We’re pleased to spotlight Melanie Hutsell and her writing life. Thank you for helping us spread the word on how the KWG supports our writing community for writers at all stages of their writing journey.
- How long have you been a member of the KWG?
I started coming to meetings not long after I moved to the greater Knoxville area in 2006. I joined in 2007 or 2008, I think. I’ve been a KWG board member and the nominations committee chair.
- Are you in a writing group?
I’m not currently part of a writing group, although I was for many years. I have started a new writing group for beginning fiction writers, details are here.
- What kind of writing do you do?
I write literary fiction, both short and long form, usually with an Appalachian setting. Sometimes my work contains elements of magic realism.
- What project are you working on now?
I recently finished a novel and am in the exploratory early stages of beginning a new one. I never talk much about my work while it’s in progress — I believe in the writing jinx.
- What is your writing goal?
I’ve always dreamed of having my work taught as part of a class.
- Awards, prizes, feel-good moments?
Most recently, I was chosen as one of eight Featured Authors for Knoxville’s first-ever National Authors Day celebration. The panel of judges making the selections included people I am very much in awe of, so it felt like an enormous honor. I’ve also been invited to be on WDVX’s WordStream program in January.
- Who inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing since I was in kindergarten. Books were an important part of my house growing up. My dad used to write and illustrate storybooks for me with me as the protagonist, so maybe that’s where I first got the idea that you could write your own books. When I was in high school, my guidance counselor and mentor Jane Hicks, who is an award-winning poet, encouraged me and taught me how to approach my writing seriously–that is, professionally.
- How did a writing group help you?
My time in my writing group taught me how to critique others’ writing and also how to edit my own.
- Describe your writing rituals or habits.
I usually write to music. Usually a writing project develops its own playlist. Most of the time I write at home on my computer, but sometimes I write longhand in a notebook in a different setting, like a restaurant, to shake things up a bit..
- What helps when you’re stuck?
Giving myself some space. Sometimes it’s good to do something entirely different, like go to the Knoxville Museum of Art, go for a drive, etc. But, eventually, the best thing is making myself sit down and write.
- Excuses, excuses
There are always excuses. Too tired, too busy, don’t feel like it, no time. The novel I just finished was really brutal to write — necessary, but brutal–and I had to force myself to sit down and write one sentence, or one paragraph, or one page, or whatever — and doing that often enough got it done.
- What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?
In the House of Wilderness by Charles Dodd White
A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, Melanie K. Hutsell grew up listening to family stories of ghosts and tales of recalcitrant women. Her debut Appalachian magic realism novel, The Dead Shall Rise, was published by Celtic Cat Publishing in 2016. Her short fiction has appeared in journals including Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, and The Madison Review and in the Knoxville Writers’ Guild anthology, Outscape: Writings on Fences and Frontiers. She has also published poetry in The Sow’s Ear.
Melanie holds a BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MA in English from Indiana University at Bloomington. An avid reader and music lover, she currently resides in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.