Mel’s New Website

Happy Spring! A time for new beginnings. And my life right now is certainly about embracing the new.

  1. New House –moving in May
  2. New Book! –  Maud is releasing on April 25th! I know…
  3. New Website! In celebration of the “new,” my blog is growing up to a full-fledged website: will still have my blog, but it will also be showcasing many new features, such as “Maud’s World.” Special thanks to Neel Modi, who helped to create the look and feel of the website. You can check him out here:

I invite you check out my new website and please let me know what you think.

Posted in Blogging, L.M. Montgomery, Maud, Writing Life | 5 Comments

Happy 150th Birthday, Bess!



My very well-loved, well-read copies of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I have known Laura Ingalls Wilder since I was seven years old when my parents purchased the entire set for me for my birthday. It was in a big brown box and I remember opening it around the old fireplace in the dining room with the large swordfish my dad and caught and hung on the wall and the needlepoint of a woman sewing that my mom maid handing over the fireplace. (I wonder what happened to both of these things.)

At first I didn’t know what it was and my mother had to explain to me the connection to the TV show. Then I got very excited, for I often imagined to be like Melissa Gilbert as Laura.


Never quite grew out of it.










What began was a life long interest in historical fiction, women’s history, social history, and a fascination with adaptations. The thing is about Wilder is that you want to keep going. In today’s New York Times, Maria Russo describes the political and historical questions around her work and how she also unifies people on both sides of the political spectrum. She does make us uncomfortable and also right at home. But the thing that I recognized most was how Russo couldn’t just stop at the books, she read many of the work about Wilder.  That’s because you cannot just stop at the books. Meeting Laura, you need to learn more.


It is because of the Little House series I learned to read on my own. It was the first series where I hid under the blankets with a flashlight to finish one and then go right in the next. I read them and continue to read them when I’m going through a difficult time.

It was the first time I learned that there was a writer behind those stories and I needed to 12509506_10156475446585338_9072761426887953167_nknow more about her. It is because of Laura Ingalls Wilder that I travelled the same path with L.M. Montgomery. It is why I write historical fiction and studied English and History in school.


I read Donald Zochert’s biography–with truly the longest title in history and truly genius in marketing on behalf of the book designer–when I was about nine (my copy is still in very good condition).

Laura: Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Check out  the really “historically accurate” photo of a hunky Almanzo and young Laura (with a little bit of cleavage showing) gazing at each other on the back cover.

Backcover Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder

There were real pictures of a real person and I began to understand that there were inconsistencies between the books, the show, and her life. Weirdly, I was okay with this. And when my parents went to visit friends when I was a teenager, they brought back for me booklets by a William Anderson and postcards from the homesteads and I put these into a scrapbook. (Never said that I was a painter…)



Wilder saved me when I my best friend moved away when I was 7, when I was transitioning from high school to university, and when I went back to school. Wilder saved me when boyfriends didn’t turn out to be like Almanzo Wilder, or when one is told they have to move because the landlord is selling their house.

Wilder saved me when I was feeling sorry for myself, or believed that it was too late to live my dream.LittleHouseBigWoods1George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”  And for Wilder this was certainly true. She had been writing articles for the Missouri Ruralist for most of her life and quietly working away on her autobiography. Little House in the Big Woods was not published until she was 65 years old.

I always wanted to know more. I still do. Now that I’ve road tripped to most of the places she lived (didn’t make it to Kansas), and stepped in Plum Creek, I continue to discover new things about her. With the publication of the surprise bestseller, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography (the manuscript Wilder failed to sell in the 1930s but would eventually become the groundwork for the Little House series), Wilder is part of a rich history of women writers. 

Today marks Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th birthday!!!


There are stories about the Little House on the Prairie reunion with its stars writing cookbooks and autobiographies, and pop cultural references, such as this week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory featuring Little House fan fiction.

There are many events happening across the U.S., as well as the biennial conference, Laurapalooza, where fans and scholars of the author and the series come together to discuss all things Wilder. I went in 2015 and it was an incredible experience. I’m hoping the universe will conspire so I can go again. I have sent in a proposal to do a talk with my partner on the road, Caroline Jones, about the often forgotten sister, Grace. They’re supposed to let us know today.

Any opportunity to have a positive discussion where we can learn about ourselves and our history is worthy of exploration

Isn’t it amazing that at 150 years, Wilder continues to teach us something about what it means to be human, to be women and to have the ability to create. We are beginning to understand how she connected her life to her fiction, how she became a writer, and how as a frontier woman she stepping out in front of history to define  herself and women of her generation.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Google Doodle

*The original post is from 2015 with some updates.

