It’s time for the second in my new series of interviews with amazing authors. Today it’s the turn of Melanie Faith.
Melanie was born in December and has a birthday-twin niece. She is a craft-book author, editor, poet, photographer, and professor. Her writing and photography are forthcoming or were recently published in Menteur, Verse of Silence, Burning Word, Thin Air, and Aji Magazine. Learn about her latest projects at: https://www.melaniedfaith.com/blog/ or https://www.etsy.com/shop/WritePathProductions
So, tell us a little more about yourself.
I’m a Gen Xer who likes to wear many hats and loves nothing better than a new project (or three).
I’ve been a teacher and a tutor since graduating from college; currently I am an instructor for three programs/schools, including a graduate MA program in creative writing, and freelance teach independent studies.
I am also an avid photographer, freelance editor, poet, and prose writer.
All of my jobs inspire my own creative journey and create camaraderie with other artists who are on similar journeys. I love talking about writing and the creative process and hearing others’ joys and challenges as fellow makers.
And about your most recent publication?
My latest book is Photography for Writers: A Writer’s Companion for Image-Making . It combines two of my favourite passions: writing and making photos. I’ve found that many other writers are also enthusiastic shutterbugs and have visual-arts talents, too. I’ve packed this book with down-to-earth, writer-centred advice and prompts to inspire both arts.
This is not a technical or boring book about the mechanics of camera settings, like F-stops. I developed it for authors and photographers of all levels. What sparked this book was that I developed an online course that focuses on both genres—while creating my syllabus, I researched far and wide for a text that approached photography from the way we writers think, daydream, and approach the world and imagery. I found many books solely for photographers, and I own oodles of books solely focused on the writing process, but I wanted to mesh them.
“I’ll just write my own hand-outs” quickly turned into, “I’ll just write my own book on this topic.” I saw a hole in the market and a giant opportunity to explore, and I set to work expressing how my writing training has informed and sparked my photographic creativity in simple, direct ways that other creatives can take for a spin.
What do you hope your readers take away from your work? What are you trying to achieve?
My primary goal with Photography for Writers (and all three of my craft books) is to create a user-friendly, fun (emphasis on fun!) experience that invites the writer back again and again. I aim to spark individualized creativity. I packed anecdotes as well as prompts into every chapter as well as a resource list for photographing writers to continue to explore long after their first read of my book.
My secondary goal is that, after reading this book, writers will create even more prose, poetry, and/or photographs; so far, I’ve had some great feedback from readers, including a writing friend who said that my book inspired her to submit photos to a literary magazine; she just got an acceptance letter, which made my week.
The book’s chapters denote the theme/topic, so creatives are welcome to explore the book in any order that speaks to them or approach the book chronologically.
I divided the book into three sections: the first few chapters are for sparking ideas, the second few chapters are filled with practical tips that focus on the intersection between the two art forms, and the third section focuses on getting your art out there and marketing/promoting photography and writing, including advice for writing the author/artist bio.
I hope each copy gets carried along on hikes, through photo shoots in suburban neighbourhoods and cities, and to cafes and every other place where authors hang out and work on their creations. I want each copy to get so much use that some pages get a little dog-eared. The ebook copies, of course, will remain pristine! 🙂
How do you approach a new project? Are you a plotter or a pantser, or somewhere in between?
I’m mostly a pantser, but I also have my strong plotter side, so I guess that would make me a plantser, LOL. I generally jump into a new project with a free-write or two, letting my imagination play. Then, somewhere 10 or 20 pages into a new project, I put my editing hat on and begin to see the general arc of the new project. At that point, I often print out a tactile copy and make a list of themes and/or next steps in the project to flesh it out. I use that list of writing topics as I progress forward.
I’m a lister by nature, although I’m equally a low-key, go-with-the-flow project developer—if I get a hunch or an idea that wasn’t on the list or if an idea on the list doesn’t mesh with the manuscript anymore, I feel free to go in a new direction at any time. Between the two methods, my manuscripts take shape.
If I had to pick one, though, I’m slightly more pantser—imagination and intuition top inflexible plans any day of the week.
Do you have any other artistic talents, or something you really wish you could try?
Writing and photography are my main artistic outlets, but I have a fascination with painting and painters (Bob Ross and his “happy little trees” got me hooked as a kid). I used to collage quite a bit in high-school and college, and I’m intrigued with artists who combine words and photographs or multiple photographs.
This summer, I’m reading a lot about sculpture, which is a subject so diverse and with so many exciting options that I wouldn’t be surprised if I give it a try sometime, in some form.
I’d love to learn the art of letterpress, too—owning one of those retro machines would be a dream, playing with moveable, tactile typeface!
How did your relationship with Vine Leaves Press begin? Was it a conscious decision to work with a small press rather than a Big 5 or self-publishing route?
I wrote a craft article about writing that I specifically pitched to Vine Leaves that was published a few years ago. Shortly after that, I checked VLP’s guidelines when I was almost finished writing my first craft book, In a Flash!: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose, and realized that the press had an open call for reference/craft books. I’d had such a wonderful experience with VLP on the article that I queried with a description of my book, Jessica invited me to submit the manuscript for consideration, and the rest is history.
Vine Leaves Press has published three of my craft books as a Flash Writing series (my other book is Poetry Power: Writing, Editing, & Publishing Dynamic Poetry). VLP has been awesome and supportive every step of the way. I truly enjoy connecting with other Vine Leaves Press authors and staff.
I love the attention and care a small press gives to their authors—the press has done a splendid job of publishing and promoting my books; I also really appreciate the enthusiastic support, networking among writers, and marketing advice for authors along the way. Comparatively, at the Big 5 or when self-publishing, the elements of community support and personal attention are often, from what I hear, lacking.
What’s next for you?
I am working on a series of photographs with my film cameras about the myriad emotions I’ve felt during this Covid-19 pandemic; I just submitted the first batch of photos to a literary magazine a few days ago. The series is entitled: Quarantine Summer, and each photo carries a further descriptive title. All of the photos in the series are shot with film cameras—such as a Canon EOS Rebel I purchased online for a song. I have a used Diana F+ (Lomography) camera that I’d like to explore more as the next step in the series—there’s a fresh roll of film calling my name.
I’m putting the polishing touches on a reference book about the art of teaching creative writing online. I’ll be teaching a fun Food Writing class in September-October and a cool new course I created, Fundamentals of Graphic Novel Creation, in October and November. I’m also enjoying the process of writing more poetry and am about 135 pages into a new novel manuscript’s first draft.
Mostly, I just want to keep creating, curious to see how each project turns out, and to keep supporting fellow writers and artists.
Wow, I’m exhausted just reading about all those new projects. Thank you so much for talking to us today.