of the series will come out each year in July for five years.
Gautney said she was inspired to write the series here in the Ozarks, while collecting walnuts with her family.
"Each autumn, we harvest walnuts, and one year, they fell earlier than usual, and I said, jokingly, 'We are the keepers of the walnuts, and my son said, 'We are the walnut keepers.' And so the name of the series started out as The Walnut Keepers, and the name of the creatures that live in Evershade are The Walnut Keepers. So I sat on that idea a couple of years, and I continued to go with creatures and plants that are found in the Ozarks. And in fact, I bring in the white squirrels, too.
"I also had an idea for the western and won first place in the western category at a contest last October in Eureka Springs, Ark., and got a publishing contract for it as well. We had to submit two chapters of a western novel or a short story. And I'd never written anything western, ever. I guess you could say I had western culture in my blood."
The title, Cochetopa, is an Indian name that means "pass of the buffalo," and is based on an actual pass that goes between two towns in Colorado called Saguache and Gunnison.
"I used that as my focus," she said.
Gautney attended grade school at Jenkins Elementary, then later moved to Colorado, returning to Missouri in 2007. Her experiences living in an isolated area of Colorado inspired her.
"We lived for many years in what was like a ghost town on top of a mountain on Old LaVita Pass near Walsenburg, Colo., and we were caretakers of a home there for a few years," she said. "I would wake up every morning and there would be a herd of elk, or bears would come down. Just that whole area of Colorado inspired me. I wanted something different than just a regular western. The story shocked the publisher. He said when he finished the first chapter, he sat back in his chair stunned. He said not a lot of authors are willing to write about the bleak parts of westerns. Hopefully, I can continue that as we go on through the novel.
"It's about a boy who is around 11, who has cannibalism in his home. Through a series of awful events, he leaves and runs across two prospectors who take him in to help him learn and become a man. After more terrible events, he ends up in the wilderness alone."
Gautney said her western novel is set to be released in December 2017, but the first two chapters will be printed in Saddlebag Dispatcher magazine in mid-July.
"It's an e-magazine, but they also do a print version of it," said Gautney, who is a member of Mid South Writer's Group, a critique group in Cassville, and said she entered the Ozarks Creative Writer's contest not expecting to get published.
But, a publisher at the contest, Oghma Creative Media, based in Fayetteville, Ark., liked Gautney's work.
"They listened and invited me to submit my first three chapters," Gautney said. "It was very nerve wracking. The publisher and editor were there and you tell a little about your story, how many words it is, what genre, along with main characters."
She waited for weeks before she heard anything.
"We brushed up on our work and sent the first three chapters of Season of Crows in by email," Gautney said. "Their editor reviewed them and got back to me and invited me to publish the series. In my case, they liked the story enough they took it. I was shocked."
Her original plan was to have at least three works completed, then submit them to her publishers within a year or two.
"I had no idea they would get accepted," she said. "It blew me away. But my colleagues pushed me. It's good, because I have a goal and a drive now. I have six books under contract."
Getting published has been a lifelong dream for Gautney.
"I've been wanting to be a writer since I was a child," she said. "I started writing seriously in high school. I've written picture books for quite a while, but took a break to raise the kids. But I wanted to get back into it because I felt it was my path in life. I'm trying to make writing a career. I wanted to go the traditional route where your works are accepted, versus being self-published. That's always been my goal.
Gautney has two children, a son and a daughter.
She will be at the Cassville Branch Library on July 25 at 6 p.m. for a book signing, and will have books available for sale. Tomblin's, Whitley's and the Barry County Museum will be carrying her books locally.