Final Deadline for Spring Cohort: June 27, 2024 Apply Now

Melinda Moustakis

Melinda Moustakis

Melinda Moustakis is the author of the novel Homestead (out Feb 2023 from Flatiron Books), which is about two unlikely homesteaders in 1950’s Alaska and loosely based on her maternal grandparents. Her linked story collection Bear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories won the Flannery O’Connor Award (UGA Press) and was a 5 Under 35 selection by the National Book Foundation. Her work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Alaska Quarterly Review, Granta, Kenyon Review, New England Review and elsewhere. Her story “They Find the Drowned” won an O. Henry Prize. She is the recipient of the Hodder Fellowship from The Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton University, the NEA Literature Fellowship in Fiction, the Kenyon Review Fellowship, the Jenny McKean Moore Fellowship, and the Rona Jaffe Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library. She has taught fiction workshops at UC Davis (graduate and undergraduate), Kenyon College, Pacific Lutheran College, George Washington University, the Antioch low res MFA, and a novel writing workshop at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She was recently the 2023 Distinguished Writer in Residence at Wichita State and worked with graduate students on their fiction thesis projects.

What excites you about writing? How has it affected your life?

Writing changed the course of my life and has given me so many friendships and connections. Writing is an avenue to try to answer those lingering questions and to write a love letter of sorts addressed to everyone in the world. What excites me is the discovery of what makes a writer’s stories sing and soar—those moments when a writer’s work is coming together, when the tension of a scene pays off, when a sentence or image breaks your heart.

What mindset does a writer need to continue to grow and learn? 

A writer needs to be open to possibilities and to their own characters surprising them. The best writers I know are continuously curious and delighted by small discoveries and details. Knowing that a draft is a way to get to revision and that the story will need these layers to eventually get to that point where the story takes the reader on an emotional journey.

What makes a good writing mentor?

This quote by Eduardo C. Corral illustrates how I want to approach the teaching of writing: “Your task is to write a book only you can write. This means listening deeply to your language, internalizing influences that challenge you and complicate your work, and trusting your creative practice to sustain you through doubt and anxiety.” I think every writer has a book or story that only they can write and my job is to try to help them figure out what that is. I thing a good writing mentor is a listener first and approaches each manuscript as a unique and individual project or puzzle.

What is your style of feedback?

I like to think about overall structure and themes and what the story is really about, what the scenes should be building towards, what combinations of characters are needed, the emotional resonances and undercurrents. I also use track changes to comment on what is working really well as I am reading a manuscript, and to comment on word choices, missing moments or moments that need to be recast. My goal is to give practical and specific feedback about the possibilities for revision and I want writers to feel excited about revision and the next steps.

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