Melody Melody Maysonet

Melody Maysonet has been an English teacher, editor, columnist, and ghostwriter. A self-proclaimed geek, she loves reading fantasy, but prefers writing edgy, real-world fiction—as evidenced by her first novel, A WORK OF ART (Simon Pulse), which received a Starred Review from Kirkus, won the 2016 Hoffer Award for best fiction, and was named a Best Book of 2015 by YA Books Central.

All articles by Melody

 

Good Enough

Sometimes it feels like my creativity is drying up—or that I never had much creativity to begin with. Where do story ideas come from? Why aren’t I brimming with new ideas? These are the questions I’ve recently been asking myself, and I’ve been trying to find ways to feed my creativity. A few years ago, a writer friend of mine who I admire and respect recommended a certain “spiritual path to higher creativity” called the Artist’s Way that basically involves journaling three pages every morning and taking yourself on an “artist’s date” once a week. There was an Artist’s Way...
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Breast Cancer, Vacation, Revision, Oh My!

I recently finished a complete draft of my latest novel, which, for me, is a big deal, especially because I’ve spent the last four years  tangled up in plot revisions, character revisions, setting revisions—you name it. So needless to say, it felt really good to type the words “The End,” even though I planned on editing it a bit before sending it to my agent. It didn’t hurt that I got to type “The End” on the same day that I finished radiation treatments for my recent run-in with breast cancer. (The cancer was caught early, and six months later...
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Putting A Painful Past to Good Use

I write for teens, so it’s important that I stay in touch with my teenage self. Now that my son is a teenager, I catch myself observing him sometimes as though I’m a behavioral scientist. But I also rely on memories of what it was like for me back in the day. I say “back in the day” as though I have fond memories of high school—when actually my teenage years were a series of embarrassing events punctuated by flashes of terror. All those insecurities and fears, all that pressure to fit in and be liked. So why do I...
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Inspiration in Strange Places

My muse likes to hide from me. Sometimes she jumps out and surprises me, but most of the time she makes me chase her.  It’s hard to pin down what inspires me to write—what makes my muse grace me with her presence—but in thinking about it for this blog, I remembered a chance encounter I had when I was eight years old. I was sitting in a laundromat while my mom and I waited for our clothes to wash. I’d brought along my spiral notebook and I was furiously writing the next chapter in my Adventures of Stacy book. There...
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How to Keep Readers Invested in Flawed Characters

Every protagonist in fiction needs a major character flaw. Part of the satisfaction of reading comes from finding out how a character changes for the better. Of course some character flaws are greater than others, and when you make your protagonist seriously flawed (as I like to do), the question becomes: How do I keep the reader invested in the story? How do I keep the reader from wanting to throw the book across the room? In my first novel, A WORK OF ART, my main character, Tera, refuses to believe that her father is guilty of a crime. Her naivety...
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Adding My Voice

As a victim of sexual assault, I should have known this already, but I only recently discovered that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a national campaign that raises public awareness about sexual violence and also educates individuals and communities in how to prevent it. So in honor of SAAM, and to help forward the cause, I’m giving away five copies of my award-winning and critically acclaimed book, A Work of Art. (See below.) I’m also making a nice donation to SAAM and buying this t-shirt via their website. I’ll wear it proudly. Admitting I’m a survivor of sexual...
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Writing For Young Adults: Something I Learned the Hard Way, Part 2

In part 1, I talked about how writing for a young-adult audience can be challenging, especially given that I graduated high school thirty years ago. This week, I continue that advice with part 2.  So without further ado, here’s more of what I learned the hard way when I decided I wanted to write for young adults. Replacing adult phrases with teenage speak (“That’s wonderful!” versus “That’s so freaking cool!”) wasn’t the way to go. Of course, that’s part of it, but swapping out adult phrases for teen phrases is one piece in a much larger pie. I had to...
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Writing for Young Adults: Something I Learned the Hard Way, Part 1

