- What is your first memory of writing for fun?
This is a tough question. I don’t really associate writing with fun. It’s more of an inner battle between my outside self, my inside self, and the rest of the world. That probably sounds awful, but it’s true, for me anyway.
I do have a memory from middle school that sticks out in my mind though. There was a story I had written about an angsty teenager who was trying to solve a murder (in case you’re wondering, the stepfather did it). I didn’t have a computer then, so I’d written everything by hand and stapled sections of the story together. My peers passed those pages around until they were ragged and were anxious to get from one part to the next. I remember when I finished it, I was so excited that I called my best friend, not realizing it was well past the average bedtime for an eleven-year-old. I can still hear her father asking me if I realized the time.
Anyway, it’s not necessarily the writing that brings me joy or feels fun. It’s putting those words into the hands of the readers. That is a feeling like no other.
- How many drafts = done?
Light theory suggests that if you add 2 to 4,000,075 and divide the uncommon denominator by the hypotenuse of 17 triangles you’d still never get an accurate answer to this question.
- What is your favorite book or favorite book-of-the-moment?
Right now I am reading The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton.
I was spending a lazy Sunday on Facebook when I came across an interview Mr. Hinton did with Oprah. I was immediately drawn to his story. He reminded me of my father. Maybe it was the salt and pepper beard and mustache or the way he spoke with so much love for his mother. It could have been his smooth brown skin, the cadence of his voice, or the light in his eyes, but in him I saw my father. And because of that, I could see my brothers and my sons. I knew that his story wasn’t just his story; it’s the story of all the men I love. It’s a story the highlights the importance of mothers. It’s a story of friendship. Of purpose. Of unconditional love. It’s a story everyone should read.
- What is it about your discipline that gets you the most excited?
I think I answered this a little in the question about fun. I get excited about finishing and sharing my work. Having my work in the hands of a reader–it’s such a gift to be invited into someone’s home and heart in that way.
Have you ever read something that makes you question what you used to believe? Or maybe it’s made you think, “Wow, me too.” Have you ever had a book affect you so much that days after you finish, you’re still thinking of it?
It’s exciting and gratifying to know that someone may have that kind of a soul connection with something I’ve written.
I also get excited about helping my fellow writers reach that point. It can be hard to navigate the tricky feelings that come along with the refinement of a story. Helping others navigate those murky waters to uncover their vision and to reach completion is a beautiful thing. I know how amazing it feels to make that breakthrough. To share that moment with a fellow writer is awesome.
- What’s your favorite word or words? What about it/them appeals to you?
Love. Because it’s the root of everything good.
Bonus question: Why is a raven like a writing desk?
They both speak to you in a language you don’t know but somehow understand.
I’m with you on LOVE, Melissa. I also LOVE your description of writing – “inner battle between my outside self, my inside self, and the rest of the world.”
Come out to Writers & Words next month, July 10th at 7pm at Charmington’s Cafe to hear Melissa and the rest of our awesome lineup!
Melissa Brooks-Cuffee holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore. To pay the bills she’s worked as a blog writer, social media manager, website designer, and telephone operator (next door to a hospital morgue).
Her essays have appeared in Skelter and Plorkology: Stories, Poems, and Essays.
She shares her heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny stories with readers in hopes that they’ll walk away feeling less alone and more comfortable in the skin they’re in. She is currently working on the follow up to her debut memoir collection, [/brāk-iNG/], which can be purchased at www.melissabrookscuffee.com.