Melanie Sumner (Senegal 1988–90) published a wonderful collection of stories entitled Polite Society back in 1995 that are all set in Africa where she was a PCV. Next she wrote a novel, The School of Beauty and Charm in 2002. Now she is back again with a new book, The Ghost of Milagro Creek. It will be published in July of this year.
Melanie is a character worthy of her own novel. She received a BA in religious studies in 1986 from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (where she studied with the late author Max Steele) and an MFA in creative writing in 1987 from Boston University. From 1988 to 1990 she was in Senegal, and then she lived in Alaska, New Mexico and Provincetown. She currently teaches creative writing at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Her first book, Polite Society, won the Whiting Award, a regional award from Granta, and from PeaceCorpsWriters the Maria Thomas Award for the best book of fiction written by a Peace Corps Volunteer that year. Her second book, the coming-of-age novel The School of Beauty and Charm, came out to mixed reviews in 2002. That same year she was named Artist of the Year by the Rome Area Arts Council. Her new book, The Ghost of Milagro Creek, is narrated by a Jicarilla Apache folk healer in northern New Mexico, and is being published by Algonquin in July.
Melanie has had fiction and nonfiction published in all sorts of anthologies and journals including New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best (in 1996, 2000 and 2004); After O’Connor: Stories from Contemporary Georgia (2003); The New Yorker; Atlanta Magazine; Five Points; Harper’s; Ladies Home Journal; and Kennesaw Review.
Of her writing, she says,
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I made my first attempts at book-writing when I was six, when I wrote “books” about an orphan girl as well as some pieces about Bugs Bunny, and bound them in painted pieces of cardboard. At Darlington School, I turned my required weekly 500-word essay into my first attempts at creative nonfiction. One of these essays, a sardonic take on my Southern Baptist youth group called, “Why I Love Jesus,” granted me admission to UNC, and prompted the admissions department to require essays of all applicants. I think this piece is still being published in a little book on how to write college admission essays called Essays That Worked. . . . I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I’ve done this in part to become the writer I want to be. Living in another culture fosters an intense awareness that I find essential to the creative process.
Melanie lives today in Rome, Georgia, and is the mother of Zoe and Rider.
Check out her website at Melanie-Sumner.com
The girl can write!