Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Melissa Febos Keeps the Smart in "Whip Smart"

Written by Susannah Wexler
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Many of us spent our college days working at Starbucks. Others, if we were lucky, earned cash in chosen fields, conducting experiments or assisting bigwig editors. If we were saucy, we wore lingerie on Halloween and wrote erotica for campus sex mags. Melissa Febos, however, is different. While attending Eugene Lang, she worked in a Midtown dungeon, as a dominatrix. Born and raised on Cape Cod, Febos dropped out of high school at age fifteen, homeschooled herself for a year, and then moved to Boston at age sixteen where she took night classes at Harvard. In 1999, she moved to New York and began attending Lang. During her senior year, she became a dominatrix. In Whip Smart, her recently released memoir, she tells her story.
{mosimage width=400}Many of us spent our college days working at Starbucks. Others, if we were lucky, earned cash in chosen fields, conducting experiments or assisting bigwig editors. If we were saucy, we wore lingerie on Halloween and wrote erotica for campus sex mags. Melissa Febos, however, is different. While attending Eugene Lang, she worked in a Midtown dungeon, as a dominatrix. Born and raised on Cape Cod, Febos dropped out of high school at age fifteen, homeschooled herself for a year, and then moved to Boston at age sixteen where she took night classes at Harvard. In 1999, she moved to New York and began attending Lang. During her senior year, she became a dominatrix. In Whip Smart, her recently released memoir, she tells her story.
 
Susannah: First off, thanks for speaking with us. I just finished Whip Smart and love it!  
 
Melissa: I’m so glad. That’s so awesome because people always told me, “You’re such a good writer, but there is no plot.” And somehow I managed to make a plot.  
 
Susannah: Well, I was really impressed . . . So, I guess to get started, do you want to tell our readers how you got into domming?  
 
Melissa: OK. I got into domming . . . do you mean . . . motive-wise or like more tangibly?  
 
Susannah: Both.

Melissa: Right. Well, the easier part of that is tangibly. Tangibly, I was a senior at the New School, studying writing, and I had tried to find all of these jobs that were sort of ancillary to writing—but turned out to have very little to do with it—like working in publishing and magazines. And I worked for an agent for a while and was miserable doing it. I couldn’t do it. I’ve always been able to work very hard, but not at something I didn’t care about. I am basically incapable of it. So I didn’t know what I was going to do. And then I found out that my next-door neighbor was a professional dominatrix. And I’d always fantasized about sex work. Like, I grew up in the age of Pretty Woman. But I couldn’t reconcile this with being a feminist and being an intellectual. And this woman was really smart and articulate, and she was a law student and that was all I needed to give myself permission. And being a dominatrix seems to really be congruent to me with being a feminist and being an intellectual. So, I asked her if she could get me a job, and she refused, which I now understand. So I looked for an ad in the Village Voice, and I lucked out. The first ad I answered just happened to be a really nice place, relatively. And I stayed there for three years.  

Susannah: You mention that you now understand why your neighbor was hesitant to get you a job. Why?  
 
Melissa: Well, I mean personally, I think that once you are in the business for a while, you know the appeal of it. It has an appeal to a lot of people, very few of which can actually handle it and actually enjoy it. So it seemed like we wouldn’t even bother to learn the names of the new people who got hired until they had been there for like a month . . . It’s like giving someone their first joint, or something. I loved it in many ways, but in other ways . . . I wouldn’t necessarily wish that on anyone.  
 
Susannah: So, what were some of your intangible reasons or motivations?  
 
Melissa: Well, in the beginning, I thought that I needed the money, and [that] it was easy money—which it was not. And there has always been a draw for me in extremity. I think in a lot of ways, I have always been really committed to proving to myself that I can handle anything, so if I just push myself as far as I can go, then it [becomes] sort of a futile effort to prove my own invincibility [and that] the world isn’t really a big, overwhelming place. Like, I am really not incredibly vulnerable like every other person. And I think sort of the flip side of that, almost contrary to that, is that I’ve always pushed a lot of boundaries because I wanted to find out where the boundaries were. And I was always a little bit scared by my ability to sort of do anything, and I thought that if I kept going, that I would find the limit. That was actually a title that I almost had for the book.  
 
Susannah: Oh really? The Limit?  
 
