An expert storyteller from way back, Mary Marvella was so convincing as a child telling her playmates a made-up tale about the spirit of a dead Indian living in an old discarded World War II ammunition box at her house that eventually even she wouldn't open the box.
"I scared myself," she laughed.
Sharing her witty personality and expertise in the written word, Suwanee author Mary Marvella will be in Covington this weekend as the featured speaker at a free workshop sponsored by the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers group. Marvella, who has published three novels, two novellas and has a new book under contract, will speak Saturday at 10 a.m.
This is the first of three EMACW Summer Writing Workshops to be held at Georgia Piedmont Technical College's Newton campus off Bob Williams Parkway in Covington. Writers will gather in Building D for the meeting, which will conclude at noon. Writers 16 and older are invited to attend the free workshops the second Saturday in June, July and August.
Saturday's workshop will focus on "beginnings," Marvella said.
"I'll show my writers the things that help me become interested in the story," she said. "... I want to hear it, feel it, taste it and smell it."
Marvella is blunt when it comes to explaining what works and what does not in today's writing market.
"Way back in the dark ages, we used to write from an all-knowing point of view," she said. "Back then it was a lot of back story ... You don't do that any more. Flashbacks should be used like salt -- sparingly. You need to grab me. By the time I'm on page nine or 10, if you're depressing me, I'll put the book down."
Readers have been picking up Marvella's books since the retired English teacher began her publishing career several years ago. A native of Augusta, Marvella describes herself as a Southern writer and said so in an exaggerated long Southern drawl -- all the while laughing at herself.
Born in Augusta to two 18-year-olds, Marvella said her father was from Mississippi and stationed at Camp Gordon, where he fell in love with her mother, then a young girl selling flowers. The family moved to Macon and her father went to college to become a preacher and teacher and Marvella's mother went to work in the library at Mercer University, where Marvella would later graduate with a bachelor's degree in English.
Marvella also holds a master's degree in education in counseling and worked as a school counselor before her career as an English teacher. She retired from Duluth High School in Gwinnett County. Marvella also helped her husband in his business as a wedding photographer. Their daughter Danielle is an artist.
Marvella now lives in Suwanee where she is "wearing out" the latest in a line of Apple MacIntosh computers.
"I'm a Mac person, but I just wear them out," she said. "I name my computers. I had one called Orange Baby -- it was orange. Then I had White Baby and now I have Small White Baby. I take my computer everywhere I go."
She has to keep her computer close by because she never knows when a story idea might show up.
"Stories just come to me at different times -- the middle of the night," she said. "A character woke me up in the middle of the night. I said, 'I hate you.' She kept throwing ideas at me. I kept saying, 'I hate you.' But I had to get up and write. Most of the characters won't leave me alone until I write their story. My ideas come from all kinds of crazy places. I'm always (saying), 'What if ...hmmm?'"
One such idea came on a hot summer day when she and her family were in Milledgeville looking for a house for their daughter. As they were leaving, the sales agent asked if they knew about the ghost in the house. Marvella said her family looked at her and said, "Don't even think about it."
"I wanted to hear all about it, but my family was sweltering in the car and I'm not that cruel," she said.
However, during the two-hour ride back home she crafted her own story with two ghosts, one from the Civil War and the other from World War II and thus was born her book, "Haunting Refrain."
Other Mary Marvella books include "The Gift," "Christmas' Best Bet, Humble Pie," "Forever Love," and "Margo's Choice."
In addition to working on her own books, Marvella is a professional editor of manuscripts and is a writing tutor. Marvella is also a partner in Gilded Dragonfly Books publishing company and is on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Some people might know Marvella from her many years as a hoop-skirted hostess during Stone Mountain Park's Annual Tour of Southern Ghosts.
For more information about the EMACW workshops, call 404-444-7514.