Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Neighbor's Gift

No one would have guessed that the little town of Monroeville, Alabama (pop. 6,219), would produce two novelists of national prominence, or that they would grow up as next-door neighbors. But Harper Lee was the next-door neighbor of Truman Capote. They played together as children, attended school together, and became good friends. By the time they reached their thirties, it was only natural that Harper would show him the galley proofs of her first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. 
Truman had toyed with the idea of writing a novel for years, but never screwed up the courage to try. The sight of Harper’s galleys changed that. Truman asked Harper to accompany him to Kansas to research the details of a notorious murder, which he thought would make good grist for his first novel. She agreed. Together they amassed hundreds of pages of journalists’ notes, which became his best-selling debut novel, In Cold Blood.

It’s hard to imagine two people more different than Harper and Truman. She was a modest, soft-spoken person while he reveled in parties, alcohol, and outrageous clothes. So far as we know, neither of them critiqued the other’s work. But Harper Lee gave her neighbor a priceless gift when she showed him those galley proofs: Confidence. Capote believed that if his small-town neighbor could get a contract with a major New York publisher, so could he.

The Monroeville Chamber of Commerce now boasts on their website not two nationally known authors, but five (including another Pulitzer winner). And if you visit those other authors' websites, you'll find that they point back to Lee and Capote as neighbors who gave them...confidence.

Confidence. Has another author given you that gift? Have you passed it along to a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker who may need to reach that "tipping point," too?

Joe Allison and his wife, Judy, live in Anderson IN, where Joe serves as Coordinator of Publishing for Church of God Ministries, Inc. Joe has several nonfiction books in print, including Swords and Whetstones: A Guide to Christian Bible Study Resources. He's currently writing a trilogy of Christian historical novels set in the Great Depression.

Visit Joe's blog at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the encouragement, Joe. It's needed right now. I'm on the discouraged side right now.