I first met Melanie Rigney in 2005—the same time I met author Virelle Kidder. Both were teaching at the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa. We connected—I think it was in the cafeteria when we sat at the same table one day—when we all confessed to wanting to write a novel. So we formed an online critique group (Melanie lives in suburban DC, Virelle lives in Florida, and I live in western Pennsylvania) to encourage and nudge each other forward with this daunting challenge and hold each other accountable to get it done.
Virelle had already published several nonfiction books, as well as articles. Melanie was the former editor of Writers Digest. My background was nonfiction as well, mostly devotionals and newspaper articles.
We call ourselves the Novel Buds: Novel meaning not only a fiction book, but also “new” because we were all new at writing fiction; and Buds because we’re writing buddies, and a bud is a flower that hasn’t blossomed yet.
In the five years since, Melanie has become more than a critique partner, more than a writing buddy. She’s become a cherished friend, and I’d like for you to get to know her, too.
Growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the oldest of four children, Melanie dreamed of someday living in New York City and seeing the world. It was in fourth grade that she wrote a short story called “Amy’s Valentine,” and the writing bug bit. Throughout junior high, high school, and college, Melanie wrote for the school newspapers.
“Writing always came easily to me,” she says. “I had good internships and got a good job right out of college—but it took decades for me to consider myself a writer and see this as a gift.”
She graduated from South Dakota State University with degrees in journalism, French, and political science. Decades passed and she found herself in Washington, DC, divorced, working a full-time job, editing on the side to honor her financial obligations—and finding her way back to God, which she described in her memoir.
Today, she no longer needs the extra income that the freelance editing brings, but she’s found a second career in a love that began in fourth grade: writing.
These days she mostly writes devotionals and fiction. Her current project is what she describes as “an edgy Christian novel with the working title of Fifteen. It’s about repairing, with God’s help, a seriously broken marriage.”
Q&A with Melanie:
When did you first break in? I’ve been fortunate and had great jobs that sometimes led to people asking me to freelance. My work published in Time magazine several times in my early 20s; I was their stringer for the state of South Dakota for two or three years.
What are some of your successes? To date, I’m proudest of a memoir that likely will never be published. The writing is good and honest and true. Beyond that, I focus more on what I’m doing today than what I’ve done in the past. I’m a regular contributor to Living Faith, the Catholic devotional and to Your Daily Tripod, a Catholic blog. I’m just finishing up an edgy Christian novel and hope to have it to my agent in the next few months.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a writer? My memoir.
What are your writing goals? To write what God wants so that it reaches His intended audience. To touch souls.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer? Carving out the time to write. I’ve got a great but intense day job, a beautiful friendship ministry, and an addiction to Facebook’s Farmtown application!
What for you is the most satisfying aspect of freelance writing? Hearing that my work spoke to someone, frequently in a way I never intended.
What does it take to be successful as a writer? Perseverance. Great writers can’t be made, but good ones certainly can. Being a friend as Christ desires. Sitting in your room and writing won’t get you anywhere. Find a writing community. Be on fire about what you’re doing and share that passion.
What advice do you have for struggling writers? If you are continually getting rejected, consider whether there’s a reason. Perhaps you’re approaching the wrong markets or there’s something that needs to change in your work.
Beginning writers? Write from the heart. Worry after you’re further along about what’s marketable. Get in an online or real-time critique group with people at the same level or a little higher who are writing in your genre.
What do you want to be remembered for? My passion for God and my ministries.
What is your philosophy of life (or guiding principle)? Keith and Mick said it best: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.
Melanie's book, When They Come Home, is featured today on my inspirational blog, God, Me & a Cup of Tea.