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Melinda Haynes is the author of Mother Of Pearl, the highly praised first novel about life, love and family ties in a small Southern town chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her book club. Or as Melinda explains: "A vocation found me. This is the truth of it. I had just moved to a spot off the county road in Grand Bay, Alabama. Surrounded by trees everything, even sunlight, seemed to merge into one sweet color that felt cool to my eyes. I had painted for years as a way to support my three daughters for close to two decades."
Becoming a typesetter for the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Mobile, The Catholic Week, she was able to give up painting. "I didn't need to supplement my income by dealing with hard-to-please clients who swore their son was not actually as fat as he appeared." Her work was basically a "no brainer" typing for eight hours a day. "It gave me the chance to go to Jamaica to cover relief organizations at work in Kingston. I knew I was not a journalist. I had never attended college. I didn't know how to get out of the trip, though, since my editor thought I was qualified. Photos from the trip won the Mobile Press Club's award for Excellence. Food for the Poor picked up the essay and I was invited to Jamaica as well as Haiti and the Dominican Republic. An acquaintance walked up to me after reading the essay on Jamaica and told me I wrote like a tall woman. His name was Ray Haynes. We were married two years later. "Six months after our marriage, we moved to a spot on the Grand Bay and I began working on my first short story, "Strange Dirt". A friend recommended I subscribe to Poets & Writers. I immediately did this. When the first issue arrived, I read it from cover to cover and then cried for two hours. The odds seemed impossible. Contest fees, book recommendations, retreats I couldn't begin to afford. Even the individual profiles I would immediately scan these until I found the writer's credentials and then I'd put it down. There didn't seem to be a profile of an under educated Southern woman who had grown up in the middle of nowhere. There didn't seem to be a slot for a middle-aged grandmother who had put away her paint brushes and fallen in love with her computer. I finally left the reading of Poets & Writers to my husband and went back to writing."
Ray decided her two short stories should be sent to The Crescent Review. "Working long hours as production manager for The Catholic Week and until 3:00 A.M. on Mother Of Pearl. I was 75 pages into the book and felt as though I had wandered, by some sort of wonderful accident, into a world of possibilities. It was the most incredible time of self-awareness." Eight weeks later, Tim Holland called. The literary journal had accepted both pieces - a first for The Crescent Review. Ray began an aggressive course where my writing was concerned. Cleaned out a bedroom. Screened my calls. Researched the possibilities for literary agent. Again Poets & Writers. This time, the magazine's profile of Wendy Weil. The first 104 pages were dropped off at the post office on September 19. Wendy Weil called me at work sixteen days later. Six months after that the novel was sold to Hyperion." (Chelsea Forum Website)
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