Posted in Authors, Children's Literature, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mel’s Week of Unplanned Symmetry

The writer life is weird and wonderful. One week there could be a series of events converging at the same time and you try believing in your incredible luck and the next…a silence so quiet that you wonder if you’re any good and why you’re bothering to do it in the first place.

This week was a lucky week. A grateful week. A week where I’m doing my best to celebrate success, without feeling guilty and also being comfortable with being out in the world.

TUESDAY: I talked about this and my path to publication on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s most excellent blog, Cynsations. It was the first time I wrote about the experience writing and working on MAUD and it was fun to share pictures of the process.  

WEDNESDAY: With the various Anne of Green Gables adaptations releasing, there is a growing interest in the difference between the movies and the source material. So I wrote this short history of the adaptations, highlighting what Montgomery had said about the early ones and thoughts on what comes next.

WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY: A successful RT to Win Campaign: As you know, this week was L.M. Montgomery’s birthday and so I had planned a RT to Win MAUD ARC on Wednesday. I hadn’t done something like that in a long time and it was thrilled (if not also a bit overwhelmed) by how excited people are about it. I had announced the winner on Thursday and in the complete random number generator kind of way of the universe, an author who shares a book birthday with me, Katie Bayerl (A Psalm for a Lost Girl) won.




FRIDAY: My first short story was published!! Zoetic Press had a call for submissions for their NonBinary Review issue of Anne of Green Gables and my short story, “The New Girl,” was accepted. I didn’t know it would be out so soon, but it released yesterday. The issue features poetry, flash fiction, and art inspired by the novel. My story is about a young man name Gilbert Blythe who cannot get the new girl to even look at him, but he has a plan to get her attention.

You can buy it on the Zoetic NonBinary website. It is available as a PDF, epub and Kindle.

AND….THIS WEEKEND…TOMORROW, SUNDAY: I’m going to be on CBC Radio! It is the first time being interview in a studio. Eli Glasner is guest hosting “Fresh Air,” a show that features lifestyle and arts events in Ontario on the weekends from 6AM to 9AM, and he asked me if I would come on and talk about MAUD, and Anne of Green Gables and all things Montgomery. And because I need to be brave, I said, “Yes!” I’ve been told it will air during the later half of the show on CBC Radio One 99.1FM.

But you know that the life of a writer and teacher means that I keep working and writing…and grading. Keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground. But it is very exciting when things come together in perfect symmetry. It inspires one to keep going during the quiet weeks.



Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Blogging, Children's Literature, Inspiration, L.M. Montgomery, Maud, Talented Friends, VCFA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments



November 30th is L.M. Montgomery’s 142nd Birthday and to celebrate I’ve decided to give away ONE signed ARC of Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery on Twitter!

I know! It is very exciting.



What to do:

  1. Head over to my Twitter profile and RT this post, which will be on top of my profile all day today.


2. RT anytime I mention Montgomery or MAUD today (and given her birthday that will be a lot.)


3. Spread the word, tell your friends, and if you don’t follow me yet, please do so we can connect.

The winner will be announced sometime tomorrow, December 1st.

Happy Birthday, MAUD!

copyright University of Guelph LMM Archives

copyright University of Guelph LMM Archives


Posted on by Melanie J. Fishbane | 2 Comments

A Response: Write! Create!

I don’t tend to talk politics on this blog, mostly because it is meant to focus on writing, the creative process and what is happening in the life of Mel. But the ramifications of what has happened in the American election has forced me to reassess my position on this and how I plan to combat misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia. In Canada we’ve had the dial move in the opposite direction, (thank goodness) but there are still some politicians, particularly on the right, who want to bring these ideologies north. And I am like, NO!

My response is the only thing I know how to do:


For the past year or so, my current WIP explores the second wave women’s movement, issues of consent, and the decision to rise up, stand for something. That’s all I will say about it for now as I don’t want to spoil the fun, but in the fog of yesterday writing this story was the only thing I found that made me feel like I had some control. And from what I’ve been seeing on my social media feeds, many artists are turning to their creative self for solace, to create stories and art that will nurture and speak to a possible, more hopeful, future.

Consider this Toni Morrison quote I saw in my feed yesterday:

“In times of dread, an artist must never choose to stay silent.” 

This connects to my “Writer’s Manifesto” that I wrote at a VCFA workshop last year, particularly #1.


With MAUD slowly coming in the world, about an ambitious young woman who wants to be educated and pursue her dreams of publications, a young woman who has to choose between love and her craft, I hope that it contributes to this conversation.

I invite you to find your creative muse.

Ask yourself:

What can you create today that will help fuel this movement of artistic expression to bring light to the world?

How can you tell stories of those in history who have been silenced, who are no longer here to tell it themselves?

What is the story you need to tell where you felt like you were silenced?  

How can you support those who want their stories heard?

Whose story do you need to tell?

