4 Steps to Surviving the Querying Trenches

So you think you have what it takes to withstand upwards of one hundred bamboo shoots under the fingernails, deafening silence, and personal attacks on your self-worth? Well great, let’s get to querying your completed manuscript!

I know what you are thinking “Save the drama, for your Mama!” or something like that but probably less embarassing, unless you have actually been in the trenches in which case you are thinking “Hmm… yes. Perfect description.”

Admit it, querying is hard. It’s taxing. It can sometimes be debilitating. If by any chance you are the 1 in 5 Americans who struggle with mental health each year, it can quite literally be detrimental to your health. (Quick fact: Did you know that creatives and artists actually have HIGHER rates of depression or personality disorder than those who don’t identify as such?) So how do you persist in a way that doesn’t crush your soul and kill your passions? Here are four tips that I have learned the hard way.

  1. Query in batches; no really, I’m serious.
    Most importantly, absolutely do not send your first un-critiqued query letter to your big five agents. It is possible, no it’s likely, that you will find your first few inexperienced and un-critiqued letters to be flops. You will learn along the way and you will hone your letter to perfection, especially if you are ✨blessed✨ enough to receive agent feedback. Also, if you are a part of a writing community such as the one I so love on Twitter, ask for critique and feedback on your first page and letter. Lots of lovely souls have helped me in this area.
  2. Have a damn good first line
    The first line of your manuscript should be THE hook for an agent to want to keep reading. The trenches are crowded, painfully so, and if your first line is just so-so agents may not have the time to continue reading. I’m still working on this myself but a quick google of great first lines brought me to a really cool BuzzFeed article by Hannah Loewentheil with memorable first lines. Model yourself after some of these greats but of course don’t rip them off. Use the tone and vibe of your favorites to provide inspiration! “Here Is A Small Fact: You Are Going To Die”: 28 Of The Most Captivating First Sentences From Books That Will Reel You In Instantly
  3. Use the Unsubscribe button!
    I can tell you that when you are receiving silence for weeks on end while simultaneously refreshing your email inbox multiple times a day with your breath held, that loading bar and jolt of adreneline caused by a new email will be all the more soul crushing when it happens multiple times per day only to yield promotional emails from Hot Topic. Not to mention those $15 off coupon codes and broody Twilight tee shirts begin to look mighty tempting when you are in the throes of an ice cream eating, query induced depression.
  4. For the love of all that is holy, TAKE BREAKS!
    I cannot stress the importance of this last point enough. I personally did not follow this rule until it was almost too late. Last week, I went from unfazed by my rejections to barely able to breathe in the space of one day. I had taken no breaks from querying for close to 6 months and in consequence had been receiving rejection after rejection for weeks on end, or worse yet complete silence. I hadn’t realized the emotional toll this was taking on me until Friday on my lunch break I sat in my office chair at my desk in the dark of an empty classroom and felt the gut wrenching sensation of a full on anxiety attack. I felt the entire weight of each individual form rejection and closed no response melt over my head and settle into the pit of my stomach. My fingers tingled and breath came fast. It was at that moment I knew, I pushed myself too far; I needed to take a break. Since that moment I am just breathing, writing new stories, and will only send queries when divine providence places an agent that I really connect with in my path. Eventually, when I am not so raw I may start cold querying again, but not without taking necessary breaks from my phone, my email, and the crushed dreams query tracker.

Querying is like asking 30, 40, or 50 partners at your first middle school dance to slow dance and being told no with no explanation yet being persistent enough to keep asking until one says yes. Take care of yourself, drink lots of water, have a margarita now and then, and breathe. Most of all don’t give up your passion for writing, if querying gets in the way of your passion, stop. Publishing options are aplenty and will be there tomorrow or in a year or in ten.

Good luck to all my writing friends who are in the trenches. You are strong, brave, and worthy!

How long does it take to write a novel?

Among the (online) writing communities that I frequent I see this question asked time and again. New writers wonder just how long does it take to write a full novel? What even qualifies as a novel?

Industry standard generally dictates that a novel must be 50,000 words or more, but the issue of timing is quite a bit more complicated than a simple word count.

My first novel, a 105,000-word historical fiction which is out in the publishing world right now, searching for a literary agent, took me SEVEN years. Woah. I know that seems like a lot and it absolutely is but that was then and this now. That seven years included year long sabbaticals from writing while I focused on toddlers and a new career, hundreds of hours of rereading and editing, time waiting on feedback from critique partners and beta readers, and more editing.