Melissa: Yeah. And I think also that I have an investment in power—in sexual power dynamics. I think that everybody does. I  think that my whole life I’ve been an incredibly self-sufficient, independent, in control person, who needed to be in control, and so on the surface I satisfied that, but underneath that I think I was also interested in the other side of that, because everyone who is in control all the time—I learned this from my clients—people who are in control all the time have a deep-seated desire to relinquish that, whether they know that or not.  
 
Susannah: So, were most of your clients people who wielded a lot of power? How would you describe your typical client?  
 
Melissa: A typical client, superficially, looks like a typical man . . . [there were] a lot of Wall Street guys, probably because they throw a lot of power around and also because they have money. But really, there is more of a psychological profile. But the way that people looked from the outside—I got everybody . . . Hassids, teachers, retirees, policemen, professors, doctors, politicians, everybody, all of them.  
 
Susannah: Were you ever shocked by any of your clients? I mean, I was a little shocked when I read about your role-playing with the Hassid.  
 
Melissa: Yeah! I had heard a rumor about that, but it was pretty shocking. Although, I have to say that a lot of the experiences that I had when I was there, it was all so shocking . . . ironically, it was really in the process of writing [the book] that I was like—Oh My God!—you know, like I really sort of experienced a lot of it for the first time while I was writing about it, because while it was happening, I disassociated from a lot of it. And that was part of how I felt so powerful, because I could just compartmentalize my feelings about things . . . I had a really effective emotional cleanup crew and I would be like, “You want me to stick my foot into your butt hole? That’s fine! No problem! I’ll just put Saran Wrap over it.” But in the moment, I felt like nothing shocked me.  
 
Susannah: In the book, you talk a little bit about the apprehensions that you had the first day on the job. Were things shocking then?  
 
Melissa: I mean, my anxiety on the first day was not even so much like, oh my God, they want me to do that, but, oh my God, I have to pull this off and look like I know what I’m doing and keep my very confident appearance. That’s what scared me. In a funny way, it wasn’t until later that I would be more shocked.. After I got sober, I got more in touch with my feelings, basically, and then I would have moments where I would go into a session and suddenly flip into this horrible pool of objectivity where I would be like, they want me to do what? And I write about this in the book, I think, that I would be outside of the dungeon and hear about things that I did all the time in the dungeon, and I so disassociated, the worlds were so separated for me that I would be like, oh my God, and then be like, oh wait, I did that this morning. In the beginning it was just like flight or fight or something. I just did it.  
 
Susannah: I imagine that probably happens a lot. So what would you say it takes to be a dominatrix?  
 
Melissa: You have to be able to disassociate from your feelings, because if you are looking at it objectively while you’re doing it, you won’t be able to do it. You have to be able to just jump in and cast aside your own personality and your own vulnerability and just do it—which I think is also what it takes to be an actor too. You have to be able to put aside your private shit and get into the role that you’re playing and kind of the empathy, I mean to some degree, of the person that you are working with. And you cannot be squeamish! And if you do not have a sense of humor, it will kill your spirit. It might anyway.  
 
Susannah: So, there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the book, which states that “Most characters’ names and many identifying characteristics have been changed . . . Time was compressed or altered to facilitate an economical telling of the story . . . I had to leave a lot out.” How did you decide what to leave in and what to take out?  
 
Melissa: In the beginning, in the first draft . . . I knew I needed to write it in a total vacuum, and I put everything in . . . put in everybody’s real names, just because I knew that I was writing the book in order to understand the experience, and . . . I didn’t know my story yet. If I ended up leaving things out I could really handicap my story and maybe not get to it. So I put everything in. And then, when I finished the book and I knew what my story was, I went back, and I looked at it through the eyes of everyone who was in it, and I thought, what’s necessary? What’s necessary to people? What’s necessary to the story? And anything that was going to hurt someone that wasn’t necessary to the story, I took out. And I took out a lot. And I changed everybody’s names, except for a few. And it’s funny, because a lot of people in that world, everyone had a fake name, so I just used their fake name. And then I went through it with a lawyer who works for St. Martin’s Press, and he was like, no. No fake names. So, I had to change the fake names to other fake names. And I had names that were very close to their real names, and I had to change all of that. But it was hard. There are people who are just not going to be happy.  
 
Susannah: I was actually wondering about that. The people that you think won’t be happy, are you thinking about other dommes that you’ve worked with, or just other people in the story?  
 