Maybe…it is your own…


Posted in Writing Life | 4 Comments

MAUD Cover Reveal on

Today is a VERY exciting day because I can finally tell you something that I had to keep to myself for almost two months!


The good news is, if you ever need me to keep a secret, know that I am a good keeper of the secrets. (I didn’t even tell my family…that is how secret I kept this). has the exclusive cover reveal for MAUD!

I am so thrilled that they wanted to support the book because they talk about things I love AND my book has bustles in it! I know…like all things Montgomery, things just happen in a beautiful, magical way.

I wrote a special piece for them, talking about why I love L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, and decided to do this project.  Please check out Bustle and let me know what you think!




Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Children's Literature, L.M. Montgomery, Maud, Teen lit, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing in Motion

Monday I sent the proofs of MAUD to my editor. Today I cut many inches off my hair.


For over two years I’ve kept it long because it helped me get into the body of Maud’s character. As I explained it to my hairdresser (who nodded like she understood, but I  suspect she was a little concerned for me), I needed to be able to put it up in a bun or some other concoction.

The same thing happened when I was writing Oy! and  I cut my hair short, (by my last hairdresser. I’m loyal to my new person who understands me completely now.) At the time, my advisor lovingly said, “You method writers.”

My hairdresser was so excited to finally be able to cut my hair. And, as she cut away the strands of this past few years, I felt like I was saying goodbye. Hair can be biblical. Hair can be political. Like the song, “Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta of My Hair” , it can signify the end of something.

This past summer I had the opportunity to focus on writing and creating. A taste on what it could be like if I could craft my own schedule, move and shift in my natural rhythm (night owl, late to mid morning riser), and the freedom to travel.

You must understand this was a very bold move for me. Since I was fourteen (not counting when I worked in the corporate world) I worked every summer. I never did the whole summer in Europe (although there was a three week trip to Greece with a then boyfriend when I was 17 which I still can’t believe my mother let me go on). In other words, I always banked on some kind of work that gave me a paycheque every two weeks, the dependability of that. This summer I banked on the idea that my savings and whatever freelance work I had would somehow get me through the four months before I went back to teaching. And, yes, I do have my partner so I’m very fortunate that I have that cushion, but there was a certain element of trust at play that everything would somehow work out. In gratitude it has.

The thing I’ve learned most about my creative process is how well I work in motion.On the road in New Brunswick Planes, trains, cars and buses,  I sit with a pen or my computer and my brain/body understands that it is time to work. This might have something to do with writing on the bus during my early morning commutes when I worked full time.

So when my friend and fellow Dystropian, Sheryl Scarborough* author of the forthcoming thriller To Catch a Killer, suggested I come out West and write with her in her new house a little outside of Portland. I decided that if I could find a cheap flight, I would. I found one.

It is all about mountains and/or water for me.

It is all about mountains and/or water for me.

And then more generosity of friends emerged. One of my best friends from high school had moved out to Seattle, so I got see his life out there. Doing some work in the mornings and then visiting in the afternoon, there is also something rejuvenating about writing in a space that is completely new. And spending four days writing with a view like this, certainly nurtured the creative spirit.

I also got to visit other VCFA friends and went to the Beverly Cleary statues and play with Ramona and Henry. **

IMG_2257There was also a trip to Powell’s bookstore, where of course I had to check all of the Montgomery books. They had about four shelves! And, yes, I held back.

On my way home I visited with another generous friend in Vancouver who suggested that I take the train from Portland. It was long, but the view would be spectacular. I revised and looked at the window and ate my snacks. She was so right. It was perfect.


On the flight home, I finished the round of revisions. The following day, I slept. And then the mourning process began. In the gratitude of getting to write this story, see things like covers and back matter, there is this weird panic that also comes in, as well as a sadness I couldn’t quite articulate.


In June, I went East. I had submitted the edits of the latest draft to my editor and was now working on my talk for the L.M. Montgomery and Gender Conference, which also included practicing what would be my first public reading of MAUD. To say that I was nervous about this would be putting it mildly. Petrified would be more accurate.

VCFA was having their annual alumni-mini-rez and so I stayed with another generous friend in Montreal (which included a road trip with my dad listening to Hamilton), and then staying with another dear friend in Montpellier,  helped out where I could and went to the lectures, which included a Master’s class by Francisco Stork. This was exactly what I needed to rekindle my passion for my neglected novel, as well as put the fire under my you-know-what to find an agent.

My road tripping friend from Texas joined me up and we hung out in Montpelier, writing and working on our essays. VCFA and LMM worlds merged and it was glorious. C and I then made a pitstop at the Almanzo Wilder homestead, because of course…

And then we were on the road again, making our way to PEI.