My next foray into novel writing began in November 2022 with NaNoWriMo which is a program designed to help motivate writers to complete 50,000 words in a single month. With this lofty goal and the knowledge of how long it took me to finish my first novel I went into NaNo carefully optimistic with no real expectation to finish. Surprisingly, I did complete my first draft of a currently unnamed novel in just over the 30 given days. I hammered out 60,000 words and expect through editing to add 20,000 more.

So feasibly can a novel be written in a month? Yes! Likely I could have written it much quicker than that had I not been writing within the time constraints that accompany a full time teaching job. But is it finished? No way. I intend to work on the completion of a first round of personal edits before seeking out a critique partner and that first step alone could take months. After that, critiques and a second round of edits will begin. Beta readers will be sought out to provide much broader feedback and a third round of edits will take place. At that point it is possible that I could begin querying literary agents.

So while simply writing a novel could take as little as 30 days, actually completing a work worthy of reader eyes will likely take me around a year and thats if I buckle down and do the darn thing.

In the mean time I will continue querying my historical fiction novel and refreshing my email a hundred times a day to manifest that next agent rejection. The querying trenches are tough but what is another day? Another day to write. Another day to dream. Another day to do the thing that I love.

Fellow writers: Just how long does it take you to complete a novel?


I am taking a break from the perpetual polishing and querying today to create a few mood boards for an upcoming Twitter event called Mood Pitch. This will be the first of any Twitter pitch events I participate in, so I am hopeful and excited.

Twitter has been an asset to me over the course of drafting, editing, and querying and even hooked me up with my first-ever critique partner! I have surmised that Twitter is the social media hub of the publishing industry and if you are in the trenches you NEED a Twitter account. Personally, my few hundred followers and the many #writingcommunity members I follow, give me a sense of belonging to a group who share a common goal, get our books in people’s hands!

So in regards to Mood Pitch, from what I gather, I will post some moody graphics and a quick synopsis or attention-getter in hopes that literary agents will be interested and will send me a like in exchange for my query letter.

I have scheduled two posts for Mood Pitch on November 3rd and have my fingers crossed! Here is a sneak peek at one of my completed boards:

For more info on Mood Pitch visit moodpitch.org or search up #MoodPitch on Twitter. See you there writing family!

Post-Mortem Anxiety.

Dramatic title for dramatic feelings. I opened my book this week after a full month of doing everything except writing. School started in mid-August and as an educator, it always feels like it takes a good few weeks to get back into the swing of the balancing act we call life.

And so, I slept, ate, drank coffee, spent hours in my classroom, picked up a bad habit, quit it, picked it up again, went home, spent my paycheck on groceries and electricity, celebrated family milestones and successes, struggled through a few pitfalls, and spent too many hours worrying about my son’s reading scores. I’m still doing all that but I’m finally to a point where I can take a moment to breathe and do some self-care. And for me that looks like writing, dreaming, and falling back into love with my book.

Two days ago I opened UNDER THE CAROLINA STARS, turned on the Cold Mountain Soundtrack, and read the first 30 pages. I felt all the emotions of my characters and they came back to life in front of my eyes, more real than ever before. I cried a little, felt their nervousness, loneliness, and joy, and have been thinking about them ever since.

This renewed passion for my book made me open query tracker which was maybe not the best idea. It’s full of form rejections and closed no responses. Query tracker is an excellent tool but also a visual aid for failure. Numbered days and sad faces are next to each agent name that had once given me unexplainable hope. So basically its a dashed dreams tracker.

Time is a resource that is finite and becoming all the more scarce with each passing day of my career and life. There is never enough time with my kids, my grandmother, my students, or my book. This acute awareness of time ticking by pains me. I find myself thinking, “What if I never get this piece of my heart out into the world before I am gone? What if I never get to experience the feeling of my book in my hands and the knowledge that it sits in someone else’s?” I have taken to calling this feeling post-mortem anxiety. Has my life been fulfilling? Yes. But is there always the dream of more? More time, more people, more traveling, more passion. Yes. And there it sits the worst kind of FOMO. A new kind, a 32-year-old’s version. Fear of dying before I am finished living.

This feeling, anxiety really, pushes me forward. I must keep going. And so I have resolved that I will do one more push through my book, polishing and polishing some more, and then I will begin with a fresh batch of queries. As it stands I believe I have exactly zero living queries and therefore have the opportunity to breathe new life into my dreams soon with new agents.


