Melissa Scholes Young

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Melissa Scholes Young’s work has appeared in Narrative, Ploughshares, the Huffington Post, Poets & Writers Magazine, Poet Lore, Brain, Child, Literary Mama, New Madrid, the Yalobusha Review, and other literary journals. She earned her MFA at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where she was an assistant editor of the Crab Orchard Review. Her short stories have been nominated several times for Pushcart Prizes.
 
She’s currently a contributing editor for Fiction Writers Review where she enjoys interviewing authors whose work she admires.
 
Melissa teaches college writing and creative writing at American University in Washington, D.C. She spent ten years teaching high school English and a few more teaching middle school at the American School in Brasilia, Brazil.
 
She attended the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 2014 and was awarded a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellowship in 2015. The fellowship included a month-long residency in Cassis, France.
 
Her novel-in-progress was a semifinalist for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. She has work forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, American Fiction from New Rivers Press, Gravity and Grace from Paycock Press, and Literary Mama.
 
Melissa was born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, and she still proudly claims it her hometown. She goes fishing as much as she can with her dad on the St. John’s River. She lives in Maryland with her family and beloved mutt, Huckleberry Finn.
 
Her website is melissascholesyoung.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @mscholesyoung.

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Comments

Join Melissa Scholes Young

Join Melissa Scholes Young for a live chat about the issues raised in "A Residency of One's Own: Navigating the Complicated Path to a Writers Retreat" on February 24 at 12 PM EST!

 

 

I am finding it very

I am finding it very difficult to register for the Melissa Sholes Young live chat on 24 February. Does one simply "jump on" tomorrow?

Sque, thanks for joining the

Sque, thanks for joining the conversation -- if you log on to pw.org at https://www.pw.org/login you'll be able to simply "jump on" today at noon!

Looking forward to the live

Looking forward to the live chat today! Hope you'll join us to discuss Melissa's recent essay, A Residency of One's Own, and the challenges of creating space to write as a woman and a mother. Read the essay at the link above, log in, and join the chat at at 12 EST. 

  It’s a cold, rainy day in

 

It’s a cold, rainy day in D.C. not a sunny one of solitude in the south of France, but I’m happy to be here chatting residencies and the writing life. Thanks, Poets & Writers, for bringing us together!

If I could figure out the

If I could figure out the byzantine process of adding a comment to your fantastic article on "A Retreat of One's Own...: here is what it would say:

Melissa, thank you for your honesty and inspiration in this piece. You took me along with you on a journey of soul-searching that made me feel you've been eavesdropping on my fears, my responsibilities, and my family dynamics all these years. I know I'm not alone in saying that the layers of this text make it so meaningful: part travelogue, part marriage confessional, part love letter to your children, part unity to other women writers across time... and mostly an embrace of yourself and your talent... just loved it. Thank you!

And here's my question for you: those first pages of a novel! How do we know when we've got it right? How do you draft and revise to begin to grab the reader and not let her go?

Melissa, As a fellow writer

Melissa, As a fellow writer and mother, I enjoyed reading your piece about the Bread Loaf residency in Cassis, France. I love how you discussed Virginia Woolf's writing life in relation to your own. The distinction between writing in isolation versus writing in a community among other artists was especially salient. I look forward to seeing where your writing career takes you next.

I've long admired your ability to write both fiction and nonfiction. I notice that you take more risks with form in your nonfiction. Can you comment on that? 

 

Hi, y'all. Pleased to have

Hi, y'all. Pleased to have discovered this article and chat, as I'm currently packing to depart tomorrow for my first ever residency--leaving my family husband and kids for two weeks while I try to close in on the fist draft of my first novel at Rivendell in Tennessee. Thanks for sharing your experience, Melissa!

I'm so grateful you read it,

I'm so grateful you read it, CG Martinez, and pleased it resonated. It's an essay I've been trying to write for a very long time as I've navigated writing, teaching, mothering, and life. To your question about drafting, especially those first pages, I don't ever know unless I keep going. I find it's more a process of writing my way into meaning. Mark Twain says that once you've reached the end of your novel, you're ready to begin writing it. That helped me let go a little in residency. I had the time and space to trust the process more. 

Great questions and comments,

Great questions and comments, everyone! Keep them coming, and while Melissa works on her responses I'd recommend checking out the videos of her reading over at the left of the page.

Thanks, wendybeselhahn. I've

Thanks, wendybeselhahn. I've been writing about Woolf in one way or another in most of my work. Or maybe I'm looking to her for answers, yes? Your question about form and fiction vs. nonfiction is so thoughtful. Perhaps in nonfiction I already know what happened so I'm focusing on the larger task of meaning, of sorting, of impact. I love playing with form, and I certainly don't mind the mistakes on the page. I learn from them, too. 

Congrats on your imminent

Congrats on your imminent departure, htownjenny. I've heard such great things about Rivendell. In residency, I learned about my own best writing schedule when I didn’t have to plan it around others. It was a luxury. But I learned that if I can write during my best hours of the day, I’m more available for the other hours. Do you have a plan for finishing the first draft or are you waiting to see where it takes you?

Hi Melissa, I'm about to be a

Hi Melissa,

I'm about to be a mom (yay!) and have been writing for quite some time, although mostly without being published. Do you think it's still possible to seek publication during the first two years of parenting, especially if one hasn't been established already? Or is it best to let the public part of writing take the back seat for a while, and just keep up my regular personal practice (as I say this, I hear how hard it will be to do even that...)

Thank you!
Emily. 

Thanks for joining us,

Thanks for joining us, johnrwalshj. Any thoughts or questions about the writing life and residency? 

No, I don't. I am working in

No, I don't. I am working in Scrivener and am pretty aware of where the holes are, and am heading up there to simply fill as many of them as I can! I would love to hear about any planning you did or advice you have at tackling things. I am beside myself with excitement at this opportunity for undivided concentration. 

One of the things I

One of the things I appreciated most about your article was how you focused on the fact that you knew they (your children and spouse) would be fine while you are away. That was always my greatest fear when leaving, but without fail when I arrived home I realized how much closer they had all become as a result of me being gone. I realized that in some ways, my always being there was an impediment to their developing relationships. When I realized that, I not only felt freer to go to the next resisdency but also saw it as giving them time and space, too, to know one another more deeply. A gift, of sorts.

Publication and writing are

Publication and writing are such different paths, emikra. They're both a lot like mothering, though. Sometimes you just hold on for the ride. White knuckles and all. To your question about those first two years, I did a lot of writing then. I actually wrote my first short story after the birth of my first daughter. Becoming a mother unlocked a part of my creativity I hadn't accessed before. Or maybe it was the sleep deprivation. I did an MFA after the birth of my second child when I realized I needed more training and a real writing community. I thought it was better to be a bit older, a bit more seasoned, especially in workshop. What I know now is that it all fuels my writing. My roles aren't quite as delineated as before. I suspect you'll be writing and publishing along side your mothering. There are so many great literary magazines seeking work from mothers, especially.  Congrats to you and yours! 

mlakers: What a great

mlakers: What a great observationt. I think my husband sees it that way, too, and I'm so appreciative of his support, without which this would be much more difficult, if not impossible.

I used Scrivener for the

I used Scrivener for the fifth draft of my novel, htownjenny, and it helped me map plot, but next time I'll use it for new work rather than revisions. I used Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! structure to get myself back into revisions after a pause in the draft while I was waiting on agent feedback. It helped me see things visually so I could, like you, find and fill those holes. Good luck! 

Hi! It's been said that

Hi! It's been said that before you write about life, you first have to live it. Do you think the range of expectations some place on motherhood homogonizes the experiences of writers who are also mothers? Do writers who are mothers need to work harder than writers who are fathers to have access to sources of inspiration and material beyond the home?

Just to add to Melissa's

Just to add to Melissa's comment about literary magazines looking for work by mothers, Literary Mama (www.literarymama.com) is a terrific journal. There's also Brain, Child (www.brainchildmag.com). Does anyone know of other good magazines or websites looking for work by mothers? 

I have heard Save the Cat!

I have heard Save the Cat! mentioned before, I'll check it out. Thank you so much for the comments and encouragement. And thanks for the article, which I loved!

 

What a gift, mlakers. It's a

What a gift, mlakers. It's a lot like going into a story and trusting the process without trying to control the ending, at least in the drafting phase. Trusting my writing, like trusting my parenting and my partner's ways of doing it differenting, isn't easy, but I think it's worth it to learn. I wrote more in residency in one month than I had the entire previous year. And I wrote deeper and took more risk with prose without the time constraints. 

Brain, Child, and Literary

Brain, Child, and Literary Mama are some of my favorite places I've published, mfaliveno, but I've been pleased, too, by how much literary journals not necessarily devoted to motherhood have been receptive to work about parenting. 

Becky Tuch at The Review,

Becky Tuch at The Review, Review had a great piece on magazines specifically looking for women's experiences http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishin...

I believe it's inactive right

I believe it's inactive right now, but I found a home on the Tumblr Literary Mothers for an essay about Grace Paley I had had kicking around in my brain for about a decade...

Great question, johnrwalshj.

Great question, johnrwalshj. Plenty of my writing doesn't have to do with motherhood or parenting at all. I've never had a problem finding material, but I've always struggled to carve out space for the writing. It requires such a solitude that caregiving and daily life isn't always conducive to. I think that's why a residency is such a gift and a challenge. Most of the other fellows I was in residency with weren't parents, but their life responsibilities and roles were just as consuming as mine. 

Mother writers do get asked questions, though, that father writers don't like "What about the kids?" I think that's on us to see the writer and the person and not just the mother. 

You're welcome, htownjenny!

You're welcome, htownjenny! I'm so pleased our paths crossed here. Best of luck to your and your writing life. 

Thanks, everyone, for a great

Thanks, everyone, for a great chat -- and thank you, mscholesyoung, for writing such an important article and taking the time to engage with us here! And please, everyone, continue the conversation...

Just another note on

Just another note on resources, for parents looking to attend retreats the Sustainable Arts Foundation is a nonprofit that offers annual grants to writers with children under the age of 18. They've also begun a program that funds to retreats that work to make their programs more family friendly, for those writers who want to attend a residency and bring their kids along. 

http://www.pw.org/content/parents_writers.

And here's a great video about family-friendly retreats: 
http://www.pw.org/content/the_future_of_...

I love this list at Electric

I love this list at Electric Lit that has recommended reading for parents, htownjenny. Some great reads! http://electricliterature.com/11-novels-...
-read-instead-of-parenting-books/

Thanks for giving my voice

Thanks for giving my voice space, klarimer. And a huge round of applause to mfaliveno for moderating this conversation and editing my essay. Y'all do good work in the world. I'm happy to be a part of the Poets & Writers community.