In PEI Rachel McMillan, author of the Herringford and Watt mystery novels, and I listened tocopyright Sarah Goff Hamilton–as one doesand we drove around the Island. I coordinated the social media for the conference and so didn’t sleep for about a week. But that is part of the fun. There was also another Anne & Gilbert musical moment where I got to hang out with the actress who plays “Anne.”***

It was standing room only for our session and when I read MAUD for the first time at the banquet, I held onto my glass so tightly because I was shaking so much. People were very kind and laughed (not at me, but the scene) and clapped.

When I returned from PEI the copyedits were ready for my approval and thus began the next stage of the editorial process. I moved my office around so I could look out the window and tried to remain calm. More emotions. The idea that we are indeed nearing the end. Again the mixture gratitude, fatigue and terror. I won’t be able to protect her anymore. Grief. Panic. Joy. All of the emotions.

Then, Maud got an actual pub date: May 16, 2017.

I squealed, panicked and got back to work.

The boyfriend and I left for a week in Quebec City at the beginning of August where I did no writing at all. Not even journal writing. I gave myself permission for a complete break.


And when we came home, I worked on two essays due on the same day with very different style guides (so that wasn’t confusing at all.) What was fun about that was being able to switch brains and focus my theories on the Perfect Man Archetype to something much more specific. Cross your fingers that these will be accepted.


Then, Maud showed up on goodreads.

I squealed, panicked, and then went back to work.

The proofs came. I faced them. I knew this was it. Seeing it in a font that isn’t WORD changes everything. And, as I tried not to over think every single sentence, I had to come to the conclusion that I’ve done the best that I could. I only hope that it will be good enough. Give her the story she deserves, that she needed me to tell.

After almost four and a half years I now have to let Maud out into the world. There was an anxiety dream that involved a dear friend shaking her head and saying, “Terrible.” There has been a lot of late nights rewatching period miniseries and movies, romance comedies and Hallmark movies like this one, and (as of late) Gilmore Girls (in preparation of the reunion show in November).


I’ve read all of the books that I wanted from the library. I’ve stayed away from violent or heavy TV, movies and books. I’ve looked to things that made me laugh and saw my family and friends. I took long walks, did yoga, and hung out with my next door neighbour.

And then, moments after I had sent the proofs to my editor on Monday morning, my friend messaged me that he saw Maud on

I squealed, panicked, and went back to work.

The same day Netflix announced it would be streaming the new CBC Anne miniseries next year, and a friend told me Anne of Green Gables was featured on Stranger Things.

All of these things could work in my favour, or they could mean absolutely nothing at all. I can tell you that I’ve squealed, panicked and (with a bit of procrastinating) gotten back to work, because it is the only thing I can do.

In coming months, you’ll probably see more updates from me about the book, a new website, and I’m hoping to get back to talking up some of the brilliant work being done in the creative community.  I’ve recently updated my “about” section to reflect the next stage in this process.

I’m also going to be giving a lecture on the role of bad boys in YA lit for Humber’s Liberal Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Conference, and then something about L.M. Montgomery’s early poetry in Leaskdale for their L.M. Montgomery Day.

There is also the new novel and finding an agent, plus the teaching, so I’ll keep myself out of trouble.

Next week I end the summer with a week-long writing retreat in Nova Scotia where another generous friend kindly invited me to participate. After a summer of writing and traveling, it seems fitting to start something new.


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*In my recounting of events I may drop names of people who have books releasing because, as you are aware, I enjoy connecting creative people. And there are books you might want to know about and read.

**The literary road trips was also a theme of the summer, something I hope to revisit soon.

***There will be more on this in the future as I think I know where all of the Anne & Gilbert is going. Finally. 🙂

Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Inspiration, L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Literary Book Boyfriends, Teen lit, VCFA, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Guest Post: Deborah Kerbel, Author of Feathered


Book Birthdays are the perfect way to celebrate spring. And today is Deborah Kerbel’s special book birthday, as we celebrate her sixth (SIXTH!) novel, Feathered.

When Deborah told me about her new novel, I was intrigued. First , it is historical fiction, set in 1980. (And, yes, it is weird to think that something during my lifetime is historical fiction, but there it is.)  Second, her main character Finch, is obsessed with Little House on the Prairie.  I’m thrilled that she agreed to come on the blog to chat about writing this novel, all things 1980s, and her character’s obsession with the TV show. So, Happy Book Birthday, Deborah!

About Deborah: Deborah Kerbel was born in London, England, but moved to Canada before she was old enough to cultivate a posh accent or a love of marmalade. She grew up in Toronto, Ontario, with her parents, sister, brother and a beagle named Snoopy. A finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award, Deborah is the author of six novels for young adult and middle grade readers. She lives in Thornhill, Ontario, with her husband, two children, and a schnoodle named Alfredo.

