Author Melissa Minery teaches about how to write for Middle Grade

Melissa Minery is a Certified School Counselor in New Hampshire. She has worked at the elementary-to-high school levels and as a career Counselor with young adults. She’s always doing something to “grow her brain” and loves going on adventures with her family and hiking in the white mountains. The Good, the Bad, and the Backstory is her first published work. The novel is about Five middle school friends – Ashley, Kenisha, Taara, Ryan and Andrew – each begin their day roused from slumber. Readers then follow each teen as they navigate the messiness of middle school and how their backstories influence his or her actions. Written for middle schoolers, it’s a true-to-life story with a valuable message about courage, forgiveness, empathy, and understanding. YEM spoke with Melissa about her writing process, writing for middle schoolers, and how she creates characters.

Young Entertainment Mag: How does it feel to have your first published work, The Good, the Bad, and the Backstory, out there for everyone to read?

Melissa Minery: It’s crazy for me to think that I could be touching the lives of so many people through what came out of my brain! I feel really fortunate and honored.

YEM: What was the book that made you fall in love with literature?

Melissa: The book that came to mind was A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, but it seems so nerdy!

 YEM: What is the writing process like for you?

 Melissa: My writing process involves a big-picture idea and then just taking it one chapter at a time. I have a general direction I want to go in, but the specifics are really in the moment. If something does not end up working, I go back and adjust it.

YEM: What have you learned about publishing a book through this process?

Melissa: It takes a long time! It took me about 2.5 years of on-and-off writing to complete it, but then at least another two years for it to be in the hands of the readers. You need to have patience and to trust the pros.

 YEM: Why did you decide to write a book about middle school?

Melissa: Middle school is hard! I think the more we can introduce the concepts of empathy and perspective-taking, the better. My goal was to make it as concrete and relatable as possible.

YEM: What was middle school like for you?

 Melissa: One of the challenges that I had in middle school was to be a nerd without drawing too much attention to it. Now I’m all about embracing that part of myself, but at that age it’s about fitting in and not standing out. I do have this memory of being called out in front of class on the “wannabe Adidas” I was wearing in the eighth grade. That was so mortifying for me!


YEM: Who are your writing inspirations?

Melissa: I love J. K. Rowling’s rags-to-riches story. I also really appreciate David McCullough’s style for making biography and history so interesting.

YEM: What is something you hope that readers can learn from reading your book?

 Melissa: I hope that my readers will learn that they’re not alone, and that we all have stuff going on in our lives that we’re dealing with and sometimes it’s just not about us. We may be able to gain more from life if we can remember that and have compassion for others, instead of taking things so personally.

YEM: What advice do you have for those who want to become authors as well?

 Melissa: Be patient! Also, find a balance between knowing that you have something great to give to the world and realistic expectations that it may not happen exactly how you picture it.

YEM: Is there a part in your book that was your favorite to write? 

Melissa: I enjoyed writing the Kenisha chapter where she talks with Ms. M about her grief and then later in that same chapter the interaction between Kenisha and Ryan. I also really loved writing the good-night part of each character’s chapter. I get teary-eyed every time I read what I wrote for Taara.

YEM: How did you create the characters in your book?

Melissa: The characters in my book are based in part on people I know or things I’ve witnessed. There’s a lot of me in each character, as well; just in different ways.

YEM: Looking back at the whole process, what was your favorite part of writing The Good, the Bad, and the Backstory?

Melissa: I loved receiving emails with the illustrator’s pictures and having to choose which font and style for the cover. Seeing everything come together for the finished product was surreal. I’ve said it over and over that I couldn’t believe it was really happening. But it did!

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