An excerpt from Chapter 1 of the completed novel UNDER THE CAROLINA STARS by Addison Brannon:

The corner of a ragged brown envelope poked from a stack of building ledgers and receipts.  With an air of resignation, William pulled the envelope from the stack and sat down at the table, smoothing the pages with a gentle hand.  The thin sheets were creased from being folded and unfolded over and again.  When William needed to hear his mother’s voice, when he couldn’t stand the solitude any longer he would read her letters.  He skimmed the page, eye stopping on a line of painfully familiar writing.  Affection without words of encouragement remains merely affection.  His mother had been writing of mostly trivial things, of life in Hillsborough, but had slipped this line into her letter rather seamlessly attributing it to a thing she read in a book of daily proverbs.  She did things like this, dropped pearls of wisdom or advice that she knew would be applicable to her son.  His struggle with words was one she knew well, one she had learned to recognize from her own husband, William’s father. 

He exhaled placing his head in his hands, elbows propped up on either side of the letter.  Her words illuminated by his mind.  He loved Mary and there was no doubting she held him in some playful regard but if his mother’s proverb was correct, and he knew it was, her affection would not likely bloom into love without proper encouragement.

 When twilight approached he could stand the anxiety no longer.  He had to tell Mary how he felt. Had to push her affections, to test their limits.   

Using his mother’s pitcher, he splashed water into the porcelain ewer and grabbed a soap cake.  He scrubbed his face and hands, focusing for a long time on his fingernails. He yanked his cleanest shirt from the hook next to the door.  Pulling the shirt over his head, he proceeded outside, coat in hand.  He beat the coat several times against a pine tree as a way of removing the dirt and dust which was undoubtedly there and slid it on at a brisk walk.  

When he came into view of the parsonage he stopped dead, turning to go home before he could be seen.  I can’t do this, he thought.  She would think him crazy.  He walked back toward the woodline before he whirled around and headed straight up the steps and to the door.  He had to act quickly before he could change his mind.  Telling another person his innermost thoughts and feelings was enough to make his stomach churn.  The fear of rejection paralyzed his thoughts.

“Oh God, what am I doing? This is a mistake!” he whispered to himself.  He gripped the porch railing fiercely.

Standing in front of the door he raised his hand to knock, hovering there for several seconds.  Before he had the opportunity to flee, the door opened.  

Mary’s father stood looking slightly perplexed but addressed the young man in front of him cheerful enough.

“William! What can I do for ya lad?” 

Mary was inside the front room and was standing, mending in hand, and face shining with excitement.  He had to do this now.  

“Yes sir,” he began.  “I’d like to speak to Mary, just for a moment sir, here on the porch, if that’s allowed…” The statement came out sounding far more questionable than he would have liked.  

The minister’s bushy eyebrows shot up to his hairline but he nodded and Mary came to the porch wrapped in a shawl.  She closed the door behind her with a quiet thunk.  Her parents were left standing inside together, one with a knowing look and the other completely dumbfounded.  The young couple stood in silence for a few moments shifting their feet and looking everywhere but at each other.  Finally, Mary trained him with an expectant look before she broke their silence.   

“William…,” Mary began hesitantly.  

“I love you,” he blurted.  “With my whole body, I love you! I think of you at all hours, I wake up thinking of you, I lay down in my bed thinking of you..” he trailed off shocked at what had burst from his lips. 

Count her affections encouraged, he thought, annoyed with himself.

Sweet Summertime Queries

July. It’s hot in Arkansas. The midges are out in full force and the ground is cracked from drought. The only place hotter than my current post is the hellish trenches of the publishing industry right now. Ok, I’m being dramatic…. Exceptionally dramatic, but not about the Arkansas heat.

But here is a bit of truth: If an aspiring author were to log in to Twitter today and peruse the #writingcommunity they might be tempted to throw their manuscript out into the abyss of Amazon self-publishing to avoid the hellscape that is the querying trenches. Writers are being beaten to a pulp by closed agent inboxes and “no response is a rejection” agent website taglines. A full request is so rare of a commodity that a tweet celebrating one elicits hundreds of responses echoing one another by grasping at straws to keep their hope alive. “One day I will get that full request!” everyone seems to say but will they really? Will I?

I don’t know the answer to that but here is an update on my journey to become a published author.

According to my query tracker here are my stats:
17 queries sent
1 closed based on no response
7 form rejections
9 open queries ranging from 24-46 days old.