About the book:  For eleven-year-old Finch, there couldn’t be a better time to fly away from her life. But when a girl named Pinky moves in next door, a girl from India who also doesn’t seem to fit in, Finch feels a flicker of hope that her life might just be turning around. And when something terrible happens and it seems Finch may be the only one who can help her new friend, she comes to understand that flying is not the answer. Sometimes right where you are is the best place to be.


Auld Lang Syne-O-Rama

“In my best dreams, I am Laura. I call my parents Ma and Pa, wear a sunbonnet wherever I go, skip happily through flower-filled fields, and put Nellie Oleson in her place whenever she’s nasty.” –Feathered Author Photo

I didn’t actually set out to write a novel about a lonely Gen X pre-teen with the weight of the world on her shoulders and a Little House on the Prairie obsession. It kind of just happened.

It was spring of 2013 when I sat down with a fresh bag of licorice, opened a blank page on my computer and started writing a new story. Inspired by a news item I’d recently read, I imagined a scene about an eleven year-old girl named Finch who, after pulling a feather out of her neck several years before, believes she’s destined to fly.

The manuscript would eventually turn out to be my sixth novel for young readers. But the writing process for this one was different than any of my previous books. Writing Feathered was one of those mythical unicorn-esque experiences every writer dreams about. You know, the one where sparkly characters come to life on the page and basically write their own story while you sit back and watch in silent awe? Yeah. That. Finch’s voice in my head was so strong and clear, it was almost like I was channeling a spirit from a Victorian séance. All I had to do was listen. And type like a maniac to keep up.

By the end of that first scene, I knew from the tone of Finch’s voice and her expressions that she was speaking to me from the past. But when? On a whim, I picked a random date — August, 1980. And with that decision, Finch’s fictional world instantly rose up around her. Fortunately for me, it was a world I knew pretty well. Born in the early 70’s, I was nine years old in 1980 and right on the cusp of those oh-so formative middle-school years. Faster than you can say Joanie Loves Chachi, a bazillion childhood memories were suddenly beating down the door to my manuscript, begging to be let in. It didn’t take long before the 1980’s reunion party was in full swing. The story is sprinkled with references to Frisbees, Kool-Aid, and Love’s Baby Soft perfume. Finch’s mom drives a Dodge Dart. Her older brother has a Sony Walkman, a Star Wars sheet set, and a Rubik’s Cube. Terry Fox is also a pivotal figure in the story. But by far, the most persistent 80’s memory was Little House on the Prairie. The TV show, not the books. (I hadn’t yet read the books in 1980. But really, what daughter of the 70’s and 80’s wasn’t addicted to the show? It was retro before retro was even a thing.)

Backcover Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls WilderAs any Little House fan will tell you, there was something irresistibly alluring about the simple, hard-working Ingalls family and their lopsided log cabin surrounded by rolling hills (which looking back, had no business passing for a prairie). Something so romantic about those pioneer stories set in the mysterious days of Auld Lang Syne. I remember running home to watch reruns every day after school, sneaking my big sister’s copy of Laura (the Donald Zochert biography with the whoa-there-farmer-boy! steamy looks between Laura and Almanzo on the back cover that made me certain I was reading something forbidden), and stuffing apples down the front of my Snoopy t-shirt, curious to see if it would turn out better for me than it did for Laura.

It didn’t.

No matter. There were other Little House dreams to be realized. I begged my mother to bake homemade bread. I wanted to do my homework on a slate. I dreamed of climbing a ladder into my tiny, cramped loft bedroom. And having a baby sister named Grace. And milking a cow. And falling asleep to the sound of a fiddle.


When I had a daughter of my own, one of the first things on my agenda was to haul her up on the covered bandwagon. (She’s ten years old now and we’ve read the Little House series together several times. When she craved more, we moved on to the Rose Years series. Her childhood – like mine and Finch’s – has been happily haunted by the spirit of Laura Ingalls, although her Little House fantasies were all her own: walking barefoot in a field of grass, churning butter, and sewing a quilt. Check, check, and …. sorry honey, this ma doesn’t sew.)

So is it any wonder that Feathered’s fictional 1980’s world would reference Little House on the Prairie once…twice…okay fine, twenty-six times? Stubborn as a little French, er…mule, Laura kept popping up in Finch’s story until it finally dawned on me – the character living in my head had a character of her own living in hers. Finch, Laura, and I were like a trio of Russian dolls, each one nesting snugly into the other. So it was probably inevitable that Ma became the standard against which Finch held her depressed, grieving mom up to. And that the Ingalls’ simple, pioneer lifestyle became the dreamscape alternate reality to Finch’s plethora of middle-school problems. And those mean girls in Finch’s class? You guessed it. All of them Jordache-Jeans wearing disciples of snippy Nellie Oleson.