When I began seriously pursuing writing as a career, I didn’t intend to write for young adults. My book, A WORK OF ART, was originally aimed toward an older audience, but my critique group convinced me (and rightly so) that it was suited for young adults. After all, its protagonist was a teenage girl, and many of her problems were teenage problems. But making the transition from an adult audience to a YA audience was tougher than it seemed. My early drafts were written in third person, where everything was seen through the eyes of my protagonist. That’s all well...
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It’s All About the Conflict

Writers spend a lot of time on character and plot, which of course are very important, but remember that your story will be boring without CONFLICT. Conflict doesn’t just bring excitement to the pages. Conflict brings characters to life. Think about this. We all make snap decisions about people based on appearance and background information, but it’s not until we see people in action that we learn who they are. Let’s say you’re in high school, sitting in a classroom, and there’s a new girl in class. She’s beautiful, busty, looks like a model. You have some background on her,...
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Scene Setting and POV: 2 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

As a writer, I loathe setting the scene. I’ve literally spent hours going over the same few paragraphs to make sure I “got it right,” only to delete those same paragraphs on my revision. So much time wasted! But at least all that needless writing taught me a few things. Lesson 1: When setting a scene (at least in first person or close third-person), only mention what’s important to your character at that time. As an example of what I mean, take a look at this passage from an early draft of my work in progress. Fifteen-year-old Layla doesn’t know...
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What Doesn’t Kill Us…

I write for teens, so it’s important that I stay in touch with my teenage self. It would help if I had teenage children (my son is 11), but for now I mostly rely on memories of what it was like back in the day. I say “back in the day” as though I have fond memories of high school—when actually my teenage years were a series of embarrassing events punctuated by flashes of terror. All those insecurities and fears, all that pressure to fit in and be liked. So why do I want to relive those painful experiences through...
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Author Visits

“Melody Maysonet’s presentation for our students was terrific. Students loved meeting and interacting with her, and Melody’s background as a teacher certainly showed in not only her prepared presentation but also her Q & A. Her presentation was interesting, relevant, and not to be missed.” –Cathy Castelli High School Teacher, Atlantic Technical High School “Melody Maysonet provided my students with a tremendous learning experience filled with creative inspiration!” –Jean Brodie MA Language Arts Department, Coral Springs High School   “Melody Maysonet provided an engaging and entertaining presentation for our library’s teen audience. In addition to sharing her own experiences as an author,...
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Win a Copy of A WORK OF ART

Did you know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)? I didn’t until my sister got involved in Safe Passage, an organization that helps prevent domestic violence and sexual assault in her hometown of DeKalb, IL. I should have known about SAAM, especially because my book A WORK OF ART delves into the shame and insecurity that many sexual assault victims suffer from. It also deals with love—how victims of sexual assault sometimes have a skewed perception of what love is, and how sometimes we can love those who victimize us. Research has shown that readers of literary fiction...
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What I Would Tell My Teen Self

As a novelist for young adults, I spend a lot of time trying to recapture the emotions I had in high school. For me, there wasn’t much joy in being a teen. I wrote poetry back then, and a lot of what I wrote captures my self-loathing and fear and confusion. I sometimes wrote about wanting to get life over with. But I also wrote about hope. I hoped things would get better. I only half-believed they would. So if I could go back in time and talk to my teenage self, this is what I’d say: All those feelings...
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The Book I Want If I’m Stranded on a Desert Island

I write edgy fiction for young adults. Real issues. Real problems. So why are my favorite books steeped in fantasy? I’ve always been an avid reader. When I was a kid, I read the same books over and over (Bambi, by Felix Salton; The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis), but these days, I’m a little more diverse in my tastes. In fact, there’s only one book I go back to again and again—the amazing and wonderful Watership Down by Richard Adams. For those of you who don’t know, Watership Down is a book about rabbits. And yes, I know...
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Writing Tips from the Experts: A Newbie Author’s Take on Writing Conferences