Melissa: Possibly other dommes, but I’m not really worried about that. The only domme that I really get in depth with is my best friend, and I’m not really worried about that. But, I’m sure my clients . . . I mean, after I was on the cover of the Post . . . my best friend said to me . . . you know how many of your clients read the Post? They’ll see the word “dominatrix,” pop a woody, and then they are going to open it up and be like, what? Because they are not . . . I mean, I wanted to be as honest as possible. And I wanted to be particularly honest about the parts that were not cool, or glamorous, or fun, or sexy. I think that dommes will, for the most part, be really happy, because it’s the truth—or at least it is a truth that I’ve never read before. And that’s really the overwhelming reception that I sort of got when I told people in the business that I was writing it. They were like, tell the truth. Tell the real story. Like over and over I heard that. Other people . . . it was really difficult for my family to read it. And people who are close to me. It was hard. There were a few people who were not in the work aspect of it who read it. My boyfriend at the time read it. His name is Dylan in the book. It’s hard, because you are telling one story, so I could only represent the part of the relationship that is needed for the story. And that happened to be the worst aspects of our relationship. There wasn’t enough time to give a fully dimensional portrait of everything. That would have been so boring and long.  
 
Susannah: And a different story.  
 
Melissa: [Yeah]. But it’s really hard because people think when they hear, “memoir,” that it’s like a documentary . . . and it’s not. It’s a specific story, and I had to cut out so much.  
 
Susannah: So have you spoken to Dylan and other people who are in the book [about it]?  
 
Melissa: Yeah, and people . . . are really, really grateful, because a lot of people have had a hard time with it initially, and then come to terms with it. But almost everyone, even when they have had a really hard time with it, has said that it is a beautiful piece of work. And there are a couple of people I offered to show it to who were like, no, and I don’t know if I will hear from them. I am sure they will read it eventually. But, it’s just awkward, because I so specifically wrote it in a vacuum that it is still dawning on me more and more every day exactly what I put out into the world. Like, I went to a faculty meeting last weekend and my boss was like, congratulations on [being on the cover of the New York] Post. And I was like, ah! I don’t know how to negotiate that because it’s a huge accomplishment, and it’s really great for my CV in a lot of ways, but it is also like, I just aired all my dirty laundry, like everything that you wouldn’t want your parents, or your boss, or your students to know about you.  
 
Susannah: It’s totally awesome and brave though that you are able to do it.  
 
Melissa: I mean, it doesn’t feel that way . . . I mean, I feel I have to be brave now to face their reactions but when I was doing it, I really just wrote it as a writer. Like, I didn’t think about that.  
 
Susannah: So, you mentioned your parents’ reactions. They read the whole thing?  
 
Melissa: Yeah.  
 
Susannah: I know that you had told them that you were a dominatrix, but how in depth did you go?  
 
Melissa: Not very.  
 
Susannah: Were they really shocked when they read the book?  
 
{mosimage width=400}Melissa: They were really shocked. I had given them, and everyone, a very censored version. They knew I was a dominatrix. They knew I was in recovery, but they didn’t know any of those details. And, in my mind . . . I somehow thought I told them that I was a heroin addict, and I didn’t. They didn’t know that. And my mom . . . before she read the book, I said, “Mom, there is going to be some stuff in here that is [going to be] very difficult for you to read.” And she was like, “I want you to tell me what these things are before I read it, because I don’t want to be cringing waiting for the blow the whole time.” And I was like, “Mom, I wrote a book because I couldn’t say any of this shit out loud.” And she made me tell her, which I was glad [about] because then I wasn’t cringing waiting for a phone call, although I did cringe. And my dad, I told him the same thing and he was like, “Oh, I’ll be fine.” And then I didn’t hear from him for like a month. My mom finally called and was like, “Your dad’s having a really hard time.” And I was like, “Oh shit.” And I think that it was really hard for them, particularly for my dad, because my mom knew more than he did. And I portrayed them as not overtly objecting to . . . [me being a dominatrix], and I think that they, internally, had these vast reservations about it, but I was so impenetrable, I would not have heard them. If they had been like, this is unacceptable, I would have just been like, bye. They knew that, so they didn’t object explicitly. But then when I portrayed them, I think they felt, in some ways, it didn’t feel true to their experiences. Because I think they had so many reservations. But I could only write about what I experienced . . . and that was really hard . . . they were really freaked-out about it, but they didn’t want to alienate me. And they had a feeling that that is what it would have done, and they were probably right.  
 
Susannah: You note in the book that your brother knew. How did you broach the subject with him?  
 
