Growing up in the Steuben Valley of upstate New York, I didn't guess that I'd ever write a book or be a literary agent . . . I wanted to be a gas-station attendant because they always had a big roll of bills in their pocket, which they'd pull out to give you change. It made an impression on me. I don't know why but I also really loved the smell of gasoline. I liked meteorology too, and I'd sit for hours every Saturday, watching the weather clocks on my grandmother's television . . .
But as I got older, there was one thing that became clear: 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 . . . but I wanted to live in a city.
So during college I did a publishing internship in New York, and I felt like I had found my home with all these millions and millions of people living in relative peace. 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 one morning on NJ Transit. She came in loudly and demanded that 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 my new books, including my first middle-grade novel, Matylda, Bright and Tender, and Come with Me (a picture book illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre) are being published under my own given name, Holly M. McGhee. Because the books are inspired by my own emotional journey, it felt right to weave all of the strands of who I am together finally. I so look forward to continuing both writing my own books and bringing books I love into the world at Pippin.