By Amy Jones
Photos by Emily Klein
Ever since she was in the fifth grade, Melia Burrell has felt compelled to put pen to paper. That compulsion has resulted in 64 unfinished stories and — most importantly — one published novel.
Now a junior at Vincent Middle High School, Melia had her book, “The Chronicles of the Secret Society: The End of the Standoff,” published through the Books-A-Million BAM! Publishing Contest in July of this year.
Melia said she entered the contest, intended for students in grades 9-12, after seeing a flyer about the contest in the hall at school.
“It seemed like a really good opportunity to actually publish something I’d written, and I could not let that opportunity pass me by,” she said.
Melia actually began writing the short novel, which is 124 large-print pages, in the seventh grade. After she decided to enter the contest, she picked the novel back up and finished it in approximately three to four months, she said.
The novel, set in a future America, is about a dystopian society in which a race of genetically engineered humans, known as Specials, is locked in a continuous battle with ordinary humans. The main character, Zaylee Cross, is a Special who finds herself caught up in the fray.
Melia said she intends for the novel to be the first in a series.
“I’m almost halfway through the second book and partially working on the third,” she said. “I don’t know how many books will be in the series overall, but I know where I’m heading with the story.”
Melia didn’t actually win the Publishing Contest — there were three submissions that won, but the contest judges enjoyed Melia’s book so much that they decided to publish it as well.
While the three winning submissions received other prizes, Melia said she was content with her outcome.
“I was only published and given the opportunity to see my life goal accomplished at the age of 16, which is enough of a prize for me,” she said.
Books-A-Million officials contacted Vincent High to let Melia know her novel would be published, and she said she had an unusual reaction to the news.
“(The librarian) pulled me out of class to tell me, which was probably a good thing because I was smiling and laughing hysterically in the hallway for a few minutes,” Melia said. “I didn’t think it was funny. I thought it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but when I get too nervous or excited I just start laughing until I can’t breathe.”
BAM! Publishing is actually a self-publishing company, so Melia was involved with all phases of getting her book ready for print. She and her mother collaborated on the cover, which showcases a multicolored eye.
“My mom drew the outline for it, and I did all of the coloring and shading,” she said. “So it’s one of a kind, I suppose.”
Melia said she began writing because she enjoys the process and seeing reactions to what she writes.
“As I grew up, my stories began being longer than everyone else’s,” she said. “From there, my love for writing blossomed into a passion and a dream to become a true novelist.”
After she finishes high school, Melia plans to attend college and major in English and creative writing. She hopes to continue writing and possibly also work as a whitewater rafting instructor.
Melia said her experience with the BAM! Publishing Contest has only validated her belief that writing is her calling.
“Now that I know that people enjoy reading what I enjoy writing, there is no point in me stopping,” she said. “Someone’s got to feed the bookworms in the world. I’m just happy I’m a part of it.”
Readers can find “The Chronicles of the Secret Society: The End of the Standoff” at the Brookwood Village Books-A-Million or online at Booksamillion.com.