I recently had the honor to sit on the First-Books Panel at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Florida Regional Conference, and while it was an amazing experience to tell about my journey to publication and something I will always remember, I came away from the conference with so much more than that. Here are some of the gems I picked up from the wise and talented speakers. Jonathan Maberry, a NY Times bestselling author and five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, passed on the wise words he learned (at the tender age of 13) from legendary author Richard...
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Discussion Guide for A WORK OF ART by Melody Maysonet

1. In the book’s opening paragraph, Tera says that painting her dad is “all about mood.” What mood does the author create in describing this painting? After reading this paragraph, how do you think Tera sees her father? 2. In chapter three, Tera’s dad is teaching five-year-old Tera to draw a self-portrait. In what ways does this chapter foreshadow their relationship? 3. Tera spends the first third of the book trying to protect her dad from the allegations against him, even using her money for art school to hire an expensive lawyer. Do you think she has blinded herself to...
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Writing About the Taboo

People have asked me how hard it was to write about child sexual abuse in A Work of Art. It’s a touchy subject—raw and often shameful to the abused and not something most people like to think about. But when I sat down to write about this painful subject, I found it freeing. Just as Tera, the main character in my book, finds therapy in her painting, I found therapy in my writing. So I think it was harder to imagine writing about child sexual abuse than it was to actually write it. Because many victims never report abuse, it’s...
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Inspiration in Strange Places

My muse is an elusive thing. Sometimes it swells my chest and comes out through my fingertips, but most of the time, it stays locked in a box at my feet, only occasionally making a surprise appearance. It’s hard to pin down what inspires me to write—what makes my muse come out of its box—but in thinking about it for this blog, I remembered a chance encounter I had when I was eight years old. I was sitting in a laundromat while my mom and I waited for our clothes to wash. I’d brought along my spiral notebook, and I...
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How One Character Can Have Two Points of View

A WORK OF ART is a first-person narrative, but the main character’s flashbacks are told in third person. This was a deliberate choice on my part to show how seventeen-year-old Tera has removed herself from her past, as if her memories belong to someone else. To further set off the flashbacks, I gave each one its own chapter, and whereas none of the other chapters have titles, the flashback chapters do. Once again, I wanted Tera’s memories to feel like events that she’s packed up and stored in a box, with the chapter title acting as the box’s label. The...
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The Art of Symbolism

I remember studying symbolism in high school after reading a short story called “The White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett. The story is filled with symbolism, and to be honest, it bored me, but I absolutely loved the idea that literature could be bubbling over with these mini riddles called symbols. Shortly after studying “The White Heron,” I began inundating my own stories with hit-you-over-the-head symbolism that I thought for sure made my writing more deep. I might include, for example, a main character who was watching a bird escape from her cage. (Look! That means my character wants to...
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Interviews & Features

Girls In Capes Interview with Melody Maysonet, author of A WORK OF ART girlsincapes.com Cynsations New Voice—An Interview with Melody Maysonet on A Work of Art cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com TheYoungFolks.com, interview with the author of A WORK OF ART theyoungfolks.com “Decatur Native to Publish First Novel,” an interview with Re: Decatur redecatur.com...
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Winners Announced for A WORK OF ART Teen Art Contest

For the teen art contest at my book-launch party, I asked teens to draw or paint one of two things: (1) A self-portrait. One of the book’s themes is about how we see ourselves. Tera, the main character, paints a number of self-portraits, and in each one, she sees herself in a different way. (2) A secret. In the book, Tera draws a secret as “a black wad in a girl’s stomach. A black wad with tiny teeth” that gnaws at her. Teens were asked to draw what a secret looks like to them. Party guests enjoyed viewing all of...
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Celebrating A WORK OF ART

Book party, or no book party? That was the question three months ago, mostly because it felt a bit egocentric to throw a party for myself. Then my publicist told me to think of it as throwing a party for my book. That made sense to me, especially after all I put Tera through in A Work of Art. The least I could do is throw her a party, right? I’m so glad I did! Right now, just hours after the party ended, I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received from family, friends, and the South Florida...
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A Writer’s Lucky Day (Part 4 of a Countdown to Publication)

