Melissa M. Tripp is an American poet, writer, and best-selling LGBTQ author from Boston, Massachusetts, who has self-published two books.
Her first book, root, a powerfully raw and characteristically ambiguous collection of poetry, was published in 2015 and described as ‘an emotional package of walkways into an array of personal inner self, and also the beating heart of an open road of discovery’.
Melissa has since established her widely regarded prose both across the US and internationally, with NYLON magazine dubbing her one of ‘12 Female Poets To Watch’ in 2016; her work has been seen on ABC7 News and the NFL Network. She is also the creator of ‘Women Who Look Like Me’, a movement against exclusion: promoting equality and visibility for women of all compositions.
Tell us a little about your work and your recent publication of 24 hours later.
I’m a poet, writer, and the author of root (2015) and 24 hours later (2018). 24 hours later is a collection of internal and poetic conversation pieces — essentially, honest conversations with myself.
Talk us through your process of creation.
I wrote these monologues over the span of twenty-four uninterrupted hours (hence the title), using a timer for stops during distraction and break periods. Whenever writing resumed, I would start the timer again. I wanted to bring awareness to mental health in a highly vulnerable way that – while unconventional – could be understood because (I feel) it highlights the most common aspects of mental health that plague each of us but which aren’t being talked about, or aren’t being talked about enough.
In root, you created a forty-page journal at the back of the book for your readers to record their own thoughts. How important is it to you to inspire and encourage others through your work?
The journal in root means something different to me now than it did three years ago. While I’m incredibly grateful for any tangible difference made through my work, and it’s important to me that others feel they aren’t alone in the shared experience of being human, I’ve had to distance myself from the notion of ‘now that you have this platform, you’re obligated to provide these directives’. I am by no means a guru and there is a lot I’m still figuring out. When I make myself too emotionally available there isn’t always enough room for this.
Your work often features discussions of identity and the self. Growing up, were there any particular books or publications that influenced you as an individual and as an artist?
I clung to and did a lot of Shakespeare reading growing up. But I feel my quest for identity and the longing for a dimensional sense of self, often reflected in my work, have been influenced by film adaptations more than anything else. The 1996 film Foxfire in particular, was enormously influential in my coming-of-age years. Capturing the plight of five young women in a society where we are often considered expendable, it painted for me a clear urgency to demand more and to demand more from yourself. It taught me that sometimes it takes the most unexpected influences to empower authenticity within, and that those are the people you’re meant to hold on to wherever you are, wherever they are. Dawson’s Creek – I admittedly and shamelessly immersed myself in the sophisticated language of that show – the awareness those kids had wasn’t even plausible but I was hooked and sobbing through most of it.
In addition to the publication of your two books, you run a blog. As a well-established poet and writer, do you have any tips for those looking to begin writing?
A common theme I’ve observed among most aspiring young writers who contact me seeking writing advice is feelings of inadequacy paired with hesitation – out of fear of sharing their work for the first time without knowing how it will be received, or compared against the work of more established writers. My response is always to ‘just write’. If you wait around for the ‘proper’ permission or approval it may never get written.
You published root through a self-publishing platform. Could you tell us a little about this experience?
Having never published a book prior to releasing root and being introduced to the hellish cave of formatting a book for the first time, it felt like a complete shot in the dark. There were plenty of sleepless nights where I contemplated giving up because I was just overwhelmed – I think I may have even slammed my laptop shut a few times – but it was something I was determined to do. More importantly, it was something I was determined to do on my own. Self-publishing made me appreciate my craft even more because I never anticipated all the critical behind-the-scenes elements that make writing (and publishing) a book toilsome.
Finally, is there anything you’re working on at the moment which you’re particularly excited about?
I can’t reveal too much, but I’m super excited about some upcoming projects and collaborations. I recently launched a movement against exclusion called ‘Women Who Look Like Me’ and there are some surprises in the works as I prepare to expand it. This year has been such a humbling ride that I never really know what’s coming next, but I feel blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to do meaningful work and make meaningful connections. Stay tuned.