With Finch chattering in my ear, and Laura chattering in hers, I had the first draft of Feathered written in three weeks. Like I said before, totally unicorn-esque! Inevitably, however, the revision process took about as long as an elephant gestation. As revisions are wont to do.

Fast forward three years on your VCR, kids. This spring, Feathered was finally published.

Laura Ingalls Wilder with Almanzo's Governor of Orleans.

Laura Ingalls Wilder with Almanzo’s Governor of Orleans.

And – hold on to your Morgans – it’s being categorized as ‘historical fiction’. The same genre as Little House on the Prairie. Which means the 1980’s are officially the new days of Auld Lang Syne.

What’chu talkin about, Willis?

For those of us who can still belt out the lyrics to the Love Boat theme song, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the fact that those days are now just a page right out of history. But perhaps now a new generation of readers will read Feathered and feel the irresistible allure of a simpler time, before iPhones, Snapchat, and Kardashians took over the earth. It would be nice. But somehow, clogs, tube tops, and feathered hair don’t seem quite as mysterious and romantic as calico dresses, sunbonnets, and flying braids. At least not to me.

Deborah's sister's copy of Anne of Green Gables.

Deborah’s sister’s copy of Anne of Green Gables.

My daughter and I finished the last book in the Rose Years series this week. With a family trip to Prince Edward Island planned for this coming summer, we’ve decided to move on to Anne of Green Gables for our next read. Luckily for me, I still have my big sister’s copy from the ‘80s. Borrowed with permission this time.


Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Authors, Blogging, Book Reviews, Children's Literature, L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Talented Friends, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Only Six Weeks Late: Mel’s List of 9 2016 Goals

How is it the end of February?

I had such plans to write some kind of philosophical forward-looking blog post about my goals for 2016 and now it is practically the end of winter so it seems quite silly to write them now. But I’ve always been one to thwart convention in some way, so why not. Besides there’s too much pressure on January 1st to get it all done. February 24th is certainly much better date, don’t you think? And, besides,  Spring is less than a month away and it’s near the  Full Moon, so an auspicious time to put it out there.  And, as 2016 adds up to the number, 9, I’ll put out there “My List of 9.”

As well, sometimes when we don’t make plans very wonderful and amazing things happen, such as my two pieces going up on Cinefilles about Breakthrough Entertainment’s L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables movie that aired on YTV last week. The first was my day on the set and the other discussed the new movie and its place within the long line of Anne of Green Gables adaptations. It was also the first time (except when I worked in publishing) when one of my pieces appeared on the home page! This was thrilling, scary and amazing…and scary.

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Working with Cinefilles was wonderful, as was learning more about the mysterious world of TV. This completely took me out of my comfort zone. So I guess this leads to the first goal of 2016…

  1. Continue to be open to new opportunities that take me out of my comfort zone. 

You know from my other blog posts how overachievy I can be. You know that this is also a mask for being a workaholic. I love projects and having things to do and life is so full of these many interests and projects and I have a plethora of ideas that can feel overwhelming if I’m not doing them all right now. You will recall my first meme.

(Mel's first meme.)

(Mel’s first meme.)

Still works, doesn’t it?

But there are things I miss, such as a guilt free day of reading anything I want because I’m drawn to it. Or, perhaps playing the piano, who is pretty mad at me because I haven’t touched it in a few months.

There is also the idea of just taking a few hours off and seeing all friends and family. This is one of those things people who work from home often discuss, the idea of it being really challenging to take the day off. I’m finding the only way I can do this is get out of town, otherwise there seems to be no way. Also, being a college teacher means that one grades and plans. Love my time and the work I’m doing with these students, but this does add onto the list of work from home things.

So right now I’m reading, on recommendation of Melissa Mantovani @YABookShelf, who gushed over Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan’s The Royal We. It is exactly what I needed, but not on any reading list, at least when I picked it up. Thank you , Toronto Public Library for always being on call when I need you.

I have also been saying, “yes” a lot more to seeing friends and family. This means that one afternoon I found myself at the Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Toronto Public Library with a friend who I had not seen in a couple of years, but whom I follow through social media. We both went to another friend’s book launch and then decided to spend the afternoon together. It was marvellous.


2. Say, “yes” more because I never know what will happen–or where it might lead.

3.  Create more time to read books and play music. 

4. Spend time with people who inspire and bring happiness and joy to my life.

But there is my ambition and those things which I want to happen this year. These things are move about divine timing and are essentially out of my control, so all I can do is focus on what I can control, or at least how I respond to the things I can’t.

5. Be brave enough to send Oy! (the other novel) out into the world to find an agent or home who will believe in it as much as I do.