Today, I’m feeling pretty lucky. Aside from the fact that I have a wonderful family and that we’re all in reasonably good health, March 18, 2015, is the official release of my first novel: A Work of Art. Not only that, but I got to celebrate by sitting in on a parent book-club meeting at my son’s school where they were discussing (dun-dun-DUN) my book! Yes, I know it sounds narcissistic, but you have to understand that getting to discuss a book that I wrote (and getting to discuss it with people I respect) was something I’d fantasized about long...
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Best First Book Sighting Ever! OR Countdown to Publication, Part 3

When I last left off in Part 2, I was jumping up and down (in my head) because A Work of Art was chosen as the next selection for the parent YA book club at my son’s school. I was riding high, and then, something even better happened… Ten days before release date: A writer friend told me she saw my book in a certain Barnes & Noble, so I rounded up Adam (my husband) and Caleb (my 10-year-old son), and off we went to have a look. Sure enough, my book was there in the teen section—10 days before...
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A Debut Author’s Countdown to Publication, Part 2

When I last left off (click here to read Part 1), I had received my first book review for A Work of Art—a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. I was riding high, and then… Two months before pub date: Other reviews trickled in. I got a really good one from Booklist but a scathing one from another reviewer. Hmmm. Could it be that different people have different opinions? Reviews from book bloggers were mostly positive, but that painful review felt like a stab in the gut. Fear of negative feedback made me less enthusiastic about sending out ARCs (advanced reader...
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I’m Having a Book Launch Party!

Yay! I’m having a book launch party! I wasn’t sure I was going to because throwing a book-launch party feels kind of like throwing a party for myself. But as my publicist told me, “Think of it as throwing a party for your book.” So, yay! I’m throwing a party for my book! And you’re invited! The official release date for A Work of Art is March 18 (a Wednesday), but I’ll be having my book party that weekend, on March 21. Since A Work of Art has an art theme, I’m holding it at the Coral Springs Center for...
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A Debut Author’s Countdown to Publication, Part 1

With less than three weeks before the release date of my debut YA novel (A Work of Art, Merit Press), I thought I’d start blogging about what the journey from contract signing to release date has been like so far. This first installment will be a recap from the time I signed the contract up until three months before publication. Zero to five months after signing the contract: I signed the contract in February 2014 with a release date of “Spring 2015.” I spent most of this time trying to guess what “spring” meant (is June considered spring?) and deflecting...
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Self-Editing: My Writing Affliction

Some people see writing as an outpouring of words. The Muse visits, and words appear on the page. Not for me. My writing is more of an extraction—and a painful one at that. More times than not, I feel like I’m pulling out every word by force. The truth is, I’m a chronic self-editor—maybe because I was a professional editor for fifteen years and old habits die hard. Or maybe because I’m a tiny bit obsessive. So when my writer friends say things like, “I write two-thousand words a day,” or “I wrote my first draft in three months,” I’m...
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Media Resources

Feel free to download any of the following items for media use. If you need further assistance, please contact me via the contact form page. Cover Art Headshot Author Profile Author Q&A Press Release Praise Sheet Chapter One Excerpt from A WORK OF ART...
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Book Trailer for A WORK OF ART

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The Elusive Kirkus Star

As a debut author, getting your book reviewed is a big deal, so in the weeks after my advanced reader copies (ARCs) went out to reviewers, I’ve been nervously waiting, telling myself that if my book gets slammed, it’s just one person’s opinion, right? Well, I just got word that A WORK OF ART received a “starred” review from Kirkus Reviews! When my publisher told me, I had the same feeling as when my agent sold my book all those months ago—relief (since those Kirkus stars are hard to come by) mixed with validation. (Getting my book published wasn’t just...
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Writing for Young Adults: 3 Things I Learned the Hard Way

When I began seriously pursuing writing as a career, I didn’t intend to write for young adults. My upcoming book, A WORK OF ART, was originally aimed toward an older audience, but my critique group convinced me (and rightly so) that it was suited for young adults. After all, its protagonist was a teenage girl, and many of her problems were teenage problems. But making the transition from an adult audience to a YA audience was tougher than it seemed. My early drafts were written in third person, where everything was seen through the eyes of my protagonist. That’s all...
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Realistic Dialogue: 2 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

