Published on November 7th, 2019 | by Brandon H


Hallie Gay Walden Bagley

Hallie Gay Walden Bagley grew up in a horse-breeding family in the middle of the Kentucky Bluegrass. As the 9th generation on a family farm, she never planned to go to New York City until as a young middle schooler, she stumbled on an oldie goldie called “Downtown” by Petula Clark. It spoke of things being bright when you’re downtown. In that song was sparked the kernel of a desire to go to New York City, the seat of publishing. After graduating magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in Hanover NH, Hallie Gay found herself breaking the typing test record for Conde Nast and later, reading the slush pile at the wonderful literary quarterly founded in 1953 in Paris France, called The Paris Review. There, in the center of the publishing world, she managed to hire Mona Simpson as a reader, the unknown sister of Steve Jobs (at the time neither Jobs nor Simpson knew of each other). While at the Review, Hallie Gay Walden Bagley learned much about editing from a master, George Plimpton, a Harvard English major and editor of the Harvard Lampoon.  From George, Hallie Gay learned about the structure of writing. After the Review, she acquired a Juris Doctorate from Columbia University School of Law and edited the Journal of Law and the Arts, with the intention of representing writers to the big publishing companies or movie companies. That all changed when she met her husband and they began a family, having two sons. When her mother died young at 60, the Bagleys returned to Kentucky and this is where she began SmartWriting, her college essay coaching business, thereby discovering her true purpose, shepherding young students to their next steps.

Where were you born?

I was born in Lexington, Ky at Central Baptist Hospital. The old story goes that I came so early, my parents had to borrow a hearse to take my mom there from a small town called Midway so that my father could go with her in the same transportation.

What are some things that you love?

I love a freshly made bed in newly washed sheets and a Speakman showerhead. I love my grandmother’s homemade B&M baked beans. Last, I love my family and all the men in my family ( 2 young adult sons and a husband, and of course, the lover of all time, our 12-year-old happy wheels demo yellow lab, TAV. )

What’s your favorite type of food?

I hate to admit it but I absolutely love Italian food. Indian is a wonderful type too but nothing beats Italian for me.

What is your favorite thing about working in your industry?

I love working with teenagers (they are incredible) and most of all I love working with words. I always tell people, I’m terrible at crafts but good at words. Recently, I was stumped by my first vocabulary word in probably 35 years, and it was by my husband. I can’t remember what it was now but we laugh about it that he is the one who stumped me.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

As an editor, I have a pet peeve about the overuse of the word “my”. My career. My parents. My college. My My My. I try to go through every piece of writing I see and remove all the mys. Maybe after that, it will be a focus on YOU!

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