Based on the fact that I have sent only 17 queries these stats aren’t yet discouraging. I am optimistic and hopeful and continue to edit and make my novel the best it can be for when that full request does happen. What I have seen in the #writingcommunity however is a loss of hope and writers who have sent hundreds of queries only to have less than 1% of those queries come back with a partial or full request and still sometimes no offer for representation. Now my knee-jerk reaction to this is “Oh their book must not be very good.” but I think that is a completely unfair thought considering the huge influx of completed manuscripts post the COVID lockdown. People actually had time to finish books I guess.

Anyway, my rambling leads me to reflect upon my own options and thoughts. Will I ever publish the book? Yes I will. Will it be traditionally or through self-publishing? I don’t know. What I have decided works for me is that I will query until August 2023 while writing the second book. If by that time UNDER THE CAROLINA STARS does not have representation I will pay an editor, hire a cover designer, market it to death and self-publish. That sounds ok but why do I feel like self-publishing is a failure? I know there are lots of successful indie authors out in the world and I have actually just finished an excellent book as a beta reader for an indie author. I would not call her completion of a well-written and compelling novel a failure so I should give myself the same grace.

To all currently querying writers: hang in there, keep plugging away, and when you don’t win the lottery with traditional publishing don’t give up hope. If you have finished a novel, whether traditionally published or otherwise you still may end up someone’s favorite author.

If you are unfamiliar with the publishing process here is a quick and over-simplified rundown:

  1. Write the book
  2. Polish it through self-editing or professional editing
  3. Have it read by beta readers and critique partners to get feedback on things that you may have missed.
  4. Craft a query letter and prepare your first 50 pages for sample reading.
  5. Send a personalized query letter to each individual literary agent that is looking for books like yours.
  6. Wait
  7. Wait
  8. Wait
  9. Receive rejections, requests for more sample pages, etc.
  10. Sign with a literary agent
  11. Work with your agent to polish your book further while they shop it around to traditional publishers
  12. If your book is sold by your agent to a publisher you are on your way to traditional publishing.

“It is Finished.”

Ok, I recognize the drama the title of this post effectuates; however, I’m feeling pretty dramatic today. I have completed a novel which is HUGE news! My first novel is currently under the working title of UNDER THE CAROLINA STARS. It clocks in at 91,336 words and about 360 pages.

I started this book five years ago so yes it seems like my progress is slow but au contraire! Indeed, I started this book five years ago which is to say I wrote a few scenes, daydreamed my heart out, and resolved that one day I would have a novel. At this time I was also finishing my bachelor’s degree, working a 9-5 office job and had two children under 5. Thankfully, I gave myself some grace and allowed my book to hang out in the back of my mind for a while.

I moved forward with a promising career change, worked toward a master’s degree, and kept my kids alive, all the while William and Mary Campbell’s story fermented in the back of my mind. They evolved, my writing improved, and this February I picked them up again, ready to give them the attention they deserved.

I pounded out 60,000 words in about four months, picked up a wonderful critique partner, did countless edits and read-throughs, and steeled my nerves for my first true beta reader.

What I know is that my critique partner was invaluable for helping to deepen my story. Without her, my book would be about 30,000 words shorter than it is. She read each line and commented (sometimes twice in a sentence) on where a reader would need more information or something wasn’t sitting right. She hasn’t read the final product yet and I believe she will be pleasantly surprised with the progress her critiques encouraged. Second to that, my first beta reader began and finished my book, very quickly might I add, and she loved it! WHAT!? She has encouraged me to really begin the querying process, which if Twitter is any indication of the current publishing climate, will be no small task. So if you are a literary agent reading this, hmu.

But in all seriousness I am so glad I gave my book the attention and time it deserved to come to fruition, now it is time to find a champion for it and pray that it ends up in the hands of someone else who will love it. I will continue to update on this process but for now I’ve added a page to this site devoted to the book blurb. Check it out above!

And yes, book two is going to happen. Already I know where William and Mary are going next and who will be alongside them.

Beating Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something that I have heard of often but seldom experienced. While perusing the #WritingCommunity on Twitter as I do on a daily basis now, I encounter this phrase often. It has led me to some serious self-reflection.

Have I ever had imposter syndrome? Perhaps yes but it has not been so prominent in my life that I could recall it with any certainty.

I see so many writers, both young and old, coming to terms with the idea (often their own) that they are not good enough, smart enough, or experienced enough to call themselves true writers. In my personal view, I believe that anyone who writes anything can call themselves a writer. So you write a blog? Writer. Short stories? Writer. Poems? Writer. Full-length novels? You betcha.

