Meet Author Melanie Faith

What a treat to start out this new year with a Q&A from Melanie Faith. A prolific author and photographer, she also teaches and inspires. I hope you enjoy!

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melaniedfaith
Current Location:  Mercersburg, PA

What did you want to be when you were little? I wanted to be a writer. I also thought about teaching, which has also become my real-life vocation, in many different forms and with students of many ages via my freelance business and online classes.

What are you now? I am a writer, a teacher (I teach for Southern New Hampshire University’s MA in Creative Writing and tutor at a private high school), and a freelance instructor and manuscript editor/critiquer.

I’m also a photographer, auntie, and daydreamer.
How did you get to this point? Writing almost every day is the short answer.  On the more technical, day-in- day-out side: I have a BA in English with a concentration in professional writing as well as an MFA in creative writing with a concentration in poetry. I look at writing, photography, and publishing as a journey that is ever evolving, step-by- step, and which takes constant practice, curiosity, and engagement. (Plus, let’s not overlook: it’s a boatload of fun and personally fulfilling.) In 2000, I started submitting work three times a month for possible publication, a practice which I’ve upheld. When I started submitting, it was mostly poetry and short stories. Now my submissions include those genres along with essays, flash fiction and nonfiction, children’s books, articles about writing, and (very often) photography. I should also say: I got to this point with the support of my family, students, friends, and fellow writers as being a creative is largely a solitary endeavor but many people behind the scenes add crucial support and encouragement as I keep pursuing my artistic vision. It takes a village to raise children, as the saying goes, but I think it also takes a village to sustain the encouragement it takes to keep an artist chugging away year after year and breaking new ground after many rejection slips. It also helps to have a community when attempting the fine balance between public art and being an introverted, private person.

Current Projects:  I like a lot of variety, so I’m always cooking several projects at once. I’ve become the queen of the simultaneous submission packet, since it often takes months to receive responses from publishers, agents, and editors. After many years of wanting to put together a portfolio of my published writing and photography, just this month I worked with a web designer and finally launched a website of my work, so that’s pretty huge. { MelanieDFaith.com }

I look forward to updating and fleshing out the site with more samples and creative content as I go. In September, I’m teaching a new online class I created called Outlining Your Novel; I’m also promoting a set of 30 creative writing prompt cards I wrote and designed.

Oh, and I recently published a historical poetry book set in 1918, called This Passing Fever.

I have a Regency novella (a la Jane Austen) that will be published under a pseudonym by Uncial Press set to be released this fall, too. I’m also finishing edits on a book for writers, called In a Flash, which will be published next May by Vine Leaves Press. There are always new short stories, poems, and craft articles in there somewhere, too.

Right now, I’m writing a lot of how-to poetry articles during my free-writes that may just turn into a full-length manuscript.
What are you reading right now? Watching? Listening to? In the past three weeks, I’ve read: Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove (great recommendation from my awesome sister), A Fifty Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France by Miranda Richmond Mouillot, Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Letters from Skye, and (right now) Pat Conroy’s The Water is Wide.

As I list these seemingly- random selections I see that three of the books have historical settings, three are autobiographies, and one is about teaching—patterns in much of my reading life lately. I like to read and write historical fiction (although I write modern tales, too).

Recently, I’ve been watching lots of Turner Classic Movies, The Travel Channel, and various documentaries on the History Channel and on Amazon Prime (I’m a documentary geek and find the making of almost anything interesting).

This week, I’ve rediscovered the Mavericks, a band I first listened to in high school when their What a Crying Shame album dropped. Lead singer Raul Malo’s voice is stunning and carries great emotional depth, rather like Roy Orbison; his cover of another artist’s “You’re Only Lonely” is lovely. I’ve also been revisiting (thanks to YouTube) Norah Jones’ plaintive “Come Away with Me,” which was big during my first year or two as a teacher. I guess you could gather from this that I sometimes favor songs of longing.
How do you express yourself creatively? Writing (poems, short stories, novels, articles), photography (still-life, nature, landscape, architecture, and people), teaching (my students range in ages from 14 to 80 and many of my high school students are international students. I love experiencing all of my students’ varying outlooks, life experiences, backgrounds, hopes and dreams), and sometimes writing snail-mail (especially to my darling nieces, who enjoy the colorful stickers and treat money I enclose as well).
Have you ever written a fan letter? If so, to whom? I’ve written several fan letters, to fellow writers, painters, photographers, and musicians. I’m an encourager by nature. Typing this reminds me that I should send more; having received a fan letter in 2013 that I still keep on my office door as encouragement, I know how a gentle nudge in the right direction can reenergize and make a difference.
Drink of choice? Tea. Last year, I discovered Bigelow’s Salted Caramel Tea, which is seasonal, and bought enough boxes to make it through until this summer when it appeared on shelves again. I have three favorite mugs that make my tea time complete: one with a Jane Austen writing quote that was a gift from my sister, one with teacher quotes that was a gift from my thoughtful mom recently, and a Snoopy mug that was a gift years ago from students.
Who inspires you (or what), and why? This list is almost endless. A small sampling: reading, writing, my nieces, my students, photography. Shots Magazine, a print black and- white photography magazine, often sparks inspiration for my photography and writing.

Favorite tools to stay productive?  The great thing about being a writer is that the tools can be as simple (paper, pen/pencil, notebook) or as fancy (laptop, printer, cellphone) as you want. The important thing is to bring heart and thought to develop a consistent writing practice to make sure enough work is in rotation while waiting to hear back, which is another reason why I work on several projects at once (which also keeps me from obsessing on what the editors’ responses will be). For photography it’s a bit more complex. I alternate between a Nikon D5000 and Sony SLT-A57. After 11 years with my trusty old Photoshop software, I just updated to the more-recent Photoshop Elements 15 this July (it’s my new toy). A visual artist friend of mine told me about the free Nik Collection that Google offers (that works in tandem with Photoshop) and I’ve loved playing with that, too.

I’m jonesing on the wet-plate tool at the moment; it creates this fascinating late-19th century feeling that makes even modern, digital photos appear murky and time-worn.
What is something you have learned this year? Schedule unscheduled time. It’s essential to renewing and nourishing art and artist alike. Sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s actually the most difficult thing to do. It’s vital to remember to plan for time to daydream, read magazines, watch movies or listen to music, and just be—after that refreshment, the creative ideas reappear and there’s energy to follow them in wonder.
What can people do to make the world a better place? Realize that everyone you meet is fighting numerous battles you can’t even see. Live and let live.

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