Growing up in the Steuben Valley of upstate New York, I never guessed I'd ever write a book or be a literary agent . . . I was pretty busy singing loudly in the hay barn with my middle sister, selling sweet corn out of my dad's red pick-up truck at Gerry Blood's gas station, playing with our kittens, and building my own balance beam with a 4X4 piece of lumber and two sawhorses—I dreamed of being a gymnast . . . my back up was meteorologist.
But as I got older, I realized I wasn't cut out for country life . . . I don't know if that's because of all the wood we had to stack to heat our house, or because nearly every winter the pipes froze, or just the rigor of rural life . . . the rigor of mice and moles !
What I did know from pretty early on was that I wanted to live in a city.
So during college I did a publishing internship in New York, and I fell in love with the place, all these millions and millions of people living in relative peace astonished me, how was that even possible? I was hooked. And eventually I became an editor at HarperCollins, and years later, when a few projects I was crazy about didn't make it through the acquisitions process, I decided to start Pippin Properties, a literary agency. It was born from a longing to see stories I loved in print.
Little did I know that Pippin would grow and flourish and become home to some of the crown jewels of the publishing world.
And a little less than a decade after I opened the doors at Pippin, I was as surprised as anybody when the character who would narrate my first book came marching into my life while I was pleasantly reading on NJ Transit. She came in loudly and demanded I write down her story, in her words. That was my first real experience in writing (all in a spiral-bound notebook), and it led to the publication of the Dessert First trilogy, which led to my three picture books, two about a boy named Mitchell who was born to drive and one about my own son Marshall, who believed gingerbread men could run (I think we both still do). I wrote all of those under a pen name, Hallie Durand, because I wanted them to be judged on their own merit, not influenced one way or the other because I owned a literary agency or was a publishing insider.
It was born from a longing
to see stories I loved in print.
But these days I'm writing under my given name, Holly M. McGhee. My first middle-grade novel, Matylda, Bright and Tender came out in 2017 as did Come with Me (a picture book illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre). Because the books are inspired by my own emotional journey, it felt right to weave all of the strands of who I am together. I so look forward to continuing both writing my own books and bringing books I love into the world at Pippin. Look for Listen, again illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre, in Fall 2019.