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Writing Professor’s Debut Novel Sold to Hollywood

June 7, 2007

SELINSGROVE, ( Pa. ) – Less than two years ago, Tom Bailey, associate professor of English and creative writing at Susquehanna University, was celebrating the release of his first novel by one of the largest publishing companies in the world. Since then, he has published a second novel, won a coveted fiction prize, and sold two more books to Random House's Crown Publishing Group. Now Hollywood is sitting up and taking notice.

This spring, renowned screenwriter Matthew Aldrich – who is currently working on a film starring Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes – purchased the rights to produce a screenplay of Bailey's first novel, The Grace That Keeps This World. The novel is based on a tragic hunting accident in upstate New York where Bailey held his first teaching assignment.

A father had accidentally shot and killed his son on the first day of buck season. When he saw what he'd done, he turned the gun on himself. Deeply affected by the tragedy, Bailey wrote a short story based on the incident. “Snow Dreams,” originally published in DoubleTake magazine and later included in his first collection of short stories, Crow Man (Etruscan Press, 2003), went on to win a prestigious Pushcart Prize. But long after the story was written, the tragedy of the incident stayed with Bailey, and he began thinking about the survivors – family members, friends and the small hunting community that became known in the novel as Lost Lake. These musings turned what began as a heartrending short story into a saga of community loss.

Alternately narrated by members of the Hazen family and their neighbors living in the heart of upstate New York 's Adirondack country, The Grace That Keeps This World brings to light the shared values that sustain human relationships. Bailey has credited the story's tender sense of place and community loss to Selinsgrove, the town he and his family have called home since 1999 when he joined Susquehanna's faculty.

“A death in a community like Selinsgrove affects everyone, not just the family of the persons involved. We're inextricably tied to one another, as are the Hazens and their neighbors in Lost Lake. In such a tight knit community even a single death ripples out and out, touching every single person in one way or another,” said Bailey when the book was first released in October 2005.

The Grace That Keeps This World won the 2006 fiction prize from the Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters. The award put Bailey in league with such authors as Walker Percy, Richard Ford and Rick Bass. In addition, Bailey's work has earned him a Newhouse Award from the John Gardner Foundation, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and, more recently, an Individual Creative Artists Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Bailey's second novel, Cotton Song, also has been released by Random House's Crown Publishing Group under the imprint of Shaye Areheart Books. This book tells the story of one woman's fight to save an African-American child orphaned by the mob rule lynching of her mother.

His third novel, tentatively called Sunny Hills, is forthcoming by Random House. The publishing company has also purchased a fourth novel about life in the Grand Canyon, which Bailey is currently researching and writing.

In addition to his novels and collection of short stories, Bailey has published two instructional books with Oxford University Press, On Writing Short Stories and The Short Story Writer's Companion. Prior to joining the faculty of Susquehanna University, Bailey taught in the Expository Writing Program at Harvard University.

Contact: Victoria Kidd


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