Interview with Melissa Donovan, multi-talented writer and creating of “Writing Forward,” an award-winning site for writers
Melissa Donovan is a self-employed copywriter and web content specialist. She writes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Her blog, Writing Forward, which was recently named one of Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites for Writers,” offers creative writing tips and ideas.
1. How did you get started as a writer?
Like many writers, I started out as a reader – a voracious reader. I could read before I turned four years old and I have always devoured books. When I was about thirteen, I started journaling and writing poetry. I also enrolled in journalism class and worked on the school newspaper.
2. Favorite books (especially for writers)
Writers can learn a lot by reading well-written works by successful authors. If you want to improve your language, read Jazz by Toni Morrison. If you’re having trouble creating realistic or believable characters, read Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Read the classics and read extensively in whatever genre you want to write.
3. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you
I’m a huge animal lover, and one of my goals is to write and work on behalf of the No Kill movement, which seeks to end the unethical and unnecessary killing of homeless animals in shelters. You can learn more by visiting the No Kill Advocacy Center.
Normally, I’m pretty shy and I don’t like speaking in public or being the center of attention. The only exception is when I’m dancing. I love to dance, and when I do, my inner exhibitionist comes out and my shyness disappears. I like to own the dance floor.
I started working as a freelance copywriter on a whim. I had been working for a company that went out of business, and six months later I was tired of the job search, tired of corporate life, and tired of playing it safe. So, I took a leap of faith and less than a month later, I was in business.
4. Best and worst part of being a writer
The best part of being a writer is telling a story that people care about. Also, the writing community is incredibly warm and supportive, so it’s an honor to be a part of that. It’s all about making that human connection.
Having said that, the worst part is the solitude. The only thing I miss about having an office job is meeting and working closely with other people. The Internet is helpful in maintaining a sense of community but it’s not quite the same.
5. Advice for other writers
Read and write. Those are the only two things every writer absolutely must do.
Where can people get writing tips and exercises?
My website features writing tips to help writers improve their craft, along with activities like poetry prompts and writing exercises. The poetry prompts are especially popular because the challenge is simple – write a poem that contains all of the words from a list.
One of my favorite fiction writing exercises asks writers to get into their characters by chatting with them, putting them in situations outside of the story, and writing a monologue from the characters’ perspective. It’s called “Getting Into Character.”
Tell us a story about your writing experience.
I took a fiction writing course in college, and I remember reading my story out loud to the class – not something I enjoyed much, but it was a class requirement. They laughed, and the best part was that they laughed where the story was supposed to be funny. I remember thinking that I can do this – if I can make people laugh with my writing, then I can be a writer.
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Great interview … good questions and insightful responses.
“own the dance floor” … sounds like maybe we’ll see some videos on Writing Forward someday?
Though you might not like reading stuff out loud in front of a class, it’s the fastest way to get immediate feedback. And it’s not just feedback from one person. It’s more like a poll. I am glad that it gave you confidence instead of traumatizing you for life. 🙂
Wonderful interview! 🙂 I’m a big fan of Melissa’s site and I loved reading this interview about her. I’m so glad I found this site in the process!
Great interview … and I agree. Now I want to see dancing video, too!
Hi Melissa: I was just watching a YouTube video of a lecture given by Stephen King at Yale in whichM he says precisely the same thing you do: a writer must read and write. He adds that he has no patience for people who say they want to be writers but they don’t have time to read. Basically, if you don’t read, you can’t write.
Wendy, thanks so much for doing this interview. It was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait until we do your interview over at my place next week.
@J.D. and Deb, Dancing videos at Writing Forward? I’m blushing just thinking about it!
@Kelvin, That was just the beginning. I had to read plenty of my work out loud as a creative writing major. Ugh! I got used to it eventually and you’re right – it was a fast track to better writing.
@Positively Parent and geovanny, Thanks for your kind words. I’m loving Wendy’s site too!
@Marelisa, I’ll have to check out that video. I’m working on a post about reading and writing, so that video could be a big help.
Thanks all you guys for reading the interview. Your support means the world to me 🙂
Her blog, Writing Forward, which was recently named one of Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites for Writers…
Um, what?! I totally missed that news in all that’s been going on in this crazy thing called life. Congrats, Melissa! I’m so very proud of you!! Woo hoo!!!
This is a great interview, by the way. I’ve loved Writing Forward since day one, and I loved your other blog before that. You’re totally the cyber English teacher, and such a fantabulous friend, too. You’ve worked so hard and you deserve all the success, girl! 😉
This is a cool blog, Wendy! Can’t believe I’ve never been here before. I’ll definitely be back, though! 😉
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