Florida Ghostwriting Project

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Brian O’Connor and I co-wrote three historic blues biographies while never meeting in person and separated by three states. This Florida ghostwriting project was possible thanks to today’s online tools and collaboration methods. Book One photo credit: John Keen. All rights reserved. Book Two photo credit: Carrie Powell. All rights reserved. Book Three photo credit: Diana Davies with permission from the Smithsonian. All rights reserved.

As a ghostwriter located in the Houston, Texas area, I’m not limited to local or state projects. In fact, I work with clients around the nation and globe. An extremely exciting Florida ghostwriting project came about thanks to the digital tools that make long distance collaboration possible.

My Florida Ghostwriting Project That Became a Co-Authorship

Sunny Southern Productions recently interviewed me regarding Book Two in the Riverside Blues Series, titled The Life and Legend of Mississippi Matilda: Iconic Songstress of the Delta:

SUNNY SOUTHERN PRODUCTIONS

We previously posted the Melanie Saxton Interview Part 1, with a promise to follow up on the Mississippi Matilda biography. Below is a bird’s-eye view of that writing process. We’ll also include interviews with Brian O’Connor on our blog.

The Melanie Saxton Interview — Continued

Sunny Southern Productions: This follow-up interview is to capture your impressions about the second book in the Riverside Blues Series. What is its title and purpose?

Melanie Saxton: I’m so glad you asked! The biography of Mississippi Matilda is titled The Life and Legend of Mississippi Matilda: Iconic Songstress of the Delta. Matilda’s tale is both sad and soaring — I felt a pendulum of emotions while writing it. She certainly was an iconic songstress, but more importantly a black woman — a wife and mother — who navigated the caste system of the Deep South and raised grateful children. As a female author, editor and mother myself, I was thrilled to write the first-ever account of her life. It dawned on me that I had just written a never-before-told story — a true milestone in blues history. My goal was to simply pay tribute to this amazingly resilient, gentle, Christian trailblazer who gave up the blues to sing gospel. I admire Matilda very much.

SSP: Tell us about your collaboration with your co-author.

MS: None of this could have been possible without co-author Brian O’Connor’s close affiliation with the Powell family. They loved him like a son. In fact, Matilda’s only surviving daughter, Carrie Powell, provided most of the insights into Matilda’s tragic, yet triumphant, life. This greatly supplemented Brian’s notes and tape recordings, as well as his memories of the stories Eugene told about Matilda. Those two loved each other until the very end of Matilda’s life, even after their separation in the 1950s.

SSP: We find it remarkable that you’ve written not just one, but two blues biographies. What was that like and how did the series develop?

Melanie Saxton: Initially, just one book was planned. My role was “ghostwriter,” but as Brian and I collaborated it became evident that more than one book was needed to fully share the history, culture and musical legacy of the Delta. As co-author, I compiled the first two biographies (The Original Rolling Stone: The Travelin’ Riverside Blues of Eugene Powell and The Life and Legend of Mississippi Matilda: Iconic Blues Songstress of the Delta) with a third book in the works.

SSP: Tell us about Mississippi Matilda

MS: Matilda Witherspoon Powell has been mentioned in a few books and on a few blogs, but without much context. No one knew the backstory. Never before has anyone had access to her true-life journey. She was an abused and abandoned girl who gave birth when she was just a child herself, and began singing for the Florida Orange Blossom Minstrels. Bo Chatmon (a.k.a. Bo Carter) was a close friend, and was also a friend to her future husband Eugene. That proved to be instrumental in a collaborative recording session under the Bluebird label. Together, Matilda and Eugene became a team on the home front, in the cotton fields, and on stage. I’m amazed that she managed to labor in the scorching Mississippi sun while suffering from a host of health-related issues. I admire that she juggled a total of ten children while her husband traveled. But most of all, I’m grateful for her daughter Carrie Powell, who shared the incredible details. It was an honor to write this history-making biography.

SSP: What about the third book in the works?

MS: With so much left untold, Brian and I decided to collaborate on a third book, America’s Unbeatable Musicians: The Original Masters of the Mississippi Riverside Blues. This book delves deeper into Eugene and Matilda’s friendships and performances with the most talented musicians in the Delta. We hope to publish in the fall of 2019.

SSP: How can you be contacted?

MS: Thank you for asking. I can be contacted through my website and my Facebook page. You can also reach me for writing projects and interviews at melanie@melaniesaxtonmedia.com.

Contact me if you need assistance with Florida ghostwriting projects

For help with writing or editing collaborations regardless of your location, please contact me … and let’s get started!