Phil Campbell alum publishes book
Phil Campbell graduate Jennifer Dison Hallmark said she remembers, as a young person, sitting in the corner of a utility closet so she could be alone with a small notebook and a pen to write stories. Nowadays, she is author of Firefly Southern Fiction’s “Jessie’s Hope.”
Hallmark stopped writing after graduating from high school, but she said she rediscovered the pastime when her father suddenly passed away in 1991. She said she began writing again as a coping mechanism, but this time she stuck with it.
Hallmark began attending writers’ conferences and joining groups to write short stories, which was how “Jessie’s Hope” was born. She said the novel originally began as a short story built from three prompts: faded overalls, a dusty baseball cap and a wedding dress designer.
Hallmark said she wrote a story about a grandfather who goes to a specialty dress shop to find the perfect wedding dress for his granddaughter. Hallmark said she shared the story with others outside of her writing group, but it was not until requests to expand the story kept rolling in that she knew the short piece could be a novel.
“Everyone I showed the book to kept saying ‘But I want more because I need to know how it ends,’” Hallmark said. “I have always been a science fiction writer, but it is really hard to create a world, so at that point, my husband said, ‘Why don’t you write about something you really know about, like the South?’”
“Jessie’s Hope” evolved into the story of a young woman named Jessie who has had to use a wheelchair since an accident killed her mother and separated her from her father. Once her boyfriend proposes, her grandfather embarks on a journey to find her a wedding dress that will make her forget the boundaries of her wheelchair while she searches for her father and a way to heal her past.
Hallmark said the journey of writing and releasing “Jessie’s Hope” has been fun, but it has also been long.
“If I would have known in 2006 that it would take me until 2019 to finally publish, it would have been kind of overwhelming,” Hallmark said.
Despite the long journey of completing “Jessie’s Hope,” Hallmark said she has already finished the initial draft for a sequel to “Jessie’s Hope” and is pitching it while writing the third book in the series.
Hallmark’s mother Stella Douglas said she has enjoyed seeing how her daughter’s story has evolved to where it is today and looks forward to continuing to experience her writing as a fan, instead of as her mother.
“Whenever she was first writing, I got to read the original writing,” Douglas said. “Well by the time the book released, so much of it was different, so I told her for her next book, I don’t want to read any of it beforehand. I just want to read and enjoy it when it comes out, just like everybody else.”