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Happy Encourage a Young Writer Day!

My name is Melissa Julianne Severn and I am honoured to be writing this guest blog for The LaunchBox. It’s no secret that The LaunchBox is an inspiring company and they are generously encouraging me, a young writer, to share my creativity and my journey via their platform.

The LaunchBox and I have a lot in common. We are both based in bucolic counties in England. We both sowed the seeds of our skills and grew from the ground up, cultivating, learning and inventing. The LaunchBox’s marketing strategies share a fundamental similarity with my creative works: they are personal, bespoke and powerful.

I have been writing creatively since the age of four. I was slow to master reading, struggling with spelling, phonetics and vocabulary definitions. I was never interested in the difference between an adjective and an adverb, or a simple sentence and a compound sentence; the technical terms didn’t enthrall me. However, when I discovered Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch, my imagination was ignited. I pored over Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree collection and Jill Marshall’s Jane Blonde, emulating their adventurous narratives and courageous protagonists in my own little self-penned stories. I gravitated towards heroines in fiction as I grew up, such as Bella Swan in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. In early adulthood, I became enchanted by the poetry of Sylvia Plath and her disturbing, immersive and relatable novel The Bell Jar. My own writing style is inspired by Sylvia, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Muriel Spark, Anna Akhmatova and Mimi Khalvati.

I predominantly write poetry, short stories and flash fiction. All of these forms encapsulate my other main passion: feminism. I believe there is a lot of “unfinished business” regarding women’s rights and the way in which we are depicted, commodified and treated daily. I believe that girls and young women need positive role models now more than ever; the toxins of social media can poison their self-image, self-esteem and self-respect.

My works aim to capture how it feels to be a woman in the twenty-first century. I haven’t led an underprivileged life by any means; I am a working-class woman from a supportive background. I am lucky. However, I am heavily aware of (and subject to some of) the obstacles that still exist for women: outmoded obstacles that should be obsolete. I am infuriated by the fact that not all women are treated fairly and equally.

I write some pieces that are purely autobiographical and others that are fictionalised. There are some challenging emotions brewing under the surface of my poems in particular; I like to explore these feelings as doing so can be cathartic.

Despite my privileged upbringing, I struggled immensely through early adulthood. From the age of eighteen to twenty-one, I suffered with mental health disorders that derailed my life and my sense of self. At twenty, a psychosis stripped me of my identity and I had to rebuild myself. I have no qualms about sharing this personal information on a public platform because I believe in broadcasting our imperfections: girls and young women need authentic role models who do not deceptively present themselves as flawless.

My success as a young writer and a woman has developed drastically over the past year. I created my own blog of short stories, flash fiction and poetry which has garnered promising attention. In regard to my short stories, I have recently received the news that I am going to be published for the first time! Moreover, I am the newly-appointed Editor of The Cat’s Whiskers, a quarterly magazine released by Shropshire Cat Rescue - cats are also a cause dear to my heart. I am currently studying a BA Hons degree in English and Creative Writing, a course that inspires me daily.

I would like to encourage anybody, writer or not, to keep the faith if they are struggling. Despite experiencing detrimentally poor mental health in the past, I have developed into a woman who is confident, productive and aspirational. (All of these adjectives describe The LaunchBox, too! What a coincidence…)

Thank you for reading,

Melissa J x

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