We interviewed Melissa T. Shultz, acquisitions editor for Jim Donovan Literary and a nonfiction author whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, Newsweek, Readers’ Digest, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. Her memoir/self-help book From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life was published by Sourcebooks in July 2016 and was named one of “3 Inspiring Reads” by Parade.com.
What books or magazines are on your nightstand?
The Atlantic, Better Homes and Gardens, The New Yorker, and Family Circle (which I’ve read since I was a girl). I’ve also got Theft by Finding by David Sedaris, and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It’s a big nightstand.
How do you stay current on publishing and related industry news?
I subscribe to free newsletters such as Publishers Weekly and Publishers Lunch, Deadline, and Adweek’s Morning Media Newsfeed. Facebook brings a lot of news right to me, as well.
What’s a magazine or column you read regularly?
I always enjoy opinion and essays from the NYT, essays from The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and a variety of types of articles from The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker.
What’s your favorite writing genre?
I’m a sucker for a good essay and personal narrative of any type.
Is there a writing genre you would like to try, and if so, what?
I’d love to publish a children’s picture book, or ten. I made up stories for years for my kids, and someday, I hope to do it again for my grandchildren. I might as well put them on paper because I know how fond children are of saying, Read it again! just when you get to the end.
Where do you get your writing ideas?
Everyday life. I find universal experiences are often the most interesting, and the most compelling.
Do you keep a list of ideas?
I do. In my head, on paper scattered about the house and in the bottom of my purse, and in files that I forget about.
What’s your favorite writing prompt for students?
For nonfiction, when you’re stuck, pull out a photograph (with you in it). Then write what you recall about where you were, the day, the weather—all of it–in the moments just before, and just after, it was snapped. Take the reader into the scene, into the story.
Is there a writing guide or writing-related website you can recommend to other writers?
If you’re looking for magazine contributor info, including how to pitch and who to pitch, Mediabistro.com has a paid section that is well worth the investment. There are also lots of FB Groups for pretty much any kind of genre, as well as LinkedIn groups that offer info and support. I stumbled upon this recently: https://thewritelife.com/100-best-websites-for-writers-2017/. For books I like Stein on Writing by Sol Stein, The Art of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
Do you have any new writing projects you can tell us about?
I’m working on a greeting card line, trying my hand at copywriting – it’s something I’ve wanted to do since my 20s, but never had the time. It’s harder than you might imagine, but I do think that Twitter has taught us all to figure out how to convey a message in the fewest amount of words, so I’m somewhat optimistic!
This interview is the first in our Fall Series. Read the next installment here. Melissa’s nonfiction/memoir class, Finding Your Voice, will take place at The Writer’s Garret on Saturday, September 30. Find out more here.