It started out as a favor but quickly turned into a gift for us.
Pat Hodnett Cooper is one of the most cherished friends to Tink and me. All the Hodnetts are closer than friends. They’re family.
Tink and I were on St. Simons a couple of months ago. While he was in video editing for his Hallmark series, I took a walk on the beach. Pat, my sister-friend, called while I was dilly-dallying on the glistening sand and admiring the sunlight as it bounced off the deep blue water.
“Sweetie,” she began, then explained that she is a board member of the Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation which, in recent years, has been given the rights to Eugenia Price’s intellectual properties. In a meeting a few hours earlier, the idea had surfaced: Could any of Miss Eugenia’s books be turned into a television series?
“I’ll bring Tink and we’ll meet with y’all tomorrow.”
It was the least we could do for someone who has done mountains for us.
At dinner that night, Tink and I discussed the possibility.
“A period piece is expensive to produce and hard to sell,” he said.
Yet, he didn’t turn the idea down flat for three reasons: 1) He was well aware of the impact that the St. Simons trilogy had on me, and that meeting Miss Eugenia when I was 14 firmly set my course to be a writer; 2) He’d jump through hoops for Pat and the Hodnetts; 3) As an executive producer/writer on a period piece (that is, a setting other than modern day), he is a believer that it can be done. When Calls the Heart, a hit Hallmark series he inherited from Michael Landon Jr. and Brian Bird, recently debuted its eighth season at number one and is one of the most beloved shows currently on television. Its fans are zealous and steadfast about the turn-of-the-century drama.
The following day, we gathered with Pat, Paul White, and Jennifer Fussell of the Foundation to discuss the idea. As of date, Tink and I are working toward making that happen; television is tricky but it is our prayer that we can because Miss Eugenia’s work deserves to be taken to a new audience.
Out of that meeting came another wonderful idea: a one-hour documentary on Eugenia Price and the importance of her writings to the Georgia coast, especially St. Simons.
Tink and I are enormous documentary buffs because we both believe history should be recorded and extraordinary people should be remembered. Realizing that Tink was covered up with scripted (non-reality) writing and producing, I cheerfully took on the job of trying to corral the history of a writer who was key to my storytelling career.
Tay Hohoff was the fierce editor of the St. Simons trilogy. Known as an exceptionally tough editor — she worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Harper Lee for two years to edit To Kill A Mockingbird — Miss Eugenia nervously awaited Ms. Hohoff’s reaction to her first several chapters. The telegram that finally arrived in St. Simons was not flowery or full of praise but it gave her the green light to continue.
In 1974, Ms. Hohoff died. In my mind, I went through my New York publishing contacts, trying to figure out who might have known her. It occurred to me that my agent might have crossed paths with Ms. Hohoff.
When he learned that I wanted to document the life of Eugenia Price, he said something he has never said in the course of representing me in several publishing auctions that resulted in five bestsellers.
It turns out that he admires Miss Eugenia and was thoroughly familiar with how her historical fiction (and the incredible research skills of Joyce Blackburn) had been a pioneer in the genre. Though Miss Eugenia first made her mark by writing nonfiction bestsellers (much of it was Christian-based), she will be best remembered for the coastal, historical fiction with over 40 million books sold.
Now, I need your help.
If you knew Miss Eugenia and have a story to share, please contact me. Every story or encounter is important because it will help us tell her life and share her lovely character. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter here, to the magazine, and they’ll pass it along.
Since our meeting at the Foundation, I’ve thought often of encountering Miss Eugenia in the cemetery of Christ Church when my school group visited. I met her near the site where she is now buried. From that moment emerged an epiphany that led me to storytelling.
Now, I’m privileged to tell Eugenia Price’s story.