Melissa: Well, my brother and I are really good friends . . . I’ve always been forthcoming with him, and in some ways I regret that, because at the time I thought it was cool. I didn’t think about how it might be disturbing to him. Or even about the message I was sending by acting like it was so cool—my drug use, and I mean he didn’t know the depth of my drug use, but like partying and being a dominatrix, but he’s just been supportive the whole way through. He’s really, really supportive, and our whole lives, I’ve always taken up a lot of space in my family . . . even with this book. My mom said to me, laughing, recently, “I am so proud of you, but you know, you couldn’t do anything the easy way, could you? It has to be complicated.” And I was talking to my dad recently, and he was like, “I had the funniest conversation with your mom. We both realized that we have the same worst fantasy.” I was like, “What?” And he was like, “We both have this terrible fantasy that we are asked onto Oprah or some other talk show, and Oprah or some audience member stands up on the microphone and says, ‘What were you thinking?!? You were her parents!’”  
 
Susannah: That’s really funny. So, how about your friends? Were there people that you told and people that you didn’t tell?  
 
Melissa: I told pretty much everyone, but I tailored my story about it for everyone. There is a lot of stuff that I never told anyone about. But I pretty much told everyone. I have always been really adept about controlling other people’s perceptions about what I do. So, I always thought of myself as a really honest person. But getting sober and also writing this book, it grew really real to me how much I omitted. I was allowed to be really honest because I left out so much, and I put so much spin on the truth that I told people.  
 
Susannah: You mentioned that you are still best friends with Autumn, the other domme in the book. Are there other dommes that you are still in touch with?   Melissa: There are. In fact, I just got an e-mail yesterday about the second annual dungeon reunion, where everyone who worked there when we worked there, we all get together and have brunch, and people bring their babies and their dogs. And it’s really sweet. Most of them aren’t in it anymore. I know a few people who still do it. Maybe one or two still do it full-time, and a few of them . . . have their one client that they hang on to. But not a lot. I mean, we’re Facebook friends and they follow [my career] and they are all excited about the book, and I love them but they’re not people that I see on a regular basis.  
 
Susannah: Do you expect most of them to read the book?  
 
Melissa: Yeah. I mean, I would read the book. I am excited about it and really nervous, because I was really honest, and not all of my thoughts are positive. And also, again, because it’s nonfiction, I think that people make the mistake of assuming that I am saying that this is a piece of journalism about that world. And it’s not. It is a documentation of my individual experience, and it is going to be very different from a lot of other people’s experiences. And I feel bad, because I think that . . . not everybody experienced the sort of shame and humiliation. And also I tried to represent my feelings at the time. At the time, I didn’t think that being a dominatrix was congruent with being a feminist. And I absolutely think that you can be a dominatrix and be a feminist, absolutely, but for a lot of the book, it seems like I don’t think that. You know, I am more afraid of the people who don’t read the book or who read a little bit of the book than the people who really read it . . . it is really scary publishing a book, but one of the relieving things is that the book is the book. It is already written. It is there. That was the best to my ability that I could represent my experience at that time. It would be a different book if I started it today.  
 
Susannah: You mention towards the end of the book that, when you were a child, you imagined what your life would be like when you were in your twenties and a famous writer. And it is kind of amazing that you are actually doing it.  
 
Melissa: I am four years late, actually. I thought that twenty-five seemed to be an appropriate time to publish your first book and get famous. A little grandiose.  
 
Susannah: Ha! So, I assume then that writing is something you’ve always wanted to do. What always drew you to it?   
Melissa: It was the only thing I [ever] wanted to do. I mean, you’re a writer, you know that as you grow older you learn to judge your own work, and there is this pathology that goes along with it. But when I was a kid I had that way . . . like my brother was always drawing. It was what his hands wanted to do. And for me . . . when I learned to read, that was all I ever wanted to do. Literally. It was insane . . . like to a pathological degree. All I wanted to do was read and write. I was scribbling in notebooks, scribbling stories. And I feel really lucky in that. I feel like, it’s got a curse too because it’s a really, really hard life. But at the same time, there’s never been any doubt in my mind that that is what I was going to do and that I wouldn’t be happy if I was doing that. It’s the only thing I’m qualified to do. I mean, it’s the only thing that I’ve been doing for a really long time.  
 
Susannah: That’s awesome So, you earned your MFA from Sarah Lawrence. Was graduate school always in the cards?  
 