I have given myself a deadline to finish the revisions on this manuscript and then the scary agent seeking moment will begin. I have procrastinated on this because of the fear, but no more…so I guess…

6. Say, “No” to fear more.

A few months ago I joined a listserv because it was popular within one of the communities I’m involved in, but within a few weeks I noticed that the vibe of this listserv was cranky and, frankly, mean. I watched this for a few more weeks and it made me wonder if it was good for me because I stared wondering if people wouldn’t like the work I did and it spiralled into some real negative places. I’m a sensitive person and while I’ve learned to avoid negativity wherever possible, having this show up in my inbox was becoming problematic. So I left the group.

7. Say “No” to things and people that drag me down and do not benefit my highest good. 

I’m also in the process of writing the Author’s Note for Maud. It has been slow going in some respects and I stumbled upon a few things, as one does, and fixing it. But, I think it has also been slow because this means that I’m almost at the end and if I’m almost at the end then the project I’ve been working on for over four years will be closer to publication. And *breathes* if I’m closer to publication then people will actually be reading it and then *breathes* it will be out there…in the world…without me to protect it any longer.

8. Be comfortable with letting go and allowing that which needs to be…be.

And that also means being comfortable in my own personal power. It means that while it has been lovely carrying the badge of imposter syndrome, it is time to take it off, put it in drawer, thank it and say, “Good bye.”



9.Embrace my inner genius and step into my personal power understanding that this isn’t ego, but a willingness to engage with what I know. And, if I don’t know something, that is what the library, other experts, and geniuses are there for. 

Here we go…It is time to let it go.

Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Blogging, Inspiration, L.M. Montgomery, Music, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

An Interview with Nicole Winters, Author of The Jock and the Fat Chick

The Jock and the Fat Chick 190KbI met Nicole Winters through a local Toronto writers group that supports Canadian authors and illustrators, Torkidlit. We get together once a month, talk shop, and celebrate our successes. Nicole was one of the first people I connected with. Genuine, kind and driven, she is a writer who is interested in telling stories for kids and teens who may not be the best readers, perhaps even called “reluctant,” as she was. She will bravely write in different genres for different age groups. As you’ll see from her bio below, her first YA novel, TT Full Throttle is about “cool dudes on motorcycles,” and the one we are discussing today concerns “hot guys and romance.”

She is impressive and so deeply invested in her stories, that she will travel, join clubs, and engage in conversation with those she is writing about so she can be authentic.

Her new YA ebook, The Jock and the Fat Chick, is really wonderful. Told in the point of view of Kevin, a high school jock with an eating disorder, Nicole expertly navigates the “jock culture,” while also providing the reader with a nuanced approach to romance. She takes the romance genre and turns it around, exploring our traditional notions of gender, body image, and conformity.


No one ever said high school was easy. In this hilarious and heartwarming debut, one high school senior has to ask himself how much he’s willing to give up in order to fit in.

Kevin seems to have it all: he’s popular, good looking, and on his way to scoring a college hockey scholarship. However, he’s keeping two big secrets. The first is that he failed an assignment and is now forced to take the most embarrassing course ever–domestic tech. The second is that he is falling for his domestic tech classmate, Claire.

As far as Kevin is concerned, Claire does have it all: she’s funny, smart, beautiful, and confident. But she’s off-limits. Because Kevin knows what happens when someone in his group dares to date a girl who isn’t a cheerleader, and there’s no way he is going to put himself—or Claire—through that.

But steering clear of the girl of his dreams is a lot harder than Kevin thought…especially when a cooking project they are paired together for provides the perfect opportunity for things to heat up between them outside the classroom….

Nicole Winters YA Author low rez 118KB

Nicole loves books, bikes, horror films and globe hopping. She’s currently at work on her third YA novel called THE CONJURER.

Cool dudes and motorcycles: TT FULL THROTTLE 

Hot guys and romance: THE JOCK AND THE FAT CHICK

Connect with Nicole via Twitter, her blog, her Facebook or


Melanie: I’m sure you get this question a lot, but usually when one is crafting a romance about a “jock” and a “fat chick,” the main narrator is a girl. When did you know it was going to be Kevin’s story?

Nicole: I knew it was going to be Kevin’s story, before I realized I’d be writing a romance. I had talked to a friend who never had real food growing up. He said that cooking in his household consisted of two steps: a can opener and a microwave. I thought, what if I had a teen boy whose mom made meals like that? Then, what if the teenager thought he could do better, when in reality he’s doing much worse? Initial thoughts veered towards him having an eating disorder, but I didn’t want to go there. I wanted Kevin to be naïve about food and cooking, not obsessed with his next meal. To him, what he was eating was simply fuel. The story turned into a romance by chance. At the time I was thinking about Kevin, I had been reading a couple of YA stories with plus sized girl heroes who all seemed to be depressed, bullied or abused. It left me feeling depressed, so I’m like, how can I pair Kevin with a girl who happens to be plus sized and confident, funny, knows who she is and where she’s going? The story came together from there.

