Anita Mellott grew up in India climbing mango trees, enjoying then mangos and books. After getting a Master’s degree in Canada, she returned to India, where her father, in keeping with Indian tradition, “arranged” a meeting with someone who changed her life. Not only did they marry within six months, his work with Habitat for Humanity, brought her face-to-face with an impoverished India she hadn’t encountered before in her privileged upbringing. She experienced the difference Jesus could make through people who were dedicated to showing His love in a tangible way. Since her husband’s work in rural India took Anita away from her job in metropolitan Bangalore, she ended up freelancing for a few national Indian publications —the start of her writing journey.
I like the mental picture I get of you as a child, climbing up in a mango tree, reading, and watching the world go by in your native India. Tell us about that.
As an only child, books were my closest companions. They transported me to magical places where I could be anyone I wanted to be. When I discovered I could climb the mango tree, I had a way to look beyond the concrete walls that encircled our house. I had a glimpse into the fascinating world of auto-rickshaws flying by packed with passengers, carts drawn by oxen or bullocks, street vendors, kids going to and from school, cars, buses, passenger and goods trains, and cyclists avoiding pot-holes on the roads…
I love the devotional you’ve written. How did you get the idea for School Is Where the Home Is?
Five years ago, we relocated to Atlanta, where I attended my first homeschool encouragement meeting. I left the meeting encouraged that I wasn’t the only parent who faced not-so-good homeschooling moments, or struggled with a balance between home, school, and life. After homeschooling for four years, I realized what I had been missing– the comfort and encouragement of others who understood the homeschooling life.
That got me wondering what it would be like to have a daily reminder of God’s presence with us each homeschool day, along with practical tips. So the idea of a devotional for homeschooling parents was birthed.
Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or writing your book?
Almost every time I revised or edited the manuscript, it seemed like the Holy Spirit’s scalpel pierced deep. Looking back, I find it amusing that God used my own homeschool experiences to convict me…I guess it just shows I’m not a quick learner–God has to keep reminding me of areas that need His transforming touch.
Oh, and my daughter quoted vignettes from the book to keep me in line! (She still does it.)
Did you bang your head against the wall from writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?
When I was working on a series of devotionals based on the Lord’s Prayer, I hit a wall. Prayer and taking a break even though I was on a tight deadline helped.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
Most often, I “see” the scenes in my mind as I think about the story,and as I write. Sometimes, I look at photos, or even go to a place that go to a place that is similar to the one I have in mind, just to experience it.
Anita, I know you have some wonderful fiction, both written and planned. What are you working on right now?
I have two projects: The first is a compilation of short stories based on the Indo-American immigrant experience, and life in India. I began writing short stories to see if I, as a non-fiction writer, could make the transition to fiction. The feedback from my critique group encouraged me to start on my first novel, which explores the dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship, spanning the lives of two generations in in India and America, with a bit of intrigue and romance.
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?
None of those. Since our family has grown (my aging mom makes her home with us, and my unexpected pregnancy), I don’t have an office or even a nook. I’m content with a “portable office”–my laptop, which sometimes resides in my dining room, but most often goes wherever I am—in the family room or the kitchen or at the doctor’s office.
I know you homeschool as well as write. What does a typical day look like for you?
It’s a blur of home, school, activities, extricating my toddler from self-imposed mischief, dealing with teenage drama, taking care of an aging mom, and trying to grab a few minutes here and there to write.
Most days I wake up before my toddler to take advantage of some quiet for my devotions and to put down a few ideas. Before breakfast, I quickly go through e-mail, social networking, etc.
From 8:30 am till about 2 pm, I’m in homeschool mode. I rarely e-mail or do anything writing-related during that time. Sometimes I’ll carve out an hour in the afternoon to write, depending on my kids’ activities. When I’m on a deadline, I stay up late or my husband gives me a Saturday morning to write. I try to strike a balance between having a schedule and being flexible.
Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?
Word counts intimidate me! I used to write for long stretches of time and hit huge word counts. That changed once my ultra-energetic little one came on the scene. Since grabbing a few minutes here and there frustrated me, I’ve learned to approach things differently: When I wake up, I think about the writing assignment I’ll be focusing on that day. The ideas, characters, plots simmer through the day, so when I finally sit down to write that afternoon/evening, the time is productive.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Press on. The writing journey has its ups and downs, just like anything else. But if God has put that spark within you to write, then do it. It’ll be worth it in the end, because it’s all about Him anyway.
To read a review of School Is Where the Home Is, click here.