Melissa: No. I mean, maybe it was always in my cards, but it wasn’t always in my mind. I thought I was going to go to undergrad and graduate into my illustrious publishing career. Instead, I was a drug addict and a dominatrix who wasn’t really publishing anything. I didn’t have a community of writers. I had a community of dominatrices, which is valuable in its own way. But graduate school was also a move to try to get out of that. I needed a foothold to try to get out of that world because I was too entrenched. And the traction of office work or a civilian job was not powerful enough to hoist me out of that. So, that’s part of it. And I applied to a few places that weren’t in New York, because I was hoping I would just leave and that would solve my problem.  
 
Susannah: So did you find that, even though Sarah Lawrence is in New York, that it was successful at solving that problem?  
 
Melissa: It didn’t pull me out of New York, but it absolutely pulled me out of the dominatrix world. I stayed working there, at the dungeon, for my first year, really my first semester. But it did exactly what I wanted it to do, which was remind me who I was and what I wanted to do. And I sort of knew that that would happen because I had always loved school and always loved writing. I get inspired really easily. And there were a lot of inspiring people there. And I started reading again. And I was also really scared. I was petrified when I started, because I hadn’t really been writing for four years. I didn’t know if I was smart anymore. But, within five minutes, I was so excited to write—and so excited about reading and being in classes.  
 
Susannah: You’d be like my ideal student.  
 
Melissa: That’s the thing. I think I was my ideal student too because I experienced this in college and undergrad too, even though I had so much else going on, like being a junky, I always knew what I wanted to do. The valuable side of my self-sufficiency is that I am like, I’ve taken myself as far as I can, this is what I need from these people. And I went, and I knew I wanted to be a writer, and I’d seen that people who go to institutions of higher education wanting them to tell them what they should do are disappointed, because they are not going to give you a very fun answer, and they probably won’t give you an answer since they are just doing their jobs too. So in the MFA program, I saw a lot of people who weren’t sure if they wanted to be a writer. And, if you are in an MFA program, they aren’t going to convince you to be a writer. You have to chase it down. All of those people are writers too, trying to make a living. So I went there, and I saw signing those financial aid forms as an act of commitment to being a writer. I was like, I am going to be a writer for the rest of my life if I am going to be paying this off for the rest of my life. So I was definitely ready to work when I got there.  
 
Susannah: So you wrote this book as your MFA thesis. What was workshopping it like? What were the benefits and challenges of doing it?  
 
Melissa: It was a really good experience altogether. And really useful actually because a lot of the feedback that I got was, this is great writing. It’s a fascinating story. But everybody was looking for the feeling, because at first I tried to just replicate my experience, which was not much of an emotional experience and they were like, “Weren’t you shocked? Weren’t you freaked-out? Weren’t you humiliated?” And I was like, “I don’t know!” And then I had to go into therapy for a while and had to be like, “What did I feel?” And I had to sort of go and find out. So that was really interesting, and I have to say really exciting, because I love seeing stories that I read in workshops and then seeing them published. I also think that it is really exciting that there are people who saw really early versions of my first chapter, and they will still able to recognize it in the book.  
 
Susannah: So, would you recommend the MFA route to other young, aspiring writers?  
 
Melissa: I would. I don’t think it is necessary, but I think that it is really helpful. What it offers is information, people who know more than you, and a community, and connections—all of which you need to be a writer. I think that you can find all of those things on your own, but it’s a lot more legwork. And they have it all assembled in one place for you. And me, I like structure. I like schedules. I like deadlines. And it is difficult to set that all up on your own. I learned how to do that a lot there. Writing is such hard work and so time-consuming, that as much as you can, you should get that stuff done in an efficient manner, because the most important thing that you can do as a writer is just write. And that other stuff is necessary, but if there are other means of getting it. I say, just go for it.  
 
Susannah: So we met at a faculty meeting at SUNY Purchase, and I know that you also teach at Gotham Writers Workshop and NYU. Has teaching influenced your writing?  
 
