Dana Mele is a Pushcart-nominated writer and a work at home mother. A graduate of Wellesley College, she is a former actor, lawyer, musician, and briefly, associate producer. She prefers tea to coffee, snow to sand, and stars to sunshine, and she lives in the Catskills with her husband and toddler. People Like Us is her first novel.
I like to say that my path to publication has been both long and short. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but after college I took another path that led me first into theater, then teaching, then television, and then law. I did work at a bookstore along the way, so I was close to books. And I did a ton of academic writing. But it’s not really the same. I started a few short stories here and there, and got my first idea for a novel over ten years ago. But I get really easily convinced that I’m no good, and I shelved it before I finished. I started another one a few years later, and I really liked that one too, even more maybe. But again, I lost my confidence. Fast forward to 2015. I had just come off of my maternity leave and I was suddenly laid off and had zero work prospects. I decided to give writing one last try. This time was just as scary, but I had a lot more practice. I took a couple of online classes (I mean it when I say the middle of nowhere) and volunteered to work as a reader for a couple of literary magazines. I published a couple of short stories, took a position as an associate editor, and started my own lit journal. And I started to write another novel. I got a little overexcited then, and started querying it before it was ready, and the rejections started pouring in. And this time, I came so close to giving up again—but instead, I poured my fear and anxiety into writing another novel about fear and anxiety. I queried that, and got requests immediately. Pretty soon after that, I got “the call” and that’s pretty much the story. It was a long and short journey.
I’ve been doing editorial work of one kind or another (law, academia, journalism, literary) for over a decade now. Many of my formerly unagented CPs have literary and/or film agents now (yay!).
I believe strongly in paying it forward. I didn’t have a mentor in the early stages of my literary journey and I stumbled around and even gave up a few times. I wish I’d had some kind of guidance and I want to help newbies out- it’ll be your turn to do the same soon enough!
When I started writing with a goal of getting published, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. Looking back, I wish I’d had a mentor to talk me through manuscript issues and help me navigate the waters of signing with an agent. If I can be that for an aspiring writer with a bright future, then I want to be!
As a mentor and critique partner, I tend to be more of a big-picture sort of thinker, helping identify plot holes or missing pieces of character arcs, and brainstorming ways to work through them. If something isn’t working, I’m going to let you know (while also leaving lots of positive comments on sentences that I love). I love reading character-driven stories with strong voice, but am probably not the right mentor if you’re still trying to figure out the whole voice thing.
Within sci-fi: I prefer near future sci-fi and sci-fi in settings similar to contemporary with advanced technology. I do like dystopian fiction, and dark stories centered around futuristic technology grounded in current tech (think Black Mirror).
Within mystery/thriller: I most prefer psychological thrillers, but really will read everything in this category.
Horror: No slashers, please. I prefer psychological horror and suspense. Think Hitchcock minus Psycho and Frenzy.
Within contemporary: I love voicey humor. I’m not so into romance as a genre, but romantic subplots are fine.
If it can be comped to Gone Girl, The Good Place, or Black Mirror, I need to read it.
I WILL PROVIDE:
- Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
- Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
- Skype or phone call
- Freestyle in chat
I’m very communicative and will go back and forth answering questions and making further suggestions to work with you collaboratively after the initial edit letter. I’m also happy to help strategize re: querying, researching agents, resume building, etc.
My ideal mentee is collaborative, works hard, is comfortable receiving feedback, isn’t afraid to make changes, and is ready to take the next steps toward publication.
GI like dark stories, unreliable narrators, flawed protagonists, and kinda sorta sympathetic villains. I love multidimensial characters, stories that explore philosophical questions about morality, AI sentience, philosophy of the mind, and moral gray areas. Twists and turns are most welcome.
If your manuscript features an “unlikeable girl” I am definitely interested. I would love, love, love to get a YA Gone Girl or The Secret History, a contemporary with a speculative twist like Before I Fall, or anything that uses Black Mirror or The Good Place as a comp. (I’m totally cool with TV comps). I’d also love to see a western. On the complete flipside, if it’s funny, especially bitingly funny, please sub it!
DO NOT SEND ME:
I don’t like stories that utilize violence against any member of a marginalized group in order for a non-marginalized person to learn a lesson (this includes a disabled person dying by suicide so that an abled person can learn the value of life).
YA Books: We Were Liars, The Cheerleaders, Feed; Books: The Secret History, In the Woods, Gone Girl, The Shining; TV: Westworld, The Good Place, Game of Thrones, Black Mirror, LOST, Battlestar Gallactica