Melissa Joiner is a new author, but life-long children’s advocate and avid entrepreneur. She holds a Bachelor’s in Professional Studies [Child Development] from the University of Memphis. Joiner has spent over a decade working in early childhood education and has become a leading voice in the field. Currently, she works as an instructor at Southwest Tennessee Community College under the Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance grant in Memphis, TN. Joiner is also the owner and operator of The Millennial Caregiver.
In her first published children’s book, Joiner shines a light on how young people cope with Alzheimer’s disease through the adventures of young Danny. In addition to child advocacy, Joiner spends her time being a caretaker for her mother and raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease by working with her local Alzheimer’s Association.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I am honored to be a featured author in Write 2 Be Magazine, thank you for this opportunity.
I have always enjoyed writing. It has served as a healthy outlet for me to process my thoughts and emotions. It wasn’t until I chose to explore active ways to cope with my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, that I knew I was called to write Danny the Nanny Cares for Granny.
Creative freedom is what I appreciate most about being a writer. It liberates me. The right to write, to translate my feelings into words and share them with the world is freeing. Conversely, I provide the same explanation for what exasperates me most about being a writer. Sharing my gift, my innermost intimate and raw emotions with strangers can be frightening. When I allow that emotion into my creative space is when I censor myself. Toggling back-and-forth with what I should and should not write can be frustrating. Prayer and meditation level me. It is what elevates me from that crippling state.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
Danny the Nanny Cares for Granny is a story of a young boy name Danny who lives with his father and Granny who has Alzheimer’s. Danny struggles to understand why his Granny who he loves so much, is beginning to forget important dates and events. Now Danny finds himself as a young caregiver for his Granny.
Danny the Nanny Cares for Granny includes vibrant illustrations and easy-to-understand explanations. It educates children aged 4-8 on how to accept difficult changes and as a caregiver.
Copies of Danny the Nanny Cares for Granny are available online through: Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, Target, and Books-A-Million. Link to purchase https://linktr.ee/Millennialcaregivernetwork .
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
Life experiences, relationships, people-young and old, inspire me. Specifically, with this project, the lack of representation of little black boys in classic children’s literature inspired me to create the character, Danny. Annie the Nanny Cares for Granny was initially the title of the book. As an instructor that trains future educators on why diversity and inclusion in the classroom are important, I knew that I had to change the main character to a little black boy. Black boys deserve to be the opportunity to be seen and for their stories to be told.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I schedule a time to write on my calendar. It is a large part of my self-care routine. Yet, what I have learned is creativity and inspiration cannot be bound by a schedule. Writing is a journey for me. A journey that consists of ideas being voiced recorded in my phone while shopping at a store, or incomplete thoughts on sticky notes randomly placed around my home. Whenever I’m inspired to write, I write.
Using a story web to arrange my thoughts is how I outline my stories. Danny the Nanny Cares for Granny was published this year on Mother’s Day. I began writing the story in 2019. Given that this is my only published work, I can’t give an exact time frame of how long it takes me to complete a writing project. However, I will say that I value quality over quantity. Content ranks priority over deadlines in my creative writing process.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
The Holy Bible is the first book I read that moved me emotionally. Before I could comprehend the meaning of the verse“…lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the world.” (Mathew 28:10), the words deeply resonated with me. Then, and even now, the scripture moves me.
The late Dr. Maya Angelou is my favorite author. She was generous with the divine wisdom she imparted through her writings, speechless, and activism. I am grateful I had the opportunity to witness her speak in 2012.
I am currently reading The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a great study for those who are seeking guidance on achieving personal freedom and happiness. For anyone who is interested in reading this book, I strongly recommend first reading The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I am grateful that I had the opportunity to share my published work with my mother and father. I dedicated the book to them and there are no words to effectively describe that feeling. That has been my most significant achievement as a writer thus far. Second to that is Danny the Nanny Cares for Granny is cataloged in the Library of Congress.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
Rejection is often contingent upon one’s expectations. My intentions were to self-publish my work, place a copy of my book in my mother’s hand, and spread awareness on Alzheimer’s disease. I achieved exactly that!
My advice to writers on coping or navigating through the publishing process is to find your “why.” Doing this fortifying and restoring when receiving a “no.”
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
I am not as skillful in business as I am with writing. Writing comes naturally for me, being a business woman-not so much! And I am okay with that. I am completely aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Receiving guidance from experienced professionals in the areas that I am not have served me not only financially but personally as well.
In the early stages of writing my book, I was overwhelmed by the thought of self-promotion. Using social media is not one of my favorite pastimes, but I knew it would be the most practical way to build my author platform. I have learned to embrace unfamiliar experiences and live in the uncomfortable!
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
To be honest, yes, I have cringed before reading my work. I am my biggest critic. I second guess sentence structures, word usage, and tone. It doesn’t matter how many times I have revised my writing based on an editor’s recommendation or how many times I have shelved my work to allow it to breathe, I always look for how it can be improved. I utilize those moments to become a more competent writer. It encourages me to shift my thinking from, “I wish I had…”, to “Next time I will…”
10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Its cliché, yet true — it is never too late to pursue your dreams. One should not limit their aspirations and skills to their age. Attributing achievement to age represents a superficial idea. Success is possible at any age for an aspiring writer!
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
Writing for me is cathartic. I write to heal. I write to feel present. I write to inspire and educate others. One of my unique qualities is courage. I choose, each time I put pen to paper to be vulnerable and willing to share my creativity with readers. Whenever I’m affirmed, be it through a customer’s review or by a picture of someone reading my writing, it fortifies my purpose.