So what is the struggle here? It appears to be a fear of being discredited or insulted, largely on the internet from unknown peers. So here I am on my couch, an educator who has written one complete novel and started another, I am not published but I am a writer, and darn it I am not afraid to tell people! The literal worst scenario is that someone laughs at me and says that I do not meet their self-set definition of a writer. Ah, so there it is, a fear of not being accepted. Now fellow writer, think back to a time when you have felt accepted. Got it? Ok, what was it that gave you this feeling? Yes, the approval of others. Now I tell you, oh sufferers of imposter syndrome, you are looking to be accepted in the wrong places. Find your niche. I promise you that there are communities that will accept you, nurture your dreams, and share your goals. Here is the zinger though, you belong in that community, begin your relationships with a precedent of accomplishment. You don’t JUST write poetry. You are a lyrical gangster. You don’t JUST write short stories. You weave character, plot, and setting into an engrossing story using fewer words than most authors are capable of.

We do not JUST do anything. We do things. We accomplish things. I have learned this as a woman, mother, teacher, and writer. The first step of being credible and accepted is believing it yourself. I think that I learned this life lesson fairly early in life and have applied it to all things I set myself to. It has helped me tremendously.

When I began teaching I was 27 and was thrown in to a high school history classroom that had been vacated mid-year. I had never set foot in a classroom or taken an education-related college course. I was what you call a non-traditional teacher on a provisional license. On my first day, I walked into the classroom with the mindset of well I am the adult in the room and I have been hired to teach so I guess I’m a teacher, and guess what? I never looked back from that moment. A semester later, my principal called me into his office. He had some feedback on things I could work on but overall his perception of me was positive. He said, “The best thing you ever did was walk in on day one and act like a teacher; not a sub, not a fill-in, just a teacher.” He was right. I didn’t “fake it” I just threw myself into my role and did the best I could, learning along the way. When I began writing I did the same. When I decided writing isn’t JUST a hobby, I threw myself in and learned as I went.

So without being too cliche and saying: believe in yourself; assert that you are what you are, and allow the hesitation of others to fall to the wayside.

Do not allow the self-set definitions of others to dictate your confidence or impede your ability. Hear that Millenials? You don’t need your neighbor teacher to believe you are a teacher if you were hired for that job. You don’t need a successful writer on twitter to believe you are a writer. You just need to write. You just need to teach. Your community will find you or you will find it and when you do, you better well act like you belong there or guess what, they will believe you don’t, even when you do.

So I leave you with this parting idea that I picked up from one Bridget Jones many years ago and have applied to my life as a sort of very effective mantra, say it with me:

“I am the intellectual equal of everyone else here.”

80,000 words and done?

Today I hit my novel completion goal of 80k words. On February 6th of this year, I thought I had finished my first draft only to find that I was about 30,000 words below the industry standard for Historical Fiction and only slightly larger than a novella. Around this time, I started tweeting profusely and found a critique partner thanks to #WritingCommunity. She and I began critiquing in 50-page increments and are soon to begin our 4th round of critiques.

What I found when her critiques began to trickle in is that my characters needed LOADS more development. The book was a skeleton in need of meat and flesh to make it whole. I determined to fill in these gaps with meaningful world, character, and relationship building so I set myself a goal of 30,000 additional words by the end of May. Today over a month early and thanks to the helpful critiques from my partner I have exceeded that goal.

NaNoWriMo.org was an invaluable tool that helped to keep me accountable. As a person who loves to-do lists and crossing off completed tasks, each time I updated (sometimes several times a day) I was rewarded with the endorphin boosting updated completion date. On extra productive days, my estimated completion date would jump forward days or weeks earlier, providing me even more motivation to keep up the hard work.

Today I am in the editing trenches, fixing point-of-view issues and rereading for the thousandth time the words that I have committed to paper. I have learned so much about my characters, their reactions, lives, and expectations and have found within them relatable flaws and strengths.

Now I have to ask myself… Am I done? The short answer is no, not even close but I can officially say I have completed at least 2 drafts of this book and it is now in the hands of not one but two Alpha readers and a very capable critique partner. If I had to guess I’d say I might add another 10,000 words during the revision process.

What comes next, you might ask? The querying process. The real deal. The terrifying and equally as exciting task of sending my book baby out into the world. For now, I await Alpha reader responses and read my story again, to fall deeper in love with William and Mary Campbell.

The Submerged History of the Cherokee at Tellico.