There’s a lot to say about writing dialogue—more than anyone wants to read in a single blog post. But here are two lessons I learned the hard way. (That is to say, I learned these lessons through lots of study, trial-and-error, and getting ripped apart by sharp-clawed critiquers.) Lesson 1: Realistic dialogue does not imitate real life. I used to think realistic dialogue imitated how people really talked. But the sad fact is: Most people—even smart people—aren’t that articulate when it comes to speaking. If you don’t believe me, read a few unedited interview transcripts. They sound something like this:...
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Helpful Links

Discussion Guide for A WORK OF ART http://www.melodymaysonet.com/?p=479 Uncommon YA: Gutsy YA fiction by traditionally published authors who tell it like it is http://uncommonya.com/ 2015 YA and MG Debut Authors https://fearlessfifteeners.wordpress.com/ Resources/Statistics for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse http://www.melodymaysonet.com/resources-for-victims-of-child-sexual-abuse/ Discussion Guide for A WORK OF ART http://www.melodymaysonet.com/?p=479...
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Praise for A WORK OF ART

[Starred Review] “Maysonet’s … prose is unflinching as it illuminates one girl’s traumatic experience with deeply felt compassion and brutal honesty, inviting readers into a very dark place that nonetheless has edges gilded with resilience and hope. An important book about endings, beginnings and the choice to move on.” —Kirkus Reviews (KirkusReviews.com)   “Beautifully drawn, convincingly flawed characters create a world in which Tera’s own childhood slowly moves from remembered happiness to dark understanding. This debut novel skillfully explores the consequences of self-deception, relationships, and the lengths we go to please the people we love.” —Booklist (BookListOnline.com)   “…Maysonet’s novel...
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Resources for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse

To obtain help for a victim of child sexual abuse:   Stop It Now Helps protect children from sexual abuse through help services, prevention advocacy and education, and technical assistance and training. StopItNow.org Help Line: 1-888-PREVENT   RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) The largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S.; created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline Online.Rainn.org 1-800-656-HOPE   National Child Abuse Hotline A 24/7 hotline dedicated to the prevention of child abuse 1-800-4-A-CHILD   ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:   The Children’s Assessment Center CACHouston.org Abuse Hotline:  1-800-252-5400 The mission of The CAC is to provide a professional,...
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An Interview with Writing Coach and Editor Jamie Morris

I met Jamie back in 2010 when I took an advanced-level workshop she was teaching with fellow writing coach Joyce Sweeney. At the time, I don’t know if I qualified as “advanced,” but I do know that her weekend-long workshop catapulted me to the next level of writing. It also showed me how much more I had to learn, so I eagerly signed up for more Jamie workshops. And in between those workshops, I hired Jamie to critique my work. The first time she read my manuscript, she was full of praise, but she also told me the truth. Sometimes...
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An Interview with Writing Coach Joyce Sweeney

Fifteen years ago, when I was struggling to write a fantasy novel, I stumbled upon a series of fiction-writing classes taught at the local library by Joyce Sweeney. At the time, I didn’t know much about her, only that she had authored a bunch of books for young adults. I quickly learned that Joyce was a fountain of knowledge and that these classes of hers only scratched the surface of what she knew. The details of those long-ago classes are fuzzy now, but I do remember how much she encouraged me. I was so proud when I received back one...
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An Interview with Literary Agent Tina P. Schwartz, of the Purcell Agency

When Agent Tina P. Schwartz read my manuscript and offered to represent me, I hate to admit that I was hesitant at first—but only because her agency was so new. I had poured years of my life into writing and revising A WORK OF ART, and I wanted to be sure it was in the right hands. So I contacted some of her other clients, and here’s what I learned: Tina is a hard-working professional who’s passionate about representing her clients. Though she didn’t officially start the Purcell Agency until 2012, she has been selling manuscripts to traditional publishers since...
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