July 17

Olive Ann Burns

July 17, 1924 - Banks County, Commerce, Atlanta

Cold Sassy Tree, a coming of age tale set in turn of the century Georgia, was inspired by some bad news. Olive Ann Burns was a writer for the Atlanta Constitution in 1975 when she was diagnosed with cancer. She walked out of the doctor’s office determined to write a novel.

Born in Banks County in 1924, Burns grew up in Commerce, the inspiration for the fictional town of Cold Sassy. Writing would be her life, first working for the Atlanta Journal Constitution Magazine, later penning an advice column under the pen name “Amy Larkin.” Then came the cancer diagnosis that changed everything. She went to work on the novel, which was based on family stories about her grandfather. The bestseller was adapted into a 1989 TV movie. A second novel, Leaving Cold Sassy, was published two years after Burns’ death in 1990.

The author whose confrontation with death brought a fictional town to life was born on July 17, 1924, Today in Georgia History.