In my quest to make my own novel more historically authentic I recently purchased a book titled Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom. This book was written in the 1990s by Cherokee author Marilou Awiakta. (Her name, I found out, means “eye of the deer.” The deer has been historically revered by the Cherokee people and holds a special place in their outlook on the balance of nature and humanity, which makes her name very telling.) I bought this book used from Amazon thinking I would be delightfully immersed in Cherokee storytelling and poetry. While I have been so far pleased with the connection to history and Cherokee wisdom that Awiakta weaves throughout her book, it is not the surface-level experience I had expected. What I did not expect was to feel all over again the prominent searing injustice that has hung over the lives of the Cherokee people.

In recent years I have researched Appalachian Cherokee history after being exposed to beautiful storytelling and gut-wrenching truth in the Cherokee Talisman series by David-Michael Harding. This book opened my eyes initially to things that had been downplayed, ignored, and minimized throughout my life as a student. The Indian Removal Act and Trail of Tears went from being a vague idea hidden in the back of my mind and waiting on a Jeopardy category, to being shockingly real and brutally painful. After reading the series, my husband and I drove all the way across Tennessee, from west to east, ironically in the direction of wisdom. Each time we drove through a town, down a city street, or through a new county, I noted the prominent names that pepper the state. Names such as President Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, and Winfield Scott are around every corner. Their legacies live on through their namesakes. Their ruthless participation in the Indian Removal Act forgotten. I looked harder for names of notable Cherokee but found far less proof of the people who lived throughout the state for 12,000 years before President Jackson was even born. I felt remorse for the history that had been whitewashed and wholly ignored.

Today I sit allowing myself to be permeated with the emotion that Awiakta has invoked by her telling of a story that takes place not in 1838 but within the reach of our own lifetimes. In eastern Tennessee, there sits a recreational lake called Tellico. The Tennessee Valley Authority website, in reference to the dam that created the lake, states: “Tellico Dam in East Tennessee transformed a stagnant region into a recreation wonderland, and provided much needed economic stimulus.” They go on to discuss the controversy of the dam project and how it took decades to receive the green light. The controversy being referenced was not the imminent flooding (by result of the dam) of the most artifact-rich region in the Appalachian mountains which was, at its peak, 80% unexcavated; nor was it the displacement by eminent domain of over 340 families. The controversy was not the resulting loss of the holy city and ancient capital of the Cherokee nation of Chota where a boulder marked the pit of sacred fire; an important religious site. It was not the important and sacred Toqua burial mound where hundreds of the Cherokee antecedents were buried, soon to be underwater. It was not the disappearance of the birthplace of Sequoya, who invented the Cherokee syllabary. No, it was a fish, approximately 3 inches long and related to the common perch. A snail darter to be exact. This endangered fish apparently made things quite “complicated” according to TVA.

38,000 acres of historically rich land were forcibly purchased from business people, farmers, and Cherokee inhabitants. 16,000 acres were reserved for the future lake. 22,000 acres were reserved to supposedly control the economic progress of the adjoining property. Unsurprisingly, half of those 22,000 acres were subsequently sold as commercial property. Families who were being removed felt the echos of past life. Like some of the Cherokee people before them, they waited until the last minute, refusing to be removed until federal marshalls appeared at their doorstep, backed by guns and bulldozers. They were removed. Their history was submerged.

Eventually, the issue of the snail darter was overlooked and in a single swipe of the pen, President Carter signed an executive order that exempted the Tellico Dam Project from any federal law that would hinder its completion. The Cherokee people who had been fighting quietly through all possible legal channels, largely ignored by the media, were pushed aside once again. Their protests went unnoticed, stifled by the government. Some of their ancestor’s bones were reinterred in a burial mound in Vonore, Tennessee. Others are today still in cardboard boxes in the basement of the University of Tennessee. Mostly, they remain in a watery grave beneath ski boats and bass fishermen; close to the golfing communities erected in the 1980s.

Awiakta’s retelling of the event at Tellico in the 90’s is made even more poignant by a Google search in 2022. There is no harrowing tale of the cry of thousands of Cherokee people praying for the salvation of their heritage, there is no news story breaking the hearts of it’s readers, there is less than a sentence mentioning the Cherokee people on the TVA webpage: Telling the Story of Tellico.

In 1838 the Appalachian Cherokee were removed to Oklahoma; in 1979 they were erased at Tellico.

Source material can be found here:
Selu: Seeking the Corn Mother’s Wisdom by Marilou Awiakta
Cherokee Talisman by David-Michael Harding
Tennesse Valley Authority: Telling the Story of Tellico