Melissa: Absolutely. By the time that I had finished my MFA, I was done with workshops, and I was suspicious of their value altogether. And I remember in my final workshop, it was with Jo Ann Beard [author of The Boys of My Youth], and I remember her saying once, in conference, that she thought the workshop process didn’t really help the writer that much, that it actually helped the people commenting on it, even though we were all whining about having to do it. And I was like, yeah sure. But I didn’t really know if that was true or not. But as a teacher, I absolutely think that is true. As a teacher, I also feel put out by the work sometimes. But it has helped me so much. When you are reading someone’s memoir, you need to figure out what they have to do to make their story work, and you only have thirty minutes to do it. And you have to figure out how to do that, which is an incredibly useful skill. And to get really technical about it, which is something that I have never been able to do for my own work. Like, when you teach something, like grammar, you have to learn it yourself. So my knowledge of grammar, and even style in a large way was just intuitive, because I read so damn much that I just knew when a sentence was wrong. But I didn’t always know, it turns out, so I just learned how to write efficient sentences. Like before I was a teacher, I didn’t know much about the passive voice.  
 
Susannah: I know! Like, I didn’t really know what a comma splice was until I had to teach it.  
 
Melissa: Exactly, or the very exactly correct use of a semicolon. I had to learn these things so that I could teach them, and now I know. Also, I get to talk about what I love, all the time. And that’s really important, because there is so much work and stress around it. Even now, when there is so much business around it, it is the kind of the thing that I need to be reminded of a lot. And I get really excited every time I talk about writing in my classes.  
 
Susannah: That’s awesome.  
 
Melissa: And also, like many writers and artists, I think that I am an introvert/extrovert, and writing is so fucking solitary and teaching is so performative, and so social, that it really works. And it is kind of extreme to have both of them. I think that it works really well for me.  
 
Susannah: That’s awesome. So what other things do you write about? 
 
Melissa: Right now, I’ve just been writing about anything but being a dominatrix and a junky. But . . . right now, I am dying to get into a novel. I have three ideas. But I don’t have time for that so I’ve just been writing short essays, which is a form I really love. I was accepted to the fiction program at Sarah Lawrence, but I switched to nonfiction, then I sort of fell in love with nonfiction. You know, when I was younger, I thought that in order to write nonfiction, you have to be a journalist, and you have to listen to NPR all day, and you have to read the New York Times cover to cover. And then I was like, oh no. Actually, that’s not true. If you want to do research, you can. When I was a kid, I was really scared about being a writer, because I knew from when I was like five that I wanted to be a writer. But then I would read books and be like, writers have to know so much! How am I going to know that?  
 
Susannah: And by twenty-five!  
 
Melissa: I know! It didn’t occur to me that you might look things up. But yeah, I’m working on personal essays. I’ve written a couple of stories since I finished the book. The first thing I went back to was writing short fiction because it had been so long since I had been able to purely invent things—not that my fiction is ever purely invented . . . It’s funny that I never pictured myself being a memoirist . . . I love self-reflecting. It’s not surprising at all in retrospect.  
 
Susannah: Are you looking into fellowships now or are you trying to find other ways to find time to write?  
 
Melissa: It’s making me insane. The publicity with the book coming out is a full-time job. And applying for fellowships is like a full-time job and a half. And I’m looking for full-time teaching positions. Now that the book is out I’m qualified to apply for a lot more things. It probably won’t happen for the fall because applications go in in January for full-time positions. I got an interview, but I don’t think that I want to live where the school is.  
 
Susannah: That is always the challenge. Like, you find an opening and it is at Black Hills University.  
 
Melissa: I know, it’s like, a community college in the middle of Texas. Full benefits . . . I applied for a few residencies. I applied for a MacDowell. I am trying to make a habit of applying to something every month.  
 
Susannah: So, do you have a clear sense of what your future looks like at this point?  
 
Melissa: I haven’t the foggiest idea what my future looks like, but I would like to earn some money some day, because that still hasn’t really happened. I would like to write books . . . and I want to have time to do that. And I want to keep teaching, which actually isn’t too bad a goal. When I was little, I thought that you either become a literary celebrity, which is almost a myth, or you are a failure. But that’s actually not true. There are a lot of working writers out there, and it’s not a pipe dream. So, that’s what I want to do. I want to just keep making work. And I am hoping that my next book will be a novel, but I don’t know what it will be.  
 
Susannah: Well, I know that your goal was to publish your first book by twenty-five, but I still think that publishing it by thirty is pretty amazing.
 
Melissa: I know, I’m just squeaking in.  
 
Susannah: So, is there anything else you’d like to add?  
 
Melissa: No, I don’t think so. You did a pretty good job.  
 
Susannah: Well, thanks for speaking with us.  
 
Melissa: Thank you.

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