Melanie: You had once mentioned that in some ways this novel is an anti-sex story. Why do you think so?

Nicole: I think I was being a little cheeky with that. What I mean is that in some ways this novel is a mature and realistic view of the potential emotional consequences of having sex. Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are and who they’d like to become. They struggle with dependence and independence, community and self, and connection and disconnection. It’s an intense time, emotions are raw and ever-changing based on past experiences, new information and outside factors like social media and advertising. In the story, Kevin’s thrown into multiple situations that are so big, at times not even he knows how to process what he’s thinking or feeling let alone be able to express what he wants or even make good decisions. I think readers can relate. They don’t want to make mistakes anymore than we do as adults. In one scene, Kevin gives into peer pressure and sleeps with Missy and they end up dating. Readers know this is wrong on many levels. Having sex has emotional consequences and if you’re not ready for that, don’t do it. Kevin didn’t love Missy and I think it’s a terrible thing to be intimate with someone who really likes you, but whom you just don’t really like back; it’s just using someone.

Melanie: One of the things I struggle with as a writer is putting words I don’t necessarily believe into my characters’ mouths because that is what is their world view. How did you resolve this, particularly with the “jock culture?”

Nicole: Scenes where the guys rip on girls weren’t easy to write. You’ll notice it’s always tied in with peer pressure. I grew up in a less politically correct era, and you don’t have to go too far back in Hollywood cinema to find cringe-worthy situations in films that were once thought as okay (e.g. Sixteen Candles). I just channeled that.


Melanie: When the novel begins, Kevin has some terrible eating habits, even might be considered a disorder. What were some of the things that surprised you when investigating this and how did it influence Kevin’s character?

Nicole: Protein bars have been around since the 60s, but there was a heavy resurgence in the late 90s early 2000s and I bought into the craze. I’d read fitness magazines that spouted the benefits of carrying a handy post-workout protein meal or an in between meal snack. I was eating 2-3 of these things a day, some of which really were like chomping particle board. I reached the point where I got sick of the artificial flavours and thinking about how I missed the taste of real food. I took what I experienced with protein bars and channeled it into Kevin’s experience.

Melanie: You play a lot with our notions of gender, sexuality and body image—particularly with the character of Claire, who is the one that seems more emotionally distant. How did you explore these complex issues without falling into stereotypes and becoming too didactic?

Nicole: I never treated the idea of role reversal as a conscious plan when plotting out the story. Their personalities emerged on their own and I discovered a lot of contrasts e.g. Kevin’s pretty naïve and semi-sheltered and Claire’s worldly and experienced. Similarities emerged too like how they always enjoyed laughing and cracking jokes and they both move with a lot of physical energy. From there, I just let the characters lead me as I discovered their truth when I put them under stress. I didn’t consciously set out to make points or not make points, I just let them shine through.

Melanie: Something that I noticed that I thought you could speak to. The, forgive me, chemistry between Kevin and Claire is “hot.” You really show how much Claire owns her body and this is one of the reasons why Kevin adores her.

Nicole: I grew up reading teen magazines that spouted headlines on how to look fabulous (make-up, clothes, body, exercise, etc.), or how to get the guy. One day, I’d came across a ‘revolutionary’ article that had surveyed guys on what they thought was sexy about girls. Confidence, kindness and humour were part of the top traits. There was no mention of skinny thighs, toned tummies and perfect lashes. I remembered thinking, huh, so if that’s what guys really find sexy, why am I reading these magazines? I stopped after that. So when I was thinking about a positive plus sized character, I recalled the article and ensured she embodied these characteristics guys find hot in girls.

Melanie: Sex scenes, kissing scenes even, are one of those big questions for writers. What are some of the tips you picked up while revising these scenes while also keeping it in Kevin’s perspective?

Nicole: I asked a couple of my male friends to tell me about their first kiss experience which led me to thinking about things like physical dynamics. Girls usually tilt their head upwards, sometimes rising on tiptoe, whereas guys stretch their necks downwards and depending on how tall they are (Kevin was tall), they’d hunch over. We also discussed what Kevin might be experiencing his first time with a girl he really likes and how that’d differ being with a girl he isn’t in love with.

Melanie: Did you try any of the recipes you use in the book?

Nicole: I’ve tried a lot of the same foods in this book, from the protein bars to the curry rice. The only thing I didn’t have was the watermelon gel shot, or any gel shots for that matter. I’m happy to leave that to the imagination.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Children's Literature, Inspiration, Talented Friends, Teen lit, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment