Welcome to Writers4Higher
The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.
This issue, Writers4Higher features
Hi, Melinda. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!
1. Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.
Goodness, I’m not sure where to start. I’m the daughter of a preacher and a teacher, raised in the south with a strong disposition to give back. I remember clearly my mother taking shoes to school to give to a poor student who needed them. In their retirement, my parents continue to volunteer their time with their church, Habitat for Humanity, the local food bank, and other various causes.
I’m the oldest girl of five children. My younger brother was born with Down Syndrome in a time in which doctors routinely recommended institutionalization (which was met with a resounding “No” from not only my parents, but my siblings and me as well). Over the subsequent 32 years my brother has inspired all of us to do more and be more than we ever thought we could.
I graduated from the University of Memphis with a B.A. in Social Work in 1989, and a M.S. in Community Agency Counseling in 1993. My first years in the field were spent working with some of the poorest of the poor in Tennessee, providing case management to those discharged -sometimes after decades of institutionalization - from the local mental health institute. I worked with clients who had no electricity, no running water, and in some cases, not even a floor. I had clients who cooked over a fire in the front yard, who gathered water from the nearest pond, and who slept with a baseball bat in order to kill the snakes that slithered in during the night.
Eventually I moved to Colorado, where I spent a decade specializing in work with individuals diagnosed with both a developmental disability and a mental health disorder. I worked inpatient, outpatient, and in-home. In different jobs I served as behavior specialist, program manager, and director. I also had an ever-expanding private practice which my former business partner and forever dear friend continues to operate to this day. We moved to Florida about eight years ago, and I took time off to raise my children, complete my doctorate in Special Education Administration, and write a handful of novels.
My background heavily influences my writing. Both Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain, set in the fictional town of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, follow the lives of women and children who have been abused and left to overcome the consequences. Return to Crutcher Mountain also introduces Robby, a young boy with Down Syndrome who is in desperate need of a home, complete with someone to love him. My maternal ancestors are from West Virginia, which is no doubt why I’m enamored with the area.
My third novel, Entangled Thorns, also set in Cedar Hollow, follows the life of the adult children of a moonshiner from Appalachia, chronicling the struggles they’ve had to escape the ravages of their childhood and make a life for themselves.
2. Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?
That’s an interesting question, and one I’ve given a great deal of thought the past year or so, although I’m still not sure I know the answer. I enjoy writing, be it academic or for pleasure. I’ve had several mental health/relationship type articles published in various print and online newsletters and magazines, and I would like to pursue that. I also enjoy writing fiction. I have a very rough idea for a fourth novel, and also some ideas for a series of short stories. I suppose the short answer is that I would like to pursue all of the above. I don’t really think about where my writing will take me so much as I think about what I’d like to do with it, if that makes sense. I don’t ever really think about the end of the journey; instead, I focus on the steps I’d like to take along the way. Wherever I end up…well, that’s where I’ll be.
3. How do you use your talents/time to help others?
I seem to be compelled to write stories about people struggling to overcome trauma. I believe in the power of hope, and in the power to overcome the challenges set before us.
When I worked directly with clients I was often amazed at the strength and tenacity displayed by people who had undergone tremendous challenges. I’m inspired by their courage. If there is a message to my novels, I suppose it’s that there’s always hope. No matter how dark the days, no matter how awful the circumstances, there’s the possibility of a second chance. Life often doesn’t turn out the way we expected it to, or even the way we wanted it to. Bad things happen to good people, and sometimes life throws us a curveball so outside the realm of what we’d expected that it may seem there’s no point in continuing. But as long as we can draw breath, we can choose to do the best we can with what we have at that moment. Sometimes we have to let go of what life was supposed to be in order to appreciate it for what it is.
On a less abstract note, my publisher, Vanilla Heart Publishing, and I worked together last year to raise money for the Tipton County Adult Development Center (TCADC) in Covington, Tennessee. For several months, a percentage of the proceeds from Return to Crutcher Mountain was donated to the center. This is the center my brother attends, and funding is a constant issue. More recently, Vanilla Heart Publishing and I have discussed the possibility of a book of short stories featuring the people of Cedar Hollow, written by not only me, but also my family. All of the profits from this book will be donated to TCADC, which is currently raising funds for a new building (the old one is consumed with black mold). As you can imagine, this is a cause very dear to my heart!
Would you like to find Melinda?
Check out the links to this talented author:
Appalachian Justice on Amazon.com
Return to Crutcher Mountain on Amazon.com
Entangled Lives on Amazon.com
Thanks for joining us, Melinda!
Fiction with a Southern Twist