12/18/15 Teenage author unveils debut novel

Melanie Dellinger, Hawfields Middle School student and newly published author, talks to a crowd Saturday at the Burlington Artists League Gallery in Holly Hill Mall. Dellinger signed copies of her book, “The Mental,” at Saturday’s event.

Submitted photo

Melanie Dellinger, Hawfields Middle School student and newly published author, talks to a crowd Saturday at the Burlington Artists League Gallery in Holly Hill Mall. Dellinger signed copies of her book, “The Mental,” at Saturday’s event.

Teenage author unveils debut novel
‘The Mental’ tells the tale of a young girl on the run from a government plot
By Isaac Groves The Times-News 12/18/15  
Reprinted with permission.  

Melanie Dellinger started writing her novel “The Mental” in the sixth grade. On Saturday, the eighth-grader signed and sold copies at the Burlington Artists League Gallery at Holly Hill Mall and Business Center.

“I think it’s really important that characters speak,” Dellinger told her audience of more than 30. “There are two reasons I write: first to escape reality, because reality can be boring sometimes; the other reason is to speak to people.”

Dellinger was by far the youngest writer in the Artisan Writers’ Nights grand finale, but then she started writing when she was in second grade.

“The Mental” is a dystopian novel of 15-year-old Bella Stella, who flees her home in a crumbling city to keep the government from using her to release an engineered plague called the Mental to make all people the same. It’s also an allegory about confronting personal demons, Dellinger said.

“It’s her journey of facing her fear, which is herself — the guilt in her heart,” Dellinger said, “How can you overcome your fears if you never face them?”

Among the crowd Saturday were at least six teachers from Hawfields Middle School.

“When I assign an essay, she asks, ‘Does it have to be just five paragraphs?’” said language arts teacher Rachel Clark. “I’ve never seen anybody like her.”

After her talk, Dellinger sat on a stool signing copies of her book with her left hand while her right slowly filled with $12 per copy. She didn’t make money on every copy, though, having donated at least one to a Hawfields classroom.

Dellinger actually stopped working on the book before seventh grade. Her grandmother and editor Cheryl Dellinger took her to a writers’ workshop at the library with Wayne Drumheller, founder of the Carolinas Artisan Book Writers Project. Once she started over, Dellinger said, it took seven months to finish.

Several other local writers Drumheller helped publish, like Carol Taylor, author of “Lesson for Life,” were there Saturday as well.

“The Mental” is on sale at the gallery and on Amazon.com.