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Trailing Tennessee

A glimpse into the writing life of author Cory Mimms, a Molalla Pioneer sports editor whose first novel was published in October


by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Author and sports writer Cory Mimms at his desk. Mimm's new book, 'Trailing Tennessee,' was published in October.With his first novel, “Trailing Tennessee,” now on bookstore shelves, author Cory Mimms, who also happens to be the sports editor for the Molalla Pioneer, gave a glimpse into the life of a novelist last week.

Mimms participated in his first booksigning event last week at the Oregon Historical Society in downtown Portland, where he was one a group of local authors invited to market their books and sign them for fans.

“I’ve been to a lot of book signings, but never been on the other side of the table,” Mimms said. “The first two hours, nobody came to my table to purchase a book, then in the last two hours, I sold a book every 10 minutes.”

“Trailing Tennessee,” is a coming-of-age story about a teenage boy’s journey on the Appalachian Trail.

After a family tragedy, 14-year-old Eli Sutton, not your typical runaway, takes to the forest. His goal is to hike the trail’s 2,000-plus miles to reach Mount Katahdin in Maine, where he plans to carve his name on a tree alongside those of his grandfather and father. Mimms fills his story with authentic hiking details and excels at describing Eli’s mixed emotions about the beauty and dangers of his journey.

Eli fights blisters, hunger, rain and pain, but worst of all, he faces his own self-doubt and fear, alone on the trail. The ghosts of his father and grandfather, and the spirits of the woods lurk in his mind. When he joins up with a group of young hikers from Virginia, his goal begins to slip further away. With his obstacles surmounting, there may not be enough trail magic to save him.

Mimms said the basic idea for the story came from his publisher.

“I was writing a comic strip for him called Urban Wild, an educational feature for first through third-graders,” he said. “I was talking with my publisher about writing something larger and pitched him four ideas, and he didn’t take any of them. But he was interested in the Appalachians and the Tennessee Valley, so he gave me those two bits of information, and I wrote a plotline to fit the history of that area.”

The book, a young adult novel, is suitable for readers age 10 and up, and Mimms said it is harder writing for younger readers than for adults.

“I didn’t exactly change my writing style, but the editors cleaned up a couple of scenes, things they thought inappropriate for a younger audience, and I had to change a few things, so yes, it was a little hard to zone in between writing for children and writing for adults.”

Mimms signed a contract in late May 2012 and delivered a first draft to the editor in early September. It took six weeks to research before he started hammering out the story.

“After that, I wrote every day until I had a draft written,” he said. “I worked on it full time, living off my meager advance.”

The book went through three rounds of revisions, and then in February, he put it in the copy editor’s hands.

“Handing it over to the editor was terrifying,” he said. “I’d worked on character revisions with her and negotiated over changes, which produced a better read. But after it went to the copy editor, it was out of my hands.”

At that point, the designer took over, creating the cover art and the design of the pages and promo materials.

Mimms said he has never been to Tennessee, but during his research, he read six hiking guides, watched a few documentaries and went to hiking websites covering that area of the Appalachians.

“And then I mapped out in the plot how far Eli could travel each day,” he said.

Using topographical maps, he calculated the mileage and followed the maps from the point the boy runs away to the end of his journey.

The book, with a cover price of $14.99, is available at Powell’s and Broadway Books in Portland, as well as other bookstores. It is also available online at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and several other websites.



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