‘Journeys of choice’

Author Scoggins sets historical
novel in town near Madison

Mayor Armstrong to give Scoggins
key to city in Jan. ceremony

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(January 2009) – Melissa Scoggins found herself traveling on a train headed back in time. When she arrived at her destination, a stranger was holding a sign that said, “We’ve been waiting for you to come.”



When Scoggins awoke from the bizarre, yet vivid, dream, she knew she had met the characters for a novel she was supposed to write.
Her historical novel, “Journeys of Choice: Joanna’s Crossroads,” has been published by FirstWorks Publishing Inc., a niche publisher based in Atlanta. The novel is set in a small fictional town outside of Madison, Ind., during 1885. It tells the story of Joanna Garrett, a young woman forced to flee her home in North Carolina after being branded a suffragette. Garrett becomes a teacher in Indiana and tries to rebuild her life with the help of Edgar McGill and his sister, Laura, despite the conniving and manipulation of town socialite Lucy Sheppard.
Scoggins, an appellate lawyer from Weaverville, N.C., will be in Madison on Jan. 23-24 for several speaking engagements and a book signing. At 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 23, Scoggins is scheduled to be presented the key to the City of Madison by Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong. The ceremony is open to the public.
She will be at the Madison Mercantile, 220 W. Main St., from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for the weekly wine and hors d’oeuvres event held there. After that, she will be at the Village Lights Bookstore, 110 E. Main St., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a book signing. During the afternoons of Jan. 23-24, Scoggins will make an appearance at Hanover College and then the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library. Details of those appearances are still being planned.
“I am very excited to be returning to Madison,” said Scoggins, 55, during a December telephone interview. “I will be arriving in Madison just about the time of year that my character, Joanna, arrived in her town near Madison.”
Scoggins has been an attorney for 27 years. She was the only female lawyer in her firm during the early years of her career, and she was the first female trial lawyer most Virginia judges had encountered.
In 1974, she received a journalism degree from Indiana University and later earned her law degree in 1981 at Washington and Lee University School of Law. She is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and has appeared there twice on brief.
For the past few years, Scoggins has worked just part-time as an attorney; she has devoted the rest of her time to her family and her writing. “I’ve liked to write since the time I could first hold a pencil,” she said. “I decided I wanted to write a novel by the time I reached 50 years old, so that’s what I set out to do.”
It took her 1 1/2 years to complete her first draft, and then she set out to find a publisher. FirstWorks Publishing Inc., a small publishing company dedicated to developing new authors, was impressed with her work. “Scoggins’ characters are truly alive and interesting,” said FirstWorks owner Diane Martin. “She did a remarkable job of conceptualizing the story.”
Martin was so impressed with Scoggins’ work, she decided to personally mentor her and help edit the novel. It took the team 10 months to finalize the final draft.
Scoggins has already started writing the novel when she decided to set the story in a small town in Indiana. She chose to set her fictional town near Madison because of the town’s rich history and geography. “It had everything I needed including a railroad, a college and a river,” she said.
She decided she needed to visit Madison to do some research. The very week she made that decision, a friend who she had lost touch with, Margot Henderson, emailed her and asked her to come visit her new home in Madison.
“The creation of this novel has also been a spiritual journey for me,” said Scoggins. “When Henderson told me where she was living, I was thrilled.”
Henderson, who worked with Scoggins at a law firm, owns the Madison Creamery, 115 W. Main St. “I didn’t even know Scoggins was writing a novel,” said Henderson. She now works as Scoggins’ publicist. “I was thrilled when she decided to come visit me.”
Scoggins spent several days in Madison doing historical research and getting the flavor of the town. She said she found it difficult to leave. “I am looking forward to talking to the descendants of Joanna’s time, to walk near the river where she walked, and to visit the beautiful part of history that is Hanover College.”

• For more information about Melissa Scoggins’ visit to Madison, call Margot Henderson at (812) 265-4278 or visit: www.melissascoggins.com.

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