Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Meet My Friend . . .
     Melanie G. Snyder

It's so good to have Melanie with us today. Welcome, Melanie!

How long have you known that you were a writer? Did you receive a clear “call?” Or have you just loved writing all your life?

I’ve always loved writing and have written stories, poetry and essays since I was a little girl. I was one of those rare (and slightly WEIRD!) kids who LOVED school assignments to write research papers and book reports. I’ve also been a voracious reader my whole life and think that has a lot to do with my love of the written word. The funny thing is, though I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, I didn’t feel that I could legitimately tell others that I was a writer until I had my first articles published in magazines. And I’m finding that, now that I have a published book to my name, that seems to give me more credibility as a “real writer” in the eyes of others. Regardless of whatever public credibility I may achieve (or not!), in my heart, I have always been and will always be a writer.

I know what you mean about loving research. I've got that bug, too. What is the genre you write in? Would you explain what it is?

I write primarily non-fiction, on topics such as education, the arts, parenting and social issues.

How do you spend your writing days? Do you set goals to reach a certain number of words per day?

I wish I could tell you that I have some type of discipline or structure about my writing. In addition to being a writer,
  • I have numerous clients for whom I do a variety of (non-writing) projects,
  • I teach writing courses and other courses for several area colleges, and
  • I’m heavily involved in restorative justice and mediation work as a volunteer (along with numerous other volunteer commitments in the community).
  • And I’m a wife and mother of two college-age kids (and a neurotic Golden Retriever).
So, every day is vastly different, and it’s difficult to find quiet, focused time to simply write.

But when I do get time to focus on writing, at the moment, it’s mostly spent on writing speeches and presentations to promote my first book, Grace Goes to Prison, which has just been published by Brethren Press (

You are busy! Tell us about your book. What can readers expect to get from reading it? How and where can readers buy your book?

Grace Goes to Prison tells how one unassuming, ordinary woman challenged conventional wisdom in our prison system during her 33 years as a prison volunteer, by practicing a radical form of LOVE for those who have committed crimes. Regardless of one’s views of our criminal justice system, this book is, at its core, about how one ordinary person can make an extraordinary difference in the world. Marie Hamilton’s example offers powerful lessons for ALL of us!

Grace Goes to Prison is available directly from the publisher, Brethren Press, at:

You can find recent reviews of the book on Amazon at:

Though the book is listed on Amazon, it is constantly “out of stock” and you’ll get much faster service ordering directly through Brethren Press. Also, I really encourage people to order through Brethren Press anyway as it supports this wonderful small, independent publisher.

Sounds fantastic! Where do you get ideas?

I think there are ideas for topics to write about all around us. But I’m especially interested in peoples’ stories. I believe EVERYONE has some incredible stories inside of them, and I love the process of engaging in dialogue with people to draw those stories out of them!

Do you ever feel like giving up? Most people don’t understand the stress, the work, and the joy of being a writer. How tenuous becoming a writer is. Do you care to share how it feels, what discouraging/encouraging times you’ve gone through? Who’s inspired you the most?

Sure, sometimes it is frustrating, trying to get past the writer’s block and the nagging voices in my head to get words on the page. And it’s frustrating to try to get others (editors, publishers) to take notice of what I write. You have to develop a thick skin to be a successful writer, because rejection is a constant. I once heard someone say, “Being a writer should be easy – grab a dictionary, pencil and paper and you have everything you need!” If only it were that simple. But when I get frustrated, or “blocked”, or tired of the “no, thank you’s” from editors and publishers, I think about what my life would be like if I COULDN’T write – and I can’t imagine how sad that would be. That knowledge keeps me moving forward.

So true! Would you explain how you “chose” (or were chosen by) a publisher? Do you just go “inny, minny, miny, moe?” Grin. Now, that you’re published, can you sit back and relax from the success you’ve experienced?

For Grace Goes to Prison, the logical first publisher for me to approach was Brethren Press, because Marie Hamilton’s work was rooted deeply in the principles of her Church of the Brethren upbringing. Though I did send an initial query for this book to 5 other publishers (all simultaneously, by the way!), luckily Brethren Press responded very quickly that they were interested. The overall process of getting this book published was very easy and very fast, according to many of my writer friends who have also had books published. I committed to the project of writing the book in October, 2007, roughed out a first draft, query letter and book proposal by April, 2008, sent 6 query letters out on June 5, 2008, heard from Brethren Press by August 11, 2008 that they were interested in publishing the book, finished the manuscript and submitted it to Brethren Press by December 21, 2008, and the book was released on September 23, 2009, just shy of 2 years after I first took on the project.

I don’t expect to be nearly that lucky the next time around.

As for “sitting back and relaxing” from this success: no way! In many ways, the journey with this book is just beginning, as I now turn my attention to getting out and speaking to as many faith groups, civic groups, book groups, colleges and universities, and others as possible about Marie Hamilton’s work. (Anyone out there know of any potentially interested groups? If so, I’d love for you to contact me to discuss the possibility of a speaking engagement. See my website at for contact info)

Do you mind telling us some of your likes and dislikes? Hobbies, interests? Where would you like to travel if you could?

  • Well, obviously writing is one of my “likes.” Some days, it’s also one of my dislikes!
  • As for travel, I’m planning a cross-country book tour for the Spring of 2010. Going cross-country is something I’ve wanted to do for over 25 years. I had planned a cross-country trek with a friend right after college – but then both of us got job offers and decided to do the “responsible” thing and start working. But now, the publication of Grace Goes to Prison has given me the perfect reason to pursue that long-cherished dream!

Would you give us your blog or webpage so everyone can check it out? Anything else you’d like to share? Promotional information?
My website is

I also have a Facebook group set up for Grace Goes to Prison at

I’d love to connect with fellow writers and with readers!

Thank you so much, Caroline, for the opportunity to share my publishing journey with your readers! And blessings to you in your own writing ventures!

It's been a real privilege to have you here, Melanie! May God continue to bless your work.


Linda Glaz said...

Great interview! And what a topic! I loved her comment about the thick skin. That is the first thing I tell new writer. You'd better have it or stop right now. I have enough rejection slips to wallpaper a room! Maybe I'll do that the day I get pubbed! New office decor!

Caroline said...

LOL. So true. When we get famous, everyone would want to see that wall!

Melanie said...

Hi Linda - yes, wallpaper would be a good use for those rejection letters - though these days it seems the rejections often come in the form of brief emails. Not even worth printing them, just to have the "wallpaper"...ha! Best wishes for success in your quest to get published.

Carmen7351 said...

This sounds like a great book. Our church has started ministry to a women's prison in the area. This would be a great addition. Please enter me. Thanks. Carman sent me.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Marjorie said...

This book sounds very interesting and we all could learn from it.

cenya2 at hotmail dot com

Carman sent me.

Julia said...

Carman sent me. Sounds like a book I could definitely learn from.


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